• Late Summer Course: A Broader Vision of Italian Culture

    Venice – Verona – Florence – Siena – Naples – Ischia 



    The new late summer course is a deliberate appeal to all five senses; it embraces music, drawing, gastronomy, the built environment, archaeology, ecology, poetry and the history of art. You will also be encouraged to make and create because at AHA we believe that employing the whole mind is good for you. In many ways, this course covers many of the fun aspects of an education which have long been lost to the demands of syllabus and the ‘treadmill’.

    Whatever your academic background, all you need to benefit from this course is enthusiasm. You will come away with a deeper appreciation of the arts, the environment, both built and natural, of preservation and conservation and how we develop from here. It is a course about how best to use your senses as you move into the next phase of your life.

    The course is timed deliberately after A-level results and before university when there are unique opportunities in Verona, Venice, Florence and Naples. With 30 years of experience, we have the friends, the local knowledge and brilliant tutors to make this an exceptional course.

    Apply now Dates & Fees










  • Venice (4 nights), Verona (2 nights)  

    Boys on a gap year course, learning to row Venetian style

    We start in Venice, to see the Contemporary Art Biennale – a showcase of the world’s leading contemporary artists in arguably the most “miraculous” city in the world.  There will be opportunities to learn the traditional and iconic “voga veneta” (Venetian rowing), how to decorate a Venetian mask and see how traditional velvets, featured in many Venetian paintings, are made. Our days will also be spent looking at the work of Venetian painters such as Titian and Tintoretto and discovering the extraordinary life of 20th-century art collector Peggy Guggenheim. This is the perfect place to start our travels and introduce you to Italian culture.

    Giardini Giusti in VeronaWe then travel to Verona by train, this is one of the most beautiful and serene Italian cities. During the days we will explore its pink marbled streets, rich medieval history and stunning gardens. In the evening we will celebrate with a truly unforgettable open-air opera in a Roman amphitheatre.


    Florence (5 nights), Siena (2 nights)

    During our days in Florence we will try cooking and drawing classes and look at the giants of Renaissance art and architecture. We will think about Michelangelo and the study of anatomy, Brunelleschi and his inspired engineering solutions and Botticelli’s art in the context of Neo-Platonism and Humanism.


    Filled with memories of wonderful art, we will retreat to the quiet, medieval town of Siena in the Tuscan countryside to slow down for a few days. We will enjoy local wine, Italian literature, and learn about the Sienese tradition of gold leaf in art. If the weather is nice we will enjoy a country walk and a picnic in the hills.


    Naples (5 nights), Ischia (2 nights)

    Naples is a city of extremes. It is arguably livelier and more intoxicating than any other Italian city you will visit. We will lose ourselves in the tangle of streets in search of great Caravaggios and visit the archaeological museum full of stunning mosaics, frescoes and artefacts from the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum (which we will also visit). We will venture to the ancient city of Cumae and talk about Virgil’s Aeneid.

    Gap year students in the gardens of IschiaAn afternoon climb of Vesuvius will offer sublime views of the bay of Naples. After three nights here, we will catch an early boat to the busy fishing port of Ischia, on the Phlegrean island of the same name. We will spend the next two days exploring the island. Local experts will teach us which wild plants are edible and we will delve deep into the woods for an unforgettable food forage. The garden of La Mortella, created by Lady Walton, is a little piece of paradise – filled with exotic plants, vivid colours and heady scents. After climbing another volcano and sailing around the island to watch archaeologist scuba divers at work, we will head back to Naples by ferry.









  • “It was such a pleasure and a privilege to be so immersed in Italian culture lead by tutors whose passion both for Italy and the art we saw was so infectious.”

    George, Summer Course 2015, now at Exeter University

    What are the tutors like?

    Illuminating, fascinating, inspiring!

    Judging from thank you letters and word of mouth recommendations, we know that our tutors are a significant selling point for the course. AHA tutors are specialists, entirely approachable and have a passion for all things Italian.  They are sympathetic and dedicated to encouraging the best in all students of every academic background.

    Much as they wear their academic laurels lightly, they are committed to making comprehensible the artists, writers, and architects who are the real stars of the cultural galaxy.

    Having brilliant tutors on the course who pitch in every evenings, travel with the students and stay in the same hotel, not only means they are on hand at all times, but also allows students to imbibe the positive wonder, happiness and satisfaction that we all get from Italy.

