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The Italian art of the Handmade

The Italian art of the Handmade

On this twelve-day journey you will ascend to the heights of Florence, descend into the ancient underground of Rome, and traverse the watery pathways of the Venetian canals. Together with your teachers and local Italian experts you will let the greatest creators of the past be transformed into living experiences of beauty, intellect, and of all the senses.

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On this twelve-day journey you will ascend to the heights of Florence, descend into the ancient underground of Rome, and traverse the watery pathways of the Venetian canals. Together with your teachers and local Italian experts you will let the greatest creators of the past be transformed into living experiences of beauty, intellect, and of all the senses.

The Visionaries and craftsmen who shaped history

What does it mean to build something that will last thousands of years? How do the craftsmen of the medieval world create the bedrock of modern civilization? How have the frescoed interiors of palaces, the glass blowers of Venice, and the artists of the Renaissance changed the course of history?

Considering these questions and many more, you will experience Italy from the perspective of craftsmen, artists, and trades people who constructed palaces and furniture, who solved the mysteries of architecture, and invented new ways of experiencing the world through their discoveries. You will see some of the greatest artworks and museums of Europe, but you will also be encouraged to take what you see and build it into your own repertoire of understanding and imagination. Observing beautiful places while sketching or drawing is just one of the ways you will let your own expertise become the language of conversation with the places and beauty you encounter. Celebratory dinners, workshops led by locals, and the exploration of ruins and masterpieces will become the raw matter of your Italian classroom.

Tour Price:
Tour Dates:

December 11 - 22, 2023


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Day 1

Welcome to Venice

Welcome to Venice, la Serenissima, the Most Serene, Beautiful Queen of the Adriatic.

At 10:00 am you will meet your Alithea guide for a welcome meeting and an orientation to Alithea’s style of travel. Then you’ll set out for a walk to discover the history of the islands brought together by trade, piracy, merchants, and the masters of the sea. Your backstreets walk will introduce you to the building techniques of the Venetians, the confluence of east and west in palace facades, and the technique of carving the ‘forcula’, the wooden ‘steering wheel’ of the gondola. Your walk will conclude with a visit to Saint Mark’s square where you’ll be free to draw in the Doge’s Palace, the clock tower, Saint Mark’s, or while sipping a coffee on Saint Mark’s square.

This evening you will regroup for a traditional Venetian dinner.

Day 2

The Venetian Lagoon

This morning after breakfast you will meet your local guide for a boat trip across the Venetian lagoon. You’ll visit with a master craftsman for a demonstration of blowing glass on the island of Murano, you’ll visit the lace makers of Burano, and stop for lunch on the island of Torcello where the first Venetians settled. After a visit to the ancient church you’ll return to the main islands of Venice for a free afternoon. This evening your guide will organize an optional gondola ride for those students that might be interested.

Day 3

Mask Making and the Venetian Renaissance

This morning you’ll visit the Frari church where you’ll see some of the great masterpieces of the Venetian renaissance including Titian’s assumption of the Virgin Mary and the tomb of Canova. After a mid-morning café, take inspiration from the art you have seen to participate in a mask-making workshop with a local master.

After your mask is complete, your morning will conclude with an orientation and entrance to the Accademia Gallery, the great museum of the Venetian Renaissance where you’ll see Veronese, Titian, Tinoretto, and many more.

Day 4

Medieval and Renaissance Florence and Michelangelo’s David

After breakfast in your hotel, you’ll ride the nearby ‘vaporetto’ or waterbus down the Grand Canal to Venice’s train station where you’ll catch the high speed train to Florence.

Arriving late in the morning, you’ll drop your bags at your hotel, a historic palazzo at the center of Florence before following your guide on an orientation to the city and free time for lunch at the Central Market.

Mid-afternoon you’ll meet back at the hotel to check-in and depart for a walking tour of the city that will lead you through the lives of the medieval craftsmen whose vision for art and architecture reshaped Europe. Your walk will conclude with a visit to the Accademia Galleria, the Academy of fine arts, where you’ll see Michelangelo’s David and the plaster busts artists used to sculpt masterpieces. This evening you’ll celebrate the city of guilds and craftsmen with a Florentine feast.

Day 5

Medieval Tower Homes, Bronze Casting, and the Artisans of the Oltrarno

Your studies abroad will continue this morning with a visit to the medieval tower-home Palazzo Davanzati where you’ll experience the medieval connection between the physical and spiritual, artistic and practical, and mythic and empirical as you examine frescoes, medieval furniture, jewelry, and the medieval sense of virtue. Your next stop this morning will be a bronze casting workshop in the Oltrarno where the replica bronze doors of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise were cast. Your morning will conclude with a visit to the church of Santo Spirito, constructed by the great genius Brunelleschi, and an entrance to see one of Michelangelo’s earliest works, a wood carving of Christ on the cross.

This afternoon you’ll be free to explore the city of the Renaissance as you wish. At 3:30 you will have an entrance to climb the Duomo.

Day 6

The city of Florence and the Uffizi Gallery

This morning you will be free to explore the city on your own. Visit the nearby Opificio delle Pietre Dure, the workshop of semi-precious stones, founded by the Medici and still one of the global leaders in art restoration and teaching. Or visit the nearby Monastery of Saint Mark’s to see the frescoes of Fra Angelico. The opportunities to draw or to discover the foundations of the Renaissance through the craftsmen of the Medieval world are countless. Visit Santa Croce and the leather school, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapels, the statues of the Bargello, or the Galileo Museum.

