Palermo and Western Sicily
Sunday 10 – Thursday 14 May 2020
Sicily, in the centre of the Mediterranean, has been much coveted and fought over for all of its history. The Greeks, from the 8th century BC, colonised the south and east of the island and established city states of great wealth and splendour, the Phoenicians settled in the north and west and founded, amongst others, Palermo and Mozia. For the Romans, Sicily was the bread basket of the empire. The Moors were succeeded by the Normans, who called Sicily “The Kingdom of the Sun” and established a glittering court at Palermo, from where they governed a multicultural kingdom with extraordinary tolerance and harmony. Years of Angevin and Spanish rule followed with centuries of vice-regal neglect, interrupted by more direct rule as one half of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Palermo is a vibrant melting pot, where all these influences are blended.
This five-day tour is based in Palermo, with time to explore the palaces, churches, markets and galleries in the city. In addition, we have an expedition to the west to take in the Greek temple at Segesta and a final day to the east at Cefalu.
Bologna, Mantua, Modena and Parma
Monday 25 – Friday 29 May 2020
The Apennines descend abruptly into the vast flat valley of the River Po and the river itself is the boundary between Emilia-Romagna, the northernmost Papal State, and to the west Lombardy, and to the east, the Veneto. Inevitably it has a confusing history. In the 16th century, a series of semi-independent dukedoms, mostly papal in origin, emerge. Parma was ruled by the Farnese, then Bourbons and latterly by Napoleon’s second Empress, Marie-Louise. Modena was the fief of the Este family, while across the River Po in Lombardy, Mantua was ruled by the highly cultured Gonzaga family. Bologna itself, which had become papal property in 1506, witnessed the coronation of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor in 1530 and, apart from an artistic high point with Guido Reni and the Carracci family, slumbered in obscurity until aroused by the spirit of revolution in the 1830s. Notwithstanding this political jumble, what emerged were a series of beautiful cities, filled with treasures and famous for their food. Parma provides its eponymous ham and cheese; Modena is the home of balsamic vinegar and Bologna jealously guards its recipe for tortelloni.
This five-day tour is based in Bologna, giving time to explore the city, from here we will venture out to Parma, Mantua and Modena to see their most interesting sites; churches, galleries, theatres and palaces.
Houses and Gardens around Dublin and Central Ireland
Monday 7 – Friday 11 September 2020
Monday 14 – Friday 18 September 2020
Irish gardens come in all shapes and sizes and rarely is there a duff one. Enthusiastic gardening, usually taking advantage of the mainly acidic soil and the abundant rainfall, has been happening in Ireland for centuries, from the formal 17th century canal garden at Killruddery, through the great woodland gardens inspired by William Robinson in the 19th century, to the gardens of designers and plantsmen and women being created and tended today, invariably filled with interesting planting and gardened with huge confidence, knowledge and great generosity.
In this five-day tour, based in the centre of Dublin, we will cover the whole spectrum of Irish gardening in and around Dublin, south into County Wicklow and west as far as Offaly. We will visit historic gardens, including some spectacular gardens inspired by William Robinson, perhaps the most influential of all Irish gardeners, a garden designed by Lutyens and contemporary gardens created by the best of today’s gardeners including Helen Dillon and the siblings, June and Jimi Blake. We are also visiting a number of houses, in two of them we are having lunch and the others we are visiting for their spectacular interiors and collection of paintings.
Palaces, Galleries and Churches of Rome
Monday 26 -Thursday 29 October 2020
So much has been written about Rome already that it is difficult to express anything of the magic of this city with any originality. From its foundation in 753BC, it has piled layer upon layer of building and culture. From Republican Rome, through the imperial era and on into the centuries of Papal rule, the city evolved constantly. Classical temples rose and fell, medieval architecture was succeeded by the glories of the Renaissance, represented triumphantly by the rebuilding of St Peter’s by Bramante and Michelangelo, and the decoration of the Vatican by Raphael. The Counter-Reformation was expressed by the Baroque architecture of Bernini and Borromini and, in painting, supremely by Caravaggio.
In this four-day tour we visit a wide range of buildings within walking distance of our centrally located hotel. We will see buildings rarely open, or seldom visited, to provide another view of Rome than the one the casual tourist sees.