From the summer snowfields of the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites, to the rich culture of Florence and Paris, and beaches of rural Holland, join us to experience Europe as an actively engaged traveler. This is the original Putney program, first led 65 years ago by founders George and Kitty Shumlin.
- Try ziplining, glacier walking, or rock climbing with professional guides.
- Contemplate world-renowned works of art in Paris, Florence, and Amsterdam.
- Savor Swiss chocolate, Italian gelato, French croissants, and Dutch cheeses.
- Delve into the life and culture of Italy by becoming part of an Italian family.
Exploring Western Europe
This summer Cultural Exploration program in Europe immerses high school students in the rich cultures and diverse landscapes that have fascinated travelers for centuries. Our itinerary is a carefully structured balance of off-the-beaten-track towns and villages, cosmopolitan cities like Florence, Paris, and Amsterdam, and natural wonders like the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites.
Adventure & Immersion
Every day is full of active and fun ways to get to know the country you are in. Go canyoning in mountain streams or glacier hiking through dramatic, ice-covered terrain. Ascend steep alpine slopes by téléferique to hike far above the tree line, past grazing cows, to fields of summer snow. Swim in Lake Geneva, and visit the medieval Castle of Chillon and the cosmopolitan city of Montreux. In Italy, take in the Renaissance atmosphere of Florence — the Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria with Michelangelo’s “David,” the Uffizi Gallery, the Medici Chapel, and the Pitti Palace. Relax after a hike in the high meadows of the Dolomites, or learn to rock climb with professional guides. Discover Paris, “The City of Light.” Explore the Latin Quarter, Montmartre, and Île de la Cité, and visit museums, flea markets, theatres, restaurants, and cafés. Ride along Holland’s rural bike paths past sand dunes, windmills, and Dutch farms and stop to explore small villages, or spend an afternoon swimming in the North Sea or sailing and windsurfing on inland lakes. Explore the picturesque canals and bustling outdoor markets of Amsterdam, visit Anne Frank’s house, and view paintings by Rembrandt and van Gogh.
Mid-way through the program, a week-long homestay with an Italian family who has a child of similar age provides a rewarding taste of Italian life. Our carefully selected host families are always eager to practice their English, so you do not need to be able to speak Italian to communicate with ease. Ride bikes through town with your Italian family, help prepare a pasta dinner, or head out for a hike with your host sibling. Get together with your group a few times during the week for excursions along with both leaders, who stay in town for the duration of the homestay.
Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. We stay in various types of accommodations throughout this itinerary, including old-world-style hotels, a mountain chalet, and Italian family homes. Rooms are multi-bedded and separated by gender. Students have access to common and outside space at our accommodations for community meetings, working on projects, socializing, etc. Leaders reside in the same residences as students throughout the program.
Physical Challenge Level
This is a physically active program. While you don’t need to be an athlete, you should be prepared to be on the move for most of each day — walking in cities, hiking in the mountains, biking in Holland. You should come to the program with an open mind, excited about new experiences, and willing to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone to make the most of your time in Europe.
A Typical Day
Due to the expeditionary nature of this program, each day is different. Although there is no “typical day,” here is an example of how we structure our time. We might start the day with a brief introduction to a topic or focus of the day, then head out to explore what the region has to offer, whether it be high culture, daily life in an off-the-beaten-path town or village, or the area’s natural wonders. After lunch out and about, we continue to explore in small groups or together as a whole group. We might head out for a hike, walk, bike ride, swim, etc., depending on the destination. Evening activities might include a boat ride, a theatre or musical performance, or a stroll through town as a group. We cap each day with a group meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule.