Tours

We offer small, exclusive tours for discriminating travelers looking for a rare, richly contextual, cultural and convivial experience. Our unique itineraries are conducted by the tour leaders as well as experts and "insiders" who all have a deep knowledge and passion for these fascinating places.

Our itineraries are rich but not rushed. Savor each experience free from the logistical worries of travel, while enjoying comfortable, well-appointed inns, palazzi, castelli, villas, cloisters, and charming hotels – with enough time to discover each place on your own after the guided visits each day. Our tours are planned to minimize multiple hotel moves. On each tour we stay in a few carefully chosen accommodations to allow for a breadth of experience of each region without a lot of unnecessary packing and repacking.

In addition to our announced tours below, The Renaissance Company offers a wide range of programs custom designed for specific groups, educational institutions, businesses, and diverse organizations seeking itineraries and theme oriented travel. We are happy to speak with you about an offering tailored to the interests of your group.

The Hilltowns of Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche
May 27 – June 8, 2018

Program Overview

The tour will begin in the city of Florence. During our brief stay here, we will use our time to become acquainted through lectures and discussion with the places we will visit, their special attractions, and the rich patterns of historical and cultural interconnection among them during the Renaissance.

Departing from Florence, we will spend several days traveling through western and southern Tuscany and Umbria, a region of unique and unsurpassed natural beauty as well as home to a richly-layered heritage of living culture from the medieval period to the present day. Along the way we will visit towns like Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Pienza, Montalcino, Arezzo, Montepulciano, Sansepolcro, Gubbio, Assisi, Orvieto and venturing into the Marches, the magnificent city of Urbino. A unique attraction of this itinerary is that it allows us to follow the “Piero della Francesca Trail,” a pilgrimage for art lovers made famous by Aldous Huxley and John Pope Hennessy. The Trail will ultimately lead us over the mountains from Umbria into the Marches and to the beautiful ducal city of Urbino and the ideal Renaissance Court. “The Piero Trail” allows us to take a day trip through the breathtaking Casentino province of Tuscany to visit Mount La Verna where St. Francis of Assisi is believed to have received the stigmata. Throughout the tour, we will experience the masterpieces of not only Piero della Francesca but of Giotto (Assisi), Fra Angelico (Cortona), Signorelli (Cortona & Orvieto), Andrea della Robbia (La Verna), Sangallo, Francesco Laurana, Rossellino and many others as well as experiencing first-hand the resonance of the places in which their genius flourished.

The tour leaders are Francis J. Ambrosio, Assoc. Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University, and Deborah Warin, Director, Renaissance Tours Company, LLC, former Director of Continuing Education and Lecturer at Georgetown University, and author of the forthcoming book Battista Sforza and the Court of Urbino. Together they have led more than 40 previous tours to Italy.

The cost of the Tour is $4795. for each participant. Airfare is not included in the price. Breakfast is included each day in the hotels; the welcome reception on the first evening, the wine tasting luncheon in Montalcino and the Farewell dinner on the final evening are also included. All other meals are at the expense of participants. The cost of the tour includes ground transportation and admission fees for all activities included in the itinerary. All prices are based upon double occupancy and do not include airfare. Please be sure to read the Terms and Conditions (see below) carefully for other important information including the Payment schedule and the Cancellation Policy.

 

Detailed Itinerary

Sunday, May 27

Travelers arrive at our hotel The Pierre in Florence. In the evening, we gather for a Welcome Reception and a brief orientation before dinner.

Monday, May 28

In the morning, we gather for a preparatory lecture and slide program to introduce some of the major artists, cultures and monuments that we shall encounter in the days ahead. Later, we visit the historic center of the city including experiencing the art of Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Lippi and Michelangelo. The evening is at leisure.

Tuesday, May 29

Leaving Florence, we travel across western Tuscany, enjoying splendid panoramas as we approach the ancient Etruscan City of Volterra. There we will find one of the finest museums of Etruscan culture in Italy, together with the important Romanesque cathedral and the architectural predecessor of the Florentine Palazzo Vecchio. The land around Volterra is rich with minerals, especially the highly prized alabaster from which craftsmanship have produced objects of rare beauty for centuries. In a short stop before leaving the town, we take in the panorama from the rapidly eroding edge of the cliffs on which Volterra has stood for century, where in clear weather one can catch a glimpse of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Later in the afternoon, we visit San Gimignano, the medieval city of skyscrapers and the outstanding fresco cycle in its main church and end the day at our hotel in the countryside near Siena.

