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Encounters in Italy: Biennale & the Palio

Encounters in Italy uncovers the artistic, architectural and cultural riches of Italy over nine nights. Departing 27 June 2024, savour three-night stays in Rome, Siena and Venice, and attend the 60th International Art Exhibition, the Biennale.


The lifeblood of Rome, the Tiber River winds its way past the city’s Supreme Court and the Basilica of Santa Maria. Set not too far from the water’s edge, the unmistakable forms of the Colosseum and Pantheon also stand proud. Situated among this rich rollcall of some of Rome’s most historic sites, we find the Palazzo Ripetta, the starting point for our 10-day Encounters in Italy journey. Inside the hotel’s restored 17th-century building, artworks spanning various eras of history are gradually revealed, heralding the beginning of an inspired expedition. 

Italy’s wealth of art is evident throughout this journey. The Renaissance, having bridged antiquity and the modern world, has left its considerable mark across the country. It is apparent throughout the architecture of cities and inhabits their museums and galleries.

The grandeur of St Peter’s Basilica demonstrates many of the classical elements of this historic, transitive era. Within the towering church, Bernini’s St Peter’s Baldachin rises high above the Papal Altar. The exacting symmetry of the basilica’s façade, including its colossal dome, invite admiration, even from significant distances. During our visit here, we bypass the long lines to look upon such masterpieces as Michelangelo’s Pietà, portraying Jesus and Mary at Mount Golgotha.

Michelangelo’s considerable influence is also felt as you gaze upon the celebrated ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Our guide explains the symbolism at work within the famous fresco, whose panels present nine stories from Genesis in glorious detail and colour.

With the keenest of eyes, the team at Rome’s Art Restoration and Conservation Studio work to revive the great treasures of some of Michelangelo’s contemporaries. Granted entry to their lab, we admire the meticulous techniques of these highly skilled technicians, who guide us further beneath the veneer of Italy’s art world.


To the north of Rome, we arrive in the charming city of Siena, on the edge of the idyllic Tuscan countryside. As though framed by one of Italy’s masterful painters, our villa and its surrounding landscape are superbly composed beneath a boundless Tuscan sky. The property’s cherished seclusion is bolstered by the faithful restoration of its various buildings, designed to transport its guests back to the 11th century. 

The tranquillity here is far removed from the passion and pandemonium we encounter at the Palio di Siena. Gathering in their thousands within the Piazza del Campo, locals pin their hopes on a single horse and jockey, charged with representing their contrada, or district. In the shadow of the towering Torre del Mangia, the riders and their steeds set off on a frantic three-lap race, sending the assembled masses into hysteria. In less than two minutes, the race is run and the winning jockey is paraded through the streets, before being brought to the late-Renaissance-Baroque-style Church of Santa Maria in Provenzano, where he is honoured.


Venice’s churches, museums and galleries reveal an inestimable assemblage of treasure. The Dominican Santi Giovanni e Paolo is adorned with paintings, sculptures, stained glass, and funerary monuments. Tradition dictated the burial of Venice’s chief magistrates take place within the church, and no fewer than twenty-five doge’s tombs can be seen here.

A short stroll away, on the edge of the Venetian Lagoon, stands the imposing Doge’s Palace. Its ornate Venetian-Gothic façade gives way to lavish interiors, replete with the spoils of the city’s former dominance. The Chamber of the Great Council is one of the largest rooms in all of Europe. Venice’s abundant power and many victories are illustrated by the paintings furnishing the vast hall. Decorating one of the chamber’s walls is Tintoretto’s expansive oil painting Paradise, which includes some 500 figures. 

Across St Mark’s Square, further precious relics are found amassed within St Mark’s Basilica. Fine mosaics of glass and gold illustrate scenes of Old Testament scripture throughout the church. The golden altarpiece, the Pala d’Oro, is bejewelled with 1300 pearls, 300 emeralds and 300 sapphires, among many other gems. Considered a triumph of Byzantine art, it also features an image of Christ surrounded by the four evangelists.

Bringing us back to the present day, Venice’s prestigious Biennale showcases the work of contemporary artists. With exhibits spanning a myriad of media, across a breadth of scope and style, the theme of the Biennale in 2024 is Foreigners Everywhere. With scores of national pavilions present, the event offers visitors the opportunity to witness the world anew. Take the opportunity to meet the Australian exhibitor and wish them well during this rare experience.

The newly released Encounters in Italy is reserved for no more than 40 guests.