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The Hidden Treasures of Florence

Program Number: 18647RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/10/2013 - 10/19/2013; 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, 4 Lunches, 3 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, October 10)
 Afternoon: Depart USA on overnight flight to Italy.

Day 2: Arrival and check in at Hotel Balestri
(Friday, October 11)
 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: Visit to the Uffizi Museum and the "Corridoio Vasariano".
(Saturday, October 12)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Visit to the Uffizi Museum.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Afternoon: Visit to the "Corridoio Vasariano". The Vasari Corridor is a long, elevated passageway connecting the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi with the Pitti Palace on the other side of the Arno. It was built in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari, architect of the Uffizi, painter and author of the 'Lives of the Artists'. It was designed as a private, secure and convenient way for Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici to commute between his new home at the Palazzo Pitti and his offices (Italian: uffizi). As you leave the Uffizi Gallery following in the footsteps of the Grand Dukes, you cross the Ponte Vecchio by passing above the goldsmith shops. Windows in the walkway offer spectacular views of the river and the Santa Trinita bridge in the distance. On the other side of the Arno, you pass a viewing balcony looking down into the Church of Santa Felicita and finally exit in the Boboli Gardens. In addition to providing unique views of the city, the Vasari Corridor serves as a gallery displaying many of the Uffizi's fine works including selections from it's celebrated collection of more than 1600 self-portraits by great painters. These remarkable paintings by Bernini, Velazquez, Delacroix, Rembrandt, Chagall and many others, reveal how these important artists saw themselves. As time and opportunity permit, this tour may include a brief visit to the Uffizi Gallery to sample its vast wealth of Renaissance art.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 4: Palazzo Gondi, cocktail, free time, historic aperitif
(Sunday, October 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Transfer to Palazzo Gondi. On the way stop at Cenacolo di S. Apollonia. Marchese Gondi will take you on a private tour of his elegant renaissance palace near the Piazza della Signoria. The palazzo was designed for the Gondi family in 1490 by Giuliano da Sangallo, a favorite architect of Lorenzo de Medici. The exterior of the Palazzo displays the classic layered design with each successive story a smoother, more subtle reflection of the one below. The open, central courtyard features a lovely fountain and columns with delicate and varied Corinthian capitals. A monumental staircase with detailed carvings on the steps leads to the upper stories with personal treasures of the Gondi family. While you admire the richly sculpted stone fireplace, the gracious Marchese will share his family history illustrated by the portraits on the walls. A terrace garden on the top floor provides privileged rooftop views of the Duomo and the central city. After the tour of the Palazzo, you will be treated to a wine tasting featuring regional Tuscan wines from the Marchese’s own vineyards. Each wine will be specially paired with a light appetizer. You won’t leave hungry." Visit to the Palazzo. Cocktail at the Palazzo
 Lunch: Cocktail at the Palazzo Gondi
 Afternoon: Free time. At 6:00 pm, historic aperitif at the hotel
 Dinner: Dinner on your own
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Chiesa Santa Trinita', Borgo Ognissanti, Palazzo Corsini, Cocktail, Antica Farmacia, Chiesa Santa Maria Novella, Basilica San Miniato Lecture
(Monday, October 14)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Walk to Palazzo Corsini with stops at the Church of Santa Trinita', Borgo Ognissanti to admire the Cenacolo del Ghirlandaio. Transfer to Palazzo Corsini. Princess Corsini will open her private garden and palace and meet her guests as long acquainted friends. Visit to Palazzo Corsini al Prato. Located near the Prato gate on the western side of the historic area, the Palazzo was designed in 1590 by Bernardo Buontalenti, a student of Michelangelo and Vasari. Acquired by the Corsini family in 1620, it was completed and enhanced to include a classically-designed Italian garden that has been maintained largely unchanged to the present day. The Corsini are a noble Florentine family with deep historical roots in the city and a family tree that includes not only a pope but a saint as well. As lovely as the Palazzo is, the garden is the real jewel of the visit. Certainly a hidden treasure, the garden is divided by a central avenue lined with statues whose bases are gradually shortened to create the illusion of greater depth and distance. On either side of this broad walkway, boxwood hedges border geometrically shaped flower beds accented by lemon trees in terracotta basins. Princess Corsini leads you on a walk through her garden and points out the unique features of an Italian garden of this era. Since she personally oversees the maintenance of the garden, she is uniquely suited to share horticultural and historical details that enrich your appreciation of its features. You finish the tour with a visit to the Palazzo and a delightful assortment of refreshments.
