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North Carolina

The Beautiful and the Powerful of the Italian Renaissance

Program No. 22994RJ
The Medici’s, Mona Lisa and St. Peter’s Basilica are Italian icons, but how did they come to be? Explore and discuss the origins, artists and legacy of the Italian Renaissance.
Length
6 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
799

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DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 21 - May 26, 2023
Starting at
799
Sep 24 - Sep 29, 2023
Starting at
799
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 21 - May 26, 2023
Starting at
999
Sep 24 - Sep 29, 2023
Starting at
999

At a Glance

The serene Blue Ridge Mountains provide the perfect backdrop for a journey back to a time of extraordinary artistic achievement and cultural resurgence. Scholars and art experts paint a portrait of life of the artists of the Italian Renaissance, whose rise and fall were controlled by powerful benefactors. From the 14th to the 17th centuries, cities including Florence, Siena and Venice thrived and wealthy financiers sponsored some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. In this course, discover how cultural forces come together to create paintings, sculpture and architecture which not only symbolize the power of their time; they have become icons of western civilization.
Activity Level
Easy Going
Long periods of sitting during lectures. All facilities are in one building, with approximately 300 yards walking required; a few stairs. Outside areas are mountainous, with inclines and uneven terrain.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Examine the wealth and power of the Medici family — believed to have been the wealthiest family in Europe — and their influence as patrons.
  • Compare and contrast the different artistic schools of Florence, Siena, Venice, Naples and Rome.
  • Discuss the influences, techniques, designs and styles of the Renaissance’s most prominent artists including Botticelli, Brunelleschi, da Vinci and Michelangelo.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room. Opportunities are available for traveling companions to attend a different program at Montreat during the same week. Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Laura Johnson
Laura recently returned to her hometown of Chicago after living in Florence, Italy for nearly 20 years. She organized Road Scholar’s independent study program and served as an instructor for other Road Scholar programs. A former director of education, Laura combined her master’s degrees in museum studies and early Christian and Byzantine art history to tell the history of humankind through art and artifacts. Her passions are the influences of the Italian Renaissance in Russia and traditional and contemporary South African bead work and music.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Laura Johnson
Laura Johnson View biography
Laura recently returned to her hometown of Chicago after living in Florence, Italy for nearly 20 years. She organized Road Scholar’s independent study program and served as an instructor for other Road Scholar programs. A former director of education, Laura combined her master’s degrees in museum studies and early Christian and Byzantine art history to tell the history of humankind through art and artifacts. Her passions are the influences of the Italian Renaissance in Russia and traditional and contemporary South African bead work and music.
Profile Image of Tracy Bailey
Tracy Bailey View biography
Tracy has been on the program staff of Montreat Conference Center since 1986. She began working with Elderhostel programs in 1989, and in 1997 assumed the additional role of on-site coordinator. A native of the area, she graduated from Asheville-Buncombe Technical College in 1981. Her favorite hobbies are hiking, pottery and reading. Tracy married Sam in 2007, and added three daughters to her family. In addition to her own grown children, she and Sam have been foster parents since 2010. They have four grandchildren.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence
by Arthur M Field
Founded by Cosimo de' Medici in the early 1460s, the Platonic Academy shaped the literary and artistic culture of Florence in the later Renaissance and influenced science, religion, art, and literature throughout Europe in the early modern period. This major study of the Academy's beginnings presents a fresh view of the intellectual and cultural life of Florence from the Peace of Lodi of 1454 to the death of Cosimo a decade later.
The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance
by Peter Murray
Heavily illustrated, this classic presents the architectural life of Italy from the 13th through the 16th century.
The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall
by Christoper Hibbert
This enthralling book charts the family's huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence's slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line.
History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture
by Frederick Hartt
Fully indexed. Extensive glossary and updated bibliography. 833 illustrations, including 105 in full color.
The City of Falling Angels
by John Berendt
It was seven years ago that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil achieved a record-breaking four-year run on the New York Times bestseller list. John Berendt's inimitable brand of nonfiction brought the dark mystique of Savannah so startlingly to life for millions of people that tourism to Savannah increased by 46%. It is Berendt and only Berendt who can capture Venice--a city of masks, a city of riddles, where the narrow, meandering passageways form a giant maze, confounding all who have not grown up wandering into its depths. Venice, a city steeped in a thousand years of history, art and architecture, teeters in precarious balance between endurance and decay. Its architectural treasures crumble--foundations shift, marble ornaments fall--even as efforts to preserve them are underway.
Caravaggio
by John T. Spike
Notorious bad boy of Italian Baroque painting, Caravaggio (1571–1610) is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Though his name may be familiar to all of us, his work had been habitually detested and forced into obscurity. Not only was his theatrical realism unfashionable in his time, but his sacrilegious subject matter and use of lower-class models were violently scorned.
In The Shadow of Vesuvius
by Jordan Lancaster
With this engaging history, Lancaster, a professor of Italian, seeks to restore honor to Naples, which many Italians and prospective visitors see as a city of little more than pickpockets and pizza. As she stresses, for most of its history, Naples was a preeminent European city, a thriving home for music, philosophy, painting and science. Her book is organized into sections by epochs and ruling governments; at times, the compression of such a long history into this short space makes it hard to digest, but Lancaster stops often to recount captivating legends and anecdotes.
The Stones of Florence
by Mary McCarthy
McCarthy applies wit and keen observation to produce a quirky, impressionistic investigation of Florence and its history.
The Agony and the Ecstasy
by Irving Stone
Always a good read. His time—the turbulent Renaissance, the years of poisoning princes, warring Popes, and the all-powerful de'Medici family. His loves—the frail and lovely daughter of Lorenzo de'Medici, the ardent mistress of Marco Aldovrandi, and his last love, his greatest love—the beautiful, unhappy Vittoria Colonna... His genius—a God-driven fury from which he wrested brilliant work that made a grasp for heaven unmatched in half a millennium... A masterpiece in its own right, this biographical novel offers a compelling portrait of one of the greatest artists the world has ever known.
Medici: God Father's of the Renaissance
by 4 part PBS video series
this is not a book... but a 4 part PBS video series that you may enjoy
Young Michelangelo. The Path to the Sistine.
by John T. Spike
We are accustomed to viewing Michelangelo as the old master of the Sistine Chapel ceiling without considering the long evolution of his genius. Drawing on his ample correspondence and banking records, this ground-breaking new biography explores the first 33 formative years of his life. Both erudite and entertaining, it charts the development of a charismatic and tenacious young artist utterly convinced of his own exceptional talent, against the turbulent, dangerous backdrop of Renaissance Florence and Rome.
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5 B 5 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Montreat, NC
D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Check-in 3:00-5:30 p.m. Pull up to the porch of Assembly Inn to unload, then park your vehicle in any marked spot along the Lake or Assembly Drive.