At 3:00 this afternoon you will meet your guide for a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, the great center of Renaissance painting. Here you will observe the shift from the Byzantine style of painting to the high Renaissance.

Day 7

Italian Traditions and Stone Masons

After breakfast in your hotel, you’ll walk to meet the bus to spend the day in the Italian countryside stopping for lunch in Siena for a visit to Emilio Frati, the town’s last stone mason.

This afternoon you’ll check into your agriturismo in time to wander the olive groves and vineyards before an Italian cooking demonstration and wine tasting with dinner.

Day 8

All Roads Lead to Rome

After breakfast in the castle of your agriturismo the next leg of your journey will continue to Rome. Your first stop this morning will be a travertine marble quarry at nearby Rapolano followed by lunch in a family run restaurant.

Your arrival to Rome will follow the ancient roads of the Romans along the via Salaria. There your local guide will introduce you to Rome as a multi-layered and many dimensional palimpsest, or a manuscript that has been written over many times. Visiting the Mausoleum of Costanza, or Saint Agnese Outside the Walls with its marvelous catacombs and mosaics will illustrate how the work of craftsmen can endure and reflect a vision of beauty, not just for centuries, but for thousands of years.

In the early evening, you’ll check into your hotel, a seventeenth century palazzo and convent now run as a guest house in one of the city’s best locations.  

Tonight you’ll dine alla Romana in a nearby family run restaurant.

Day 9

The Capital of the ancient world, from Shepherds to Palaces

This morning your study abroad activities will begin near one of Rome’s longest standing engineering feats, the ancient sewer. Here by the Tiber River you’ll stand in one of Rome’s focal points between past and present, in sight of ancient temples, an old forum, and the city’s oldest bridge, the first stop this morning will be Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the Greek church built over the temple to Apollo and the home to the bocca della verita. Together with your guide you’ll trace through the centuries as you climb the Capitoline steps, designed by Michelangelo, see the equestrian bronze of Marcus Aurelius (a replica), and pass through the courtyard between the worlds’ oldest museums and the temple to Jupiter before visiting the ancient Roman Forum and Palatine hill.

You’ll be free to spend the afternoon drawing in the Capitoline Museum, the Palatine Hill, or simply marveling at the seemingly ageless city.

Day 10

Emperors, saints, and the artists whose names will never be known

After breakfast in your hotel, you’ll ride the bus to the National Museum at Palazzo Massimo where your local guide will introduce you to the art and life of an ancient Roman in the interiors of homes, frescoes, statues, busts, bronzes, and money.

Bring your sketch books to spend the afternoon drawing the nearby interior spaces of the ancient Roman baths, the aqueducts, mosaics, obelisks, or basilicas that have survived.

Following dinner tonight we’ll take an evening stroll through the city to see Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Hadrian’s temple, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

Day 11

Palazzo Colonna and the Pantheon

On the final full day of your study abroad program, with your local guide this morning you’ll visit the Pantheon, the temple to all gods, and perhaps the most enduring of all Roman monuments. Perfect in its many proportions, this work of man’s endeavor tells a story not only of the ancient Roman vision of the beautiful, but also of the relationship between stone, sky, and time.

In the later morning, you’ll visit the Palazzo Colonna where you’ll glimpse eight hundred years of history, family traditions, and the continuity of life in Rome through art, furniture, carpets, painting, and architecture.

This evening you’ll regroup for one last celebratory meal as each of your ACBA travelers will be invited to reflect what this journey has inspired while feasting as the Romans. La dolce vita.

Day 12

Arrivederci Roma

Wake early to watch the sunrise from the Capitoline Hill or in the square in front of the Pantheon. Your study abroad program concludes at breakfast. Your guide will be available to help with questions for those staying or arranging transportation for those heading home.

Day 13

Day 14

Day 14
Day 15

Day 15


There was never a bad moment. Getting guided through St. Marks square when we first got to Venice was amazing. climbing the Duomo, having free time to walk around th shops before dinner in all the cities. The Sienna museum.

Written by
Charles M.


8 dinners and lunches
All transportation to group activities
11 nights in shared accommodation with your classmates in the historic centers of each of the cities we visit
More than 12 entrances and group activities
Your friendly Alithea tour manager for the duration of the tour.
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Pack Light

You will stay in centrally located hotels and historic palaces in the city centers which will often mean needing to walk between your train and hotels. Between destinations you will be required to carry your own luggage which may include significant stairs and no elevator. You are encouraged to take a simple carry-on size bag with a small backpack for outings. This principle of traveling light is also a metaphor for travel, it encourages travelers to live in the moment, to participate as locals, and to embrace a spirit of discovery and joy in each moment.

Come Prepared

While you will not be required to bring your hammer and chisel, you must bring your desire to learn, to be inspired, and to aspire to follow the example of the great monuments and examples of history. Just as the ACBA provides an antidote to a superficial approach to education; this trip has been created as a response to mass, consumer-style travel. Each experience emphasizes the transformative power of people and places. Come prepared to walk, to learn, to listen, and to have fun.

Bus and Travel Time

We will take the bus and high-speed train in order to arrive at the spectacular destinations we’ll be visiting. We’ll not only use this time to relax and enjoy the view but also to prepare with our Alithea guide for the sites we’ll visit next.


For further questions don't hesitate to reach out to us directly.

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Reserve Your Place

The Italian art of the Handmade

A $500 deposit is required to reserve your spot. All deposits and discounts (if applicable) will be applied to the total tour price. Deposits are refundable within 30 days of payment.

*Read our refund policy here