Switzerland, Italy, France, & Holland | Cultural Exploration

Cities to Peaks in Western Europe

From the mountain trails and summer snowfields of the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites to the rich culture of Florence and Paris to the bike paths, cheese markets, and beaches of rural Holland, join us to experience Europe as an actively engaged traveler with a group of like-minded students. This is the original Putney Student Travel program, first led 66 years ago by founders George and Kitty Shumlin.

June 22, 2018  –  July 25, 2018
At A Glance:
  • Adventure
    Outdoor exploration, hiking, biking, swimming, and other active pursuits
  • Homestay
    A stay paired with a host family and children, sharing their home
  • The Arts
    Exploration of music, dance, art history, architecture, theatre, and the creative arts
    The Arts
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
New York
Cultural Exploration
34 days
Typical Group:
16 – 18 students, 2 leaders
$ 9,590 + airfare



  • Go ziplining, glacier walking, or rock climbing with professional guides
  • Contemplate world-renowned works of art in Paris, Florence, and Amsterdam
  • Delve into the life and culture of Italy by becoming part of an Italian family
  • Savor Swiss chocolate, Italian gelato, French croissants, and Dutch cheese

Leader Profile: MICAH SEWELL

Education: University of Montana, M.S., Environmental Studies, Gonzaga University, B.A., History and International Studies

While attending Gonzaga University, Micah helped found the school’s environmental organization, and spent a year using Florence, Italy, as a base for European exploration. After… read more

While attending Gonzaga University, Micah helped found the school’s environmental organization, and spent a year using Florence, Italy, as a base for European exploration. After graduating, he traveled to the Marshall Islands to serve as an English teacher on a remote island, then returned to the U.S. to gain experience in adventure education and sustainable agriculture. At the University of Montana, Micah co-directed the school’s sustainable demonstration house, organized a Montana delegation to attend the Terra Madre global food conference in Turin, and worked as a farmer and educator for college undergraduates at the campus farm. Micah currently works as the marketing and fellowship coordinator for Ecology Project International, a nonprofit working to promote conservation and hands-on field science around the world. He also co-manages a small-scale organic farm in Montana. Fluent in Italian and proficient in French and Norwegian, this fall Micah will be leading a mountain bike tour in Norway and planting his garlic crop. He has led Putney’s Cultural Exploration program in Switzerland, Italy, France, and Holland.  


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow high school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in New York, and fly together to Geneva, Switzerland. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Switzerland • 5 Days • Begin in a chalet in an idyllic Swiss village, high on an Alpine mountainside. Spend five days getting to know your group and taking advantage of the stunning natural beauty of the Alps by hiking through alpine meadows, trekking atop glaciers, and canyoning in mountain streams. Take a day trip to the nearby city of Montreux to visit the medieval Chateau de Chillon and swim in Geneva Lake.

Florence • 4 Days • Next, travel by train to Florence and stay in a small hotel in the heart of the city. Visit the Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery, the Medici Chapel, and the Pitti Palace.

Homestay in Italy • 6 Days • Join an Italian family in a small, medieval, walled village just 20 minutes from the Adriatic Sea, and get to know your host siblings. Both leaders stay in town during the homestay, and the group gets together for excursions throughout the week.

The Dolomites • 3 Days • After bidding arrivederci to your host family, travel by private bus and funicular to join local mountain guides for three days of spectacular trekking in the Dolomites of northern Italy, staying in a mountain rifugio.

Students hike in the French Alps on our cultural exploration program in Switzerland, Italy, France, and Holland

Paris • 6 Days • Board an overnight train to Paris, “The City of Light,” to  explore monuments, museums, markets, and cafés as we walk the streets and boulevards of the Left Bank, Île de la Cité, Montmartre, and other iconic neighborhoods.

Holland • 6 Days • Next, travel by train through Belgium to Holland. Take a six-day bicycle trip along rural bike paths, as you wind your way through sand dunes and past windmills and Dutch farms. Along the way, stop to swim at beaches on the North Sea, sail or windsurf on inland lakes, and visit the picturesque towns of Noordwijk, Haarlem, and Heemskerk.  

Amsterdam • 2 Days • Cap off your journey with two days in Amsterdam to explore its busy canals and streets, visit Anne Frank’s house, and see paintings by Rembrandt and van Gogh.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Amsterdam to New York with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

The homestay was the part of the trip I was the most nervous about, but this ended up being one of the best parts! My family could not have been more welcoming. I got to explore Osimo with my host sister and her friends, and we were able to experience what it is like to be an Italian.

— Maggie E., Lawrence Academy, Andover, MA


Due to the traveling nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day on the bike trip through Holland.

8 AM  Wake up and eat a traditional Dutch breakfast at your residence
9 AM  Cycle with your group to the small coastal town of Wijk aan Zee
12 PM  Stop for a hearty lunch at a traditional Dutch pancake house
1 PM  Relax on the beach and take a refreshing dip in the North Sea
3 PM  Cycle along rural paths  and make your way to the charming city of Heemskerk
5 PM  Stop to explore the 13th century Heemskerk Castle
7 PM  Enjoy dinner at a local eatery with your group and a few Dutch teenagers
10 PM  Group meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule

Bikers enjoy the Dutch Countryside on our cultural exploration program in Switzerland, Italy, France, and Holland

What to Expect

Independent Project • Pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you — become an expert on van Gogh’s most famous pieces, create a book of family recipes learned during your homestay in Italy, or explore the effects of climate change on glaciers in Switzerland.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active program. Walking in cities, hiking in the mountains, or biking in Holland are all activities in which you might participate during this program. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • We stay in various types of accommodations throughout this program, including old-world-style hotels, a mountain chalet, and Italian family homes. Students have access to common and outside space at our accommodations for community meetings, working on projects, and socializing. Leaders stay together with students throughout the program.

Meals • We begin each day with a traditional breakfast at our residence. While we eat many of our lunches and dinners in restaurants, we also purchase supplies for healthy and delicious picnic lunches full of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, and cheeses.

My expectations were that Kaes would have a marvelous adventure and grow as a person and gain confidence. The program far exceeded my expectations.

— Lisa Vanderspek, Mercer Island, WA

Ask Us

Call Bob at 802.387.5000 or email bob@goputney.com

The Cultural Exploration Switzerland, Italy, France, & Holland summer program is directed by Bob Pokorney. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our summer student travel programs, please get in touch!

Bob Pokorney

Colorado College, B.A., Art; Middlebury College, M.A., French; Monterey Institute of International Studies, Translation and Interpretation

A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Bob has led Putney programs in France and Morocco. Before joining Putney, he guided cycling trips in Europe, taught high school and college French, and interpreted for sports events in France and the United States. Bob is also a sailboat charter captain, landscape painter, EMT, and lifeguard.