Florence: A Prologue

October 12, 13, 14, 2019

Only our favorite places: this was the deal I struck with Nancy, who has recently avoided Florence. It is a city that that we love, though mostly from memories of earlier times, when it wasn’t teeming with visitors. Our solution to this is an itinerary made up of not-so-famous but nevertheless wonderful sites overlooked by many tourists: the Brancacci Chapel, a portion is which is shown above, a couple of museums that aren’t the Uffizi or the Accademia, a handful of churches that aren’t the Duomo and, something we’ve wanted to do for years: a survey of “cenacoli,” refectories that is, with frescoes of the Last Supper: Ghirlandaio’s in the church of the Ognissanti, Andrea del Castagno’s in Sant’Apollonia, Ghirlandaio’s in the Monastery of San Marco, Taddeo Gaddi’s in Santa Croce and, if we’re lucky, one or two more.

This tour is intended as a prologue to our Tuscan Villas and Gardens tour that starts the afternoon of October 14, and is in response to several people asking if they couldn’t see more of Florence. So now you can.

Our Itinerary:

Saturday, October 12

We begin in the afternoon, with the thought that people can arrive in the morning, or a day earlier if they choose. Our hotel for the prologue as well as the garden tour is the Bernini Palace Hotel in the historic center of the city.

This afternoon’s tour will take us first to the 14th century Orsanmichele, originally a market with granary and later a showplace for early Renaissance sculpture. It’s a great place to start. Especially since artistic movements often take hold first in sculpture, later in paint. And from there to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, where all the great sculptural bits from the duomo are housed, including the Ghiberti bronze doors from the baptistry and works by Donatello and Michelangelo. So an afternoon of important Renaissance sculpture.

Sunday, October 13

A very full day, starting with our first cenacolo in the monastery of Sant’Apollonia. This haunting Last Supper by Andrea del Castagno is one of the frescoes I remember most from my early visits to Florence. From there we continue to the Monastery of San Marco, where each of the monks’ tiny cells is graced with a beautiful fresco, many of them by Fra Angelico. And here we encounter another Last Supper, this one by Ghirlandaio, the artist of the beautiful. After a hearty Tuscan Sunday lunch, we cross to the other side of the Arno to see one of the great frescoes of Florence in the Brancacci Chapel. Here we can note with remarkable clarity the segue from the beautiful Gothic hand of Masolino to the robust, early Renaissance figures by Masaccio. We will also stop off at the church of Santa Trinitá with, among other treasures, a beautiful Ghirlandaio Adoration of the Shepherds.

Monday, October 14

Morning visit to the Bargello, a museum primarily of sculpture, with several remarkable statues of David, that aren’t by Michelangelo! But rather wonderful works by Donatello and Verrocchio. David, by the way, is the patron saint of Florence. And, finally, we end our “Prologue” with one final Last Supper, this one by Taddeo Gaddi in the treasure trove church of Santa Croce.

So, all in all, a wonderful survey of painting and sculpture from the Golden Age of the 1400s. And a very good prologue to the Tuscan Gardens and Villa tour, which begins at 3:00 this afternoon.


The cost of the Florence Prologue is $800 in double occupancy; $1500 in single occupancy. This includes two nights at the Bernini Palace Hotel, two-and-a-half days of tours as outlined, entrance fees, guide fees, tips and Sunday lunch.