 Lunch: Coctail at Palazzo Corsini
 Afternoon: Walk to Santa Maria Novella with stop at the “Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella” The basilica is one of the most important churches in Gothic style in Tuscany. The exterior is the work of Fra Jacopo Talenti and Leon Battista Alberti. The interior contains extraordinary masterpieces, including the Trinity by Masaccio, frescoes by Ghirlandaio in the Tornabuoni Chapel and Giotto's Crucifix. Transfer to the Basilica of San Miniato On site lecture and visit of the Basilica. Gregorian songs performance at the Basilica
 Dinner: Dinner at the local restaurant
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Santa Croce district. on site lecture Free time.
(Tuesday, October 15)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Lecture on "Florence and its historic handcraft tradition" Walk to Santa Croce District. Visit to the Chiesa of Santa Croce. This is the richest medieval church in Florence, which features frescoes by Giotto, a chapel by Brunelleschi and the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Machiavelli, Dante Alighieri. 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.
 Lunch: Lunch at the local restaurant
 Afternoon: 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. Free time
 Dinner: Dinner on your own
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7: Museo del Bargello / Lecture / Palazzo Vecchio / Lecture
(Wednesday, October 16)
 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 On-site lecture
 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 8: Oltrarno, Villa Torrigiani, Brancacci Chapel, on-site lecture
(Thursday, October 17)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Transfer to Oltrarno district. Visit to VillaTorrigiani.Visit to Torrigiani Gardens. Hidden in the heart of Florence, the Torrigiani Gardens is the largest private garden inside any European city. Starting in the sixteenth century as a famed botanical garden, it was expanded in the 19th century into an English-style romantic park. The gracious Marchese Torrigiani will lead your walk through this enchanting landscape pointing out the characteristic features of the romantic garden, important sculptures and historical artifacts. After your visit to the gardens, you will continue your walk through the ancient but trendy Oltrarno (across the Arno) neighborhood. A visit to Piazza Santo Spirito and its basilica, the great Renaissance masterwork of Brunelleschi, provides a unique taste of one of the most charming areas in Florence.
 Lunch: Lunch at the local restaurant
 Afternoon: Walk to the Santa Maria del Carmine Church and visit of Brancacci Chapel known for its frescoes by Masaccio and Masolino. Visit to Brancacci Chapel. The Brancacci chapel of the Santa Maria del Carmine Church has been called the birthplace of Renaissance painting and the Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance. It's fresco cycle on the life of St. Peter alternates scenes by Masolino in a late Gothic style with fresh, ground-breaking work by the young Masaccio. The tactile, expressive figures and realistic perspective in Masaccio's frescoes excited other painters, so that his work became a model and a challenge to the great artists who followed. Later additions to the fresco cycle by Filippino Lippi included portraits of Masaccio, Masolino and other contemporary artists. Restoration in the late 1980s revealed hidden details, so that today you can see these marvelous works with great color and clarity. Your expert guide will provide valuable insight into the creative process, history and significance of these amazing Renaissance masterworks. On site lecture on Masaccio and Masolino
 Dinner: Dinner on your own
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 9: Free time / Villa la Pietra
(Friday, October 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Hotel
 Morning: Free Time
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Afternoon: Transfer 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: Dinner at the local restaurant
Accommodations: Hotel Balestri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10: Departures
(Saturday, October 19)
 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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