Fresh. Unexpected. Insightful.


Engaging talks on myriad topics packed with information and insight accompanied by captivating visuals and photography that bring the many facets of Italian culture to life.

Each a special journey that will not only enhance your understanding and appreciation of La Bella Italia but also inspire your imagination and lift your spirits.

If only school had been this “edu-taining”!

Terrace of Infinity illustration

The Alchemy of Italy

What is it about Italy? Cultural superpower yet merely a mountainous Mediterranean peninsula, Italy has exerted an outsized force on the world, Western civilization and the popular imagination over the course of millennia. Explore the alchemy of Italy and the “cultural DNA” that has made Italy not only so influential, but also so beloved. In this inspiring lecture, which somehow manages to capture the essence of Italy’s rich cultural history in under an hour, you will discover fascinating insights about the “Boot’s” long history and enduring allure.

Leading Ladies of the Renaissance

Discover the lives and legacies of some of Italy’s “Renaissance Women” and several unheralded women who inspired some of the greatest artwork of all time. We explore the evolution of the perceptions of women from antiquity and the Middle Ages through the Renaissance—the inflection point, when our concept of the modern woman began to take shape—along with the stories of such women as Isabella D’Este, Vittoria Colonna and Artemisia Gentileschi, whose lives and accomplishments can still inspire us today.

Artemisia Gentileschi Revenge illustration
Jewel Box Venice Italy illustration

Venice: The Most Improbable of Cities

Venezia is the Queen of the Adriatic; La Serenissima; maritime Republic of 1,000 years; a vast museum; a triumph of human will over nature; once a beehive of espionage; the luxury and pleasure capital of Europe; the mecca of extraordinary personalities; and zenith of all Grand Tours. Yet, even today, Venice remains in so many ways an enigma. We explore Venice’s complexities and contradictions and discover some of its many secrets and celebrate the city of myth, mystery, might and majesty that has captured the imagination of dreamers and travelers alike for hundreds of years.

Italy: The World’s Lifestyle Superpower

Italy is the only country to give the world not just one but three golden ages! A fascinating exploration of how Italy rose from the ashes and devastation of World War II to emerge as the world’s preeminent lifestyle superpower. You will discover how Italy transformed from the face of Il Duce to La Dolce Vita and how “Brand Italy” came to conquer the world through passion and excellence in the realms of film, fashion & design and gastronomy & viticulture.

Fashion illustration

The Palio: Pride, Passion & Pandemonium

Il Palio di Siena, a four-day cultural sporting extravaganza, culminates in the world’s most thrilling horse race. Experience its colorful pageantry virtually through stunning photographs taken in 2019. We explore the fascinating traditions and history behind the race which lasts a mere 75- 90 seconds but represents the climax of a fiercely competitive all-consuming year-round rivalry between the 17 contrade (districts) of Siena. Also included are highlights Siena’s beautifully preserved artistic treasures.

Art as Propaganda in Baroque Rome

Two of the 17th century’s most drama-loving artists—painter Caravaggio and sculptor Bernini—both pushed their respective mediums to new heights while working in Rome under a series of surprisingly artistically adventurous popes. Both are synonymous with the Baroque era. We’ll compare and contrast their art and legacies, explore the broader political and artistic milieu in which they were working, and examine the role their revolutionary work played in furthering the Counter-Reformation … as well as the art, photography and cinema of today.

Apollo and Daphne created between 1622 and 1625

The Three Chapels that Changed Art History

This unique art historical journey begins in the Scrovegni Chapel just outside of Venice in the charming university city of Padua; continues with the Brancacci Chapel in Florence; and culminates in Rome’s iconic Sistine Chapel. We will examine the groundbreaking humanization of art by Giotto at the turn of the 14th century and its further naturalization by Masaccio at the dawn of the Renaissance and then its apotheosis 100 years later with Michelangelo, perhaps the greatest artist to have ever lived, in his epic ceiling.

Peggy & Isabella: A Tale of Two Collectors

Isabella Stewart Gardner and Peggy Guggenheim were both role-shattering iconoclasts with a consuming passion for art. Both were great lovers of Italy and of Venice in particular.  Both were willful and determined women, each propelled by a singular vision. And both would change the cultural climate of the cities they called home.

