Tuscany: Total Immersion

Thursday, June 5 - Saturday, June 14, 2014


Ponte Vecchio - Florence, ItalyExperience the culture, history and art of Tuscany with fellow alumni and Saint Mary's faculty. Participants will meet in Florence, where they will explore the culture and life of the Italian Renaissance by visiting both the main sites and the town’s secret neighborhoods.  On the way to Siena, we will immerse ourselves in the medieval charm of the Chianti hill-towns and discover the walled settlements of San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Colle Val D’Elsa, where we will learn how to make pizza.  We will then visit Florence’s great enemy, Siena.  From Siena, we will travel south on an all-day wine and food-tasting excursion to Montalcino, home to one of Italy's most prestigious wines, the Brunello.  We will visit the magnificent 14th century working Benedictine abbey of Monte Oliveto, set against the beautiful landscape of Tuscan wineyards, as well as one of the oldest abbeys in Europe, Sant’Antimo, in the lunar landscape of the ‘crete senesi’.

Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia - Siena, ItalyAll participants will be enrolled in a 10-hour language and culture course at the Dante Alighieri Institute, where they will also take two cooking classes and prepare traditional Tuscan food under the supervision of the teachers of the Gastronomy Center.   There will be guided visits to the Duomo, the medieval hospital and the 13th century City Hall with a Sienese art historian, and a pic-nic on the walls of the fortress overlooking the Chianti after shopping in Siena’s open-air market. 

The group will be granted unique access to the exclusive inner life of Sienese neighborhoods, the contrade, and will dine with the members of the Contrada della Torre inside their private establishment, as well as visit with a member of Italy’s oldest aristocratic family, Prince Orsini, in his Palazzo.

By the end of the trip all participants will feel that they are no longer tourists, but true Tuscans:  they will have become part of the community, acquired the rudiments of the language and developed a deep understanding of Italian history, art and society.


The cost of the trip is $2,980 per person (double occupancy in hotel) to be paid directly to Saint Mary’s College.  A non-refundable deposit of $1,000 per person is required by December 10.  The trip is open to children over 13, who will receive a 15% discount when sharing a room with their parents. What's included?



Palazzo Guadagni, Firenze, a renaissance palace from the 1500s (3-star) 

Chiostro del Carmina, Siena, a medieval monastery from the 1300s (3-star)

Hotel Athena, Siena, a modern hotel with a beautiful terrace

A choice of a 4-star hotel is offered in Siena for an additional cost of $400. Single occupancy requires an additional charge.


To sign-up and for more information, please contact Costanza Dopfel at cdopfel@stmarys-ca.edu.

Group photo - 2013


The trip will be led by Saint Mary’s Professor Costanza Gislon Dopfel, who was born and raised in Italy.   Professor Dopfel received her doctorate degree from Stanford University and taught at Stanford and USF before joining Saint Mary’s faculty.  She currently holds a joint appointment in the departments of Modern Languages and Art History and teaches courses on medieval, renaissance and baroque art history as well as Italian culture and civilization.