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Division of Continuing Education

In the Footsteps of St. Francis

Experience the Food and Culture of Central Italy

Join the University of North Florida’s Division of Continuing Education in Central Italy for an educational tourism experiential journey! The ‘trip’ begins with a 6-week continuing education study abroad course called “Walking in the Footsteps of St. Francis.” This course has seven modules corresponding to the experiential days of the week emersed in Italy!   

In week 5, the participants will journey to Umbria/Tuscany for the lived experience of engaging in authentic Italian food and culture as no traditional ‘tour’ can offer. Each module will focus on understanding the uniquely Italian way and the benefits to human health of living in harmony with nature and each other through shared experiences of food, culture including language, art, music, and media, and spiritual/religious practices ancient and new.

Throughout this trip, you will learn about the patron saint of the animals, Saint Francis of Assisi, and the Italian culture through meaningful site visits, immersive cooking classes, and authentic language lessons. This is a journey for those that feel passionately about food, wine, spirit, and, most importantly, learning while surrounded by like-minded individuals. Below are the program details discussing the purpose, eligibility, hosts and lodging, overall costs, health and safety considerations, and most importantly, how to secure a spot!

Who Should Attend

This trip is meant for those with:

  • A deep passion for human authenticity and connectedness to animals and nature.
  • A fascination with the elegance and complex simplicity of Italian cooking.
  • An appreciation for artisan living and craftsmanship in all things
  • A desire to experience a healthier, simpler and more authentic way of being in the world - at home and abroad.
  • An appreciation for both connected community and quality time for solace and introspection.
  • A curiosity about keeping ancient wisdom and spiritual practices alive in the modern and seemingly never resting world.
  • A desire to recharge, retreat and reset in the beautiful countryside of Umbria and Tuscany.


Beginning in September, you will be enrolled in a preparation course to orient you to the trip, the culture, and the applicability to your life stateside. Each module will contain a language orientation lesson so you can begin to learn phrases and useful expressions to use while exploring Umbria, including greetings, courtesy expressions, numbers, saying how one feels, introducing oneself, ordering a gelato or something to eat and drink in a bar and a restaurant. An introduction to the philosophy behind Italian cooking will be introduced in the orientation course with excursions to famous markets followed by live cooking classes throughout the trip, in the evenings. 



Wednesday, October 18th — Arrival and Corciano

Arrive in Rome, Italy, Rome Fiumicino International Airport "Leonardo da Vinci" before 12 pm and travel by bus to Villa Pieve in Corciano. Check-in will be at 3:00 pm. Greet your classmates, facilitators, and guides for an introduction and a welcome tour of the Villa premises. Enjoy a brief walking tour in Corciano with Catia Melani. End the day with your new group for a lovely dinner at Villa Pieve.

Thursday, October 19th — Perugia

Leave the villa and travel to Perugia via bus with Catia Melani. Explore Perugia and select your afternoon cooking class ingredients from the farmers market at Pian di Massiano. Visit the Perugia city centre by Mini-Metro, where St. Francis stayed for one year as a prisoner after the war between Assisi and Perugia. Visit the Prison of Saint Francis and the Chiesa Del Gesù, where you will meet Padre Marco Angelini, the Rector of the Church Chiesa del Gesù, and Rossella Vasta. Enjoy a group lunch in a pizzeria in the city centre. Engage in a walking tour of the Acropolis of Perugia, including the Rocca Paolina and its undergrounds.

At the end of the day, the group will travel back to Villa Pieve for cooking class 1 and dinner.

Friday, October 20th — Franciscan Sites in Assisi

Travel to Assisi via bus with Catia Melani to visit the Basilica of Saint Clare, which houses the tomb of Saint Clare and preserves the venerated 12th-century crucifix known as the San Damiano Cross. Sightsee at the Cathedral of Saint Rufino, where Francis and Clare were baptized. Explore Oratory San Francesco Piccolino and Chiesa Nuova built on the site of the presumed house and shop of Pietro di Bernardone, St. Francis’s father. Enjoy free time and lunch on your own or with the group.

After lunch, walking past the Church Santa Maria Maggiore and Bishop’s Palace (Sanctuary of the Spoliation - where Francis gave up his richness), you will reach The Basilica of Saint Francis, which holds the Saint’s much venerated remains. End the day with a guided tour of the Basilica, which rises 2 levels above Saint Francis's tomb and is one of Europe's artistic and religious highlights.

Saturday, October 21st — San Damiano, Rivotorto, and Santa Maria degli Angeli

Travel to Assisi via bus with Catia Melani and visit San Damiano, which lies in the midst of olive groves just outside Assisi. Francis rebuilt this small church and transformed it into a convent for Clare and her first followers. Here he wrote the Canticle of the Creatures.

Visit the Basilica Santa Maria Degli Angeli, which holds the tiny Romanesque Porziuncola, and meet a Franciscan Friar and Rossella Vasta. St. Francis deeply loved this place. This is the third church that St. Francis restored with his hands. Here Saint Francis and his followers worshipped, and Saint Claire took her vows of poverty. Saint Francis asked to be brought here to die.

