Florence, Italy and the Tuscan countryside
- June 4-11, 2014
- June 13-20, 2014
For more information on this trip please contact Literary Traveler
The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio
The starting point of each of our tours is a text and an idea. Books have recorded and shaped the human experience for centuries, and the best ones are read over and over again by each successive generation. By using these literary masterpieces, our tours have a base from which to involve our clients not only in the past literature associated with a city, but also that city’s present and the ongoing influence these works have on Italian life.
Boccaccio’s Decameron, a masterful collection of 100 novellas that would inspire Chaucer to write his Canterbury Tales, begins with a group of 10 young men and women escaping the plague that was ravaging Florence. After meeting at the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella – the starting place of our tour as well – Boccaccio’s protagonists went to the countryside, where they amused themselves by singing, dancing, and telling stories.
These stories tell the lives of a city in the process of significant change, not simply due to the effects of a terrifying disease but from a social and economic shift that was marking Florence as a European mercantile capital, as merchants and bankers took on an importance that had been previously unknown in Western history. The cultural impact of these changes would eventually lead toward what is later termed the Renaissance, and its early days are recorded in many of the stories told by Boccaccio’s protagonists.
Scolastica Tours offers “Idyllic Escape: Boccaccio’s Decameron in the Florentine Countryside” as a way of examining the idea of literature as an escape and as a reflection of societal uncertainty and change, both within the text itself and as a broader cultural theme. Over the course of a week, our guests have ample opportunity to discuss individual stories as well as more far-reaching questions regarding the acts of reading and writing and the basic human needs that are addressed through literature. In doing so, we hope to highlight the ways that literature can reveal not only where a society has been, but also where it is going, as it identifies points of cultural strength and weakness in an entertaining fashion.
The Decameron: Escape to a New World
Set against the devastating backdrop of the Black Death, Boccaccio’s masterpiece follows a band of young lords and ladies who escape to the countryside and occupy their days in beautiful gardens, singing, dancing… and telling stories.
Our tour begins at the ancient church of Santa Maria Novella – the exact same spot in which Boccaccio’s “brigata,” or group, of storytellers gather prior to retreating into the countryside. After a brief introduction, we will be ferried to our own retreat, an agriturismo in the Tuscan hills that provides us with the lush gardens and quiet landscape from which we open our discussions of Boccaccio’s masterpiece. In addition to our daily discussions, you will have time to relax, explore the grounds, enjoy the local foods and wines available through the agriturismo. In this manner, we are able to closely recreate the ambience found in the Decameron – without, of course, sacrificing any of the luxurious amenities available to today’s Tuscan traveler.
Our discussions will center on particular novellas and characters from the first four days of The Decameron, as a means to better understand the cultural and daily life of mid-fourteenth century Italy. This was a life that produced stories about religion, the ability to extricate oneself from difficult positions using a well-timed phrase, the shifting morals of a rapidly developing economy and, of course, love – all told with Boccaccio’s typical doses of irony and humor. Interspersed with the food, drink and accommodations provided by our hosts, these days represent a utopic beginning to your tour.
Back to the City:
We return to Florence, as the city’s sights provide context for our discussions of civic life during the fourteenth century.
As we depart the countryside – several days before our band of storytellers will do the same – we are greeted into the city with more stories regarding the details of urban life. The neighborhoods, buildings and markets of today’s Florence still contain glimpses of the protagonists of Boccaccio’s novellas, even those that are not set in Florence. Each day will give us more stories, and more sights and monuments, to consider during our discussions.
Although we have left behind our first hosts, we believe that you will be equally impressed and happy with our Florentine accommodations, once again chosen in an effort to provide you with the opportunity to relax and delve into our book and the city itself. Whether you spend your free time reading or exploring, we are sure that our continuing discussions of the Decameron, together with our secondary text on Florentine history, will provide your mind with ample food for thought
Kyle Hall, Founder and Tour Manager
“I began traveling to Italy over a decade ago, and since my first trip in 2002 have been immersed in studying the Italian language, history and culture. I received my M.A. in Italian Studies from Florida State University in 2006 and that fall began my doctoral program, always in Italian Studies, at Harvard University…Upon leaving the world of iron-gated campuses, I wanted a way to take this academic experience and replicate it for others, focusing on the places where these books and histories came into being. Scolastica Tours represents this attempt of striving to provide each of our clients with a better brand of tourism. As both the founder of the company and your tour manager, this is always in the forefront of my mind.”
2014 tour dates, with prices from $4,965
All tours include fine lodging, many meals, books and other materials, qualified guides, and more.
Each 7 night tour includes:
- Guaranteed group size of no more than 8 participants
- 3 nights in a fine Tuscan agriturismo
- 4 nights’ lodgings in Florence
- Daily continental breakfast
- 2 lunches at our agriturismo
- 5 multi-course dinners focused on the regional food and drink of Tuscany
- Daily cultural talks and book discussions, led by your tour guide
- Walking tours and museum visits incorporating your readings
- Pre-departure materials including relevant books, exclusive Scolastica Tours literary packet and city guides
- Car transfers as highlighted in the tour itinerary
About Scolastica Tours:
Scolastica Tours is founded on the idea that tourism can be more informative, more engaging, and more rewarding than it is currently. We want to provide opportunities to interact with information that go beyond blandly listening to facts that could be just as easily found during a session in front of the computer screen. We want you to return home with more than beautiful pictures. We want to use our expertise to create a comprehensive and relaxing experience that is like no other.
Our tours are not the standard “get on the bus, ride through town, now you’ve seen Bologna, onward, off the bus, follow the umbrella…” offered by so many companies. We focus on thinking about a city and its way of life, rather than passing through in order to say that we have seen it. Our goal is to provide our clients with a rewardingly contemplative experience that allows them to take home more than just a set of photographs and postcards.