Wednesday, May 30

This morning, we travel to the home of the Palio, the majestic city of Siena. In the course of the day, we will visit the dramatic black and white cathedral which, even when viewed from miles away, seems to watch over the city and its passionate contrade; the famous Piazza del Campo and the Palazzo Publico with its soaring tower and the extraordinary frescoes by Simone Martini. Time for shopping or an aperitif before returning to our hotel.

Thursday, May 31

Departing our hotel, this morning we travel into the heart of the gorgeous Val d’Orcia, making our way to the beautiful, luminescent 9th century church of Sant’ Antimo. Originally part of a Benedictine monastery, the alabaster and travertine church, one of the most beautiful in Italy, was according to legend founded by Charlemagne. After our visit we will have lunch, paired with the famous wines of the region at one of the loveliest and most noble wineries in Tuscany. Later, we visit the beautiful walled city of Montalcino, home of the famous Brunello di Montalcino wine. We conclude the day with a short trip to our hotel in Pienza.

Friday, June 1

Today is devoted to Pienza, the tiny jewel of Renaissance urban planning, perched atop the most breathtaking landscapes in Italy. Here we will visit its splendid Gothic cathedral, as well as the Piccolomini Palace all built with the support of Pope Pius II (1405-1464), one of the great proponents of humanism who undertook the project of creating an ideal city to embody the vision of Renaissance humanistic principles. Beyond its historic importance, Pienza is a delightful town to enjoy at leisure – the gorgeous views, the wine, the wonderful food (since the time of the Etruscans, Pienza has been the capital of Pecorino cheese), pici, the thick, round Tuscan pasta, beautiful locally produced linens, and the charm that makes Pienza one of the best loved cities in Italy.

Saturday, June 2

This morning we travel to Arezzo, our first stop on the Piero della Francesca Trail to view that artist’s magnificent fresco cycle The Legend of the True Cross, perhaps the most important fresco cycle of the 15th Century. In the afternoon we will visit the bustling Etruscan hill town of Cortona. Long before it became popularly known for the setting of Under the Tuscan, Cortona was an important medieval and renaissance cultural center. Fra Angelico traveled here to do two important altarpieces including his famous The Annunciation of Cortona now in the Museo Diocesano. The artist Luca Signorelli (1441-1523) was born in Cortona and several of his paintings remain here. Another native painter, Pietro Berrettini (1596-1669) known as Pietro da Cortona was born here. We will visit the museum and other historical sites while still having time to experience the town’s charms, before returning to Pienza for the night.

Sunday, June 3

This morning, we depart Pienza and travel through the ruggedly beautiful Casentino to Mount La Verna, the wooded retreat of St. Francis and his followers. It was at La Verna that Saint Francis prayed to receive the Stigmata. In the chapel of the Stigmata we view some of the most magnificent and beautiful of Andrea della Robbia’s works. Then, we travel a few miles down the road to the charming and historic town of Sansepolcro, Piero della Francesca’s birthplace, where we spend the night.

Monday, June 4

In Sansepolcro, we will visit the small museum housing perhaps Piero’s most famous work,
The Resurrection, as well as his stately altarpiece the Madonna della Misericordia. After lunch, we travel a very short distance to Monterchi to see Piero della Francesca’s haunting fresco the Madonna del Parto, portraying the rare image of a heavily pregnant Virgin Mary.

Later that afternoon, we travel to the austerely beautiful medieval town of Gubbio, where we will spend three nights in a lovely former Cappuccian convent that has been restored and turned into a modern, comfortably appointed hotel. The evening is at leisure to explore the haunting, evocative character of Gubbio, a small city nearly wholly intact from the medieval period

Tuesday, June 5

While still residing in Gubbio, today we will venture into the Marches region to what was once one of the great cultural centers of Europe, the small fairytale like city of Urbino. Urbino was the birthplace of Raphael and Bramante, but it is most famous for the creation of the ideal, humanistic court under the rule of Federico da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza, the Duke and Duchess of Urbino – a court which inspired Castiglione’s influential Book of the Courtier. The Palazzo Ducale, a careful articulation of Neo-Platonism and one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, is still considered an architectural wonder. The palazzo also holds our final stop on the Piero della Francesca Trail: The “world’s greatest small painting” – The Flagellation by Piero della Francesca as well as his Madonna della Senigallia. After lunch and a stroll through the city, we return to again to Gubbio.

Wednesday, June 6

A short trip takes us to Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis and itself one of the loveliest of hill towns. Here we shall visit the famed Basilica of San Francesco, built in the mid-13th century and decorated by many of the most renowned painters of the Gothic period, Giotto and Cimabue. St. Francis’ beliefs, his humility, his love of his “brothers and sisters” as well as his celebration of nature, while having a tremendous influence on religion, gave rise to a wholly new humanistic vision in art and literature. As Francis transformed traditional notions of religious and spiritual values, Giotto was the master who transformed the rigidity of Byzantine painting to the very human yet spiritually inspiring image that are seen in to the upper basilica depicting the life of the saint.

