Want to make a difference while exploring some of the best that Italy has to offer this summer? Join us for an unforgettable adventure of giving back on Italy’s most beautiful island and discovering the stunning sites around it on a truly unique program based in Sicily. Discover life-changing experiences, starting at our home base in the iconic Sicilian countryside, where our gracious hosts own and operate a community center for local children in need. Every year, our loving host family takes our entire group into their home and treats us as part of la famiglia! We will help them care for the children, tend to their organic garden, and work on construction projects around the community center. On a typical day, we will wake up to breathtaking views of the idyllic vineyards and rolling hills, set out to complete service projects, bond with our host family, play with the children, and cook delicious homemade meals. Explore the best of Sicily by visiting many of the surrounding towns and even hiking Mt. Etna! Join us on this once-in-a-lifetime summer teen program in Italy!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 30 hours of community service challenging yourself through a variety of service projects
- Work with young local children to help them with their school work, do hands-on construction projects, and develop an outdoor classroom
- Farm the organic garden for fresh ingredients in a true farm to table experience
- Learn how to cook with our gracious hosts by preparing homemade Italian meals for the community center each day
- Wander the streets of Taormina and take dip in the crystal blue water
- Learn about the ancient history of Syracuse on our visit to this unique city
- Check off hiking the largest active volcano in Europe from your bucket list at Mt. Etna!
- Learn what it’s like to live with a host family and create lasting relationships through travel
DAY 1: DEPART FROM NEW YORK (JFK)
DAYS 2-3: BIANCAVILLA
We’ll hop off the plane and head for the foothills of Mt. Etna to experience beauty you only thought possible in your dreams! We will get acquainted with our host family at their classic Sicilian home and check out the family-run community center where we will be based for the service portion of the program. We’ll begin our cooking lessons on the very first night and prepare a meal alongside our gracious hosts, using fresh local ingredients picked right from their garden. We’ll enjoy our homemade meal along with the local children. After dinner we’ll have a meeting to discuss our projects for the week and get started on our work bright and early the next day. And so begins the journey to making a difference in the lives of others!
DAY 4: SYRACUSE
Take a break from all your hard work for a day of exploring Sicily! We’ll stop in Vendicari to admire the pristine beaches and take a dip in the Mediterranean on our way to the ancient Greek town of Syracuse. We’ll go back to ancient time and explore the Archaeological Park of this city that was once as big as Athens, see the Greek theater, and marvel at ancient Greek temples. We will wander the narrow alleyways of this historically rich town that has survived many layers of civilizations.
DAYS 5-6: BIANCAVILLA
We’ll spend the next couple of days back at our home base continuing on our community service projects and marveling at how much progress we’ve made in just two days! You will see the value of your service reflected in the community center and the children’s happiness with each passing day. When we’re not working, we’ll be playing games with the children and learning how to cook more delicious meals, all the while enjoying the unparalleled views of the vineyards below.
DAY 7: CATANIA
Head to this bustling capital city and experience real Mediterranean life at the most lively outdoor market in Europe. Watch as the fishermen, butchers, and grocers display their fresh products for sale and barter with customers. Visit the ornate cathedral and spend time shopping at some of Catania’s best spots. Stop for some classic Sicilian cannoli before heading back to the center to do a bit of work for the rest of the afternoon.
DAY 8: BIANCAVILLA
Our usual projects continue to progress on this day back at our home base. Now we will be able to see just how far we’ve come in the past five days and be able to plan how best to spend our time completing our service projects during our final days of work.
DAY 9: TAORMINA
Discover the charm of Taormina, from world famous granita to the one and only “Isola Bella.” This chic little village has something exciting around every corner. We’ll marvel at the ancient Greek theater with a spectacular view overlooking the Mediterranean sea, shop on the Corso Umberto, and indulge in the best arancini (fried rice ball) you’ll ever eat! Soak up the Sicilian lifestyle and end this perfect day with a funicular ride down the hillside for an afternoon of relaxing at a quaint beach called Isola Bella, which means “beautiful island.”
DAYS 10-12: BIANCAVILLA > MT. ETNA
Time to get back to work for our final days of service at the center! By this point we will have created incredible bonds with our host family and children. A bittersweet end is near!
During our final days, we will lace up our boots and get ready for the the adventure we’ve all been waiting for: the grand finale trek to Mt. Etna! Meet up with our professional volcanic guide and begin the 9,500 foot journey up to the top. Peer into the crater in amazement as you stand atop the largest active volcano in Europe! Relax for a picnic lunch along the slopes of Mt. Etna before heading down from an unforgettable day.
DAY 13: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
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.
We stay in a country estate in the hills outside the city of Catania. The house is fully equipped with separate male and female facilities, a full kitchen, a living area, and bedrooms. We also have a wonderful terrace where we spend time hanging out in the evenings. The estate is surrounded on all sides by olive groves, vineyards, and fruit trees – and Mt. Etna provides the majestic backdrop. We will be living with the Sicilian family who are the project managers of the community service project that we are working on, and we have the good fortune to cook our meals with them every day, picking up some great pointers on Italian cooking.
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 on this program?
Students love that they are able to fully immerse in the culture by connecting with Sicilian locals on a deeper level given that we are living and working with these people every single day. They also love that they are able to expand their horizons by doing community service work abroad and make a difference in the lives of those in need. Having the opportunity to see and learn about places than they would otherwise only see in textbooks is another highlight of the program.
What is unique about this program?
Virtually everything about this program is unique, from the exclusive homestay to the personalized cooking classes, working with adorable young children and challenging yourself to complete influential community service projects. This program provides insider access to true Sicilian lifestyle while giving back to the local community.
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Not included in the cost (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, visas and visa application fees, beverages other than filtered water at meals, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not program related, such as movies, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters, as well as personal and medical expenses.
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!
This program has a particularly strong emphasis on food, with the service portion of the program giving the students a true farm to table experience. Students will learn how to farm the family’s organic garden, pick fresh ingredients every day, and make almost every meal with their own two hands. Just like the community service, cooking is incredibly rewarding when you know you worked hard to make the food that you’re eating. Since Italian food is all about fresh, simple ingredients, this program offers students a truly authentic culinary experience by preparing and indulging the most delectable homemade Italian dishes. On our day trips, we will also have a chance to sample some specialties that are traditionally Sicilian, like granita (the original “Italian ice”), cannoli, and arancini (fried rice balls).
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 to bring anything special for the community service portion of the program?
Summer in Italy is known for its sunshine, which makes beach days beautiful, but working a bit more tiring. Please be sure to bring a water bottle and hat for our service days, as well as clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
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.
"My trip with TFT was a wonderful and eye opening experience. We got to go to some of the most incredible places and I met some truly amazing people."
"We can not thank you enough. What you endured the past couple weeks is enough to make my head spin!!! You truly are gifted and my daughter Katriel was lucky enough to cross your path in life. No doubt you will have left an impression on her forever. Thank you again whole heartedly"
"Thank you TFT for helping Mikaela have an awesome and amazing trip. I loved your updates and photos each day!!"