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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, 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 €40 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 on “How to find grants for your gap year” and call us to ask about bursaries.

Risk Assessment, Responsibility, Health & Safety Advice for Covid-19

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.

Health & Safety Advice for Covid-19

We want to keep you and all those we work with safe while acting within the Italian rules.

Life is returning to normal but there are some residual issues to consider.  Many travel insurance policies include Covid related claims, but students and parents or guardians should make themselves aware of any exclusions.

Presently (March 2023) one does not need to have a Covid test to fly into Italy, but please satisfy yourself of the rules regarding your country of departure related to the country you are flying to and any country you may travel to later on your chosen AHA course; an example might be a client flies to the UK, then moves to France and then Italy, as on the AHA Semester Course.

Now that there is a greater degree of normality, AHA accepts student who are not vaccinated.  We would be grateful if such students would inform us if they have had the virus.

Before we go

  • To bring your proof of you Covid vaccination history.
  • Take a home antigen test before joining the course and share the results with AHA office [email protected]
  • Face masks are not compulsory but some public places can request these are worn and you might wish to wear a mask yourself, so bring 6 x FFP2 to start the course.
  • Please bring disposable sanitising wipes and hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol content.

In the event that you catch COVID

Presently (March 2023) if you catch Covid the Italian rules say you should isolate for 5 days.

In the event that a student catches Covid we would insist they isolate in a single bedroom and test regularly until they test negative twice. We would not test the rest of the group except if others felt symptoms of a new, continuous cough, change to your sense of smell or taste, shortness of breath, feeling exhausted or having a sore throat.

Where an extra room is required because a student tests positive, AHA would absorb the extra cost of accommodation for that student for 5 days from the day of the first positive test. Where two or more students test positive for Covid, we may put them in a shared room according to sex. If isolation continues to be necessary for more than 5 days, the costs of accommodation will become the responsibility of the student or their parents or guardian.

If the course is due to move onto another city before a negative test is shown by a student with Covid, the student, the lead tutor and the management of AHA will discuss, on a case-by-case basis, if a tutor should stay behind or if other accommodation should be found.  In such a case, the costs of the remaining tutor’s accommodation and subsistence will fall to the student, their parents or guardian whereas AHA will cover the basic pay of the tutor.  This provision would also apply in the period up to the fifth day since the first positive Covid test of the student.  Where several students are concerned, costs will be split on a pro rata basis.

In the event that a student suffers from Long Covid, we would insist that a student consult a doctor before beginning their journey home.  Naturally, they would be free to re-join the course if possible.

This Covid policy will be reviewed on a three-month cycle.  Please feel free to call or write if you have any queries about this evolving situation.  +44 1379 871800 or [email protected]