Step off the beaten path with unconventional tours
Medici Friends and Foes: The Great Families of Florence
While the Medici are often credited with making Florence the artistic capital of Italy, the city’s magnificent monuments are actually the product of collaboration (and competition!) between several powerful families of merchant-bankers. As we explore the picturesque Santa Maria Novella neighborhood in Florence’s historic center, we will admire the life-like portraits of the wealthy Sassetti family in the church of Santa Trinita’ and marvel at the impressive Renaissance palaces that the Strozzi and Rucellai families built to “keep up” with the Medici. We will also visit the impressive Gothic church of Santa Maria Novella and examine fantastically preserved fifteenth-century frescoes in the private chapels of the Tornabuoni and Strozzi families. This tour is ideal for those who want to explore some of Florence’s lesser-known sights while escaping major crowds.
A Merchant Republic: Business, Politics, and Family in Renaissance Florence
Unlike most European cities in the middle ages, Florence owed no allegiance to a lord or king. Instead, Florentines lived in an autonomous city-state governed by merchant-bankers, and its citizens proudly proclaimed their home a republic. Immerse yourself in the world of medieval and Renaissance Florentines as we tour the places where they prayed, lived, and worked. We will begin with a visit to Orsanmichele, a grain-market turned church with walls adorned by sculpture paid for by the merchant guilds, including dynamic pieces by pioneering Renaissance artists Donatello and Lorenzo Ghiberti. As we admire the nearby Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s medieval town hall, we will discuss the city’s dramatic political history and its struggle to remain independent. Finally, we will experience the daily life of Florentine merchants with a visit to Palazzo Davanzati, a palace that maintains its original appearance and allows guests to step back in time to explore a Renaissance home.
From “Florentia” to “Fiorenza”: Ancient and Medieval Florence
While Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, it was founded by the Romans over two thousand years ago and had become a major banking city by the Middle Ages. On this tour we will discover Florence’s ancient Roman origins, including traces of Roman buildings repurposed by clever Florentines and the archaeological excavations of the Roman theatre beneath the Palazzo Vecchio. We will also admire Florence’s most impressive medieval buildings, including the Duomo and Orsanmichele, as we consider the city’s transformation from a humble trading center to a major metropolis as the Florentines struggled to establish a “new Rome” on the Arno. This tour can also be extended to include a visit to Florence’s Archaeological Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of Etruscan and Roman art.
Masters of Sculpture
While Michelangelo’s name has become synonymous with Renaissance Italy, he is just one of many talented Florentine sculptors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries who redefined the concept of beauty and the meaning of art. Follow their journey from “simple” artisans to “genius” artists as we take a look at some of the worlds’ most famous works of sculpture at Orsanmichele, Piazza della Signoria, and the Bargello. Along the way, we will admire sculpture by Donatello, Benvenuto Cellini, Giambologna, and many others and discuss the ways that the competitive world of Renaissance Florence pushed these artists to the limits of their creativity.
Masters of Painting
The artists of Renaissance Florence are credited with painting some of the most life-like and captivating works in art history. While the Uffizi remains an important stop for art lovers, true painting connoisseurs should not miss the magnificent Pitti Palace, where you can still find the private collection of the Medici dukes displayed as it would have been in their former residence hundreds of years ago. Discover awe-inspiring pieces by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and other masters as we explore this lavish palace and enjoy its immersive and tranquil atmosphere that sets it apart from Florence’s otherwise crowded museums.
Half-day (3 hours) or full-day (6 hours)
I also offer tours of the historic centers of other Tuscan towns including Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, Volterra, and Lucca. If you would like to explore any of these charming towns or other locations in Tuscany, feel free to contact me with your availability and interests and I would be happy to put together a tour for you.