The science of the Renaissance: Italy

8 days 7 June 2021 for £2,195 and 1 November 2021 for £1,895

Encounter the great scientific minds and discoveries of the Renaissance on a cultural adventure across the pre-eminent cities of science – Florence, Pisa and Bologna. Led by art and architecture expert Andrew Spira and accompanied by scientific historian Professor David Wootton.

From astronomic, anatomic, architectural, medical and mathematic perspectives, the tour will look at the wondrous collections, buildings and churches that demonstrate the burgeoning of knowledge of the period whilst enjoying these beautiful cities.

Combined with the fascinating stories of polymath’s such as Da Vinci and Galileo, to a wealth of lesser known Renaissance scientists and artists, who along with the patronage of families such as the Medici’s, helped cement Italy’s role at the forefront of scientific endeavour during this period. 

In partnership with Travel Editions


You will fly into Florence airport, where you will be met by Andrew Spira and transferred to the four-star Hotel Executive in the heart of Florence for your first five nights. Andrew is not only an art and architecture expert but will also be the tour leader throughout your visit.

In the afternoon, Andrew will give a walking orientation tour of Florence. Then in the evening, a welcome drink and introductory talk in the hotel by Andrew, Celestial Heights: The Poetics of Space in Renaissance Art and Astronomy, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.


Today you will journey just over an hour to the historic town of Pisa for a full day of exploration. Starting with the Museo degli Strumenti per il Calcolo (Museum of Calculation Devices) that covers various scientific fields including astronomy, electromagnetism, optics, mechanics, electronics, and acoustics from the 17th century onwards. With over 2000 exhibits and an archive of notes and manuscripts from key scientists such as Antonio Pacinotti, Enrico Fermi and Riccardo Felici.

Then you will spend the afternoon exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site Piazza dei Miracoli with its  Cathedral where Galileo is believed to have formulated his theory about the movement of pendulums by watching the swinging of an incense lamp. Next door is the largest baptistry in Italy and the Campanile, otherwise known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


After a hearty breakfast, you will enjoy a full day in Florence that includes La Specola Museum of Natural History, the Tribune of Galileo and the Museo degli Argenti at the Pitti Palace. 

In the afternoon, you will be stunned by the Brancacci Chapel within the Santa Maria del Carmine. It is often called the Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance due to its impressive cycle of frescoes that Michaelangelo copied whilst receiving his artistic training.

In the evening you will be joined for the next few days by science historian David Wootton, who will give the first of two talks. Then you will all decamp to a local restaurant for dinner and further discussion on the day’s findings.


In the company of Andrew and David, another full day of exploration of this stunning city. Starting with  The Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica, a rich collection over 50,000 items covering physics, natural history and astronomy. Then you will enjoy the austere Basilica di Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world, where illustrious Italians such as Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli are buried.

Finally, the Instituto e Museo Storia della Scienza (Galileo Science Museum) that celebrates his work that was literally centuries ahead of its time. Our experts will enlighten you on the struggles Galileo experienced with the religious and political establishments of the era. Plus, the museum houses many other exhibits covering science, geography and medicine

In the evening there is a second talk from David Wootton.


During your final full day in Florence, Andrew will guide you around the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum) a transformative experience due to the amazing housing of the Cathedrals treasures including works by Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and the original Gates of Paradise. 

This is followed by other sites within a short walking distance including the Baptistry of Florence with its Zodiac Floor solstice marble slab, the Duomo including the Gnomon of Paulo da Pozzo Toscanelli; the Ptolemaic Planetarium in the dome of the Old Sacristy, San Lorenzo and Egnazio Danti’s instruments on the facade of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.


After a two-hour journey to Bologna and checking into the four-star Hotel Internazionale, Andrew will lead a walking orientation tour around one of Italy’s most under-rated but beautiful cities. A jumble of atmospheric streets leading to magnificent Renaissance period palazzis. 

In the evening Andrew will give a talk, Vital Forces: Soul, Mind and Body in the Human and Animal Worlds, then onto dinner and wine at a local restaurant.


Full day in Bologna including a visit to the Cathedral of San Petronio which houses a ‘hidden-in-plane-sight’ solar observatory. Here you will hear the surprising story of cooperation between religion and science to record the structure and rhythm of the cosmos.

Afterwards you will explore the Palazzo Archiginnasio with its beautifully crafted 17th century anatomical theatre and then the Museo di Scienza e Arte at the Palazzo Poggi. In the period after the Renaissance this became a model learning establishment in Europe linked to the Age of Enlightenment.


On the last day, there is a morning visit to the ‘off the beaten track’ Museum of Communication and then free time scheduled in before we say farewell and transfer you to Bologna airport.

You are welcome to spend additional time in Bologna and our operating partner Travel Edition can help you with additional nights accommodation, visits and alternate travel arrangements.