2020 October eNewsletter

October 08, 2020

You may remember I mentioned in our last newsletter that we hoped to run our first tour since March, to Lakes Como and Lugano? Well, as you will see from the photo above, it did indeed depart and thirteen clients had a sunny week exploring both lakes with their villas and gardens, together with some generous hospitality along the way. Local regulations concerning COVID were easy to follow, such that we had a wonderful time and all returned safely late last week. Indeed, Italy continues to be one of the safest places in Europe for those who still have the urge to travel and we have three further tours there in the next two months, to Bergamo for the Donizetti Festival, a long weekend in Bologna and a new tour to Turin.

Image 2 Bergamo

I am delighted to confirm that after some uncertainty, A Festive Weekend: Donizetti in Bergamo, 18 – 22 November will indeed take place and which I shall lead, with James Hill as our tour manager. The Festival organisers have done wonders to adapt the newly restored Teatro Donizetti to conform to local COVID regulations such that the operas can be presented. The festival’s opening night will be a Gala concert performance of Belisario with Plácido Domingo in the title role, followed by staged performances of Marino Faliero and Le Nozze in Villa – all wonderful examples of Donizetti’s mastery of bel canto. Our hotel is within easy walking distance of the opera house and there will be a series of gently paced visits within Bergamo, a delightful oasis of the arts, to include some lovely private palaces. We shall also visit Villa Medici Giulini near Milan with its renowned collection of historic keyboard instruments, many of which will be played for us to include a recital of works by Donizetti adapted for flute and piano – a memorable end to an exciting few days. Limited to sixteen participants, do think about joining us – but we do need to know by this Monday, 12 October, in order to secure our opera tickets.

Image 3 Bologna

We are indeed fortunate that Dr Paula Nuttall will lead our tour Popes & Patricians: A Weekend in Renaissance Bologna, 26 – 29 November, with her husband, Geoffrey, as tour manager. Paula is one of our most distinguished historians of the Italian Renaissance so this will be a wonderful opportunity to explore this compact central Italian city, long a papal outpost caught in the midst of great events which engulfed the peninsula in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Our hotel is in the city centre and given Bologna’s famed interest in cuisine, you will eat and drink well. Limited to sixteen participants, we have just a handful of places remaining on this tour.

Image 4 Turin

If I had to choose one Italian city to visit, beyond the ‘Trinity’ of Rome, Florence and Venice, it would be Turin – combining the elegance of France with the spirited generosity of Italy. So when I decided to add a ‘let’s cheer ourselves up’ tour to our schedule, it had to be Elegance Personified: Turin & The House of Savoy, 1 – 5 December. It has everything to offer the curious traveller: a wonderful historic centre laid out on ancient Roman foundations; a local dynasty, the House of Savoy, who ‘punched above their weight’ in terms of their patronage of the arts; and a stellar series of palaces and museums. Put from your mind any image of the city as a centre of non-stop industrial activity – what little of that is left is now far outside in the suburbs. In its place, imagine the arcaded streets protected from the weather, peopled by elegant locals, combining pre-Christmas shopping with restorative stops in elegant cafes and restaurants - just what we shall provide during this tour. Limited to sixteen participants, do join me if you can.

Image 5 Artemisia

The National Gallery’s new exhibition, Artemisia, postponed from April, opened a few days ago and I have just been to see it – it closes on 24 January, so do consider booking a visit slot. This is the first time a UK gallery has devoted a monographic presentation to Artemisia Gentileschi and it is an amazing, if at times visceral, visual feast for the eyes. Rediscovered in recent years, Artemisia’s undoubted talents have been overshadowed by her better known male contemporaries, including her father Orazio, not to mention Caravaggio and his imitators - all of whom provide the immediate milieu from which she emerged in the early seventeenth century.

Image 6 Artemisia

The exhibition pays little attention to that milieu and most of the thirty-five paintings, plus some supporting material in a series of letters and other documents, are rightly devoted to Artemisia. Of those documents, none is more moving than the original transcript of the trial of the painter Agostino Tassi for the rape of Artemisia, with the page open where Artemisia’s torture (carried out to establish if she was telling the truth!) on 14 May, 1612, calls directly to us across the centuries as she insists “it is true, it is true”…

Her career began in Rome but would take her to Florence, Naples and London before she returned to Italy. Most of the paintings included have never been seen in this country before, and known only to specialists; for once, the term ‘revelatory’ is appropriate. To coincide with this exhibition we plan to present a pair of linked webinars on Tuesday and Wednesday, 20 & 21 October. First, James Hill will introduce ‘Painting in Rome in the Early Baroque’, setting the scene for Artemisia’s career; and the following day, I shall look at her career focusing on the NG’s exhibition.

Image 10

Pictured above is the detail chosen for our last photo competition in the September newsletter. We have had almost no entries, which has come as a surprise. So, I have decided to give everyone more time to see if it can be identified? A clue is that the image is not based on a European subject! Keep on searching and I’ll identify it in the December newsletter.

Finally, under normal circumstances our regular annual CICERONI brochure would have been sent out some weeks ago. Given recent events, reluctantly we have decided not to publish a hard-copy brochure for 2021. In its place, we have released details for many of next year’s tours on our website, with more to follow in the next few weeks. You will be able to view an online version of the 2021 brochure shortly, and when this is ready we shall let you know.

With all best wishes from everyone at ‘Team CICERONI’.

Tom Duncan

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