London / Rome
Day 1: Monday 6th November
Depart London Heathrow on a British Airways morning flight to Rome Fiumicino airport. On arrival transfer to the Hotel Senato, overlooking the Pantheon on the Piazza Rotonda, where three nights are spent. Walking tour around the Pantheon, the best-preserved monument of the Roman Empire, the Antonine Column and Piazza Montecitorio. Drive to the Vatican for a private visit (by special arrangement) to the Sistine Chapel, the official private chapel of the Popes. The twenty male seated nudes or ‘Ignudi’ which feature in the magnificent ceiling frescoes by Michelangelo depicting episodes from Genesis were a source of inspiration for Caravaggio. Dinner at La Pigna restaurant.
Day 2: Tuesday 7th November
Rome Depart on foot for the church of Sant’Agostino to see Caravaggio’s beautiful altarpiece of Our Lady of Loreto, considered shocking by his contemporaries. Also visit the nearby church of San Luigi dei Francesi, celebrated for the three striking scenes from the Life of St. Matthew in the Contarelli Chapel, Caravaggio’s first public work (St. Matthew and an Angel, The Calling of St. Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew).
Continue on foot to the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, housed in a splendid 16th-century palace. The remarkable collection of this great Roman family includes important works by Caravaggio including St. John the Baptist and Rest on the Flight to Egypt. Light lunch in the cafeteria of the Doria Pamphilj Gallery.
Walk to the Capitoline Hill to the Picture Gallery of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, part of the Capitoline Museum. The Gallery has two works by Caravaggio, a replica of St. John the Baptist which hangs in the Doria Pamhilj and The Fortune Teller. Here Caravaggio can be seen in the context of his contemporaries and his followers, Velazquez, Rubens and Guercino.
Dinner under own arrangements.
Day 3: Wednesday 8th November
Depart (by coach) for Palazzo Barberini, one of the grandest Baroque palaces in Rome, which houses the Galleria d’Arte Antica with works by Caravaggio including Judith Beheading Holofernes. Continue to the church of Santa Maria del Popolo to compare his Martyrdom of St. Peter and Conversion of St. Paul, where his naturalistic style and use of dramatic chiaroscuro evolved. Particularly notable is the way in which he draws the spectator in as witness to the dramatic moment depicted.
Also visit (by special arrangement) the Casino di Villa Boncampagni Ludovisi, a small portion which remains of the former country retreat of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, still in private hands. The villa was previously owned by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, a patron of Caravaggio, and the ceiling of the casino is decorated with the only fresco ever painted by Caravaggio of Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. Lunch at a local restaurant.
Visit the Galleria Borghese, in the Villa Borghese, which houses sculpture and paintings collected by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Here several paintings by Caravaggio can be seen, including David with the Head of Goliath and Boy with Basket of Fruit, as well as the masterpieces of sculpture by Bernini, the genius of the next generation.
Continue by coach to the Aventine Hill to visit (by special arrangement) Santa Maria del Priorato, designed by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the monastery church of the Priory of the Knights of Malta at Villa Malta, set in beautiful Italianate gardens (visit subject to confirmation). Dinner under own arrangements.
Rome / Valletta
Thursday 9th November
Depart (with luggage) for Rome Fiumicino airport for a morning Air Malta flight to Valletta. On arrival transfer to the luxury Hotel Phoenicia, located just outside the principal gate of Valletta’s great fortifications, where two nights are spent. Lunch at Trabuxu Bistro. Depart on foot to visit St. John’s Conventual Cathedral, built by the Knights of Malta, to see Caravaggio’s late masterpiece The Beheading of St. John the Baptist in the Oratory for which it was painted.
This painting is one of Caravaggio’s most impressive and uses of the chiaroscuro style for which he is most famous with a circle of light illuminating the scene of St John’s beheading at the request of Salome. The oratory also houses Caravaggio’s St. Jerome III also painted during his exile on the island. Walk past some of the seven Auberges or Inns of Residence of the Knights such as the Auberge de Castille and the Auberge d’Italie and some of Valletta’s other churches. Dinner under own arrangements.
Valletta & Mdina
Day 5: Friday 10th November
Walking tour of Valletta including the State Apartments of the Palace of the Grand Masters which has always been the house of government in Malta, first by the Knights, then the British and now hosts the President’s office. The State Apartments include the Council Chamber, the Hall of the Supreme Council and the Hall of the Ambassadors. Of particular interest is the Armoury. Also visit the Sacred Infirmary.
Continue (by coach) to Mdina for lunch at the Trattoria of the Xara Palace Hotel. In the afternoon, walk in the noble ancient capital of Mdina, where quiet streets are lined with Baroque palaces of the aristocracy. See the Falson Palace dating back to the 13th century, and the exteriors of the palaces of Gatto Murrina and Santa Sophia and visit the Carmelite Priory Museum and the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Return to Valletta. Dinner at Rampila restaurant on the Bastions. Day 6: Saturday 11th November, Valletta / London Morning boat excursion by traditional dghajsa water taxis in the historic Grand Harbour, viewing Sliema and Floriana and going ashore to explore Vittoriosa and visit the Inquisitor’s Palace. The city of Vittoriosa was founded in the Great Harbour around Fort Sant’Angelo. The Knights of Malta transferred the capital from Mdina to here in 1530; it was later transferred to Valletta. Light lunch at restaurant Don Berto. Transfer to the airport for an Air Malta flight to London, arriving Heathrow Airport mid-evening.
Gina was unfailingly helpful and pleasant at every stage - an asset to your organisation.- MB, Australia, New Zealand & French Polynesia, 2016