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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

Study tours

Italy: From Giotto to Gelato: The Art and Culture of Florence and Tuscany

November 5-13, 2015

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In Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance, we will immerse ourselves in gorgeous landscapes, stunning hilltop towns, and the works of Giotto, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Michelangelo.

We'll marvel at the painting, sculpture, and architecture in Florence's Uffizi and Accademia galleries, the Duomo, the Baptistery, and Giotto's Bell Tower.

From Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli ("Field of Miracles"), with its cathedral and leaning tower, to Gothic Siena and the medieval town of San Gimignano, we will drink in the art and culture of Tuscany with Nancy Green, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at Cornell's Johnson Museum of Art.

Enhancing our exploration of these sites and more, Nancy will also shed light on such subjects as Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites in Italy and on the influence that Italian Renaissance art had on John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and other American artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

As the late autumn sun backlights the cypress trees, we'll enjoy as well the pleasures of Italy's wonderful cuisine.

Nancy E. Green is the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. She holds a BA from Connecticut College and an MA from Williams College and is the author of the prize-winning catalog Byrdcliffe: An American Arts and Crafts Colony.

Program notes

  • Double occupancy: $5,300 per person
  • Single supplement: $550
  • See What's included?
  • See Travel links and resources.
  • Fitness scale: Slightly strenuous. May require extended walking over uneven ground as well as the ability to climb stairs and to stand for considerable periods of time.


Thursday, November 5: Depart U.S.

Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Italy.

Friday, November 6: Arrive at Florence airport

After clearing customs, meet with your driver and transfer to your hotel, the Grand Hotel Baglioni, centrally located in Florence. The history of Florence has passed through the Grand Hotel Baglioni; the elegant decor blends discreetly with modern comforts, harmoniously merging the past and the future.

Meet your tour manager at the hotel and enjoy the afternoon at leisure to discover the city. You may wish to start your immersion into the Renaissance of Florence with a visit to the nearby Santa Maria Novella: the crucifix painted by Giotto, the wooden crucifix sculpted by Brunelleschi, and Masaccio's Holy Trinity are only some of the masterpieces housed in this beautiful church. Depending on arrival time of all participants, your tour manager will be pleased to escort you on a brief orientation tour. Welcome Tuscan dinner at hotel rooftop restaurant. (D)

Saturday, November 7: Florence

After breakfast, we'll depart for a guided walking tour of Florence. We'll reach the San Lorenzo district, home of the famous lively San Lorenzo market. Here we'll visit the Medici Chapel, incorporated in the beautiful complex of the Basilica San Lorenzo. We will pass by Piazza del Duomo; together, the baptistery, the bell tower, and the duomo make up Florence's Piazza del Duomo, the city's religious center. We'll reach the Galleria dell'Accademia to see the famous David by Michelangelo.

Enjoy some local dishes today for lunch at a local restaurant. After dining, our next essential stop is the Piazza della Signoria, a thirteenth-century square that is home to the Palazzo Vecchio on the east side and the Uffizi Gallery on the south. Piazza della Signoria came into existence as a result of the Guelph-Ghibelline struggles, when many Ghibelline homes were destroyed to create space for civic use. Still Florence's civic and political center today, the piazza is adorned with many famous sculptures. We'll proceed to Santa Croce Church, the principal Franciscan Church in Florence, featuring a wealth of art. Afterward, we'll enjoy a visit to a mosaic laboratory to learn the secrets of this amazing technique. We'll return to the Hotel for Nancy's first lecture. Evening at leisure. (B, L)

Sunday, November 8: Florence

Following breakfast, we'll depart for the Uffizi Gallery. The Galleria degli Uffizi is the most visited tourist attraction in Florence and is home to the finest collection of paintings and pictures in Italy. After, we'll visit the Duomo, the city's geographical focus point, Giotto's Bell Tower, and the baptistery. Enjoy some free time for lunch on your own. Early in the afternoon we'll visit the Bargello Museum with its remarkable collection of sculptures and other works of art. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure for some shopping or personal activities.