Afternoon: Assembly Inn check-in 3:00-5:30 p.m. Pull up to the Assembly Inn porch to unload, then park your vehicle in any designated spot close to the Inn or by the lake and check in. Program Registration. After you check in and have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Feel free to relax in your room, meet and enjoy fellowship with other participants in the beautiful lobby, or stretch your legs with a walk around the campus before dinner.

Dinner: In the Assembly Inn Dining Room 5:30-6:30 p.m., we’ll enjoy a buffet meal with a complete salad bar, choice of two entrées (or have both), good for you vegetables, bread and, of course, some yummy desserts; milk, coffee, sweet and unsweetened tea, water included. We do bus our own tables at each meal.

Evening: Orientation: 7:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will also meet the instructor. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program. Programming at Retreat locations includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, a farm-to-table meal, and evening entertainment. Sleeping and dining facilities are in one building, with approximately 300 yards walking required. On some evenings, there will be entertainment such as a concert, dance, or storyteller followed by opportunities for fellowship in the lobby of the Inn. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. We’ll finish up around 8:00 p.m. with some “get to know you” activities and then have refreshments and fellowship in the lobby. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
The Eternal City, Roma and the Settlement of Florentia
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Classroom based program; walking according to personal preference. Join us in the main lobby each morning for "gentle stretches."