    Students should drop any ideas they have about teachers versus students, as do all our tutors – this is not a ‘school trip’.  Our tutors are dynamic, enthusiastic experts from various academic fields.  They roll back the disciplines of formal education and provide an inter-disciplinary approach that includes (to name a few) philosophy, history, theology and mythology.

    How do small tuition groups work?

    Great teaching ratios are fundamental to on-site study and AHA’s ethos. Teaching to 9 students or fewer, tutors can reach everyone, draw them into discussion and satisfy the interests and capacities of each student.

    Each day one or two tutorial groups set out in different directions to follow a theme according to the carefully structured itinerary. Tutors teach according to their specialist interests enabling students to appreciate different approaches to the subject.  Usually a tutorial group would visit two or three sites in a morning with a break along the way.

    Day by day students become more confident; understanding, enjoying and commenting on the vast visual world around them.  Students are supplied with a suggested reading list  and shorter notes, which are invaluable for the course and thereafter.  We go to many places far from the madding crowd, some of which are public but are barely visited, others are by private appointment.

    Before we have met any students, we form the tutorial groups by picking names from a hat.  With each new major city these groups are reshuffled by this pre-ordained method.  The dynamic of the party is therefore changed throughout the course and we find this a good way for students to get to know each other as we progress through Italy.

    Apply now


  • Dates & Fees Apply now


    An Italian market seen on a gap year course

    Our view on hotels is that it is better to stay near the middle of the wonderful cities we visit, where there is a sense of history and atmosphere.  Rooms are shared with en suite bathrooms in 2’s and 3’s; occasionally we may use quadruple rooms for the shorter stays.  Over the years we have built up strong relationships with family run hotels in all the cities we visit.

    It’s worth calling the office to ask which hotels we are using on the course you would like to attend, but generally in Rome the hotel is next to the lively Campo dei Fiori; in Florence we stay a stone’s throw from the Duomo and in Venice we stay across the Grand Canal from St Marks.


    Sculpture of a man grimacing, gap year course BomarzoYou will be expected to carry your own luggage, lift it onto trains, buses, upstairs occasionally and so on. This is no idle observation; if you have a bad back, tell us about it.  Most people have luggage with wheels, but be sure they are robust and up to going over cobbles.  Ruck sacks are good.

    In the run up to your course we will send notes about what to bring but please follow the old adage that whatever you pack at first you should then halve it. Furthermore, one of the joys of travelling is to come back with trophies from your travels, whether this be clothes, books or pictures.  We have had occasions when students have spent a fortune either posting luggage or spending extra fees with airlines. Both should be unnecessary.


    The side of a traghetto reflecting Venice in the windowWhen we move between cities we often take the train or we hire a bus.  The train is perhaps more fun, with a real sense of travel.  Usually, when leaving a hotel for the station we will walk for 10 minutes or so, but if you would like a taxi, we can order one for you.


    Malevich's 1915 artwork, Airplane FlyingWhen you register, we will inform you of the flights we have chosen for the group for you to book direct with the airline.  If you come by another route, we will do our best to meet you, but bear in mind that once in Italy, tutors have lots of responsibilities both in terms of teaching and pastorally and they might not be able to meet you off the plane.  In any event, we will give you good instructions on how to find the hotel and how to meet us.

    For non UK students, some fly to the UK, which is a major hub, and then join the group to fly to Italy.  If they arrive a day early, we can advise on where to stay if needs be.

    Photo: Airplane Flying (Malevich, 1915)

    Meals, Food & Wine

    Gap Year course sitting around a lunch table in TuscanyThe food in Italy is one of the great pleasures of an AHA course.  At lunchtime, students are free to do as they please – it’s a great time to explore or draw, but often students and tutors will end up enjoying an inexpensive lunch or picnic together.  It is a similar situation at supper; students are free to do as they please but, for almost all evenings, tutors will canvas opinion and organise something fun.  This might be supper out, or a film or a concert. We feel that convivial suppers for students and tutors make a strong bond on the course and are part of Italian life.  It is where conversation flows and we at AHA understand your interests and passions.

    Eating, diet and allergies are issues raised on the Registration Form and it is really important that we know.

    Those coming on Gap Year Courses are over 18 and therefore allowed to drink alcohol; however, as detailed in the Code of Conduct, we expect that this is done in moderation and drunkenness is not acceptable. Responsible consumption of alcohol is, in our view, a lifelong issue.

    Breakfast is included within the fees though it has to be said that Italian hotels often perform some indescribable ritual to their coffee to render it questionable.

    Mid way through the morning, it is usual to perk ourselves up with a break for a coffee and rest.

