Proposed dates only 24th – 28th February 2021

If ever an excuse to return to Rome is needed, then here it is – a Private View of the Sistine Chapel.  We ahev decided to concentrate our few days on the art and  architecture and art of Raphael. We shall include the art of Raphael’s contemporaries and all that influenced him to paint a full picture of Rome at the pinnacle of the High Renaissance.

We will discuss other great works as we travel around the city so if this is your first time to Rome you will not be missing out on the highlights and if you have travelled with us to Rome before, we hope there will be something new for you on this trip.

The highlight of the course will be a private view of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel before it opens to the general public.


Wednesday 24th February

Once we have settled in to the Hotel Ponte Sisto we will head out to explore renaissance Rome and set the scene for the life of Raphael. We will pass the Palazzo Farnese and discuss one of Raphael’s great patrons before visiting the little-known church of S.Eligio designed by Raphael. We will cross the Campo dei Fiori on our way to the Pantheon, the final resting place of the master. We shall end with an aperitivo in the Piazza della Rotunda. Supper will be at a great little local trattoria.

Thursday 25th February

In the morning we will visit Santa Maria del Popolo, home to the first of the two chapels Agostino Chigi, banker to Pope Julius II, commissioned from Raphael. The chapel is Raphael’s best surviving architectural project and the dome is decorated with mosaics of ‘The Creation’ designed by Raphael. The chapel was later ‘modernised’ by Bernini – including two wonderful sculptures by the Baroque master, along with an altarpiece by Sebastiano del Piombo. We will also take time to study the two paintings by Caravaggio elsewhere in the church.

After lunch we will visit the Galleria Doria Pamphilj housed in the lavish family palazzo. Here we will see Raphael’s double portrait and also discuss other highlights in the gallery by Titian, Caravaggio, Carracci and Bernini. Dinner at a lively pizzeria.

Friday 26th February

We will spend the morning in delightful Trastevere. First we shall see the Tempietto by Bramante, followed by Sebastiano Del Piombo’s wonderful mural in the adjacent church with an interesting early project by Gianlorenzo Bernini. We will then visit the Villa Farnesina, originally built as the suburban villa of Agostino Chigi and decorated with fantastic frescoes by Raphael, Sebastiano, Sodoma and others. Trastevere is our favourite place for lunch.

In the afternoon we will see the truly beautiful fresco of Isaiah by Raphael in Sant’ Agostino and take the opportunity to look at Caravaggio’s wonderful Madonna di Loreto. Nearby is the church of Santa Maria della Pace with an equally elegant and intriguing fresco of the Sibyls in the second Chigi chapel commissioned from Raphael. Here we can also find the cloister designed by Raphael’s friend and mentor, Bramante.  An early dinner at an excellent restaurant in the centre of Rome.

Saturday 27th February

Early in the morning we will meet the holder of the 300 keys to the Vatican and join them as they open each room.  Our visit will take us through the main rooms including the Raphael Stanze and we will finish in the Sistine Chapel and watch as the custodian switches on the lights.  Here we will have the rare opportunity to study the frescoes without the crowds. After a delicious breakfast in the Vatican before it opens, we will stay on to study some of the areas in more detail.  On our way back from the Vatican we will briefly look at the Palazzo Jacopo da Brescia designed by Raphael before stopping for a light lunch.

The afternoon will be free for a well-earned rest, shopping or exploring further. Our tutors will be on hand to suggest place to visit. Supper at a place famed for their antipasto.

Sunday 28th February

In the morning we will visit the Domus Aurea, the Golden House of Emperor Nero started in 64AD.  The ruins were rediscovered in the late 15th century and artists would climb down ropes to get a glimpse of the underground splendours.  Raphael was one of these intrepid explorers and the ‘grotesques’ he saw greatly influenced his work in the Vatican.

After one last lunch we shall take our coach to the airport for the flight home.

Further Details


Dr Richard Stemp and Lavinia Harrington will lead the trip. Both tutors know Rome extremely well, and are not only experts in the art of the city but also know where to find the best restaurants, shops and cafes.


We will stay in the Hotel Ponte Sisto, a four star palazzo in the heart of Rome with a roof terrace. We have booked ‘Classic’ Rooms and you can upgrade to ‘Superior’ Rooms for £160 extra in total, please let me know as soon as possible as these are subject to availability.

Dates and Private View of the Vatican

As I am sure you can imagine, the Vatican is not yet able to confirm the date of our Private View.  We have put in the request and we are waiting to hear. Please therefore keep a few days free either side of the suggested dates until we have confirmation.  Thank you so much.


We do not book the flights thus allowing you to travel to suit your budget, use airmiles, travel between different airports or on different dates. We recommend buying the following flights with British airways:



There will be a private coach for the airport transfer to meet the recommended flights. We will mostly walk but may also catch public buses and taxis.


There is quite a bit of walking on this trip, as well as uneven terrain. As is the case for all our courses, there is a lot of standing while we discuss the works we are looking at.


The fees are £1700 which includes accommodation and breakfast, all lunches, transfers for the recommended flight, transport when connected with teaching, entrance fees, the Vatican Private Visit, tuition, reading lists and local advice. The single room supplement is £150 (double room for single use). The upgrade supplement is £160 and subject to availability. Please state on the form if you would be happy to share. Not included are the flights, all suppers and travel insurance. The group will not exceed 14 people.

The application form should be returned with a deposit of £600.00. Please note all new deposits paid after 24th March 2020 will be refunded if the current travel disruption continues due to Covid-19.  Please call 01379 871800 or email if you have any queries.

NB you must buy your own flights.

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