Join us on a teen travel adventure through Italy while volunteering with two different community service projects. Your adventure begins on the stunning island of Sicily before traveling the coast of the country from north to the south!
Life-changing experiences start 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. 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.
Our time in Sicily will also involve relaxing on its gorgeous beaches, hiking Mt. Etna,and discovering ancient ruins and archeological sites.
After Sicily its time to hit the mainland! We will head to the Cinque Terre and join some key members of the community in order to complete our next service project. A longstanding relationship between Travel For Teens and the local community of Monterosso allows our participants to work on meaningful service projects every year! We stay directly in the tiny colorful fishing village just steps away from the best beach!
We will volunteer our time at a Capuchin monastery to help with the maintenance of their fruit and vegetable garden, help restore the trails that have been damaged and closed to the public, and improve the facilities at the local schools. As if giving back weren’t rewarding enough, you’ll enjoy stunning Mediterranean vistas every day as you marvel at the picture-perfect coast of the Italian Riviera, with its five pastel-painted fishing towns nestled into the cliffside.
After our time in the Cinque Terre, we’ll stop at a private Tuscan estate for a cooking lesson and winery tour (optional) en route to Rome to discover the ancient wonders of the Eternal City! We’ll spend our final days soaking up the sun in southern Italy’s hottest destination: the Amalfi Coast. Enjoy breathtaking views, delicious food, rich culture, and Italian hospitality every step of the way this summer!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 50 hours of community service challenging yourself through a variety of service projects throughout Italy, including working in the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Farm an organic garden for fresh ingredients in a true farm to table experience
- Hike the famous trails of the Cinque Terre, complete with ocean views, pastel colored houses and colorful flowers
- Learn how to cook with our gracious Sicilian hosts by preparing homemade Italian meals for the community center
- Work with young local children to help them with their schoolwork, do hands-on construction projects, and develop an outdoor classroom
- Learn what it’s like to live with a host family and create lasting relationships through travel
- Spend the day cruising the Amalfi Coast on your own private boat
- Wander the Vatican’s golden halls and stare in awe at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel
- Check off hiking the largest active volcano in Europe from your bucket list at Mt. Etna!
- Explore the legend, history, and culture of the largest archaeological sites in Europe: Selinunte Archaeological Park
- Cruise the Mediterranean Sea among the Aegadian Islands
- Discover the ancient ruins and marvel at the Colosseum in Rome
- Marvel at the old town charm of Trapani and enjoy the pristine beaches of Sicily’s coast
- Visit a private winery and prepare Italian specialities for a fresh homemade meal with a family at their Tuscan estate*
- Eat authentic Italian pizza in the birthplace of pizza in Naples
- Walk the ancient streets of Pompeii, once buried by ash from a volcanic eruption back in 79 AD
- Explore the chic island of Capri for amazing shopping and gorgeous scenery
*This is an optional excursion
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: VENDICARI > 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 times 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: BIANCAVILLA
We’ll continue our community service projects back at our home base with hands-on construction projects such as developing an outdoor classroom. 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, helping them with their schoolwork, and learning how to cook delicious meals, all the while enjoying the unparalleled views of the vineyards below.
DAY 6: 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 7: BIANCAVILLA > TAORMINA
We’ll continue our service in the morning and marvel at how much progress we’ve made! In the afternoon we’ll 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.”
DAY 8: MT. ETNA
We will lace up our boots and get ready for 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 9: BIANCAVILLA
Our usual projects continue to progress on our last day back at our home base in Biancavilla. Now we will be able to see just how far we’ve come in the past week and plan how best to spend our time completing our service projects during our final day of work. By this point, we will have created incredible bonds with our host family and children. A bittersweet end is near!
DAY 10: SELINUNTE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK > TRAPANI
We say “addio” to our host family in Biancavilla and head to Sicily’s east coast! For the next few nights, we’ll call the picturesque coastal city of Trapani home.
Today we’ll visit Selinunte Archaeological Park, a truly stunning site where you can walk and climb on temple ruins over 2500 years old. This special place is said to be one of the most impressive archeological sites in all of Greece and is rich in legends, history and culture!
DAYS 11-12: TRAPANI
We couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to spend our final days in Sicily! We’ll cruise the Mediterranean Sea among the Aegadian Islands, relax on the beach, and explore the old town with opportunities for shopping, exploring museums, or marveling at the stunning views from the 17th century Torre di Ligny watchtower.
On our final night in Sicily, we’ll look back on our meaningful community service and all the memories made with new friends over a delicious authentic Sicilian meal.
DAY 13: FLORENCE
Then we’re off for mainland Italy – our first stop is the city of Florence! Here, in the center of the Italian Renaissance, artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as writers like Dante and Machiavelli completed some of their most famous masterpieces. We’ll stand in awe of Michelangelo’s gorgeous David at the Accademia gallery and take in the stunning views of the medieval town from the top of the Duomo!
DAYS 14-18: CINQUE TERRE
Welcome to the Cinque Terre, 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! Here we have established strong relationships with the locals from our annual service projects, and you will be welcomed with opened arms and treated like family during your stay here.
After settling into our home for the week in this dreamy seaside village, we’ll tour the town, admiring its colorful shops and rich, authentic feel. You’ll be amazed at the rush of the waves breaking across the beautiful beaches, and will be hardly prepared for the delicious meals consisting of fresh pasta with pesto (a local specialty) and delicacies from the sea. Despite the beauty and the relative success of this region, the Cinque Terre are also faced with a series of daunting environmental and economic challenges. Generations of hard-working inhabitants have braved the harsh conditions of this rugged landscape, living, as is often said, “with their backs to the sea.”
