Fall in love with one of the world’s top destinations on our classic adventure through Italy this summer! Discover the best of Italy’s mouthwatering cuisine, awe-inspiring art, charming villas and vineyards, fascinating history and ruins, and renowned shopping. With vibrant cities, the Tuscan countryside, and picture perfect coastline, you’ll experience everything that makes Italy so incredible and diverse. On this Italy Explorer program we will fully immerse ourselves in the Italian culture with cooking classes, gelato tours, gondola workshops, coastal hikes, and more!
During this program, you will…
- Discover the real Venice at the oldest gondola workshop in Murano
- Guarantee your return to Rome with a coin tossed into the Trevi Fountain
- Hike along the idyllic Italian coast while marveling at the pastel-painted fishing towns nestled along the cliffs in the Cinque Terre
- Visit the culinary capital of Italy and indulge in the finest balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and local cheeses
- Explore the classic Tuscan medieval hill town of Montalcino
- Stroll across the famous Ponte Vecchio and experience the Renaissance city of Florence
- Wander the golden halls of the Vatican and stare in awe at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling
- Discover the ancient ruins and marvel at the Colosseum in Rome
Don’t want your Italian adventure to end? Most travelers choose to extend their stay with a trip down to Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast on our Ultimate Italy program.
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (JFK)
DAYS 2-3: VENICE
Our first stop is Venice – a dreamlike city of bridges and canals unlike any other in the world. You’ll be amazed at the splendor of the Grand Canal lined with crumbling, decadent palaces. We will wander the city’s tangled streets, marveling at the colors and reflections that only Venice can offer. Marvel at the iconic St. Mark’s Basilica in the central square. Visit the classic Venetian Gothic-style Palace of the Doges, which was the seat of the Doge, the supreme authority in the Republic of Venice. This striking structure set along the edge of St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal is has been converted into a massive internationally renowned museum. Get an insider’s look at the last gondola shop to learn about this centuries-old craft. The Gondola master is one of only five remaining craftsman left producing the iconic Gondolas that thrill tourists daily in the canals.
Check out the Peggy Guggenheim Museum showcasing the eccentric Peggy’s private collection of unique modern art at the former villa where she spent many years amassing a huge array of art from legends like Pollock, Picasso and Dali. Venture to the island of Murano, the center of the ancient glassmaking industry and learn about first hand at an authentic Venetian workshop. Fall in love with the splendors of this Italian city in the lagoon that will surely leave its mark on you.
DAYS 4-6: CINQUE TERRE
Welcome to the Cinque Terre, which is one of Italy’s hidden gems! Often referred to as the Italian Riviera, this region 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! We do not stay outside the towns in La Spezia (technically not part of the Cinque Terre). Instead, we are right in the middle of everything and able to walk just a few steps to the beach or charming shops. 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 spectacular 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 7-8: PISA > FLORENCE
Then we’re off to Florence, with first a stop in Pisa to get that iconic photo of the Leaning Tower. Then it’s time to discover Firenze, 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. Art and culture are not all that are in store for us in Florence, however. 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 challenge ourselves to go all the way on TFT’s famous gelato tour!
DAYS 9-10: TUSCANY > MONTALCINO
No trip to Italy is complete without visiting the rolling Tuscan hills. Tuscany, where we will spend our time at a gorgeous 500-year-old estate in the legendary Tuscan countryside. Bike or walk along the grounds, which are still used as a working cattle farm, and take a dip in the pool before enjoying a sunset you’ll never forget. Here too we’ll get a hands-on cooking lesson from expert Italian chefs, and we’ll also take a day trip to Montalcino, one of Italy’s loveliest cities. We’ll stroll the quaint cobblestoned streets of the hill town of Montalcino. Visit its beautiful medieval church and cathedral and check out the grand fortress before heading to the nearby town of San Quirico d’Orcia for some breathtaking views of this famous region.
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.
DAYS 11-12: ROME > VATICAN CITY
We’ll arrive in the Eternal City where a long and mighty history awaits us. As the city streets buzz with antiquity around every corner, you’ll be in awe as we transport ourselves thousands of years back in time while exploring the most important monuments and structures. From the Colosseum, where we’ll try to imagine the bloody spectacle of gladiator competition, to the Roman Forum, which once housed the ancient city’s bustling center and main marketplace. There’s no better way to learn about the Roman Empire than with a view of the city from atop the Palatine Hill–the very place where it all began.
We’ll then fast-forward to the Renaissance, crossing the Tiber to Vatican City and marvel at the massive basilica dedicated to St. Peter. We’ll lose ourselves in the Vatican’s extensive collection of artistic masterpieces from the ancient world to the present day, culminating with a look at Michelangelo’s elaborate ceiling frescos in the Sistine Chapel. We’ll stroll down the Tiber and venture slightly off the beaten path to Trastevere, one of Rome’s hippest neighborhoods, to see the local Romans in action and indulge in some of the best food in the city, including fresh homemade pastas and pizza “al taglio.” We’ll shop on the famous Via del Corso, toss a coin over our shoulders into the Trevi Fountain, and hang out on the Spanish Steps enjoying a classic Roman night of simply relaxing in the summer air of a beautiful piazza.
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
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 grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 to 18 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 Venice we stay at a hotel located on a beautiful piazza only a short walk from the train station. In the Cinque Terre we will be staying in a lovely family-run hotel located only steps from the best beach in town. In Florence we stay in a beautiful hotel a short distance from the Duomo. When in Tuscany we have the pleasure of staying at a beautiful estate in the rolling hills of the countryside. In Rome we’ll be staying at an elegant hotel near the central Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, close to both the Colosseum and the main train station.
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?
Students love that they are able to explore the best of Italy, from the major cities and small towns to the coast and the countryside. This program allows them to discover Italy in all its unique glory, and unearth one of the most lovable cultures in the world.
What is unique about this program?
From exclusive accommodation at a Tuscan villa in the countryside, to a hands-on learning experience at a gondola workshop in Venice and TFT’s expertise in leading programs through Italy for over a decade, this program provides unparalleled insider access to this beautiful country.
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!
Italian food is all about fresh, simple ingredients. We’ll sample the best of the “three Ps”- pizza, pasta, and panini! Indulging in these Italian specialties for the first time is a life-changing experience, and we will be there to document every minute of it as you fall in love with the fresh mozzarella, warm Italian bread, mouth-watering prosciutto, and homemade pasta. Don’t forget about gelato! After your trip to Italy, no dessert will ever be the same.
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!
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
"There are so many amazing places in Italy, it seems impossible to see all the famous and breathtaking sights in one trip, right? WRONG! I had always wanted to travel throughout Italy to get a chance to explore both the countryside of Tuscany and the beaches of Cinque Terre, and this trip was the perfect way to do just that. The activities on this trip ranged from a vast variety of making homemade pesto in a local Italian restaurant in Monterosso to climbing up the steep and slanted stairs of the Duomo in Florence. Whether I was hiking along the breathtaking views of the Cinque Terre trails or attempting to take a clever photo holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I was never found without a smile on my face. The friendships I made on this trip are still strong to this day, and the memories and experiences were unforgettable."