Teatro dell'Antica, Sabbioneta
Experience the artistic highlights of northern Italy from bases in historical Bologna and Parma
View works of art by the Old Masters, including the superb collection of Bolognese paintings in the Pinacoteca Nazionale
Explore fascinating churches and cathedrals, including Mantua’s sumptuous Palazzo Te
“Andrew Spira was very well informed, and able to pull together the things that we were looking at and demonstrate how artistic trends developed. I couldn’t have wished for better”
- ACE customer on a previous tour to Bologna, Mantua & Parma with Andrew Spira
This navigation of northern Italy absorbs the cultural splendours of Bologna and Parma, and includes excursions to the city of Mantua and the walled Renaissance town of Sabbioneta.
Bologna’s architectural icons include the Gothic Basilica di San Petronio, originally intended to dwarf St Peter’s in Rome, and the lavish Basilica di San Domenico, a Renaissance showpiece that preserves the delicately crafted tomb of the eponymous saint.
Mantua – which only joined the kingdom of Italy in 1866 – is famed for the Renaissance Palazzo Te, notable for its sumptuous decorations by Giulio Romano, in addition to the Palazzo Ducale, once the stronghold of the Gonzaga family, today home to majestic works by Rubens and Mantegna.
En route to Parma, we will learn about one of the area’s most famous gastronomic exports with a visit to the Parmesan cheese-maker at 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia, near Modena. We will enjoy a tour and a tasting at the factory, described as a ‘cathedral of Parmesans’.
Parma’s Romanesque octagonal Baptistery is crowned with sculptures by Benedetto Antelami, whilst the cupola of the 11th century cathedral is acclaimed for its masterful ceiling frescoes by Correggio. In the imposing Palazzo della Pilotta we find the Galleria Nazionale, presenting paintings by Murillo and Parmigianino.
The walled town of Sabbioneta is a uniquely preserved example of Renaissance town planning, demonstrating how the ideal of rational order became manifest not only in paintings, sculptures and buildings, but in the urban environment itself. Mostly built in the late 16th century, the town has its own Ducal Palace, now the Town Hall, and is home to the Palazzo Giardino, a richly decorated villa. It also features one of only three surviving examples of a Renaissance theatre, which we will compare with that in Parma, and a rare 19th century synagogue.
Our first three nights will be spent at the four-star Art Hotel Commercianti, just a few steps from the Basilica of San Petronio, in a traffic-free area of Bologna’s historical centre. The final three nights of the tour will be spent at the four-star Hotel Mercure Parma Stendhal, located in Parma’s old town.
This tour will be led by art historian Andrew Spira, MA. Andrew studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art as well as City University, London. For several years he was a specialist in Byzantine and Russian icons at Temple Gallery, London, before working as a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Andrew was subsequently Programme Director at Christie’s Education. He has been leading tours to cultural sites in Russia, Armenia, Georgia and all across Europe for over 20 years.