Italy & Greece Middle School Expedition

Italy and Greece can feel like portals to the past, brimming with cities and ruins seemingly frozen in a different era. Transport yourself to these timeless places on a journey through Tuscany to Delphi, Athens, and Náfplio. Alongside knowledgeable trip leaders and a National Geographic expert, immerse yourself in a world of ancient myths and legends, taste delicious Greek and Italian specialties, and photograph the rich traditions of the Mediterranean.

June 22 – July 4, 2019
Airfare is not included. We have arranged group flights from New York to Florence, Florence to Athens, and return from Athens.

Trip Highlights

  • See legends come to life amid ancient ruins, and write your own myths about the Greek deities.
  • Practice photography while capturing the extreme lean of the Tower of Pisa and Florence's Renaissance-era streetscapes.
  • Taste delicious Mediterranean dishes, and learn about sustainable food from chefs, farmers, and market vendors.
  • Explore local culture at Greek street fairs and in tiny Tuscan towns.


Days 1-5

Arrive in Italy and settle into our traditional Italian villa, nestled into a hillside overlooking the beautiful city of Florence. Walk cobbled roads into the city’s well-preserved historic center—the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Visit the Accademia to marvel at Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece—the statue of David—and then wander down the city streets seeking out sculptures depicting figures from ancient Roman mythology, like Hercules and Medusa. Chat with vendors at an open-air market to learn the secrets of assembling the perfect Italian picnic, and then sit down to enjoy your lunch in a nearby piazza.

Travel by train to the picturesque villages in the Tuscan countryside. Climb Pisa’s legendary leaning tower, explore Machiavelli’s rural estate, or try your hand at making traditional, wood-fired pizza in a local farm’s brick oven. On hikes in the countryside, capture images of tapered cypress trees on the hilltops, or take portraits of local farmers framed by fields of sunflowers. In the evenings, play pickup soccer with Italian teenagers, or sample rich flavors in some of the world’s oldest family-run gelaterias. Then set out on a nighttime photo shoot to capture images of Florence in different light.

Days 6-7

Fly via Athens to Delphi, an archaeological site perched dramatically on the shoulder of Mount Parnassus. Step into a world of ancient mythology and antiquity as you wander these remarkably well-preserved ruins. Stand beneath the towering Temple of Apollo, where the Greeks once worshipped the sun God and mythical son of Zeus. See the oldest gymnasium in all of Greece, as well as theatres, treasuries, altars, and stadiums. Imagine what life here was like more than 3,000 years ago, and use photography or writing to tell your own stories of the stone statues that immortalize ancient gods and heroes. Visit the site of the Delphic Oracle who, according to legend, spoke for the God Apollo and told many of the prophecies that shaped the Hellenic Period.

Days 8-9

Return to Athens and immerse yourself in the city’s history as we visit some of its most famous sites. Climb the soaring rock of the Acropolis, crowned by the ruins of the Parthenon—the iconic temple honoring Athena, patron goddess of the city. Take in panoramic views of the ancient and modern structures sprawling below, and consider how Athens has changed during its 7,000 years of human occupation. Sample Greek specialties at the Athens Central Market, and then continue to the National Archaeological Museum, home to more than 11,000 relics of Greek antiquity, including ornate sculptures, pottery, and jewelry.

Days 10-13

Cap off your experience in the charming seaport of Náfplio. Set on the eastern coast of the Peloponnese in the shadow of a cliff-top castle, Náfplio’s pedestrian streets wind down the hillside to a tiny beach. Join in the festivities at a town street fair, or stroll down to the beach for a swim in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Argolís. Take a day trip to Mycenae to discover the home of the legendary king Agamemnon, leader of the Greek army in the Trojan War as told in Homer’s Iliad. Visit one of the world’s best preserved Greek theaters at Epidaurus; and hike along the rugged seaside slopes on the nearby island of Hydra before enjoying a picnic lunch at a local farm. Spend the final days of your journey sharing photos and stories with your new friends as we celebrate along Náfplio’s beautiful beach.

Our middle school expeditions are for students ages 13 or older in grades 7-8, and offer students the opportunity to discover exciting destinations in a fun, engaging, and safe environment. With guidance from trip leaders and a National Geographic expert, students explore a number of themes that enhance their experience and encourage them to deepen the interests they already have, while discovering new ones along their journey. Students travel alongside a team of highly-qualified trip leaders—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. A National Geographic expert joins for a portion of the trip (four to eight days) to share their insights, and inspire students with their passion for the work they do and the places they will discover. The expedition group size ranges between 14 and 18 participants, and the student-to-trip-leader ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
While in Florence, we stay in a traditional Italian villa. In Greece, we stay in small, family-run hotels and inns.

William Saturno, Educator and Archaeologist

Meet Our Expert

William Saturno is an anthropologist, archaeologist, and storyteller specializing in early civilization. He has been exploring the cities and ruins of Europe—from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia—since childhood. As a National Geographic Explorer and avid student and scholar of the ancient world, he is an expert at narrating the tales of adventurers, artists, commoners, and kings to bring the past vividly to life. He has received numerous grants from the Society to support his ongoing excavations of ancient murals in Guatemala. His breakthrough discovery at San Bartolo of the oldest intact Maya murals yet found became the focus of the National Geographic magazine articles “The Sistine Chapel of the Early Maya” in December 2003 and “The Dawn of Maya Gods and Kings” in January 2006. The June 2012 issue described his recent unearthing of murals at Xultún. Bill has taught university courses that encompass major archeological and historical sites all over the world. He is equally passionate about Europe's past and present and has taught extensively on how its modern nations continue to build upon their varied Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance foundations. William will join the group in Athens and Náfplio.

Program Themes

Explore each of these three topics over the course of the program:

Develop your photographic eye and improve your technical skills while documenting your journey through Italy and Greece in pictures. Evoke a sense of place as you capture rolling hills of olive trees and sunflowers, Náfplio’s craggy coastal landscapes, the dramatic ruins of Delphi, or remnants of the Italian Renaissance in Florence.
Step back in time to explore centuries-old cities and the fascinating myths they tell. Spy statues of mythical Roman heroes in the streets and art galleries of Florence, and compare their tales to those of the Greek deities honored in the temples of Athens and Delphi. Write new stories for your favorite gods and goddesses, or create your own mythical world that explains the mysteries of modern life.
Explore the intersection between cuisine and culture in one of the world’s most famous culinary regions. Go behind the scenes at an Italian trattoria, or neighborhood restaurant; visit a working farm to find out about Greek agriculture; and prepare a locally sourced meal in a Tuscan cooking class.