Magnifico! Alumni Group Finds Inspiration in Italy With Road Scholar

Traveling abroad while in school is something many of us get to experience once in our lives — but what about twice? And with the same group? It’s a fun idea, and one that Andy Sweeney and Dorothea Brennan wanted to explore when reserving a group trip to Italy with Road Scholar in 2023.

In 1970, Dorothea attended a program with Loyola University of Chicago’s John Felice Rome Center (aka Loyola of Rome); this time, they convened in the “sole” of Southern Italy: Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria.

An empty stone street and historic stone buildings in Lecce, Italy

“In 2018, we met over Zoom to plan a general 50-year reunion, and that was the start of the Italy idea,” Dorothea says. In 2021, 38 of them met in Rome, a trip they organized themselves, and one that left them with a desire to do more.

“We never got to Southern Italy in the 70s,” Dorothea explains. That was partly because of political tensions, and partly because there wasn’t accessible transportation to that part of the country, either by highway or train. Inspired, they decided it would be their next destination.

“We knew we didn’t want to plan everything on our own this time, so we interviewed a number of organizations,” says Dorothea. “Road Scholar was so clearly the right match; they had everything we were looking for.”

The group of Road Scholars stands in front of a tree with a twisting growth pattern

According to Dorothea, reserving a program for her group with Road Scholar was an easy, thorough process. “Frania, the Director of Group Sales, helped so much, building the program on the Road Scholar system, making it accessible only to our group.” Frania also drafted marketing materials for the group, who then met via Zoom to distribute them.

The marketing materials included testimonials from those in the group who had been on a recent Road Scholar Living & Learning program in Italy. “They wrote us a whole narrative about the trip, and it was definitely a selling point.”

Dorothea’s group built a website for those going and created a mail distribution system. She also set up WhatsApp for group communications. “Everyone is still chatting away today, as a matter of fact,” she says. “And remember, I’m supposedly from the generation that ‘doesn’t do technology,’” she laughs. “But we understand it well and can use it easily!”

The group, comprised of former classmates and their partners and friends, is certainly close. “Even though we didn’t all know each other originally, the trip created an immediate bond,” Dorothea remembers.

It was a bond their group leader, Paolo Maragliulo, supported. “Paolo was fantastic!” enthuses Dorothea. “It’s not the easiest thing to lead a group that has already bonded. It was an entirely different dynamic than he was used to, but he adapted beautifully — I don’t think just anyone could have done the same.”  

A group leader standing in front of a white stone wall with pottery in front of it

The group loved that Paolo took them to new places, helping them dive deeply into topics that really interested them. “We’re an inquisitive group,” Dorothea says. “We’re explorers. We wanted to do Italy — art, architecture, a lot of culture and, certainly, food and wine, olive groves and olive presses. We went to so many churches, museums. We had fun!”

Though this was Dorothea’s first Road Scholar experience, it won’t be her last. The group had so much fun that they plan to attend another program soon. “We’ll definitely travel together again, and we like the longer programs — most of us tacked on time in Europe before and after Italy.”

The group smiles for a photo while sitting down to dinner at an outdoor restaurant

So far, Dorothea’s been to six of the seven continents, and she loves the adventure of educational travel. “I love to experience all kinds of cultures, and when you do, you realize how much they change you and your worldview. I travel to experience that: food, art, indigenous cultures, understanding what’s available to understand.”

Interested reserving a private departure on one of Road Scholar’s transformative learning adventures exclusively for your group? Bring your community or family together — learn more on our website!

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