    Spending Money

    An Italian shop, seen on a gap year course, still open at nightLunches and suppers are not included in the course price. We recommend that students bring £35 – £38 per day to cover these meals and spending money.  Very occasionally, if a student has a problem with cash flow, tutors will lend money but for administrative reasons, we would be grateful if loans could be repaid before the end of the course.

    Money is best drawn regularly on ATMs and in modest amounts for fear of inadvertent loss.  Pre-loaded travel money cards are a good solution to this issue because, if lost, they limit exposure to fraud.

    Mentoring & Care

    With tutor ratios of 1:9 or fewer, there are never less than 2 and up to 4 tutors on each course.  This promotes excellent care for young adults.  AHA tutors are instructed and mentored before they can be considered senior tutors or a lead tutor.  Tutors stay in the same hotel, travel together and enjoy meals in the company of students. Tutors are there to help and offer advice.  At all times tutors are supported by AHA’s offices in the UK.

    A brief look at our tutors’ page reveals that we have tutors of a variety of ages.  We feel it is important to have young tutors who are both a mentor and inspiration to young adults as well as more venerable tutors.  New tutors to AHA are trained via our manual, through training tutorials and while on courses as a trainee tutor.

    We will send you a Code of Conduct which lays out the understanding between students and AHA about reasonable standards of conduct.

    Throughout the Gap Year & Semester courses there are one to one tutorials during which the academic progress of students are discussed. These are especially useful to encourage the development of students and form the basis for references in the future if requested.

    Museums, Itineraries & Timetables

    All museum fees and special entry costs are included and make up approximately 15% of the fees.  Bookings for most of our visits are made in advance; this means less time spent queuing and reinforces the need for punctuality throughout the course.

    Pre-Course Preparation

    We will send you our list “Books worth reading, films worth watching” none of which is obligatory but which may enhance your experience of the course.  In the weeks running up to your course, you will receive a note on what to bring as well as useful notes to accompany the course.  AHA will also send you a watercolour set and drawing pad.  Practical art is not compulsory on the course but we hope that these will be useful for those who already are happy to draw while being an encouragement to others.

    Application & Registration

    Venice at nightIf you’re ready to apply, just go to How to Apply page to fill in the form to begin the two-part registration process. Once we have your application, we will contact you to discuss the course further.  We will want to know more about you, what are your interests and plans.  Importantly, it is a chance for you to ask detailed questions of us. All being well, we will send you a link to a registration form and give you details of how to lodge a deposit.

    By signing the registration form and returning it with a non-refundable deposit you are bound by the terms and conditions of the course. The terms and conditions require each attendee to have paid in full prior to the course date of departure.  Should you need to cancel, there are clear guidelines and terms available.  Where possible, and at our sole discretion, we will transfer your place to another course if needs be, having taken account of any pre-payments or unrecoverable costs.


    AHA carries public liability insurance to a total value of £5m in case AHA should cause loss or injury to a client or student.  It is also essential that students should acquire sufficient insurance to cover the fees in the event that a student needs to cancel their course at a time when all or part of the fees are due. Insurance for health is also mandatory as well as repatriation.   On top of this, you should insure your possessions, particularly electronics, having noted separately the make, mark and serial numbers of any valuables.  You are obliged to inform AHA of the company providing the insurance cover and the Emergency Help telephone contact number. It is your responsibility to ensure that the insurance cover you purchase is suitable and adequate for your particular needs.

    Payment Schedules

    Illuminated manuscript of Jewish money lenders in France at the time of Louis XI, circa 1270At our discretion, we may offer interest free, monthly payments for a course. Full and final payment must be in our account before the course departs. Please contact the office directly to enquire about this.

    Scholarships & Bursaries

    See our Scholarship page for details, read our blog “How to find grants for your gap year” and call us to ask about bursaries.

    Risk Assessment, Responsibility

    Those joining our Gap Year Courses are over 18 and young adults and can expect to be treated as such.  Adult life goes with free will and free will has an element of risk within it.  However, parents and students can reasonably expect AHA courses to be safe in the provision of services and tuition.  To this end, we write extensive risk assessments for all our courses and we also have a crisis management plan.  We follow the standards laid down by the Year Out Group and we review all our courses through questionnaires and tutor feedback.  Lastly, we have public liability insurance to a limit of £5,000,000 per any one occurrence upon which we have never had to claim.

    For UK residents, check the FCO website for their current risk assessments by country. For US residents, check the Smart Travel Enrollment  Program (STEP) for up to date advice and help.