PROMO On the Trail of Leonardo - 500 Years of the Master's Heritage

Duration: 7 days

Highlights: Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Vinci, Anchiano, Orsanmichele, Duomo of Florence, Galleria dell'Accademia, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, La Scala

2019 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the finest minds in European history. Explore his legacy with this specially-designed 6-night programme in Florence and Milan, where his impact was most strongly felt, with low-cost offers combined for an itinerary that is both luxury and affordable

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Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival Florence

Upon arrival at Florence airport you will be met by your Guardian Angel and transferred by private vehicle to your hotel, where you will be assisted with check-in.

Florence casts a spell in the way that few cities can. Perhaps because of its sublime art, perhaps because of the views at sunset over the Arno, perhaps because of the way Florentine food and wine delight the palate. Or maybe it's because the city has not changed much since the 16th-century when Leonardo roamed its streets. The year 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death and represents the perfect opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the artist’s life and work.

Overnight: Hotel L'Orologio

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Day 2 - Florence

In the mid-1460s, Leonardo's family moved to Florence and, around the age of 14, he became a garzone (studio boy) in the workshop of Verrocchio, who was the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his time. Leonardo became an apprentice by the age of 17 and remained in training for seven years. According to Vasari, Leonardo collaborated with Verrocchio on his The Baptism of Christ, painting the young angel holding Jesus' robe in a manner that was so far superior to his master's that Verrocchio put down his brush and never painted again, although this is believed to be an apocryphal story.

This morning your local guide takes you to the world-famous Uffizi Gallery, housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, a building originally designed to hold the Uffizi (administrative offices) of the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo. The Uffizi’s celebrated collection of works includes several by Verrocchio and by Leonardo, including da Vinci's Annunciation, his earliest complete work, and the Adoration of the Magi, an unfinished painting which provides insight into his working technique. Other striking works in the Uffizi’s collection include Caravaggio's Medusa, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, and Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael.

Afterwards, explore one of Florence’s most significant architectural spaces: Palazzo Vecchio. Originally known as Palazzo della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio was the main residence of the Medici family and the political heart of the city. As you make your way through the building your guide will point out the enigmatic words 'search and find' written on a painting. Thought by a number of historians to be a clue into an art history mystery, some speculate that the most famous lost artwork of the Renaissance – Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco of the Battle of Anghiari – lies hidden behind this very wall! (4 hours, walking guide)

Overnight: Hotel L'Orologio

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Day 3 - Florence

According to the historian Vasari, the young Leonardo was the first to suggest making the River Arno a navigable channel between Florence and Pisa, Florence’s longtime rival. Meet your driver for a half-day excursion by private vehicle to this wonderful city today.

Upon arrival, meet your expert local guide for a two-hour walking tour, which will include the world-renowned Piazza dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) and the iconic Leaning Tower. Admire the Baptistry, the Campo Santo and the Duomo and learn more about these magnificent buildings before posing for a photo in front of the UNESCO-listed leaning Tower of Pisa. You may wish to walk along to the Knights' Square (Piazza dei Cavalieri), Pisa's second most famous square and the city's political centre throughout medieval times, where you can enjoy lunch at leisure (payable locally).

En route back to Florence, stop in the town of Vinci to pay homage to Leonardo’s place of birth. Leonardo spent his first years in the hamlet of Anchiano, just above Vinci, which you have the chance to visit. The small farmhouse belonging to Leonardo’s family still stands overlooking the Arno valley and is a stark reminder of the artist’s rather humble beginnings as the out-of-wedlock son of a Florentine legal notary and a local peasant named Caterina. In later life, Leonardo recorded several distinct childhood incidents from his early years in Vinci. One was of a kite coming to his cradle and opening his mouth with its tail, which he regarded as an omen of his writing on the subject.

You may wish to enjoy a walk around the peaceful town of Vinci before returning to Florence with your driver. (5 hours, driver, 2 hours walking guide in Pisa; no guiding included in Anchiano/Vinci; there is an English-language film on the artists’s life inside the hamlet of Anchiano)

Overnight: Hotel L'Orologio

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Day 4 - Florence

By 1472, at the age of 20, Leonardo qualified as a master in the Guild of Saint Luke, the guild of artists and doctors of medicine. Explore the role and power of the professional guilds of Florence, as shown in the building of Orsanmichele, and gain insight into the artistic and social milieu of Renaissance Florence. Artisans, merchants and powerful families of the time – in particular the powerful Medici banking dynasty – were busy building their wealth when not at war with other Italian city states. Visit the the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), the famous landmark of Florence, where you may wish to climb up the 464 steps to reach the top of the dome for a breath-taking view over the city. Next, stop for a visit to the Galleria dell'Accademia (Academy of Fine Arts) to see Michelangelo’s David, a colossal 5.2m (17ft) nude of the biblical hero who killed the giant Goliath. Learn why the David became a symbol of the city of Florence during Leonardo’s lifetime. Time permitting, you may wish to visit the the nearby Church of San Lorenzo and Medici Chapels. Once the parish church of the Medici family, the complex houses the burial chambers of most members of the family with statuary by Michelangelo.

Overnight: Hotel L'Orologio

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Day 5 - Florence - Milan

In 1482 Leonardo left Florence to offer his services to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. Follow in Leonardo’s footsteps today as you are met and transferred to the railway station to board your train to Milan. For today's journey (1 hour 50 minutes approximately), you are treated to A&K's concierge rail service.

It was in Milan where Leonardo spent a long and fruitful period of his life as an artist. Immerse yourself in the cultural climate in which he lived and worked and gain a better understanding of his life and art. There is no better place to start than at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, an artistic treasure trove that holds Leonardo's Portrait of a Musician and Atlantic Codex. The Codex is a stunning collection of studies and drawings that gives the measure of Leonardo's genius. Continue on to the Salla delle Asse in the Castello Sforzesco, where Leonardo's unmistakable personality and boundless creativity are also in evidence. Of course, your day wouldn't be complete without a visit to Santa Maria delle Grazie, a Renaissance jewel where Leonardo worked closely with another artistic genius, Donato Bramante. This church contains Leonardo's Last Supper, a masterpiece of realism and perspective. (3 hours, driver and guide)

Please note that the Last Supper is always subject to availability

Overnight: Starhotels Rosa Grand

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Day 6 - Milan

Continue your exploration of the historic heart of Milan today, taking in the colossal and flamboyant Duomo, or cathedral. Begun by the Visconti family in 1386, the cathedral was finished by Napoleon in 1805 and, today, it is the third largest church in the world. Walk through the nearby and architecturally impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a 19th-century glass vaulted shopping arcade and one of the world's first examples of Art Nouveau. In Milan, the Galleria is still called 'the living room of the Milanese'. During the 19th century its bars and cafes served as a meeting point for artists, poets, and writers.

Continue on to La Scala Theatre Opera House, which dates back to 1776. Many of the world's most famous operas had their premieres here, including Verdi's Nabucco, Otello and Falstaff, and Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Turandot. (3 hours, driver and guide)

Please note that your visit inside the Opera House is subject to the theatre's performance and rehearsal scheduling and availability.

Overnight: Starhotels Rosa Grand

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Day 7 - Depart Milan

Meet your driver and Guardian Angel and transfer in the comfort of your private luxury vehicle to Milan Malpensa airport where you are assisted with check-in.

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