If you wish to continue your discovery of the artistic jewels of Florence, we recommend a visit to the Brancacci Chapel, sometime called the "Sistine Chapel of early Renaissance" for its painting cycle, among the most famous and influential of the period. Dinner is at a local restaurant, where we'll taste some local specialties. (B, D)

Monday, November 9: Florence/Lucca/Pisa

Following breakfast, we'll depart to Lucca and Pisa. Lucca is a peaceful place with narrow lanes that wind among the medieval buildings, opening suddenly to reveal churches, tiny piazzas, and many other reminders of the city's long history, including a Roman amphitheater. This town is well known for its magnificent sixteenth- and seventeenth-century ramparts, which, having remained intact, encircle its narrow streets. Enjoy lunch at a local farmhouse.

In the afternoon we'll continue to Pisa to see its incredible leaning tower (entrance not included). Your visit of Pisa will include a sightseeing tour of Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli, or Field of Miracles, to see the baptistery and duomo (entrance included). The evening is at leisure. You will have no trouble finding a nice restaurant or a little winery at which to spend a few hours with your travel companions. (B, L)

Tuesday, November 10: Tuscany

After breakfast, we'll transfer to your hotel in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti area. Before leaving Florence, we will make a brief visit to the Church of Ognissanti, almost completely rebuilt on a baroque design, hosting some beautiful masterpieces by Giotto and Ghirlandaio (including his Last Supper), which make it really worth a visit. Along the way we will stop at the American Cemetery before proceeding to beautiful Chianti, known for its slopes of gorgeous grapes, forest-green hills, ancient villas, great food, and superb wine. We will stop at lovely villages such as Greve and at a local family-run winery for lunch.

In the afternoon, we'll arrive at our hotel, Borgo San Luigi, a charming Tuscan villa overlooking rolling hills, vineyards, and ancient olive trees. After check-in, we'll enjoy a welcome drink and Nancy's second lecture. The evening is at leisure. On this free evening, you may wish to visit the little village of Monteriggioni and try one of the many restaurants offering Tuscan specialties. (B, L)

Wednesday, November 11: Tuscany—Arezzo and Montepulciano

You will have some time this morning for a relaxing breakfast at the hotel, a walk to discover the villa garden, and Nancy's third lecture. We'll later depart for Arezzo, a beautiful little city famous for its old town and its architectural wonders, and lately for being the set of the famous Roberto Benigni film Life Is Beautiful. Upon arrival, enjoy a guided tour, including a visit to the Basilica di San Francesco with marvelous frescoes by Piero della Francesca. Enjoy some free time before departing for Montepulciano in the Val d'Orcia. Enjoy a view of Montepulciano, a Renaissance town and an important agriculture center, which lies on a hilltop with panoramic views. Famous for the production of the Nobile di Montepulciano wine, the village is a pretty destination not just for wine lovers, but also for art and architecture enthusiasts. Later, we will reach a local winery; we will visit the cellar and enjoy a country-style dinner with wine tasting. (B, D)

Thursday, November 12: Tucscany—Siena and San Gimignano

After breakfast, we'll visit Siena. Siena is a sophisticated Gothic town that welcomes visitors from all over the world. Vineyards and olive trees characterize the landscape. The local gastronomy is inspired by the "slow food" culture.

The territory around Siena is actually the best example of Tuscan regional identity, rich in natural resources and agricultural productivity. Terraced hills and valleys rich in rivers, castles, churches, and wonderful buildings dot the countryside. Enjoy a guided tour to visit the dome, Piazza del Campo, Salimbeni Square, Chigi Palace, and the interior of the cathedral and the Libreria Piccolomini.

Later we'll visit one of the most charming and picturesque of all the Tuscan hill towns, San Gimignano, famed for the medieval towers that dominate the town in the way that skyscrapers dominate modern cities. Originally there were more than seventy towers, built as symbols of wealth and as a security precaution by the town's prosperous merchants. The fourteen that remain stand as reminders of the town's grand and wealthy past. With many of its medieval structures still intact, the historic center of San Gimignano has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Farewell dinner at hotel restaurant. (B, D)

Friday, November 13: Depart for U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to Rome Fiumicino Airport for flights home. (B)