Discover raphael's rome

painters & popes

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Tuesday 24 - Saturday 28 March 2020 (5 Days)



Remarkable opportunity to engage with Raphael, concentrating on his career in Rome

Tour timed to coincide with the major exhibition on Raphael in the 500th anniversary year of his death in 1520

Rare opportunity to visit the Vatican’s Raphael Stanze & Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, privately at night

Other private visits to include Villa Madama, Villa Farnesina & Nero’s ‘Golden House’

Visit based in the very comfortable 3* Superior Albergo del Senato located just by the Pantheon (where Raphael is buried)

Tour Overview

Rome in the late 1400s and early 1500s witnessed a remarkable series of transformations. Ambitious popes were determined to recapture some of the glories of its ancient past, expressed through a hectic programme of building and artistic patronage. This saw innovations developed elsewhere in Italy (principally in Florence), introduced as architects, sculptors and painters sought to exploit the demand for their talents. A few short years created what we now call the ‘High Renaissance’, dominated by two popes, Julius II della Rovere and Leo X de Medici and the men who served them as the movement’s creators - Bramante as architect, Michelangelo as painter and sculptor, with Raphael the most successful of the three, the ultimate ‘insider’, the embodiment of this sophisticated style.

Raphael was born in Urbino in 1483, his father an indifferent artist at the city’s Montefeltro court. By 1500 the teenager was working in Perugia in the workshop of the highly regarded Perugino, then the leading painter in Umbria, Not long afterwards he moved to Florence where this precocious young man was quick to absorb the new style pioneered by Leonardo and Michelangelo. This was based on a sophisticated sense of design, underpinned by the discipline of endless preparatory drawings which, when translated into paintings, created a more subtle, psychological narrative. Thus armed, Raphael set out for Rome, arriving it seems late in 1508.

It was the perfect moment as Pope Julius II was engaged in transforming his surroundings in the Vatican, a process continued by his immediate successor, Leo X. Raphael was set to work transforming a series of rooms in the papal palace which Julius intended to use as his private quarters, the Stanze, where the first great interiors of the High Renaissance were created, summed up in the unprecedented ‘School of Athens’ fresco. His Roman career was launched. Commissions flooded in from members of the papal court and beyond as patrons competed to have something by this young genius. A team of assistants reduced some of the strain with a senior trio of Giulio Romano, Gianfranco Penne and Giovanni da Udine all playing key roles in the development and dissemination of Raphael’s style up to and after his untimely death, aged 37, in 1520, probably from exhaustion. 

Led by Tom Duncan, our tour to Rome is timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death and we shall trace his life and work in the city over the twelve years of his Roman career. His style quickly consolidated, stimulated not only by his innate genius and his remarkable patrons, but above all by his rivalry with the slightly older Michelangelo, an uneasy relationship which will provide us with the subsidiary theme of this tour. This will be achieved via a series of carefully chosen visits, many of them private, when we shall see his most important projects such as the Stanze in the Vatican, his work in both Villa Madama and the Farnesina, culminating in the wonderful exhibition which will take place in Rome early in 2020, when major works from all over the world will return to Rome, many of them for the first time since originally created.

Your physical comfort is guaranteed: Our chosen hotel is the very comfortable 3* Superior Albergo del Senato, just by the Pantheon and situated in the heart of the historic centre of the city. During the visit we shall often use a series of Mercedes ‘people carriers’ thus ensuring a truly door-to-door service for many of our visits.

