The Road Less Traveled
2331 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
June 24 - July 11, 2018 // 18 Days
On our 18-day student travel and service learning program in Italy, we expand our cooking and language skills while exploring one of the most culturally rich, naturally beautiful, and welcoming countries in Europe.
I get to work on an organic farm. I get to be surrounded by beautiful people everyday. We are experiencing something I could only dream of.” - Beau G., Italy: Seme Al Piatto
Travel to Italy on a culinary adventure designed to promote educational exchange and build a global understanding of conscious ecological farming practices. Learn the secrets of Italian cooking and build upon your language skills while living and working on an organic farm high in the Abruzzi Mountains. In Rome, climb the Spanish Steps, eat gelato, make a wish at the Trevi Fountain, and imagine being a spectator thousands of years ago in the Colosseum. Travel by train to explore the art, architecture, and cobblestoned streets of the birthplace of the Renaissance (Florence). Hike the Cinque Terre along the breathtaking coastline, visiting colorful villages along the way.
Keep scrolling to learn more about this student travel and service learning program in Italy!
With miles and miles of breathtaking trails, Cinque Terre’s five towns stretch along the Mediterranean Sea, known as the Italian Riviera. Pure Italy.
Lazio e Molise is full of spectacular mountain scenery. It is the oldest of Abruzzo's parks and an important habitat to the native Marsican brown bear, Apennine wolf, and the few remaining lynx.
Dogs are trained to sniff out these edible objects of desire. Truffles can sell for $400 to $4,000 per kilogram, finding one is like finding a diamond!
Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti, an elegant staircase of 137 steps over twelve different flights (also known as the Spanish Steps), provides the perfect people-watching perch and resting point. The Panthenon, which Michelangelo deemed to be the work of angels, not men, likewise is a trip highlight. There's more - the majestic Coliseum and the romantic Trevi fountain.
You may have heard whisperings about the secret bakeries. The hunt late into the night makes a memorable excursion. The best way of finding them is to follow your nose!
“When all was finished, ..... no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it.” -- Giorgio Vasari. Here is a chance to gaze upon a truly artistic masterpiece!
It is an abundant pleasure to sit in an Italian home, restaurant, or café to share a good meal. Food and wine are essential to local culture and family history is preserved around the table.
Vatican City, one of the most sacred places in the world and a spiritual pilgrimage for many, holds artistic and architectural treasures from the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, and Mader. The Sistine Chapel is the definition of fine art: the ceiling fresco painted by Michelangelo that depicts nothing less than the creation of the world.
Michele makes cheese twice a day every day - fresh ricotta and aged pecorino from the family's 100 sheep and 50 goats.
In the center of Florence lies Piazza Del Duomo, the ultimate gathering place. At Santa Croce, the burial place for the great and good in Florence, lies Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galile. It also serves as a memorial to Dante. The indoor-outdoor San Lorenzo Market is an inexpensive and cheerful place to search for a bargain. Stalls are stocked with food, leather, clothing, and souvenirs.
As cool and delicious as ice cream, the coffee granita is served filling half the cup with granita and the other half whipped cream. A light, refreshing, and tasty treat on a hot day!
The Corridoio Vasariano runs along the bridge above the goldsmiths’ shops. It was built as a connecting route for the Medici family to keep them safe from the people they ruled. By night, the wooden shutters of the shops look like suitcases and wooden chests and make it a charming route to take on an evening passeggiata, or stroll.
Florence is the birthplace of gelato, so it’s no surprise that two of the country’s best gelaterias are here. Nothing matches the intense flavor and smooth and creamy texture of true Italian gelato.
Main project is volunteering at an organic farm – tilling the land, working the vinyard, planting seeds, harvesting crops, constructing trails, foraging for truffles and caring for livestock.
A Certificate of Community Service indicating the total number of hours worked and will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
Formal language classes and exposure within the cities and villages
Rome: Spanish Steps, The Pantheon, Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Hill, Imperial Forums, Trevi Fountain, Vatican City
Florence and Cinque Terre: Michelangelo’s David, Santa Croce, Piazza Signoria, Brunellesch’s Dome, Giotto’s Campanile, Basilica di Santa Croce, Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, San Lorenzo Market, Plaza del Duomo, Ponte Vecchio
Village of Sora and Countryside: Hunt for truffles, visit traditional cheesemaker, shop at local markets, hike to local waterfalls
Classes: Pizza, pasta, & gelato making, language classes, yoga
9 - 12
In Italy, we stay in hostels and hotels. Rooms are divided by gender and showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability. Bathrooms are flush toilets.
New York, NY (JFK)
A leader escorted round-trip flight will be available (but not required) for those travelers who wish to fly with a leader out of New York, NY (JFK).
The American poultry industry had made it possible to grow a fine-looking fryer in record time and sell it at a reasonable price, but no one mentioned that the result usually tasted like the stuffing inside of a teddy bear. ~ Julia Child
At the crossroads of ecology and gastronomy stands Italy. Opposed to the standardization of taste and culture, the people of Italy believe and live with the concept of neo-gastronomy – the connections of plate, planet, people, and culture.
Centered on awareness that food choice has a direct effect on the market and production, our time in Italy allows us to explore how everyday decisions can be made for the benefit of our palate, the environment, and society.
We gather in Rome for an innovative 18-day service learning exploration of Italy. We reawaken and train the senses as we study all aspects of food, from field to fork.
Aboard our southbound train out of Rome, we see the slow transformation from city life to the green mountains and endless trees of the charming Italian countryside. We pull into Sora and transfer to an organic farm and settle into our farmhouse villa – home for the next 8 days.
