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Welcome to our October Newsletter!

Tuesday 11th October 2016

Welcome to our October Newsletter! By the time you read this e-newsletter I shall be taking one of our groups round Andalucía, always a popular destination for our clients. Indeed, both Spain and Portugal very much feature in our future plans and I am delighted that this year’s very successful inaugural visit to Galicia to explore the region’s famous horticultural treasures (to be repeated next March) has proved to be so popular. If you would like to join us on this tour, Camellias & Caminos: Spring in Galicia, 16 – 22 March, do get in touch as there are literally just a handful of places left. As one of our clients put it in her ‘review’ of this year’s visit “we were spoilt from the moment the holiday started, whisked from one manor house with fabulous Camellia gardens to the next…” It is our intention to introduce a new tour based on the Iberian Peninsula each year for the foreseeable future. In 2017 this will be Romans and Conquistadors: Extremadura Explored, 6 – 13 May, when I shall lead a group round this unexplored and fascinating part of Spain. Its wealth and attractions were first exploited by the Romans and since their time, these have not dimmed. Many of the region’s ‘gentry’ families played a leading role in the conquest of Spain’s empire in the Americas and this too, is captured in both the architecture and also, less realised, in the cuisine. In fact, Extremadura has a remarkable culinary tradition, none more so than in Cáceres, where we shall spend five of our seven nights. If this aspect of the local scene is unknown to you, you might like to follow this website and you will see from this article just what awaits you! In St Petersburg two weeks ago, it struck me quite forcefully just how remarkable the city’s transformation has been in terms of what is now called the ‘visitor experience’! When we first took groups there almost fifteen years ago buildings were unrestored and works of art not easily accessible. While we look on as Mr Putin manipulates world politics to his advantage, there is no doubt that he has poured resources of every kind into his native city and for this, at least, we must give credit where it is due. If you are visiting St Petersburg in the near or not too distant future, I thought you might like to know of one or two “lollipops” which you might like to include in your plans? First, if you are there in the next few weeks, until 30 October you have a truly remarkable opportunity to see displayed together one of Titian’s paintings of Danaë from the Hermitage collection with facing it, Manet’s Olympia, loaned for just a few weeks from Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Titian is one of several versions which the great Venetian painted of this subject while the Manet is regarded as one of the foundation stones of Modernism. Their radically different views of female nudity is at the heart of the display, though had they been hung ‘side by side’ rather than facing each other across a long, narrow, room (30 paces apart, in fact) the display would have far more impact. The history of the female nude is noted via a small selection of engravings with just one other ‘real’ work of art, a ravishing drawing of a nude by Boucher. The display is in the Hermitage’s newly acquired galleries in the old General Staff Building and do be aware that the signage in this recently opened wing is truly dreadful! In compensation, the café is excellent (by the Hermitage’s standards) and service is brisk, probably because no one knows it is open! NB that the Hermitage and all its satellites are closed on Mondays and late opening, until 9.00 pm, is on Wednesdays and Fridays. The museum opens Tuesday to Sunday at 10.30 am. Looking to the medium term, you may not be aware that during the winter months some of the country palaces open rooms that are normally closed during the rest of the year, from April to October? The Catherine Palace (begun for Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine I) at Tsarskoe Selo which was extended by several later Russian rulers, most notably Catherine II ‘the Great’ and is a good example. Charles Cameron is often mentioned as Catherine’s favourite architect and he did much to lighten the over gilded nature of the earlier interiors. In fact, after all that gilded carving and the, to me, over praised Amber Room, Cameron’s coolly Neo-classical interiors are a welcome breath of fresh air. Winter is the time to visit this palace as many of the rooms he designed for Catherine are only open at this time, an opportunity we shall seize when we visit St Petersburg and its environs in early 2017: Imperial Splendours: The Romanovs & the Arts, 13 – 19 February. Do think of joining us as it an ideal time to visit the city’s museums and palaces as they are virtually empty of tourists! If February is not convenient we shall run our usual September visit to St Petersburg again next year. A Window on the West: Imperial St Petersburg, 18 – 24 September, while including some of the same museums and palaces as in our February itinerary, has a broader theme in that it focuses on Russia’s ever present inability to decide if it wants to be a ‘western’ nation, or an autocratic state in the old eastern tradition. This is easy to capture via the city’s multifaceted approach to all the visual and musical arts. Read More> Our Caravaggio Study Day, Wednesday, 30 November is now full. Do remember that we frequently have cancellations in the weeks and days leading up to the event, so do get in touch and we can put your name on our waiting list, which we have just opened. The related visit, Caravaggio & Rome: Painting in Rome in the 1600s, 1 – 4 December, 2016, has a few places left on it, should you suddenly decide that a pre-Christmas visit to Rome would cheer you up?! I do hope so as James Hill and myself very much look forward to showing you ‘our’ Rome as we explore the life and art of this remarkable painter, together with his contemporaries and followers. Finally we sent you an email inviting you to take part in the AITO Travel survey and if you have not done so yet we would appreciate you going to the following link and give us your views to us help us plan for the future. All best wishes until I write again in November. Tom