Day by day

Day 1: Tuesday 24 March
We fly from Heathrow to Rome’s Fiumicino airport arriving late afternoon. We drive into Rome to our hotel, the 3* Superior Albergo del Senato, just across from the Pantheon. Later in the evening we have dinner in a local restaurant – wine, water and coffee are included with our group lunches and dinners.
Day 2: Wednesday 25 March
After breakfast Tom Duncan will lecture in our hotel on Raphael’s early career in Umbria and Florence, setting the scene for his arrival in Rome, probably in late 1508. We then spend the day exploring on foot the Campus Martius area of central Rome where the artist encountered some of the most recent projects by older contemporaries and where some of his earliest Roman commissions can be found. We begin at the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva where the elegant frescoes of Filippino Lippi recall the influence of late quattrocento Florence.  We continue to the fine courtyard at Palazzo della Cancelleria, which introduces the language of contemporary palace design which Raphael will develop when he also begins to work in this medium. We stroll through Campo de Fiore to Via del Governo Vecchio, where the artist lived. Following a group lunch near Piazza Navona, we visit the fine churches of Santa Maria della Pace and Sant’Agostino, both of which contain frescoes by Raphael. We end our day at the Pantheon, where the artist is buried, after which the remainder of the evening will be free.
Day 3: Thursday 26 March
This morning we drive out to the Monte Mario area to visit Villa Madama (subject to confirmation) one of the first truly renaissance villas in Rome, designed by Raphael for the future Pope Clement VII, with remarkable frescoed and stuccoed interiors inspired by the recently discovered Nero’s Golden House.  After coffee we continue to the Janiculum Hill to visit San Pietro in Montorio where Raphael’s contemporary, Bramante, designed the first building of the Roman High Renaissance, the remarkable Tempietto, set within the church’s cloister. We end the morning with a private visit to the Villa Lante al Gianicolo, where Raphael’s senior assistant, Giulio Romano, carried forward ideas developed by his master – the views down into the city are extraordinary. We return by minibus to the centre of town for our group lunch after which you will be free for some of the afternoon. Later in the afternoon, we travel by minibus from our hotel to the Vatican Museums to visit the Picture Gallery to see the famous tapestries designed by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel, plus his last masterpiece, The Transfiguration. We leave the museum for a welcome break, after which we re-enter the Museum for our evening private visit when closed to the public, to see Raphael’s Stanze and the Sistine Chapel, the most influential interiors of the entire renaissance. We return to the hotel and the evening will be free.
Day 4: Friday 27 March
We drive to Piazza del Popolo to visit one of Rome’s smaller basilicas, Santa Maria del Popolo, where Raphael designed a funerary chapel for Agostino Chigi, later modified by Bernini. After a coffee break we spend the remainder of the morning and early afternoon at the Scuderie del Quirinale to view the Raphael Exhibition, celebrating his achievements. After lunch (not included), the remainder of the afternoon will be free for private explorations of Rome. In the early evening, we depart via minibuses to Trastevere where we have a private visit of the exquisite villa known as the Farnesina. Built for Agostino Chigi, a rich papal banker from Siena, it contains some of the finest frescoes of the High Renaissance by Raphael and many of his contemporaries such as Sebastiano del Piombo We end our evening with our second group dinner in Trastevere.
Day 5: Saturday 28 March
We devote our final morning in Rome to a private visit to Nero’s Domus Aurea, the amazing ‘Golden House’, initially investigated by Raphael and his team and so influential on later decorative design.   After some free time for lunch, not included, we continue to the airport for the return flight to Heathrow.
A wonderful combination of a programme full of visits to the best of Renaissance and Baroque Rome, with knowledgeable and expert academic guides, with a hotel in an ideal location by the Pantheon and meals at traditional restaurants.
Mrs C CM, Worcestershire


  • Price: £2,175 per person
  • Price without flights: £1,995
  • Deposit: £275
  • Single Supplement: £270 (Double Room for Sole Use)
  • Tour Manager: James Hill

Hotel Details

4 nights with breakfast at the 3* Superior Hotel Albergo del Senato

Room Upgrade

Pantheon View £195 per room (sharing), subject to availability


British Airways

Outward:          BA560 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1245 arrive Rome Fiumicino 1615

Return:             BA559 Depart Rome Fiumicino 1715 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1910

Price includes

Return flights with BA from London Heathrow, 2 dinners & 2 lunches with water, coffee & wine. All entrances, including private visits to Villa Farnesina & the Vatican Museum; all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, City tax, services of Tom Duncan & our local tour manager, James Hill

Not included

Travel to/from Heathrow, 2 dinners and 2 lunches


Current Conditions

Weather Conditions for Rome in March are:
Average Temperature between: 6oC - 17oC / 42oF - 62oF
Rainfall: 19mm / 0.7inches



Fitness levels

We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.

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