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The Hidden Treasures of Florence

Program Number: 18647RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/9/2013 - 5/18/2013; 3/27/2016 - 4/6/2016; 4/5/2016 - 4/15/2016; 4/14/2016 - 4/24/2016; 4/24/2016 - 5/4/2016; 5/23/2016 - 6/2/2016; 8/24/2016 - 9/3/2016; 9/5/2016 - 9/15/2016; 9/14/2016 - 9/24/2016; 9/28/2016 - 10/8/2016; 10/15/2016 - 10/25/2016; 11/1/2016 - 11/11/2016;
Duration: 9 nights
Location: Italy
Price starting at: $2,758.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type:
Meals: 15; 8 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

This is a special opportunity to experience Florence at its absolute best — beyond the throngs of tourists in quiet neighborhoods where artisans and patricians live side by side amid colorful window boxes, cobblestone streets and churches with many hidden stories waiting to be told. View works by Michelangelo, Donatello and the great Renaissance masters.


• Top art historians introduce you to great but lesser-known works of art in galleries and private collections not open to the public.
• Exclusive private access to the Vasari Corridor which boasts a collection of portraits and paintings.
• On-site lectures cover Roman, Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic art and architecture, while art collectors discuss their stunning private holdings with you over cocktails and aperitifs.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile over the course of a day, uneven terrain; standing up to one hour at a time during on-site lectures.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Florence, 9 nights, departure.

Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Arrival Florence
9 nights

Accompany world-class art historians on private visits to view and learn about universally revered masterpieces and lesser-known but equally amazing gems by Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo and other great masters in churches, galleries and museums. Enjoy an exclusive discovery of Florence’s famed Vasari Corridor and the portraits and paintings housed within. Meet collectors and discuss their stunning private holdings over aperitifs and hear fascinating talks on-site at some of the city’s best examples of Roman, Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Noble families dating back to the Middle Ages open their palaces and gardens — normally off-limits to the public — for you to explore, and you hear an exclusive organ concert of ancient Florentine and Tuscan music, performed by a native musician on an Italian organ dating to the end of the 18th century.


“Dolce far niente,” the “sweetness of doing nothing.” This ode to leisure is a distinctly Italian phrase, and yet the expression does not do justice to the hard-work ethos of the nation’s inhabitants. The monuments, art and civilization bequeathed to the people of modern Italy are a testament to the industry of their forebearers, and the legacy lives on in today’s Italians, who work hard to better enjoy the sweetness of repose.

Intimate three-star hotel in the heart of the city’s historic area.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel Balestri
  Florence, Italy 8 nights
 Hotel Balestri
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: A traditional Florentine Hotel, partially restyled in 2008 to bring its original structure back to light. With its unrivalled location within walking distance from Ponte Vecchio, right in the heart of Santa Croce district and with its stunning views onto San Leonardo and San Miniato hills, the Balestri is a three-star hotel, 51 rooms, catering for guests who care for service quality; ideal for families, it is also one of the most convenient starting points to discover the city and the Oltrarno, the authentic city Village.
  Contact info: P.zza Mentana 7
Firenze,  50123 Italy
phone: +39 055 214743
  Room amenities: Rooms of the Hotel Balestri, with their approximate size of 18 sqm, overlook the small streets of the city centre, the typical Florentine ancient buildings inner courtyards or Mentana Square. All the rooms are composed by a comfortable bedroom (Queen or Twin bedded) with private bathroom with bath tub or shower, terry bath towels and hair dryer. Phone with direct line Sat TV Safe Paying Wi-Fi internet connection Air conditioning and heating with automatic control from the room Minibar
  Facility amenities: Services Reception / concierge 24h Paying internet point Paying wi-fi Breakfast room open from 07:00 to 10:30 a.m. Bar Light snacks available Meeting room (from 02 to 26 people) Valet parking
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: € 145 DBL, € 130 SGL B/B Advanced reservation required and depending upon availability. Please also check the hotel website for special offers.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: € 145 DBL, € 130 SGL B/B Advanced reservation required and depending upon availability. Please also check the hotel website for special offers.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Start Time: Hotel check in time 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm Program begins at 6:00 pm in the hotel lobby. You will be staying at Hotel Balestri that night.
  End of Program:
End Time: 6:00 am in the lobby of the hotel. For later departures check out is at 11:00 or 12:00pm You will be staying at Hotel Balestri the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Passports are needed; no visa required for US citizens in Italy
  Parking availability:
no parking at the hotel
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: No train or Bus are available to site.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Florence
  Nearest highway: Autostrada A1
  Nearest airport:  Florence airport (Peretola)
  Transportation to site: There will be a shuttle bus available to participants (with included air from Road Scholar) from the airport to the Hotel. Transfer service from the airport to your Hotel is provided on the day of the group arrival only
  From End of Program
  Location: Florence
  Transportation from site: There will be a shuttle bus available to participants (with included air from Road Scholar) from the Hotel to the airport. Transfer service from the Hotel to the hotel is provided on the day of the group departure only
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Elevation Note: There is no elevation above 3000 Feet

Equipment Requirements: No equipment is required
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: In flight
(Thursday, May 9)
 Afternoon: Depart USA on overnight flight to Italy.

