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Genoa & Turin - Palaces & galleries in Northwest Italy

Two cities, often unaccountably overlooked. One, a leading republic of mediaeval Italy and birthplace of Columbus; the other developed on a grand scale in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Magnificent palaces and churches, from mediaeval to Baroque.

Led by Dr Luca Leoncini, expert art historian specialising in 15th to 17th-century Northern Italian paintings.

Exceptional picture collections with particularly fine examples of Van Dyck and Rubens.

  • Palazzo Turai Doria, Genoa.
    Palazzo Turai Doria, Genoa.
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‘Secret cities’ would have been an absurd subtitle for two such major places, but did seem to suggest itself because of the rarity with which Britons find themselves there. But every art lover should go.

The prevailing images are perhaps still predominantly commercial and industrial, but not only do both Genoa and Turin have highly attractive centres but both are distinguished by the preservation of a large number of magnificent palaces and picture collections.

Genoa lays claim to the largest historic centre of any European city. It was one of the leading maritime republics of mediaeval Italy (with Marseilles it remains the largest port in the Mediterranean), and enjoyed a golden age during the seventeenth century. In the 1990s civic improvements and building restorations were undertaken to prepare the city for celebrations connected with the quincentenary of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas, and the cultural momentum has continued.

In the earlier seventeenth century, Genoa was artistically the equal of almost anywhere in Italy except for Rome and Naples. More than any other Italian school of painting, the Genoese was indebted to the Flemish school: Rubens made a prolonged visit to Genoa in 1605 and Anthony Van Dyck was based there from 1621 to 1627. Many of his paintings remain here.

Turin, the leading city of Piedmont, was formerly capital of Savoy and later of the kingdom of Sardinia. Developed on a grand scale in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the historic centre is laid out on a regular plan with broad avenues and spacious piazzas. Architecture is mainly Baroque and classical. Guarino Guarini and Filippo Juvarra, among the best architects of their time, worked here for much of their lives.

Day 1

Genoa. Fly at c. 9.15am (British Airways) from London Heathrow to Milan Linate. Upon arrival visit the Villa del Principe with Perin del Vaga frescoes. First of three nights in Genoa.

Day 2

Genoa. In the morning visit the Palazzo Reale which has a magnificent stairway, splendidly furnished rooms and a fine collection of pictures. The Cathedral of S. Lorenzo, built 12th–16th centuries, possesses many works of art and a fine treasury. See the Via Garibaldi, lined with magnificent palazzi, most from the 16th century.

Day 3

Genoa. Visit the church of S. Luca with its beautifully decorated interior. Palazzo Spinola has good pictures, Van Dycks in particular, and Palazzo Rosso has fine furnishings and excellent pictures. See also the adjacent church of the Annunciation and the Piazza S. Matteo, formed by the imposing palaces of the Doria family, which overshadow the small family church of S. Matteo.

Day 4

Cherasco, Venaria. Leave Genoa and take a cross-country route through the beautiful countryside and wine-producing area of Le Langhe. Stop in Cherasco which has a 14th-century Visconti castle for a typical Piedmontese lunch. En route to Turin is the magnificent royal palace of Venaria (Amedeo Castellamonte, 1659) reopened in 2007 following extensive renovation work. First of three nights in Turin.

Day 5

Turin. A morning walk through the beautiful Piazza S. Carlo, with arcades and 18th-century churches, is followed by a visit to the Royal Palace, built 1660, with wonderful interiors from the 17th–19th centuries. The Galleria Sabauda, housed in the Palace, has an excellent picture collection. In the afternoon visit the cathedral, with Guarini’s Chapel of the Holy Shroud.

Day 6

Turin. Morning visit to the Palazzo Madama in the centre of Piazza Castello, now housing the City Art Museum, and the little church of S. Lorenzo, a Guarini masterpiece. Some free time in Turin.

Day 7

Superga, Turin Lingotto. Visit the votive church of Superga, a magnificent hilltop structure by Juvarra, and the Pinacoteca Giovanni and Marella Agnelli at Lingotto which has a small but excellent quality collection in a building designed by Renzo Piano. Fly from Milan Malpensa, returning to London Heathrow c. 8.00pm.


Two sharing: £2,440 or £2,110 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,790 or £2,460 without flights.


Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 319/321); travel by private coach; hotel accommodation; breakfasts; 1 lunch and 4 dinners with wine; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer.


Grand Hotel Savoia, Genoa: a 5-star hotel close to the Palazzo Reale. Grand Hotel Sitea, Turin: a 4-star hotel, comfortable, elegantly furnished and very central.

How strenuous?

The tour involves a lot of walking in town centres where vehicular access is restricted and standing in museums, and should not be attempted by anyone who has difficulty with everyday walking and stair-climbing. The transfer days between Milan’s airports and the hotels and between Genoa and Turin involve a lot of driving. Average distance by coach per day: 51 miles.

Are you fit enough to join the tour?

Group size

Between 10 and 22 participants.

Travel advice

Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting:

'Lecturer is an expert guide. Generous with his knowledge and time. Delightful sense of humour.'

'The itinerary was very good indeed. Genoa & Turin are interesting cities and the contrast was most enjoyable.' 

'Overall a stimulating experience and one we would recommend to others.'

'I think our general pleasure was enhanced by the fortune of finding the group itself a mixture of contrasting background and personalities but sharing a common wish for what we were doing.'