After lunch we will enjoy the opportunity to visit first the “Carceri,” the retreat high up on Mount Subasio used by St. Francis and his companions for contemplation and then the little church of San Damiano where St. Francis received his mission from God to rebuild His Church. Later it was here that St Francis composed the Canticle of the Creatures and where St Clare founded the Sisters of the Poor Clares and where she died in 1253. We return to Gubbio for an evening at leisure.

Thursday, June 7

In the morning, we travel to Orvieto, home of Orvieto Classico wine, and certainly one of the most striking of the hill towns for its dramatic setting atop a plateau of volcanic rock. It is easy to see why Clement VII fled to Orvieto when Rome was sacked by the French King Charles VII in 1527. We will visit the famed cathedral with its golden facade of mosaics and carvings, and within it the dramatic frescoes, among the first of the modern age (1499-1503) of Luca Signorelli’s apocalyptic Last Judgment. The city was also an important Etruscan center and there are still 1000 caves in “underground Orvieto” which can be visited in the afternoon.

This evening we will gather for our Cena Addio, our farewell dinner bidding “Arrivederci” to Bell’Italia and to one another.

Friday, June 8

After breakfast, our motor coach will transport the group to Leonardo da Vinci Airport where our tour will officially end.

**N.B. to allow participants greater flexibility in planning their travels, the tour does not include hotel accommodations in Rome for Friday night, June 8. Participants wishing to spend the night in Rome should make hotel reservations independently in advance.

Program Notes

Cost of the Tour:

The cost of the Tour is $4795, per person, double occupancy. Airfare is not included in the price. Breakfast is included each day in the hotels; the welcome reception on the first evening, the wine tasting luncheon in Montalcino and the Farewell dinner on the final evening are also included. All other meals are at the expense of participants. The cost of the tour includes ground transportation and admission fees for all activities included in the itinerary. All prices are based upon double occupancy and do not include airfare. Please be sure to read the Terms and Conditions  carefully for other important information including the Payment schedule and the Cancellation Policy.

Participants are responsible for arranging their own transportation to the hotel in Florence, arriving at the hotel on Sunday, May 27 for the opening reception beginning at 6:30 pm. The tour officially concludes with the group’s arrival at the Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome. All arrangements for subsequent travel and accommodation are solely the responsibility of the participant. In addition to the accommodations specified below, the cost of the tour includes ground transportation and admission fees for all activities included in the itinerary. Participants are themselves responsible for all charges (including personal, discretionary hotel room charges) incurred in connection with any activity not explicitly specified in the itinerary.

Level of Physical Activity:

The nature of the tour program and the type of sites which the group will visit make for a moderately strenuous routine; those who need to limit their physical activity or who cannot easily walk longer distances are strongly encouraged to consult with the tour leaders prior to reserving space. The directors reserve the right to limit individual participation in group activities at their sole discretion in cases where the group’s interests might be adversely affected.

Accommodations:

Cost is based on double occupancy in hotels. In most cases single rooms are available at the hotels for a supplemental charge. All hotels are three or four star and have been carefully chosen for their location, comfort and quality of service. A list of hotels will be provided separately to registered participants. Room assignments are made by the hotel management. Breakfast is included each day at the hotel.

Reservations:

The tour is strictly limited to a maximum of 20 participants to ensure the comfort and focused attention of the group experience. Reservations on the tour are held in the order in which deposits are received. Places may be reserved by completing the application form below, and returning it with a deposit of one thousand dollars per person to the address listed on the reservation form Deposits are refundable according to the terms specified on the Reservation Form. Payments must be made by check; we do not accept credit cards. The balance must be paid in full by April 1, 2018. Refunds in the event of cancellation are subject to the restrictions outlined in the Terms and Conditions. Please be sure to read these carefully before submitting a deposit. Travelers are strongly urged to purchase separate travel insurance including coverage for cancellation loss to protect themselves in the event that they are unable to travel for any reason.

All details of the itinerary subject to change based on availability of accommodations, changes in opening and closing schedules, acts of God and any other cause beyond the immediate and direct control of the Tour Directors.

My wife and I have traveled extensively but this was by far the best trip we have ever taken.  Tom and Martha P.

The group was the perfect size for conviviality and conversation but small enough to be discrete.  Mary Jo F.

You really found the balance: a richly guided trip and yet plenty of time to experience each place on our own.   Jim C.