Day 2: Arrival and check in at Hotel Balestri
(Friday, May 10)
 Afternoon: Light snack / Orientation meeting / Presentation of the program. Welcome drink.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at the local restaurant
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Walk to Palazzo Gondi. Visit to the Private Palazzo guided by Marchese Gondi. Cocktail and wine tasting at the Palazzo. Exclusive visit to the "Corridoio Vasariano" and visit to the Galleria degli Uffizi with on site lecture. Historic Aperitif at hotel
(Saturday, May 11)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Transfer to Palazzo Gondi. Marchese Gondi will open his private palace and meet his guests as long acquainted friends. Palazzo Gondi is a palace in Florence, Italy, located a block from Piazza della Signoria. It was built by Giuliano da Sangallo in 1490 based on other major works of stately buildings in the city, such as Palazzo Medici and Palazzo Strozzi. Among the elements borrowed from these earlier works is the cube-shaped set around a central courtyard, the ashlar sloping on each of three floors up, arched windows, etc.Compared to his models, however, Sangallo was able to modify the use of these elements, making it one of the most successful Florentine buildings of its time. The most innovative element is the design of the windows, the profile of stones arranged in a radial pattern, which resembles the facets of a precious stone. The windows on the second floor were slightly wider than the others, to compensate for the optical foreshortening. Visit to the Palazzo. Cocktail at the Palazzo
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Afternoon: Visit to the "Corridoio Vasariano".The Corridor was built in 1564 by Giorgio Vasari in only five months at the time of the wedding between Francesco I de' Medici and Giovanna of Austria; it served to link up the Pitti Palace, where the Grand Duke resided, with the Uffizi (or offices) where he worked. It is a covered walk, almost a kilometre in length, an overhead passageway that starts out from the West Corridor of the Gallery, heads towards the Arno and then, raised up by huge arches, follows the river as far as the Ponte Vecchio, which it crosses by passing on top of the shops. The meat market on the bridge was at this time trasferred elsewhere, so as not to offend the Grand Duke's sensitive nose with unpleasant smells on his walk, and replaced (from 1593) with the goldsmiths who continue to work there today. On the other side of the Arno, the corridor passes through the interior of the church of Santa Felicita, Down the tops of the houses and the gardens of the Guicciardini family until it finally reaches the Boboli gardens (one of the exits stands beside Buontalenti's Grotto) and the apartments in the Pitti Palace. Ending the visit in the Uffizi Museum. On site lecture
 Dinner: Dinner on your own
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 4: Free time/ Lunch on your own/ Dinner at Local Restaurant
(Sunday, May 12)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Free Time
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Dinner: Dinner at Local Restaurant
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Lecture, Santa Croce district, Basilica of San Miniato, Lecture
(Monday, May 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Lecture on "Florence and its historic handcraft tradition" Walk to Santa Croce District. Visit to the "Scuola del Cuoio in the Monastery of Santa Croce". Scuola del Cuoio was created after World War II through the collaborative efforts of the Franciscan friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori and Casini families, Florentine leather artisans since the 1930. Their mission was to give orphans of the war a means to learn a practical trade with which to earn a living. Santa Croce, with its strategic position along the banks of the Arno river, since the 13th century had been historically the district where the industries that required great quantities of water were concentrated. The tanners of via delle Conce and via dei Conciatori, just a few steps from the garden entrance of the Monastery and Scuola del Cuoio, were an important part of the Santa Croce neighborhood with the dyers of Corso dei Tintori and even the soap makers of via dei Saponai. The tanned hides were used for centuries for the leather manufacturing of the city and at the Monastery itself to cover the great manuscripts. Post-war Scuola del Cuoio brought those traditions back to the Monastery.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Afternoon: Transfer to the Basilica of San Miniato. San Miniato al Monte is a basilica standing atop one of the highest points in the city. It has been described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany. The geometrically patterned marble façade was probably begun in about 1090, although the upper parts date from the 12th century or later, financed by the Florentine Arte di Calimala (cloth merchants’ guild), who were responsible for the church’s upkeep from 1288 (the eagle which crowns the façade was their symbol). On site lecture and visit of the Basilica.
 Dinner: Dinner at "La Loggia" restaurant at Piazzale Michelangelo with a spectacular view overlooking Florence.
