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Italy’s great (hidden) beauty



Italy’s great (hidden) beauty

mantovaHistory and art in UNESCO World Heritage sites

With Dr Kathleen Olive

Part 4: The Italian Renaissance

When Bologna’s celebrated porticoes were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2021, they became the 58th Italian property inscribed on the list. The historic towns, buildings, landscapes and even cultural traditions acknowledged by UNESCO in Italy are the largest concentration of inscriptions for any individual country – China, the country with the second largest number of World Heritage sites, follows closely with 56.

Many of Italy’s World Heritage sites are well known and draw thousands of tourists every year, from the historic centre of Florence to the archaeological site of Pompeii, Leonardo’s Last Supper and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But what of the lesser-known World Heritage sites in Italy? What can we learn about the fascinating history and culture of Italy from the historic sites and practices recognised by UNESCO, reflecting the diverse groups who have left their distinctive marks on the Italian peninsula for millennia?

In this fourth part of our course, travel virtually to Italy to explore its history, art and culture in illustrated presentations on World Heritage sites that you’re less likely to know, a celebration of Italy’s grande bellezza in its hidden places.

Session 1 (14 November): Ferrara (Emilia-Romagna)
One of Italy’s lesser-known Renaissance centres, this northern Italian duchy was actually one of the most important style-setters for the cultural movement of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It welcomed innovative Flemish artists, sponsored a unique local style and nurtured personalities as diverse as Isabella d’Este and Lucrezia Borgia.

Session 2 (21 November): Pienza (Tuscany)
Renaissance Italians returned to their roots as they remade their towns according to ideal, classically-inspired designs. Tuscany’s Pienza, or Corsignano as it was, was entirely remodelled in the fifteenth century by the court of Pope Pius II, and is today one of the finest microcosms of the Renaissance style. The Val d’Orcia region, in which it is found, is also recognised by UNESCO, thanks in parturbino to the efforts of Iris Origo.

Session 3 (28 November): Urbino (Le Marche)
Perhaps not lesser-known, but less-visited as it’s somewhat more remote, Urbino is another ideal Renaissance town. In this case, it’s the vision of the extraordinary military captain and duke Federico da Montefeltro. His palace, with its artworks by Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca, and its intarsia-work studiolo, is perfectly preserved, and still surrounded by some of Italy’s most beautiful landscape.

Session 4 (05 December): Leonardo’s Last Supper (Milan, Lombardy)
Again, not so lesser-known but certainly less understood: many will claim that there’s not much point visiting Leonardo’s damaged Last Supper in Milan. But beyond the crowds – and the extraordinary conservation history – this wall painting remains one of Leonardo’s most influential works, and less than ten minutes’ walk from it are three other sites that provide the perfect context for understanding its history and impact.

Session 5 (12 December): Mantua and Sabbioneta (Lombardy)
Another style-setting Renaissance court of northern Italy, whose ducal family sponsored the careers of Leon Battista Alberti, Andrea Mantegna and Giulio Romano, and whose art collections inspired eminent artists such as Titian and Rubens. In both Mantua and the small court of Sabbioneta, early theatres encouraged innovation from musicians and playwrights, including Claudio Monteverdi, and changed how we see and hear performances today.

The course will be held in English and face-to-face at the Institute

Each one hour lecture will be followed by 30 minutes of live discussion

kathleen oliveTutor: Dr Kathleen Olive

Dr Kathleen Olive is a cultural historian with a PhD in Italian Studies from the University of Sydney. She lived and studied in Italy for a number of years, and has taught Italian language, history and culture at the University of Sydney and at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her edition with Nerida Newbigin of the Codex Rustici, a celebrated fifteenth-century manuscript, was the official gift of the Florentine Curia to Pope Francis on his first visit to Florence in 2015. Kathleen has led cultural tours to Italy, Spain, France, Japan and the USA since 2003, and is a national lecturer for the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society (ADFAS). She is well known for her public lectures on art history and appreciation.

Course fee: $125 (no discounts apply)

Downolad the brochure HERE.

To book for the course download HERE the enrolment form, fill it in and send it to: 

For further information call: (02) 9261 1780


Date: Da Monday, November 14, 2022 a Monday, December 12, 2022

Time: From 10:00 am To 11:30 am

Organized by : Istituto Italiano di Cultura

Entrance : With fee


Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Lvl. 4, 125 York Str