View from Certosa di San Martino
Learn about the rich heritage of Naples, from classical antiquity to the 18th century, with a particular focus on the city’s Baroque art treasures
Explore the perfectly preserved monastic complex of Certosa di San Martino overlooking the city and Bay of Naples, housing an impressive assembly of works by celebrated 17th century artists
Enjoy an excursion by boat to Capri, home to the ruins of Tiberius’s Villa Jovis
“Fantastic informative tour. I was most impressed with the organisation… everything went like clockwork. Alex was SO knowledgeable and inspirational with his enthusiasm for the art and architecture visited. The accommodation was excellent”
– ACE customer on a 2023 tour to Naples led by Alex Koller
A bustling sea port, the city of Naples has a long and eminent history as one of the few European centres that can claim an unbroken continuity as a metropolis since its classical origins.
Once the favourite haunt of Roman citizens, and later Italy’s only truly royal city for almost six centuries, Naples was never short of artistic patronage. Dukes, archbishops, nobles and religious orders contributed to an extremely dense collection of buildings and works of art in and around the city: in particular, many examples of Neapolitan painting from the 17th and 18th centuries have remained in their original locations and can thus be appreciated as part of a uniquely authentic artistic landscape.
Our tour covers the main collections of Neapolitan art at the Museo di Capodimonte, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Royal Palace. We will also view the Renaissance sculpture adorning Castel Nuovo.
Attention will be paid to a number of religious buildings that contain art of the highest order, including the medieval royal tombs at Santa Chiara, and churches that have retained either all or much of their original decoration. Among the most fascinating are Pio Monte della Misericordia, which displays Caravaggio’s Seven Works of Mercy, and the important Baroque Church of San Gregorio Armeno, decorated by Luca Giordano.
Naples flourished under the Spanish Bourbons who, apart from a brief Napoleonic interlude, controlled the city from 1734 to 1860. One of the most outstanding legacies of the Bourbon kings is the palace and parklands of Capodimonte, which houses a fine collection of decorative arts and works ranging from Bellini and Botticelli to Caravaggio and Corregio.
Complementing these visits, our itinerary will also include a day at leisure with an optional excursion by boat to Capri, where we will have the opportunity to view the ruins of Tiberius’s Villa Jovis.
We will stay throughout at the four-star Grand Hotel Oriente, located in the historical centre of Naples.
This tour will be led by Alex Koller, PhD, an art historian who has studied in Vienna, Salzburg and Cambridge, where he gained his PhD in History of Art from Magdalene College. Alex has been leading tours since 1998 and is an accomplished linguist. His experience ranges from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Himalayas to Japan and southeast Asia.
On this study tour, Alex Koller will examine the cultural richness of Naples, a living historical city that for centuries enjoyed a reputation as one of Italy’s foremost sites, not least in the days of the Grand Tour. Alex explains:
"While the individual buildings have changed, the Greek Neapolis survives in the plan of the city to this day, with the result that the feeling of being present in an antique city can probably be experienced better in Naples than anywhere else. In contrast to many cities that can trace their history to antiquity, Naples has never ceased to function as an urban community, not even in the darkest hours of the early Middle Ages.
This makes for a remarkably complete history of Neapolitan art, which peaked at several points in history: at the introduction of the Gothic style under the Angevins in the 13th century; at the arrival of the Renaissance in southern Italy in the 15th century; and, above all, in the splendour of the Neapolitan Baroque in the 17th century.
The Baroque period saw Naples, then under the government of representatives of the Spanish Crown, rise to the heights of the European art scene, as it attracted important painters from all over Italy and beyond to add to its significant local tradition. The churches of Naples are, in particular, veritable galleries of the achievements of the Neapolitan School of painting, and offer an opportunity to view many works of this period in their original setting.
The 18th century saw the building of the last great royal palace of absolutist Europe at Caserta, but also the epoch-making discovery of the archaeological sites around Mount Vesuvius. The Royal Palace at Portici served as the first museum for the finds from nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, and gave rise to the building of dozens of fashionable villas along the Miglio d’Oro (‘Golden Mile’). Eventually housed in the former University building, now the National Archaeological Museum, these collections form the most comprehensive set of materials from a classical site anywhere in the world.
More than any other building the Certosa di San Martino summarises Naples: it is a testimony to the extremely rich religious life of the city, a testimony to royal patronage, home to a unique collection of paintings and sculptures of the 17th century, and provides a view from the heights of Vomero Hill over the city towards Vesuvius and across the Bay of Naples to the Sorrento Peninsula and the island of Capri."
Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, seven breakfasts, one lunch, six dinners with wine, water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.
Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £340.