ACIS Tour to Tuscany 2008

So the first thing people say is “WHAT, you are crazy to take adolescent teens to a foreign country!” We did and we had a fantastic time touring different regions of Italy. The kids that we took were well behaved and knew that they could do other trips like Mexico, but they chose to go with us. The selling point for a lot of the kids was the fact that no parents could go. For many of these high school students it was their first taste of freedom and responsibility. We taught them how to use their foreign currency and how to use the ATMS. We also taught them valuable lessons of safety and being aware of your surroundings. I think the most valuable lesson for all of them is what it was like to room with another student. It was their closest encounter to what college dorming might feel like. I told my kids that “there will be days when you love your roommate and then there will be days when you absolutely hate their guts.” Of course this dynamic did happen with some of the students. There were tears some days and then I would step in and be the peacemaker. It all worked out in the end and was a fantastic trip to remember.

ACIS provided us with a charter bus on the way to San Gimignano, Tuscany. It was nice to have the bus, because it was RELAX time. Touring around with students is a difficult job. There are constant reminders to kids with things like remembering to get money, to bring their money, to wear appropriate clothes for the churches, wear comfortable shoes, remember their camera etc…You would be surprised. Even though high school students think they know everything, they ask a lot of silly common sense questions on the trips that we have been on. It’s refreshing to still witness this type of behavior because you realize that they do need your help and expertise.

View from the bus as we carved our way through the windy paths of Tuscany

One the great little details of Italy are the random water spickets. You can be assured cold, filtered water! Refreshing when its REALLY HOT!

Walking around San Gimignano is peaceful and inspiring. If you have ever watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane, then you know what the scenery is like. As you walk you see cute patio settings for small cafes and trattorias where people are sitting down enjoying conversation. You almost always see a cup of espresso or agua con gas or mineral (water with gas or mineral water). Each setting looks as if it has been painted or is about to be painted. Twisting cobblestone paths joyously lead you to buildings and churches that have been standing for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Walking through ancient alleys you see the beautiful appreciation to regional specialties and crafts. Coming from America where chain stores and outlet malls are so prevalent, its like a breath of fresh air seeing mom and pop shops that have spent hundreds of years preserving a family recipe of cheese, preservatives, wine or even bread. I came across one small store that had a hog head LOOKING AT ME! There were prosciutto legs hanging from the wall as well as salciccia (sausage). There was a distinctive smell about this shop that I cannot describe, you have to be there. I wouldn’t say that I exactly like it. However, you can catch this smell in old town of San Sebastian, Spain and in rural small country towns of France. I really appreciated the small details and history that was showcased in these shops. It was a gorgeous display!

Stores like this capture the true heart of Tuscany’s regional life.

Art lovers will appreciate the golden hues of Tuscan art

My students and I were fixated on this beautiful display of ceramic mugs and olive oil jugs. I took several photos. My kids loved it!

Here is a picture of Sarah sitting on the steps of San Gimignano. Sarah is a great travel buddy! I wish we were going on a trip soon!

Overall, the students really were able to appreciate the up hill walks, the beautiful wood works of cheeseboards and hanging prosciuttos. The kids were really excited when they saw a Museum of Torture. In AP World History we have a section that talks about the Spanish Inquisition and the time period of horrible torture devices. We wanted to go check out the museum but were running short of time and it was quite expensive to go in. We took a snapshot with some fake skulls. I was happy to know that kids were applying what they learned in class to their travels. Might have been a weird and strange topic, but high school kids tend to remember the oddities more.

We had an impressive day in San Gimignano. I wish we could have spent more time here with the kids. I hope that when they are older the come back to Tuscany and see it in a more refined way. I was 29 years old when I visited this place and they were 16 years old! Lucky them! I want to come back and stay in Tuscany for a month! Gorgeous!

If you are interested in taking kids on tours, go with ACIS. They are like the Nordstroms of School tour companies. I recommend them. Do not go with EF TOURS! I have heard bad things from other colleagues.


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