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn Dining Room, early morning coffee will be out around 6:30 a.m. Come to the lobby from 7;30 - 7:45 for some gentle stretches with Martha Nelson. The breakfast buffet is available from 7:30-8:30 a.m. with rotating daily choices such as biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, grits, hash browns, French toast, pancakes, oatmeal, cereal, granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, baked pastries, juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll begin with an examination of the establishment of Rome as the center of the known world and the early Christians, and what will become known as Vatican City. We take a brief look at political and religious events, such as the establishment of Constantinople (330) the Sack of Rome (410), and the Eastern and Western Empires in Ravenna (402, 547) to set a stage for our discussions of the formal establishment of the Throne of St. Peter in Rome and the founding of the Vatican Museum and the early Sistine Chapel. After a mid-morning refreshment break, we’ll return to class to examine the Etruscans and the settlement of Florentia in the valley below Fiesole. We focus on the early Roman years with the establishment of the city now called Florence (Firenze in Italian). We look at the archeological research of formerly pagan first century Roman religious, secular and political structures to the 13th century medieval plan of Florence’s towers, palazzi and piazze, as we also focus on the importance and impact of the Arno River.

Lunch: In the Assembly Inn Dining Room

Afternoon: After lunch we focus briefly on Dante and the importance of the mosaics of the baptistery of Florence, and the city’s patron saint, John the Baptist, along with a look at the century’s old tradition of Easter Sunday celebration in Florence. We discuss the guilds and the beginnings of the de’ Medici dynasty with Giovanni de Bicci de’ Medici and Cosimo (the Elder) de’ Medici as we look at David as a political and civic theme of the city and highlight the sculpture of Donatello, and the maxim ---“Man is the measure of all things”. The remainder of the afternoon is free. You might like to participate in the Walk Around Montreat that includes a visit to the Chapel of the Prodigal and viewing the “Prodigal Son” fresco by Ben Long.

Dinner: Dining Room buffet.

Evening: Our evening program will feature a local musician/band or a storyteller. The remainder of the evening is at leisure, with activities in the lobby of the Inn for fellowship.

DAY
3
Rise of the Renaissance and Humanism, the 15th century
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Classroom based program. Walking according to personal preference. Join us in the lobby each morning for "gentle stretches."

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn Dining Room, early morning coffee will be out around 6:30 a.m. Come to the lobby from 7;30 - 7:45 for some gentle stretches with Martha Nelson.

Morning: Our discussions of yesterday continues with our focus on the “Feud that Sparked the Renaissance” – the Baptistery doors of Florence, Ghiberti and Brunelleschi -- and the building of the cupola of Florence by the first modern architecture. After a mid-morning refreshment break, we’ll return to class to learn about frescoes: how they are created and restored. We will look at the Brancacci Chapel, the Sistine Chapel of Tuscany, and the roles that Massacio and Masolino played in the incremental advances in how artists portrayed “us” as human beings and The Platonic Academy and Marsilio Ficino and Pico dell Mirandola.

Lunch: In the Dining Room

Afternoon: We continue our discussion, by looking at colors, symbols, and other ways as a means of explaining Platonic thought in religious and civic art and architecture with works of art by Fra Lippo Lippi and Sandro Botticelli, among others, and present-day coding, fashion and technology. We introduce the major names of the Late Christian and Byzantine and Early Renaissance in Florence and Siena, like Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini, Lorenzo Monaco, and will present their impact on the movement to humanism and the rebirth of the classic style in Renaissance Italian art with Domenico Ghirlandaio. The remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: In the Dining Room.

Evening: We’ll gather for another fun evening program such as a concert, storyteller, or a dance followed by games, cards, or TV in the lobby.

DAY
4
High Renaissance/Mannerism in Florence, demise of de' Medici
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Classroom based program. Walking according to personal preference. Join us in the lobby each morning for "gentle stretches."

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn Dining Room, early morning coffee will be out around 6:30 a.m. Come to the lobby from 7;30 - 7:45 for some gentle stretches with Martha Nelson.

