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Welcome to our May Newsletter!

Thursday 26th May 2016

Welcome to our May Newsletter! We are now very much in the midst of releasing details onto our website of our visits for the first part of 2017, with the latest, Barbados, going “live” a few days ago and already we have had some bookings! Do look at our website as each week sees new trips added, with for example, details of our visits to Provence and Extremadura due to be released in the next two weeks. An Island Paradise: Country Houses of Barbados - when we announced our outline 2017 visit programme last January, a few clients expressed surprise that it listed a possible visit to Barbados. Some thought it odd that we would visit somewhere usually associated with winter sunshine. A canny few realised that here was an opportunity to visit, yes, at a time when winter gloom is still the default setting in the UK, but in a manner that would offer participants an insight into the history of Barbados and its Plantation families, their homes and lifestyles. We pride ourselves on opening doors that are otherwise firmly shut and this visit, 15 – 23 March 2017, will be no exception. Led by Juliet Barclay (who has led several tours to Cuba for us), who was born on the island so knows its history well. James Hill will tour manage the visit and on his recent visit to the island he secured access to several very private houses, including some by the renowned Oliver Messell. As you can imagine, some of the owners have asked that we not publish the identity of the houses and as a result, we can assure you that our itinerary will contain more than its fair share of “lollipops”! Based in the renowned Cobbler’s Cove Hotel, ample time will be provided to enjoy its sybaritic pleasures. That said, we have not lost sight of this year’s visits and I detail below a few later this Autumn which have some availability and in which you might be interested? A Nation Formed: Washington and Virginia will see us visit the US’s capital for the first time from 13 - 22 September and will combine visits to the city’s great public institutions including the Capitol and a private visit to the State Department. The city has wonderful museums including the National Gallery and the Freer (visited privately). Timed to catch the first “Fall” colours, a series of important gardens will be included such as the renowned Dumbarton Oaks and Hillwood House and Garden. Outside the city, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and George Washington’s Mount Vernon will be visited – all seen at a momentous time for the US as it moves closer to what should be a pivotal election climax! An Anniversary Celebration: Giovanni Bellini & Venice has gained extra relevance due to the Royal Academy’s current exhibition “In the Age of Giorgione” (it closes on 5 June) as many critics have remarked on the overriding role placed by Giovanni in forming the style and career of so many younger men such as Giorgione and Titian. Led by one of our great authorities on fifteenth century Italian art, Paula Nuttall, this 6 – 10 October visit is the ideal opportunity to see Venice at an important moment in its history with new eyes. Based in a very comfortable, privately owned hotel looking out across the Lagoon towards Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, we have just a few places left on this visit. A Hidden Europe: Exploring Slovenia is truly a unique opportunity to discover something quite different as the country maintains its independence of spirit amidst some of its less tolerant neighbours. Remarkable natural beauty, a resilient population, fine castles, churches and palaces - all seen at probably the most beautiful time to visit, it is the ideal short Autumnal break. Based in elegant Ljubljana 8 – 14 October, seize the moment and join James Hill and his local colleagues as they guide you through natural beauty, complex history, fine buildings and the excellent local food and wine. Merchants and Monarchs – A Shakespearean Masterclass, 7 - 11 October, will include two highly anticipated productions which will form the monumental bookends to this visit, led by Shakespearean actor James Howard, as we have secured tickets to what will be two of the “must-see” productions of 2016. At the Globe Theatre in London, Jonathan Pryce revives his critically acclaimed performance of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, whilst in Stratford upon Avon, Sir Antony Sher will tackle possibly Shakespeare’s most demanding role – described as “the actor’s Everest” – King Lear, in a production directed by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s artistic director Gregory Doran. This four-night tour will take us on a journey from the heart of Shakespeare’s creative home in London to his spiritual home in the Warwickshire countryside. We will explore many of the sites and houses that Shakespeare visited on his travels, including a hidden gem in the centre of Oxford, the Painted Room, with remarkably preserved sixteenth century wall paintings. All in all, this will be a unique opportunity to watch two great Shakespearean actors on the two most important Shakespearean stages – a perfect way to celebrate such a significant anniversary! And finally, wearing another hat, on Tuesday, 28 June I shall give a Study morning at the Coton Manor Garden School on Smaller Gardens. Two lectures, broken by coffee, will focus on the trials, failures and successes of making a small garden at our house in Aynho. Ten years old this Autumn, it has been a wonderful experience and images of our garden through all four seasons spread over those ten years, will be used. In addition I plan to include images from gardens from which I have drawn inspiration. Coton is truly unique as it combines what I believe to be our finest garden in Northamptonshire, a wonderful range of garden-themed lectures, excellent hospitality (there will be a delicious lunch!) and an opportunity to buy plants from the on-site nursery, many of which I have used in our own garden. Please call Coton direct on 01604 740219 or visit their website for further details. The image used to illustrate this item is a photo of a peony (Joseph Rock) taken in our garden last Sunday, after torrential rain on Saturday - hence the slightly damp look! Until our next newsletter in a few weeks, all best wishes, Tom

Welcome to our April Newsletter!

