Grand Tour | Geography, Environment, and Sustainability

Environment & Sustainability Program

Grand Tour

The next Grand Tour trip is taking place summer 2023 (second summer session): June 15 – July 17, 2023. To find out more, check out our itinerary (in progress).

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) + 4 weeks travel in summer 2023.
  • How (much)? Estimated $6000+airfare+extras (may be financial aid eligible, includes tuition for 6 credits).
  • 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 all majors and minors in music, geography, environment and sustainability, and 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, mozzarella di bufala, 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 Italians working in food, sustainability, music, art, and culture.
  • Developing your skills of group and independent travel.

The next Grand Tour trip is planned for summer 2025 (second summer session).

  • To find out more and stay informed, fill out this interest survey (no commitment necessary) – AVAILABLE 2024. 
  • Download the 2023 brochure and the 2023 poster
  • Visit this page at UNCG Study Abroad & Exchanges (International Programs Center) to officially apply and research financial aid.
  • See pictures and itineraries of our past trips from 2019  and from 2016.
  • Learn more about Study Abroad at UNCG via news articles, here and here.


Embark on a historical and artistic recreation of the “Grand Tour” experience! Join us for a spring 2022 on-campus class followed by a summer trip through Italy as we explore the major sites that the 17th – and 18th-century “Grand Tourists” visited: Milan (2 nights), Padua (1), Venice (2), Bologna (7), Naples (3), and Rome (7).  (We’ll also make day trips to Ravenna, Parma, Florence, Tivoli, Civitavecchia, and Pompeii.) The Grand Tour was a voyage that young English gentlemen of the 17th & 18th centuries took for both adventure and enlightenment:  travelers wanted to learn about cultural monuments (including the sites of Antiquity), see great works of art and architecture, practice their foreign language and intercultural skills, and hear musical performances.

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—highlights include 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 an exam.) In place of this class, students may take any of a number of other courses as pre-requisites (various classes offered by Dr. Allen or Dr. Rubinoff,; 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.

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 equivalent). 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 environment & sustainability, the M.S. in sustainability & environment, and the minors in environment and in sustainability.

For more information, contact: Dr. Rubinoff or Dr. Allen.

All program directors and participants are REQUIRED to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to departure in order to participate in faculty-led study abroad programs. UNCG reserves the right to cancel or alter the program format, or to change costs in case of conditions beyond its control.

Here is a poster (pdf) and brochure (pdf). Deadline to apply is December 1, 2021; determination of go/no-go is February 15, 2022. Please express your interest in the 2022 trip by filling out this brief (unofficial) survey so you can be kept informed!