Cultural Tours – 10 Tips for Maddie’s Mad Roman Holiday

Cultural exchange programs are a rite of passage for many college students. These students are the ultimate geotravelers. This term spent in a foreign country is designed to provide a wide range of educational exposure. Here are some destinations suggestions to add to the cultural experience in Italy during the weekends. The objective is to really experience life in Italy. I have been inspired by Maddie and my many Italian friends in my travel support forum, Viva Italia America.

My young friend, Maddie, boarded a plane for her next university term in Rome. She is completing a three month rotation as part of her studies in Art. Maddie is a vibrant personality with a deep commitment to family and an infectious laugh. She has been planning all summer for this adventure. I hope that when she returns she will have had the chance to really experience life in Italy.

I am sure that Maddie will have her own ideas. There will be days in schools, museums and coffee shops. Evenings will be spent with new friends and studies. But the weekends…, those are for Maddie.

Ten Must Sees for Maddie’s Italian Adventure

Getting Up Close and Personal with Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (Nascita di Venere) at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence….and while she is there she should really see Michelangelo’s David. I should have lent her my copy of Frank Slaughter’s Divine Mistress, published in 1949. This was the first adult novel that I read as a teen after finding it stashed in my late grandmother’s book collection. This book is credited with my love for Italian culture, fascination with this particular painting and embracing of humanities. Since I did not share the book, I do hope she discovers the original. (Surely she would make a pilgrimage to Florence)

Drive through Tuscany with the top down on a starry night. Maddie is a typical teen. She is probably not a huge fan of Josh Groban. Still, his gira con me questa notte is every young girl’s fantasy. Of course, I am not suggesting that she find a gorgeous guy to drive her. That could be heartache. Still, Tuscany tops most lists as one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Stomping grapes during harvest. Every teen age girl is familiar with Lucy’s wine stomping comedy television skit. It is truly an America classic. Although I am sure there are more modern ways of pressing grapes,, what could be more fun?

Harvesting olives. While we are talking of harvests, we must consider the olive. Maddie knows her way around olive oil. Dinners at her Italian grandpapa’s house guarantee it. How can she experience Italy and not olives?

Developing her signature dish. Maddie’s Gram has been crying for a week about losing her for three months. One of the delights of growing up in this family is that Gram has passed along her love of cooking to her five daughters and many granddaughters. Indeed, even the great-grandaughters love their time in the kitchen. Maddie creating a signature recipe that is all Maddie will be a wonderful homecoming gift for Gram.

Attending an OPERA at Teatro alla Scala. I am not sure that Maddie has ever really experienced live opera. However, is there a better introduction than one of the world’s most prized opera houses? I firmly believe that you need to experience an Italian opera to really embrace the Italian culture.

Experience Milan fashion. Shopping on a college student budget is next to impossible but it is every American girl’s dream to window shop in Milan….and Maddie will be grilled when she returns by her cousins about Italian shoes. Where does a college girl shop in Milan for bargains?
Spending the day on an Italian beach. Hot sand, hot bodies, gorgeous scenery and Maddie. A perfect dream at any age. Need I say more.?

Spending some time behind the scenes in a museum, like Valorizzazione Dei Beni Culturali. Maddie enjoys taking her young cousins to museums for sketching, crafts and fun. I think she would enjoy spending time with other young children introducing them to arts and science as well. the weekdays are all for school. A weekend that exposes her to the interests and ideas of the children that she someday hopes to teach is a part of her discovering the joys of childhood transcend cultural barriers.

Spend some time on an archeology dig. OK, this is more for me than for Maddie. I adore Agatha Christie mysteries, especially the ones on a dig. Combine that with loving to learn about civilizations and you have a great formula for an adventure.

Maddie will get lots of exposure to Rome since it is her base. So much to see and soak in. We are all looking forward to hearing her stories about her time in Rome. I suggest that she read her copy of the Insider’s Guide to Italy that I sent her. It will help her find the great spots that will make her adjustment easier.

Bonus Tip

Via Ferrata in the Italian Alps. I tried. Oh how I tried. But I can not stop at just 10 tips. I have just discovered Via Ferrata here in the States. This permanent installation for vertical rock climbing originated in the Italian Alps. Courses can be challenging but what teenage girl does not enjoy life’s challenges?

Now that you have read my list, please start the comments. Do you have different items? I look forward to our discussion.


Brenda Greathouse is founder of Gemma Event Marketing Associates and author of Building Relationships: The Social Rose Book One. She has an extensive background in building informational networks on a large scale and social networks at different levels. She encourages building cross cultural networks among professionals. Her Viva Italia America discussion group brings together Italians and Americans who share a passion for regional touring and events in both countries.