Welcome to our September Newsletter!

Friday 9th September 2016

Welcome to our September Newsletter! The CICERONI Travel 2017 Brochure is now completed and should be with you, considerably ahead of last year’s delivery! Clients who are resident beyond the UK should begin to receive them shortly. If you have not received your copy by mid to late September, do let us know and one will be sent to you. In the interval, you can have a sneak preview by downloading a digital version to your iPad or equivalent from the Home Page. (PS - if using an iPad open the PDF in iBooks for the best results!) Regular readers of these emails and visitors to our website will notice, when the 2017 brochure arrives, that we have made a number of changes to the range of destinations and dates promised for next year and I thought I should summarise these for you, just in case there is a particular visit you are keen to join? Our visit to Amsterdam originally planned for late April to early May next year will, I am afraid, have to wait until another year. The dates allocated proved to be very tricky as they coincided with a number of major events in and around Amsterdam and we were unable to secure a hotel of the quality required. Our visit Torre del Lago & Lucca: The Puccini Opera Festival next July will be featured in our usual Christmas mailing. We were unable to include it in the main brochure as the Festival has yet to announce the programme for next year’s Festival. As soon as we have these details we will alert everyone via one of our regular monthly e-newsletters. Habsburgs & Bourbons: The Royal Collections of Madrid will also feature in the next Christmas mailing, though we hope to be able to release details onto our website before then. Again, please do read these regular e-newsletters for an update on the visit due to depart in October 2017. As I type away, in the background Radio 3’s Prom performance tonight is Bach’s B Minor Mass – a superb account under William Christie, so far! Listening to these broadcasts has been one of the joys of recent weeks and I could not help noticing that many of the performers featured so far will appear in next January’s Baroque Music Festival in Valletta. You may not realise that we take a group to this remarkable festival each year and in the words of one of our clients who came with us last January “this was an excellent chance to combine good music look on the Tour Paages to see who will perform and what those performances will be. Our Autumn travel programme began yesterday with our first visit to Trentino-Alto Adige, a remarkably pretty part of Italy on the Alpine border with Austria, a visit led by James Hill. I am off to Northern Ireland this weekend with a group to stay on Lough Erne and thereafter we continue with Washington DC, St Petersburg and many other wonderful places. However, of the visits which I will not lead, the one which made me literally ‘green with envy’ is A Hidden Europe: Exploring Slovenia. This is one of our visits to those countries which made up the former Yugoslavia, developed in recent years by James Hill. I have never been there and when I read James’ detailed itinerary for the visit, I now realise that this is one place I MUST visit as soon as possible. So, let me share with you what James has discovered and who knows, you might be able to join him this October? If not, do put it on your list of places to see very soon. The draft final day by day programme which you should read is on the Tour Pages. Finally, all of us here at CICERONI hope that you will enjoy reading our new Brochure and that you will find something to whet your appetites for travel in the coming months. All best wishes until I write again in October. Tom

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