Italy: Language and Local Food Culture

Experience Italy's local foods and immersive Italian language study in Tuscany during this high school summer abroad program.

Explore local foods and the Italian communities, traditions, and cultures to which they are connected during a month-long summer abroad program for high school students. Spend several days in a gorgeous Tuscan town, where you will take Italian language lessons and explore the art and landscape of the surrounding area. Focus on the Slow Food movement and the importance of seasonal, organic, and locally grown food of different regions. Spend eight days at a prestigious cooking school in Asti, preparing traditional Italian dishes under the guidance of a skilled chef. The program’s culinary excursions include visiting organic farms, the famous University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, and an agrigelateria to see how artisanal ice cream is made.

Continue to practice your Italian language skills as you share daily life with an Italian family during the program’s homestay. Use your new language skills to buy fresh food in outdoor markets and to engage in daily interactions with host family members and other Italians. Discover the stories behind the unique foods of different regions of Italy while having hands-on culinary experiences. Whether you’re sampling homemade chocolates, conducting olive oil tastings, or making pizza, you’ll deepen your understanding of the intimate links between food, sustainability, and culture, within the context of Italy and beyond.

Conclude the program with two days of exploration and reflection in Venice. Visits to Rome, with its beautiful fountains and monuments, Vatican City, Florence, Piedmont, and other areas of cultural and historic significance in Italy are incorporated into the program.

Language Certificate: At the conclusion of this program, participants will earn a language certificate noting how many hours of language classes they completed.

Orientation: Rome, 3 days
Homestay: Cosenza, Desenzano, or Naples,* 12 days
Other Accommodations: Hotels

* Homestay locations can vary.

Days 1–5

Orientation in Rome

  • Learn about the history and culture of ItalyStudents in cooking class
  • Visit important sites in the city, including the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Get to know other members of your group during activities and group discussions
  • Practice your Italian language skills
  • Explore diverse neighborhoods, navigate the metro, and sample Italian cuisine in street-side cafés

During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Days 6–21


  • Become fully immersed in the daily life of an Italian family and community
  • Do activities with your homestay family
  • Explore your host community and the surrounding area with your group
  • Visit nearby villages, beaches, and caves

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample host communities: Ascoli Piceno, San Sebastiano al Vesuvio

Days 22–33

Thematic Focus in Asti

  • Attend small-group interactive Italian cooking classes
  • Work extensively in the kitchen with chefs and cooking teachers
  • Learn about Slow Foods at the vocational training center in Agliano Termi
  • Go on excursions to the famous University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, to organic farms, to the royal palace Venaria Reale, and to an "agrigelateria" to sample local ice cream

During this period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Days 34–35

Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Venice

  • Visit sites of interest, including the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and a glass-blowing studio in Murano
  • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program

During the reflection period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Day 36


Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

These are leader bios from summer 2014.

Eilis Kierans

Eilis Kierans resided in Drogheda, Ireland, for the first eight years of her life before relocating to Massachusetts with her family. Later in life, her dear Uncle Sonny, a Christian Brother in Rome, inspired her to explore Italian culture. During her summers as an undergraduate student, Eilis ventured to Italy to teach English as a Second Language in various vibrant cities. In 2009, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor of arts in communication from the University of Massachusetts. Thereafter, she worked for over a year as an ESL teacher in Daegu, South Korea. In 2011, she returned to Italy to teach and study as part of the Study, Intercultural Training, and Experience program in the serene Camonica Valley, where she lived with an array of ebullient Italian families. Eilis is now a graduate student in the Italian Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she teaches Italian to undergraduate students. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, Eilis had the distinct pleasure of leading an Experiment program in Italy, where — alongside her students — she finally learned how to cook scrumptious Italian dishes.

Rebecca McMunn

Rebecca mcMunnRebecca was born and raised in Circleville, Ohio, the pumpkin capital of the world, before moving away to attend Ohio University where she studied telecommunications, business, and Italian. Rebecca’s love for Italy began during her college semester abroad, studying Italian language, cooking, and culture in a small central-Italian village. After graduation, Rebecca returned to Italy for an internship in Rome, where for two years she worked with Italian university students and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East. This gave her a unique opportunity to explore Italy extensively and tour a large part of Europe.

Rebecca recently completed her master’s degree in international education at SIT Graduate Institute.  She is currently working with study abroad students in Rome through RomeSAE, helping to introduce American students to the city and country she loves so much. In 2013 and 2014, Rebecca led Experiment programs to Italy and had an amazing time with both her groups. When she isn't buried in a good book or cooking delicious treats, Rebecca can be found spending as much time as possible outside, playing tennis, hiking, running, and exploring new places.

After Rome and my homestay, I did not expect anything else; I thought I found out everything I needed to know about myself. However, I soon realized there was more, once I met with the famous Chef Sergio, alongside the Italian students and my other fellow experimenters. Things were hectic because we were trying to cook each of our individual parts for the meal. The individual was only part of the whole, the bigger picture. Each of us cooking a different part of the meal for the day and bringing it all together to enjoy in the end was beautiful because we were a Famiglia. There was nothing more special than that. While in the kitchen, or cucina in Italian, I thought about considering a career as a chef. The most important part was working over the stove, sweating, trying to create the meal that was unique, concise, and perfecto.

Tristan Alexander, High School for Health Professionals