Morning: We turn our attention from Florence to discuss of the anti-papacy in Avignon (1309 – 1377) and the influences of France (Avignon) in Siena. The focus will be on the Brothers Lorenzetti’s’ in the Commune of Siena, and others in the Duomo and the Piccolomini Library. We note the Sienese and Pinturicchio role in mid-Renaissance art in bringing new perspective to the religious and medical sites in Siena. After a mid-morning refreshment break, we return continuing our morning lecture and turn to Florence and Lorenzo il Magnifico de’ Medici and the assassination attempt on the lives of Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano. A further discussion focuses on the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola and the “fall” of the de’ Medici from Florence, and the establishment of Florence as a Repubblica and the meaning of Michelangelo’s David statue.

Lunch: In the Dining Room.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Please note that the period scheduled for free time is subject to change depending on local circumstances and opportunities for independent exploration.

Dinner: Our farm to table meal.

Evening: We hope you enjoyed your free afternoon, now back to class time! This evening we look at the religious crisis of Michelangelo and the effect of the Catholic Church and papal patronage, and his belief in Protestant ideals and reform. Then, we turn to the rise of two de’ Medici popes significantly affecting the coffers of the Church. Rosso Fiorentino, Pontormo and others develop a new style in art called Mannerism, and the change in the public and religious ideals with the de’ Medici family and their power in France, Spain, and England, are topics to be emphasized.

DAY
5
Naples, Surprise of the Italian Renaissance, Venice
Montreat, NC
B,L,D
Assembly Inn

Activity note: Classroom based program. Walking according to personal preference. Join us in the lobby each morning for "gentle stretches."

Breakfast: In the Assembly Inn Dining Room, early morning coffee will be out around 6:30 a.m. Come to the lobby from 7;30 - 7:45 for some gentle stretches with Martha Nelson.

Morning: This morning we conclude with last evening’s lecture and recount the establishment of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and, eventually, the demise of the de‘Medici Family. We will then head further south to the city of surprises — Naples. While Florence and Rome grew, struggled, and conducted wars, Naples grew into the most civilized city in Italy, with our discussions focusing specifically on traditional Neapolitan papier-mâché, ceramics and décor, and highlighting the life of the painter Caravaggio. After our refreshment and fellowship break, we will return to our classroom, this second session of the morning continues with Naples – and a preview to Venice as an important Port City –showing influences of various cultures as interpreted in the culinary arts, with the impact of the spice trade, customs of diet and the development of what today are considered typical Italian recipes like macaroni. We look at manners of eating and drinking, which date back to the Etruscans, and as also seen in Venetian art, and the influences of other seafaring countries such as Norway, and at the tables in Catholic households in Rome, and trade and contracts with the Papacy.

Lunch: Dining Room buffet.

Afternoon: As we end our day, we will introduce the city of light and shadow, of music, politics and water: Venice (Venezia in Italian). We’ll learn about its early years, from Torcello to Burano and Murano, with the reasons for its establishment and some comments (and a video) on its precarious state and fragile ecosystem, and the “marriage” the Venetians have to the Sea.

Dinner: In the Dining Room. Share some of your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: We’ll gather for fun and stimulating evening activities. Prepare for check-out and departure after lunch tomorrow.

DAY
6
Venice, Program Concludes
Montreat, NC
B,L

Activity note: Check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: In the Dining Room.

Morning: This morning, we continue with Venezia, known as La Serenissima (The Most Serene Republic of Venice): We’ll trace the early years of the basilica of San Marco as a place of worship and veneration, and the subsequent establishment of St. Mark as the patron saint of the city. The influences of the East and the Crusades will be seen in the mosaics of the façade of the Basilica of San Marco, and the art works of Bellini, Giorgione and others. We will emphasize how Venice looked East for is inspiration in architecture and fashion and is seen in a specific Venetian style of textiles. Following our refreshment and fellowship break (and an opportunity for check out if you need it...check out of rooms is required by 11 a.m.), we continue with the city’s meteoric rise in commerce and trade and as a maritime center with explorers such as Marco Polo, and the political and religious power of the Doges. The influences of being a “floating city” on its various historic and present-day residents, and the importance of the Scuola or lay confraternity. The influence of the plague and Inquisitions on the Venetians will also be examined through the paintings of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. We conclude by looking at Venetian bead work in the Americas and Africa.

Lunch: Dining Room buffet. Box lunches will be available for those who cannot stay through lunch. This concludes our program.

Afternoon: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.