Interact with the locals and give back to this loving community with our meaningful community service, all while enjoying the breathtaking views of this wonderful region. We will be working directly with the town hall to maximize our efforts where they are needed most. One project includes heading up to the monastery to help rebuild historic walls there and clean up the surrounding area. Be rewarded for your hard work with a homemade spaghetti lunch prepared by the monks made with fresh tomatoes and herbs from their garden! We’ll also go to a local school and work to help improve the facilities. Lastly, we’ll work to beautify and maintain the network of hiking trails that traverse the Cinque Terre National Park. We’ll be working with the office of the National Park of the Cinque Terre, performing safe and supervised work that is nonetheless involved and valuable to the inhabitants of this region as well as the larger global community.
We’ll spend a day trekking along the beautiful trail that connects these five villages, where you’ll experience views and vistas the likes of which you’ve never encountered! Over the course of this day, we’ll get to know the distinct layout and character of each of the towns, sampling local pizza, focaccia, and other amazing treats as we go. End the day with a dip in the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean and relaxing on the beach – a wonderful reward for all of our efforts! Our time here will end with a special ceremony at the Town Hall, where our participants will be honored for everything they have done to better the Cinque Terre.
DAY 19: MONTALCINO
After our time in the Cinque Terre we will stop in the town of Montalcino. 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 where 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 20-21: ROME
Home sweet Rome! 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 ancient Rome. At the Colosseum we’ll try to imagine the bloody spectacle of gladiator competition. In the Roman Forum, which once housed the ancient city’s bustling center and main marketplace, we’ll marvel at the well preserved ruins. There’s no better way to complete our journey learning 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 relaxing in the summer air of a beautiful piazza.
DAY 22: AMALFI COAST
Next, we’ll escape the big city and head to Sorrento, a dreamy seaside town on the Bay of Naples that will be our home base as we explore this rich region. Enjoy our glamorous accommodation with a rooftop terrace and stunning views of sunny Sorrento.
We’ll wake up in the morning and hop on a private boat to discover the enchanting Amalfi Coast. It’ll be love at first sight with the sun shining above, blue sea below, and unbelievable views in front of us as we sail down the Mediterranean marveling at the pastel-painted towns nestled into the coast. With stops along the way, you’ll have a chance to jump into the crystal clear water and swim among cascading waterfalls and in several secluded bays. When we arrive in Positano, you’ll think you’ve been transported into a postcard as you gaze at the quaint hillside town perched up above. The view from the water is spectacular! Hop off the boat to explore this picturesque coastal gem and wander the narrow streets surrounded by multicolored buildings, blooming flowers, and sweet-smelling lemons. Visit the iconic church of Santa Maria Assunta with its ornate dome covered entirely in tiles. Enjoy the best shopping in the chic stores that line the streets, from handmade shoes and clothes to an abundance of lemon-themed products. Then relax for the afternoon on the famous black sand beach and take it all in.
DAY 23: POMPEII > NAPLES
Visit Pompeii, a thriving ancient Roman port towns that was frozen in time when it was buried under a deep layer of ash and pumice during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Step back in time and you explore this town and learn about the daily life there before the volcanic devastation. Our expert guide will recount the historic tales of these cities that will paint a picture of what life was like in these lavish societies before the volcano erupted!
Then hop on the train for a picturesque ride along the “circumvesuviana” line, a train that goes to Naples following a track around Mt. Vesuvius. What better way to spend your day than in the very place that pizza was invented? Indulge in the best in the world, served steaming hot straight out of a wood-fired oven.
Here in Naples, we will have the choice of following up our tour of Pompeii at the National Archeological Museum, the richest collection of archeological artifacts in Italy, or go back in time and navigate the maze of tunnels under the city that were used as anything from Roman aqueducts to air-raid shelters throughout history. We will also have a chance to hit some of the shops and wander around the fascinating and folkloristic streets of Naples!
DAY 24: CAPRI
Spend your final day just off the coast exploring the exclusive island of Capri. You can go shopping in the ultra-chic boutiques, take a hike around the craggy coast of the island, and enjoy a scenic chairlift ride up to Mt. Solaro, the island’s highest point for breathtaking views and incredible photo opportunities!
DAY 25: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Book this Program
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 Sicily, 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 the second part of our adventure we’ll stay in a centrally-located hotel in the coastal city of Trapani.
In Florence, we stay in centrally located hotel a stone’s throw from the central piazza. In the Cinque Terre we are in a modern and beautiful hotel in the center of the town Monterosso, just steps from a private beach. In Rome we stay at an hotel near the central Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, close to the city center and the main train station. In Sorrento, we’ll stay at a gorgeous hotel with a rooftop terrace and stunning views of this dreamy seaside town on the Bay of Naples.
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 fully immerse themselves in the culture by connecting with Italian locals on a deeper level during their service project. Performing service work along the coast with stunning views doesn’t hurt either!
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. Our service projects in Sicily and the Cinque Terre make the students a part of the Italian community, forming lifelong connections with the locals! Students experience what small town Italy is like and are treated like family. In addition, this program provides unique insider access to all of the destinations, from hands-on learning in our cooking classes to an exclusive invitation to a Tuscan villa, hiking to the top of Mt. Etna, and private boat tours down the Amalfi Coast.
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 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. For Specific questions pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
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.
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!