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Museo del Bargello, and Lecture Lunch at local restaurant Visit to Palazzo Vecchio
(Tuesday, May 14)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Transfer to the Museo del Bargello. An exclusive visit through Donatello, Luca della Robbia, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, Cellini, Giambologna’s sculpture masterpieces and inside the rooms of a 13th century palace used by the hugh magistrates of Florence to administer justice. Armories, small bronze objects, medals, ceramics and private collections make the Bargello one of the most amazing museums to visit in Florence. On-site lecture followed by a private, exclusive visit
 Lunch: Lunch at the local restaurant
 Afternoon: Walk to Piazza Signoria. Still used as the city hall of Florence, the famous Palazzo Vecchio built in 1299, became Duke Cosimo de’ Medici’s palace and was highly renovated by Giorgio Vasari in the 16th Hundreds. Following a specially set itinerary and thanks to a private admittance visitors are allowed to peep into rooms where the Granduke and his family lived, kept treasures, met spies and showed their power. Francesco I’s ‘Studiolo’, or study room, Eleonora and Bianca Cappello’s room overlooking the huge hall of the palace, Giorgio Vasari’s amzing construction of its wooden ceiling are only a few of the sorpreses one can experience inside the political heart of Florence. On-site lecture and private visit of Palazzo Vecchio through a secret itinerary
 Dinner: Dinner on your own
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7: Visit to Villa Torrigiani. Visit to garden. Guided tour by Marchesa Torrigiani. Lunch at local Restaurant Walk to Church Del Carmine with on site lecture
(Wednesday, May 15)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Transfer to Oltrarno district. Visit to VillaTorrigiani.The Oltrarno is a quarter of Florence, Italy. an off-the-beaten path area, where artisans and patricians still live and work side by side; a place where you can still breath the atmosphere of the extraordinary past era, especially in and around the Renaissance church of Santo Spirito". Guided tour of the gardena and the Villa by Marchese Torrigiani.
 Lunch: Lunch at the local restaurant
 Afternoon: Walk to the Church Del Carmine, with the Brancaccio Chapel known for its frescoes by Masaccio and Masolino. On-site lecture on Masaccio and Masolino by Professor Mario Carniani
 Dinner: Dinner on your own
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Palazzo Corsini, Cocktail / Free time
(Thursday, May 16)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Transfer to Palazzo Corsini. Princess Corsini will open her private garden and palace and meet her guests as long acquainted friends. In 1649 Maria Maddalena Macchiavelli, the wife of the Marchese Filippo Corsini, purchased the palace from the Grand Duke Ferdinando II de' Medici. Originally, Palazzo Corsini, that was called a casino (a small house surrounded by a large garden that extended to the banks of the Arno River where Lungarno Corsini is located), belonged to the Ardinghelli family, then to the Medici, to the Corsini and today it is in the hands of their descendants Miari Fulcis and Sanminiatelli. The Palazzo is a late baroque building and this is obvious throughout, from the roofs decorated with statues and terracotta vases – a novelty for Renaissance Florence – and the main, U-shaped courtyard that opens towards the riverbank. The two men responsible for Palazzo Corsini were Bartolomeo Corsini (1622-1685), the son of Filippo Corsini and Maria Maddalena Macchiavelli and, Filippo son of Bartolomeo's son (1647-1705) who expanded the portion of the Palazzo that extends towards Ponte S. Trinita. Construction continued non-stop for 50 years. The magnificent decorations, that were done between 1692 and 1700, belong to one of the finest and most intense moments in Florentine painting. The family commissioned several artists to decorate the noble apartment on the first floor, that includes Galleria Aurora, the Salone, the ballroom and other important rooms; the outstanding painters include Anton Domenico Gabbiani, Alessandro Gherardini and Pier Dandini. Cocktail at the Palazzo.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Afternoon: Free Time
 Dinner: Dinner at the local restaurant
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 9: Free time / Villa la Pietra
(Friday, May 17)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Free Time
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Afternoon: Walk to Villa la Pietra former residence of Sir Harold Acton. Visit of the Villa and garden. The site of a renaissance garden (1462) which disappeared and was replaced by an Italian Arts and Crafts garden designed by Henri Duchene for the English historian Harold Acton
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the local restaurant
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10: Departures
(Saturday, May 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Morning departures from Florence airport based on flight schedule time.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

The Palazzi of Florence: their history and art

Author: Leonardo Ginori

Blue Guide Florence

Author: Alta MacAdam

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