Friday 29th April 2016

Welcome to our April Newsletter! Rain, hail and snow – all thrown down from above as I drove through Leicestershire and Rutland a few nights ago – will warm Spring breezes ever arrive, I wonder? Never mind, here at CICERONI we are now well on with our preparations for the 2017 brochure and we have released full details of several of next year’s visits on our website, as follows: Sound the Trumpet: The Valletta Baroque Festival will see us return to Malta, 14 – 21 January for a celebration of Bach, Handel, Lully, Rameau, Vivaldi and many others. Next year’s Festival will feature some of Europe’s best period instrument groups such as The Dunedin Consort, The Sixteen and the remarkable Le Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. Led by Malta’s most experienced guide, Glorianne Mizzi, supported by Stephen Brook, we can look forward to wonderful music and warm winter sunshine. Patricians & Painters: Venice for Connoisseurs is one of our most popular visits and next year’s version, 6 – 11 March, sees an expanded itinerary with some new private visits included. The emphasis on this visit has always been on private access – St Mark’s Basilica at night, some of the city’s most distinguished palaces and historic collections that are not only off the beaten track, but are difficult to access. Based in a very comfortable hotel on the Grand Canal, mid way between the Rialto Bridge and the newly refurbished Accademia Picture Gallery, we are perfectly placed to take advantage of what Jan Morris memorably called “a positive ecstasy” as we discover a Venice you may not know existed? Spring in Galicia: Camellias & Caminos was first suggested to me as a possible tour by one of our distinguished horticultural hosts in Ireland (Lord Rosse of Birr Castle Demesne) and what a gem it turned out to be when we took a group there for the first time a few weeks ago. All those who participated (including Lord Rosse) were simply amazed by what we saw, not to mention the generous hospitality we were given by the owners. Equally impressive was the introduction we were given to Santiago de Compostela and the Camino (the renowned pilgrimage to the shrine of St James) by one of Galicia’s most experienced and personable guides, Manuel Ruzo, who has agreed to help lead our tour next year, 16 – 22 March. The Other Lakes: Iseo & Garda with Brescia & Bergamo will be one of next year’s new visits, 18 - 22 April. Having visited Lakes Como and Maggiore for many years, James Hill has devised a splendid itinerary set on Lake Iseo as we explore two wonderful towns full of art, Brescia and Bergamo, and the surrounding countryside. This is northern Italy at its most sophisticated and also, uncrowded. A good hotel, excellent local food and wine and all at an unhurried pace – perhaps a Spring tonic to banish the winter gloom? Otium! The Villas and Gardens of Florence is a feast for the eye, the mind and the soul, 2 - 6 May. In the hills surrounding Florence the Medici family revived the ancient habit of retreating from the city (the life of negotium) to the country for rest (what the Romans called otium). Noted garden historian, Caroline Holmes, will guide our group round not only the most important of the Medici family villas and their gardens, but will also introduce participants to the privileged world of the Anglo-American community of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These wealthy expatriates (Bernard Berenson and Harold Acton being the most famous) bought, restored and created a remarkable series of properties, the most important of which we shall visit, frequently privately, and on occasion where we shall lunch, such as at world renowned Villa Gamberia. Finally, earlier this week we held a wonderful Study Day at Deene Park, Northamptonshire. Deene is not only a fine historic house, seat of the Earls of Cardigan, it is a family home and Robert and Charlotte Brundenell made us all most welcome. One participant kindly emailed with her impressions of the day: “Thank you so much for a magical day. The charm of Deene Park and Mr and Mrs Brudenell made a wonderful day out for us. To have lunch surrounded by the Ferneley paintings was an unbelievable joy in itself…” We will repeat the Deene Study Day later this year on Tuesday, September 13 and there are a few places left. All best wishes for the coming Bank Holiday weekend. Tom

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