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Venice for Handel House - Exploring music, history and art in La Serenissima

Unique itinerary which reaches parts rarely visited as well as seeing major items.

Led by Jonathan Keates, Handel biographer, historian and Chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund.

A private concert of Handel’s music composed during his time in Italy.

Experience ‘village Venice’: every sestiere is examined through a personalised lens.

This tour is designed in partnership with Handel House, exclusively for its members and patrons.

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Venice may be utterly enchanting to look at and her art and architecture among the finest achievements of western civilisation, but the maritime republic happens also to have been the centre of European musical life from the Renaissance to the Age of Baroque – a spectacular achievement given that for all its abiding grandeur, Venice is a small city. A walk from Piazzale Roma in the west to Sant’Elena on its eastern edge takes barely an hour. Yet each of its districts, the six sestieri represented by the prongs of the metal forcola on a gondola’s prow, has its own indelible character and identity.

This distinctive world of ‘village Venice’, a unique urban narrative with the sestieri as its chapters, fascinates Jonathan Keates, a noted expert on matters Venetian. Sharing his passion for the deeper townscape beyond Piazza San Marco and Ponte di Rialto, Jonathan explores the vitality of Venice’s musical culture, from grand church festivities and the birth of opera to simple street music and gondoliers who chanted poetry to each other across the canals.

Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Vivaldi – the early music revival has placed these names alongside the great names of the Classical and Romantic periods. But they were not alone; for over two hundred years there were countless other composers and performers in Venice, an astonishing profusion of talent which fed the voracious appetite for spectacle and beauty which so distinguished Venetian life, both public and private. For young George Frideric Handel, enjoying his four-year trip to Italy, a visit to Venice was literally a life-changing event. We look at the many ways in which Venetian Baroque music made its impact on his style, offered him an incomparable range of musical experiences and encounters and culminated in the knockout success of his earliest operatic masterpiece, Agrippina. A private concert includes arias from the opera, premiered in Venice in 1709.


Day 1

Indepdendent arrivals from London London to Venice. For those on the recommended flight, cross the lagoon by motoscafo (water taxi) to the hotel. Dinner in a restaurant.

Day 2

San Marco. In Campo Santo Stefano we look at the making of a Venetian ‘square’; the eponymous church has a roof like an upturned boat. Climb the unique Scala Contarini del Bovolo for a stunning roofscape. San Salvador offers outstanding High Renaissance architecture. Explore the area around the home of Marco Polo and Teatro Malibran, scene of operatic triumphs by Handel and Rossini. At San Giovanni Grisostomo see two of the city’s finest altarpieces, by Sebastiano del Piombo and Giovanni Bellini. Independent dinner.

Day 3

Castello. The Basilica of San Giovanni e Paolo was once the pantheon of Venetian doges. The nearby Ospedaletto’s 18th-cent. ‘Music Room’ was where the girls of the choir organized concerts. San Francesco della Vigna has an innovative façade by Palladio and works by Veronese and Bellini. Palazzo Grimani, a Renaissance connoisseur’s Roman-style house, has ‘natural history’ frescoes and magnificent Tribuna. The Scuola di San Giorgio contains a cycle of paintings by Carpaccio. The serene S. Giovanni in Bragora, with works by Cima da Conegliano and Vivarini, is where Vivaldi was baptised. There is a private concert of music composed by Handel during his time in Italy and his Venetian contemporary, Antonio Vivaldi.

Day 4

The Dorsoduro. The smallest and smartest of the sestieri. In the morning, visit the church of the Gesuati (Tiepolo ceiling) and its Renaissance neighbour the Visitazione, San Trovaso (Tintoretto’s Last Supper and Michele Giambono’s St Chrysogonus). Campo Santa Margherita offers the complete story of Venice in buildings from the 12th to 20th centuries. Claudio Monteverdi is buried in the great Franciscan church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. The Scuola Grande di S. Rocco containes dramatic paintings by Tintoretto. Finally, conclude the day with the great Baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute. Dinner in a restaurant.

Day 5

Free morning before travel by motoscafo to Venice airport for those morning the recommended flight.

Price, per person

Two sharing: £1,880 without flights. Single occupancy £2,230 without flights.


Arrival and departure transfer to the airport for those on the recommended flight option; a vaporetto pass for the duration of the tour; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 2 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.


From London to Venice are not included in the price of the tour. We will send the recommended flight options and ask that you make your own flight reservation. Please ensure you have travel insurance that protects you in the unlikely event that the tour is cancelled.


Hotel Palazzo Sant’Angelo: a 4-star hotel in an excellent location on the Grand Canal near Campo Sant’Angelo and the Rialto Bridge. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.

How strenuous?

Most of Venice is traversed on foot. Unavoidably therefore, there is a lot of walking – frequently up and down bridges. Standing around in churches, museums and palaces is also inevitable. The tour should not be attempted by anyone who has any difficulty with everyday walking and stair-climbing. Fitness is essential.

Group size

Between 10 and 15 participants.

This tour is designed in partnership with Handel House, exclusively for its members and patrons.

Travel advice

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