We come to understand where our food comes from, how it is produced, and by whom; we learn how to combine pleasure and responsibility in daily choices and appreciate the cultural and social importance of food.
We travel through Abruzzo National Park to take full advantage of ample hiking trails. Trekking to Sagittario Gorge, Zompo lo Schioppo Falls, or Lakes Penne and Serranello in the San Pietro countryside, we keep our eyes peeled for Marsican bear, wolf, lynx, roe, deer, Abruzzo chamois, and the golden eagle.
We hike to old churches and castles, visit the open-air market, eat truffles, and with a cone of the creamiest gelato in hand we stroll the streets and soak up the small town’s magic.
Each day we rise and help the landowners care for their fruits, vegetables, and animals. Seasonal cooking, green methods of gardening, sustainable food products, slow food, and local purveyors are all methods and concepts passed down over the generations and still practiced today.
We learn regional techniques, ingredients, and family recipes that have been maintained over centuries. We put on aprons, gather around the old farmhouse table, get wrist-deep in pasta dough, and learn Italian cooking from the source.
We learn first-hand how to make pasta. Part of the day is spent hunting for truffles with the farm’s specially trained dogs and taking specialty classes.
We alternate our evenings between Italian language and cooking classes. Our vocabulary improves as we hone our skills in the kitchen making handmade pasta, bread, and more. Our work on the farm educates and motivates us to take an active interest and role in the future of food.
Swapping the farm for the city, we transfer by train to Tuscany and get our first glimpse of Florence on the road from Siena as we suddenly burst through the trees. We see all the glories – The Uffizi Art Gallery, The Duomo, the Basilica di Santa Croce (with the tombs of Michelangelo and Machiavelli), Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace, San Lorenzo Market, Plaza Del Duomo, and Ponte Vecchio in front of us.
We stand in front of Michelangelo’s David and tour the historic city, mesmerized by the locals at aperitivo time as they effortlessly strut, flirt and enjoy life. Our education in Italy is based on the idea that food means pleasure, culture, and conviviality. We envision a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it, and good for the planet.
We break from the bustle of the city to explore the Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This unique and memorable day explores the untouched Italian Riviera. We trek scenic trails and wander through vineyards and olive groves, over stone walls and along the spectacular coastline. Even in Italy, a land of many wonders, Cinque Terre National Park is unique. We visit five picturesque seaside villages perched atop the rocky Mediterranean: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Along the breathtaking Ligurian coastline, we take time to enjoy a delicious lunch on an unrivaled day of photo opportunities.
As our trip comes to a close, we transfer back to Rome. Walking the cobblestone streets of Rome, we inhale the aromas of traditional Italian food and marvel at the dazzling historical architecture on all sides. Our stroll through Ancient Rome includes the Coliseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Hill, Imperial Forums, and the Pantheon. We climb the Spanish Steps for a beautiful view of the city, cast coins over our shoulders to make a wish in Trevi Fountain, and visit Vatican City.
We share one final meal incountry, enjoying our travels from field to fork. We can’t help but end our time with “Ne voglio anco?”
Arrive at JFK International Airport and board our escorted flight to Rome.
Take the train to Sora to settle in at a traditional countryside organic farm. Upon arrival, enjoy a pizza lunch feast and get to know our home for the next part of the adventure.
After pasta making classes, Italian language lessons, yoga on the farm, and swimming at a gorgeous local lake when the stars fill the sky, sleep deeply in the peaceful Italian countryside.
Weave through the morning market in town before lunch at the park. Visit a local cheese maker, pick up fresh milk for the farm, and partake in a traditional pizza-making class. Hunt for truffles, the world's most expensive food, and sample any of our natural treasure we are lucky enough to discover.
Back at the farm, practice language skills, make gelato, pastry, and ravioli, learn about sheep and goat herding, hike to a nearby waterfall in Abruzzi National Park, and gather with new farm friends at the evening lakeside festival and farewell feast.
Take the train north to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Visit the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo, the Basilica di Santa Croce (with the tombs of Michelangelo and Machiavelli), Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace, San Lorenzo Market and Plaza Del Duomo, and Ponte Vecchio.
Set off on an adventurous hiking exploration of Cinque Terre, seeing Tuscany along the way. Enjoy stunning panoramas, savory snacks, and simply be inspired.
Explore the cobblestone streets of Rome. Stroll through Ancient Rome, past the Coliseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Hill, the Imperial Forums, and the Pantheon. Climb the Spanish Steps for a beautiful view of the city. Make a wish in the majestic Trevi Fountain. Visit the home of Hadrian, one of Ancient Rome’s most powerful emperors. See the Vatican. Share in a final banquet to close the trip.
Stop by our favorite little shops and cafes before boarding our homeward bound flights and saying goodbye.
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations to travel with us, other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please click below to view your program’s equipment and packing list!
For an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please call our office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST at 773-342-5200 and we’ll happily send you one!
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination back home on the last day of the trip.
This program offers an optional leader-escorted flight for those families who are interested.
If you wish to have your participant fly directly into the starting location, please call the office for details.
The Seme Al Piatto program offers an Escorted Flight for all of its participants. Any student who wishes to fly with an RLT leader will meet that leader at the JFK International Airport in New York on the first day of the program. All students who wish to fly directly to Rome (FCO) will have the option to meet the rest of the group upon arrival in Rome. On the last day of the program students are welcome to either fly directly home from Rome or fly back to JFK with the leaders (and fly home from there).