France and Italy: Pilgrims, Tourists and Photographers

May 29/30-June 14, 2014
Led by John Barbour, Professor of Religion, and Meg Ojala, Professor of Art and Art History

We invite you to explore two fascinating countries: France and Italy. Our journey from Paris to Rome will take us to outstanding Christian pilgrimage sites and tourist destinations. Twice we will join the St. Olaf Band for a concert, enjoying magnificent music in an unforgettable setting. We will think and talk about our own activities as travelers: buying souvenirs, being moved by a cathedral or work of art, enjoying food, meeting strangers, encountering a different culture, taking photographs, etc. Those who wish may read essays about travel and discuss ethical issues that can arise for tourists today. Throughout our journey we will take photographs, share them, and discuss what makes a good picture.

Our destinations are:

  • Chartres, the home of a cathedral that many believe is the most beautiful in the world, and one of the main centers of medieval pilgrimage
  • Sites in France connected with the painters Monet, Cezanne, Matisse, and others
  • Provence and the French Riviera, with two nights in Aix and two nights in or near Nice
  • Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, built on eighteen islands connected only by bridges, ferries, and gondolas. Venice has a rich artistic heritage, charming walkways, and fascinating tourist sites: Piazza San Marco, the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, museums, and churches
  • Assisi, the medieval hill town that was the home of one of the most fascinating figures in the history of Christianity: St. Francis. Assisi is still a vital destination for Christian pilgrims
  • Rome, the Eternal City, with its many layers of classical and Christian history. We will visit the Pantheon, Baroque fountains and art, and Vatican City, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel

Program Leaders

Professor of Religion John Barbour and Professor of Art Meg Ojala led St. Olaf’s Global Program in 2001-02, Term in Asia in 2008-09, and nine January interim courses in Rome, Mexico City, Chicago, New York City, and Holden Village.

John’s teaching and research interests center on ethical and theological issues raised by works of fiction and autobiography, for instance their exploration of the nature of sin, grace, or community. He is the author of four scholarly books and Renunciation: A Novel (2013). His work as the current Boldt Distinguished Teaching Chair in the Humanities focuses on the theme “Travel and Cultural Criticism.”

Meg teaches photography and makes photographs about the experience of place. She has explored the banks of the Cannon River near her home, the temple sites of Angkor Wat, and most recently the interior of a factory in southern Minnesota. Meg exhibits her work regularly and is represented by Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis

What to Expect

Cities large and small in both France and Italy are a mix of original design and modern remake. Neither country is handicapped accessible. Though we will transfer between cities by air-conditioned private motor coach and once by train, you should be prepared for lots of walking. Most European cities are full of tiny streets, sudden stairways and spontaneous dead-ends — places a bus just can't get to.

To fully participate in this program, you should be capable of walking a minimum of one mile at a time over uneven terrain and up to five miles per day, of climbing stairs that may not have handrails, of keeping pace with an active group of travelers on long days of traveling, of dealing with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and of traveling with a group for several hours each day.

Hotels will be tourist class with private baths, air conditioning and English-speaking staff. Porters have not been reserved at hotels, so you should be prepared to handle your own luggage.

June weather in these regions is generally lovely — highs during the day in the low to mid 70s (Fahrenheit), with cooler evenings. Some rain is to be expected, so a collapsible umbrella will come in handy, though you ought not to need it on a regular basis.

Most days, we will depart the hotel between 8 and 9 a.m. and do our group visits throughout the morning. Occasionally we will have lunch together, more often not. Sometimes we will continue touring after lunch; on other days there will be some free time. Some days will have several hours of free time; others will have very little or none at all.

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit or

Program fee


The program fee is $6,295 per person. Based on double occupancy, it includes discussions led by John Barbour and Meg Ojala, two St. Olaf Band concerts, a basic travel protection plan for land services, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admissions for group activities, ground transportation (except for airport transfers) and gratuities to group guides, drivers, and meal servers. For single occupancy, add $842. 

Airfare to Paris and from Rome is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: International Airfare • Airport transfers • Any passport and visa fees • Any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • Accident / baggage / trip cancellation insurance • Beverages, including at group meals • Laundry • Dry cleaning • Phone charges • Room service or other items of a personal nature • Expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities • Lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary. 

Please plan to depart the U.S. on Thursday, May 29, 2014 in order to arrive in Paris on May 30, preferably by mid-afternoon. Plan to depart from Rome any time on Saturday, June 14, 2014.

For assistance with flight arrangements, may we recommend Noreen Deiss of Travel Leaders/Suntime Travel. She can be reached at 651-429-0039 or We recommend you not purchase non-refundable airfare until we can confirm the program has enough participants to go.


Forms for registered travelers


Enclosures and Participant Forms 





St. Olaf College, 1520 St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield, MN 55057  |  507-786-2222
© 2013 St. Olaf College  |  Contact Us  |  Emergency Information