In a visually-engaging journey we will explore the storied lives, splendid art collections and enduring legacies of these indomitable and unforgettable women, and two of greatest and most prescient art collectors of the last century.

Visions of Dante - Dante Commedia

Visions of Dante

Dante Alighieri is perhaps the greatest poet to have ever lived, and his La Divina Commedia is universally considered one of the very finest works of world literature.

In this visually-stunning lecture, we will not only explore Dante’s prodigious genius, how he mapped eternity, and the enormity of his legacy, but we’ll also examine many of the extraordinary works of art and the artists behind them—including Botticelli, William Blake and Salvatore Dali—that his magnum opus inspired over the centuries.

Rooms with a View: Undiscovered Treasures

A visual feast for lovers of Italian art and culture! Discover and explore extraordinary yet lesser-known interior decorative spaces from Ancient Rome and the early Renaissance and learn the history of the artists and patrons while viewing close-up these dazzling yet often overlooked cultural treasures. This photographic and cultural mini-vacation includes: The Chapel of the Magi (Florence), the Summer Dining Room of the Villa of Livia (Rome), the Ara Pacis (Rome), and the Studiolo of Federico da Montefeltro, in the Renaissance city of Urbino.

Chapel of the Magi
Illustration by Lannie Hart

Renaissance Pleasure Palaces

The Renaissance witnessed the revival of the ancient Roman tradition of building suburban villas for pleasure and delight. These palaces, owned by the rich & famous became hedonist hubs—veritable Renaissance Playboy mansions. Two of the most beautiful and best preserved of these villas are Rome’s Villa Farnesina along the Tiber and Mantua’s dazzling Palazzo del Te. Each houses exceptional and fanciful works of art: testimony to the libidinous appetites of their patrons and the opulent revelry that arose within them. Learn the history of the artists and patrons while viewing, close-up, stunning cultural treasures.

Miracle in Matera

The story of Matera is a story of resilience, reinvention and renewal. It is a story of how a city’s past rescued its present. It is a story of miraculous transformation from a place once considered the “Shame of Italy” to a city named the 2019 European Capital of Culture. Discover  the story behind Matera’s astonishing make-over and how, today, artists, craftspeople, restaurateurs and hoteliers have applied Italians’ special brand of ingenuity and style and the spirit of la dolce vita to the land of the sassi in the previously forgotten region of Basilicata.

Capo Testa

Raphael: Rock Star of the Renaissance

Raffaello Sanzio, better known simply as Raphael, was, along with Leonardo and Michelangelo, one of the great artist polymaths of the Renaissance.  He is famous for fashioning the style known as “High Renaissance” and was the essential man—painter, architect, designer, tastemaker, entrepreneur, team builder, courtier, and visionary. Yet today it is trendy to dismiss his work as “too beautiful.” What nonsense! 2020 marked the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death. Join us for a comprehensive exploration (and celebration) of the exquisite beauty, grace, complexity and range of his extensive body of work

Buon Natale: Surprising Stories Behind Beloved Holiday Traditions

Discover the unexpected and delightful stories behind some of our most cherished holiday traditions from Saint Nicholas to nativity scenes to candy canes and Christmas stockings. We explore how pagan and Christian rituals magically merged into the holiday we celebrate today as well as several uniquely Italian customs such as the Feast of the Epiphany and wearing red underwear!

Angel illustration
Sins of the Father

Giotto’s Human Touch

Considered to be a pivotal figure in European painting, Giotto di Bondone was one of the earliest artists to paint more realistic figures instead of the flat, stylized, decorative images of the Gothic and Byzantine periods.  Like his literary contemporaries Dante and Boccaccio, his art drew from life with its attention to natural representations of the human form, emotional realism and expression. Recognized in his own time as a revolutionary, Giotto was transformative in opening the door to the Renaissance with his work. Enjoy an in-depth exploration of Giotto’s fresco cycle at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (and easy day-trip from Venice), considered to be his greatest work.

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