For those middle school students looking for their first trip abroad without their parents, check out this taste of Italian culture on Ciao Italy! Begin your travels in Europe by visiting the Eternal City and step back in time to the days of ancient Rome while marveling at the Colosseum and exploring the Vatican City.
Then it’s off to discover the picturesque seaside that Italy has kept hidden in the Cinque Terre. Marvel at the picture-perfect coast of the Italian Riviera, with its five pastel-painted fishing towns nestled into the cliffside. We’ll hike the trails, swim in the Mediterranean, and enjoy a quintessential Italian summer dream!
To cap off your Italian adventure, we’ll visit the Renaissance capital of the world, Florence. While tasting some of the best gelato and pizza, climb the Duomo for incredible views, and catch a postcard-perfect sunset over the city. For those who choose, they can spend a day wandering the charming canals of Venice. After ten days you will have truly experienced living la bella vita!
This program is perfectly paced for a younger age group. We have slowed down the itinerary to allow for a more relaxed experience to help younger teens adjust to the culture shock of being abroad. We only stay overnight in three cities (Rome, Cinque Terre, and Florence) to minimize the amount of time we pack up and go. This allows the teens to experience everything Italy has to offer without the stress!
During this program, you will…
- Walk in the steps of the ancients and learn how the gladiators fought at the Colosseum
- Capture the picture perfect sunset over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
- Wind through the canals of Venice*
- Explore local neighborhoods of Rome in search of the best artisan pizza
- Wander the golden halls of the Vatican and stare in awe at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling
- Explore the classic Tuscan medieval hill town of Montalcino
- Guarantee your return to Rome with a coin tossed into the Trevi Fountain
- Climb the Duomo for incredible views of Florence
- Hike along the Cinque Terre coast and discover some of the world’s most beautiful villages
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (JFK)
DAYS 2-4: ROME
Our program begins in the Eternal City where we will explore some of the most famous sites in Italy. We will go inside the mighty Colosseum and get a vivid picture of what it was like when the gladiators were battling. We will visit the Vatican Museums, stare in awe at the Sistine Chapel, and go inside St. Peter’s Basilica. In true Roman fashion, we will hang out at the Spanish steps and see the Trevi Fountain lit up at night — make sure you toss a coin in for good luck to insure your quick return to this gorgeous city!
DAYS 5-6: MONTALCINO > CINQUE TERRE
Then it’s time to say “arrivederci Roma” and head towards the Cinque Terre. On the way we will stop in the town of Montalcino, where we’ll stroll the quaint cobblestoned streets of the quaint Tuscan hill town.
For those who choose, there will be an optional excursion to a private vineyard just outside the town of Montalcino to experience the stunning Tuscan countryside in real Italian fashion. This day is a TFT favorite! We have an exclusive invitation to a family’s private Tuscan Estate. We will receive a hands-on tasty Italian cooking lesson using freshly harvested vegetables straight from their garden! Enjoy a special tour of the winery where they produce award-winning wine and receive an introduction to this important part of Italian culture.
Then it’s off to discover one of Italy’s hidden gems! Often referred to as the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre is home to five idyllic fishing villages with pastel colored houses perched on dramatic cliffs that plunge into the crystal-blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We stay right in the center of one of the villages (Monterosso) just steps from the beach! In Monterosso we have established strong relationships with the locals from some of the service projects we have done there in the past, and you will see you are treated like family during your stay here!
The Cinque Terre is known for its spectacular hiking trails that connect the towns and we will have the opportunity to hike them for ourselves! On the hike we will enjoy stunning views of the sea and the vineyards that line the cliffs and be inspired by the natural beauty in this region. During our time here we will also sample local specialties like pesto and focaccia. We’ll dine on fresh seafood and relax on the beach in our seaside paradise.
DAYS 7-9: FLORENCE > VENICE*
We’ll round out our time in Italy in Florence, the city most often referred to as an outdoor museum! Every turn in this beautiful city reveals a new statue, fountain or fresco. In the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance we’ll see Michelangelo’s famous “David,” climb to the top of the Duomo, and visit the Uffizi Museum, which houses the best collection of Italian Renaissance art in the world. However, art and culture are not all that are in store for us in Florence.
We’ll shop in the city’s famous markets and go to an exclusive event at one of the best leather shops in the city. We’ll enjoy the best pizzeria in the city and challenging ourselves to go all the way on TFT’s famous Gelato Tour! During our time in Florence, students will have the option to join our day trip to Venice! Wander the canals and enjoy the overall relaxed atmosphere of this quaint city.
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Authenticity is engrained in everything we do. Eat, stay, and travel like a local.
Check out what past travelers have to say about TFT and discover why we were awarded top youth travel organization in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
"The trip sounds amazing. We love seeing the pictures so thanks for those as well. Sounds like the kids are having a blast."
"This is the happiest I have seen my child. Your program has far exceeded my expectations. Blown away! What an incredible first you are giving them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart !!"
"Thank you,TFT! It was great to have the updates and really appreciate all the effort you put into it!"
Who can go on this program? What kind of teen typically goes on this program?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in 7th or 8th grade and approximately 12 to 14 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. We do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities; we prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Rome we stay at an elegant two star hotel near the central Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, close to both the Colosseum and the main train station. In Florence we stay in a three star hotel only minutes away from the Duomo.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for the program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students generally like most about this program?
As a program tailored to younger teens, students love the quiet pace of this Italian adventure where they will see the famous sights of Italy, have the best food of their life and make unforgettable memories with lifelong friends.
What is unique about this program?
An exclusive invitation to a Tuscan villa and winery tour, a private party at a famous leather shop at the San Lorenzo markets in Florence and an insider’s guide to the best little-known neighborhoods of Rome are all yours on this program to immerse yourself in the best parts of Italy.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
In Italy we will enjoy fresh, simple ingredients, homemade pasta, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and of course, pizza! We always eat at authentic and local restaurants. Food is an important part of the culture so we prefer to allow our students to order off the menu so every meal is exactly what you want!
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
What kind of visa do you need for this program?
Any US citizen that enters Europe is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!