Enjoy group lunch in Santa Maria degli Angeli at the Testone and taste the Torta al Testo, a regional classic, an ancient Umbrian recipe, our traditional flat bread cooked on a cast iron plate, then filled with the best of the local butcher’s pork products, cheese or vegetables.

After lunch, we will travel half an hour to visit Carletti Olive Oil and, on the way back, stop at Rivotorto, where Saint Francis started his new path serving in the hospital for the leppers.

Return to Villa Pieve for cooking class 2 and dinner.

Sunday, October 22nd — Integration Day & Food Culture Experience – One World/One Health Principles in Action

Relax with a little free time at the villa by self-reflecting on all that you have seen/heard thus far. Consider taking a walk about the villa grounds or going 'up the hill' to Corciano for a cappuccino from Mr. Alberto.          

Mid-morning, we will tour Carini's farm and wine cellar, where you will enjoy a light lunch at the wine cellar with the farm produce. Here you will experience how a focused and holistic/ethical approach to farming and animal relationships results in a richer experience of food and dining. 

An Italian Language and Culture Class at the Villa Pieve will begin mid-afternoon.

At the end of the day, the group will participate in Cooking Class 3 and enjoy their creations for dinner.

Monday, October 23rd — Lake Trasimeno and Patrizio Bittarelli Farm

Travel to Lake Trasimeno by bus and visit Patrizio Bittarelli's farm. Meet Bittarelli family members who will introduce us to the farm animals and explain their programs with school children and local associations. Walk in the fields and learn about their plantations (ancient grains, local beans called fangirling del lago going back to the ancient Etruscans, spelt, chickpeas, etc.) and traditional farming methods passed on from generation to generation, respecting the environment.  

Farm-to-table lunch with farm produce and family recipes.

On the way back, stop at Castiglione del Lago and then return to Villa Pieve for dinner.

Tuesday, October 24th — Cortona

Travel to Cortona by bus with Catia Melani to explore Le Celle the Franciscan hermitage built by brother Elias after Francis died. Here the Saint and a few of his followers built the first nine cells. This is believed to be the place where St. Francis dictated his will. Here you will meet a Franciscan Friar and Rossella Vasta. You will then reach the Basilica of St. Margherita by bus. St. Margherita is the Patron Saint of Cortona. At the end of the 13th c., she joined the Third Order of St. Francis, lived in strict poverty, and founded a hospital for the sick and poor.

Enjoy a walk downhill into town and visit the Church of Saint Francis. Here you will enjoy free time to explore Cortona and find lunch.

At the end of the day, the group will return to Villa Pieve for a gala dinner.

Wednesday, October 25th

Travel to Rome via bus for return to the U.S. or further personal travel. Do not book flights leaving before 11 am to provide time for us to drive from Villa Pieve in Corciano to Rome.

Flights and Accommodations

Flights are not included in the cost of this trip. Participants will book their own flights to arrive in Rome, Italy, at Rome Fiumicino International Airport "Leonardo da Vinci".  All lodging is at the Villa Pieve in Corciano, and all transportation is via chartered bus.  

Due to unpredictability in a post-Covid world, personal trip insurance is highly encouraged to secure the cost of your airline and trip.  Please view the 10 Best Travel Insurance Companies rated by US News. 

Financial Commitment 

The 8-day trip costs $2,899 and includes lodging, most meals, transportation, tours, guide services, and special events. Please note flights are not included.

Registration will open on January 9, 2023; final payment will be due no later than September 1, 2023.   

We are offering the following payment schedule:

Payment 1      July 3, 2023                   $500

Payment 2      August 1, 2023              $1,300

Payment 3      September 1, 2023        $1,099

Cancellation Policy

Should it be necessary for a participant to cancel prior to starting the program, withdraw during the program, or otherwise modify their participation in the study abroad program, the participant agrees to inform the University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education in writing immediately. Participant understands that verbal notification of cancellation, withdrawal, or participation modification is not considered official, that only the participant may withdraw from or modify their program participation, and that they must officially withdraw from any UNF course(s) associated with the study abroad program.

Withdrawal before the program commences

With 61+ days prior to the official program start date: University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education will retain 10% of fees paid under our standard Cancellation Policy. Payments are not transferable.

Up to sixty (60) days prior to the official program start date (July 24, 2023): University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education will retain 20% of fees paid for registration and arrangement fees. Payments are not transferable.

In the period from sixty (60) days to the official program start date (July 25 – September 20, 2023): University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education will retain 80% of fees paid for registration and arrangement fees, reserved transportation, accommodation arrangements, and instructional costs. Payments are not transferable.

Withdrawal during the program

From the program start date (September 21, 2023), the University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education will retain 100% of the fees paid. Payments are not transferable.    

Health & Safety

Visit the CDC Guidelines for International Travel to Italy. The guidelines and mandates are subject to change.