Grand Tour | Geography, Environment, and Sustainability

B.A. in Environment & Sustainability

Grand Tour

The “Grand Tour” is a self-reflective, historically informed, and musically illustrated learning and travel experience that engages with aesthetics and ethics:

  • What? A unique class & travel experience combining music history & sustainability.
  • Who? ~8 UNCG students and 2 UNCG faculty.
  • When? On-campus spring-term (or other pre-requisite) + 5 weeks travel in summer 2022
  • How (much)? Estimated $6000+airfare+extras (financial aid eligible).
  • Where? Italy (Venice, Bologna, Naples, Rome, etc.).

The class and trip are relevant for and open to  any UNCG students (graduate and undergraduate) for elective credit.  Degree (major or minor) credit is also available for students in geography, environmental and sustainability studies, all majors and minors in music, and in sustainable tourism and hospitality.

Highlights include:

  • Experiencing world-class operas in historical theaters (La Scala, La Fenice, San Carlo).
  • Using various types of public transportation (high speed and regional trains, local buses, subways, boats).
  • Walking tours in major tourist cities (Venice, Rome) in interesting areas that are “off the beaten path.”
  • Visiting cities rich in history that have a lively student culture due to great universities (Padova, Bologna)
  • Eating in restaurants that serve healthy, local, seasonal, typical, organic, affordable, sustainable, real food (pasta, pizza, coffee and wine of course, but also prosciutto, mozarella di buffala, piadine, fiori di zucca, polenta, stinco, and lots of other wonderful things).
  • Seeing historical monuments (Colosseum! Pantheon!) and beautiful natural areas (parks, rivers, mountains, beaches).
  • Learning about Italian history and culture (music, food, travel, nature, sustainability) while relating it to contemporary issues and experiences.
  • Engaging with local Italians working in food, sustainability, music, art, and culture.
  • Developing your skills of group and independent travel.

The next Grand Tour trip is tentatively planned for 2022 (dates tbd, honors eligibility tbd). For more information, the following links provide information from our 2016 and 2019 trips:

Click here for the PHOTOS, ITINERARY, & MORE INFO from our 2019 Grand Tour!

Click here to see PHOTOS, ITINERARIES, & MORE INFO from our 2016 Grand Tour!


Embark on a historical and artistic recreation of the “Grand Tour” experience! Join us for a spring 2019 on-campus class followed by summer trip through Italy as we explore the major sites that the 17th – and 18th-century “Grand Tourists” visited.

The main theme of our trip will be the favorite activity of the Grand Tourists: music. In the summer trip portion of the course, we’ll attend concerts and operas; we’ll also visit museums and archeological sites, including Pompeii, whose rediscovery and excavation in 1748 was an astonishing revelation. During the spring semester portion of the course, we will explore in advance (through study, lectures, presentations, and discussion) the music and places that we will visit over the summer. We will arrive in Milan via the decidedly modern conveyance of an airplane but then use trains and boats to travel from city to city—one highlight includes arriving into Venice by canal boat. In addition to music, another theme will be sustainable travel: efficient public transportation, low-impact accommodations, Slow Food dining, and an exploration of local Italian nature, history, and culture beyond mass tourism.

Our Grand Tour takes place in two parts. Part 1 is a 3-credit spring-term class in which we will explore the historical phenomenon of the Grand Tour through the study of the documents, music, and literature of the period; we will also examine the modern impact of travel and the solutions offered by sustainable tourism. (Course work includes reading and listening, short papers and presentations, and a final research project in lieu of exam.) In lieu of this class, students may qualify by having taken any of a number of other courses as pre-requisites (various classes offered by Dr. Allen or Dr. Rubinoff, or both STH 200 and 231; other courses/experiences may be relevant, so please ask). Part 2 is the trip component: this is a graded 6-credit class, and course work includes travel assignments, readings and discussions, and a reflective project upon completion of trip in lieu of exam. Program cost for Part 2 is estimated at $6,000 and includes all intra-European travel (train, boat, public transit), all lodging (hostels, 1-star hotels), at least two (and often three) meals for most days, and all required attractions (museums, tours, tickets to operas/concerts). The program cost does not include airfare, approximately one meal per day, optional attractions, and any extras you may need. You may apply for and use your regular financial aid.

Students may take the on-campus class (Part 1) without the trip component (Part 2). But students who wish to travel in the summer should take the spring class or some pre-approved equivalent (just ask us if you have any questions!). This class is open to students (undergraduate and graduate) in all majors. It is especially of interest to students in anthropology, art and art history, classics, English, environmental and sustainability studies, geography, history, music, Romance languages, sustainable tourism and hospitality, as well as other related fields. The courses can count for credit (usually elective) in various music degrees (undergraduate and graduate), the B.A. in sustainable tourism and hospitality, the B.A. or minor in environmental studies, the B.A. or minor in sustainability studies, and the B.A. in environmental & sustainability studies.

For more information, contact: Dr. Kailan Rubinoff or Dr. Aaron S. Allen.

UNCG reserves the right to cancel or modify the program’s content, or to change costs in case of conditions beyond its control.