Happy New Years to everyone! It is incredible how quickly 2006 has become history. The most monumental event for us in 2006 was the separation of MSA Cultural Tours from The Learning Connection/South Coast Learning Network last spring. Following the highly successful Greece tour in March, in which 40 of you participated, LC/SCLN and MSACT agreed to go their separate ways. The results have been a very interesting year with a sharp learning curve. We have greatly missed the vast marking apparatus of the partnership with LC/SCLN and the numerous clerical/administrative functions they preformed. On the other hand we have enjoyed programming independence and the option to keep tour prices as low as possible.

Our first independent tour was in late October. It was a Culinary Tour of the Italian Abruzzi with a splendid group of culinary aficionados which thanks to Ann Butler and T-Man Tony Miraglia, was a success. While a culinary tour was a totally new experience for us, and we discovered improvements we would make in future Culinary Tours, the 28 participants all seem to have a positive and enjoyable experience.

In November we did the annual (sold out) Sicily Tour which despite the relentless nihilist efforts of Alitalia was a GREAT success. The weather was superb, the Villa Schuler better than ever, and Enzo did his usual great job of driving and charming the group. The future of this tour remains questionable since one more experience with Alitalia could drive Ben to (where some of you think he should be anyway) the home for over the hill historians.

In late December, thirty of us departed for Italy to celebrate New Years Eve in the 12th Century Castle in Nocciano and start the New Year with three days in Rome. It was a fantastic trip with a great group. The ten plus course feast in the castle was a marvelous start to the New Year as was the sight of a dozen simultaneous fireworks shows in the valley at midnight. It was a spectacular experience that few of us will ever forget. Just so you don’t think we are just a pack of party animals rather than erudite intellectuals, the New Years bash was followed by three culturally stimulating days in the ‘Eternal City.’ During that time Tony and Kathy Miraglia took the group on a tour of the Vatican, Vatican Museum, and Pantheon and on another day Ben lead an Ancient Rome tour which included the Forum, Capitoline and Palatine Hills and Colosseum. Thanks to the generosity of Skip and Ann Bedser, many of us had the opportunity to see an unforgettable performance of Verdi’s La Traviata.

Hopefully January will not be a harbinger for the year as we were compelled to cancel the Algarve tour because of extremely low enrollment. This came as a surprise since thirty-five of you took the same tour last January. This situation has prevailed upon us to review how often trips can be repeated and suggests that we consider a more conservative approach regarding how many tours we schedule each year. In February we will have the Origins of Modern Portugal Tour and the Classical Greece Tour in March. (March 27 -April 4) We still need 7 more participants to join us for the Greece Tour.


WHAT IS NEW FOR 2007-2008?

September 17-26. This 9 day 8 night trip is $1895.

This tour will spend three nights in Budapest, three nights in Prague and the final two nights in Vienna. For complete details of this tour please visit the MSACT website at Many of you were on a waiting list for this tour and consequently, at this writing it is already over two-thirds full. If you are interested in this tour we urge you to complete the enclosed Registration Form and return it with your deposit ASAP.

As mentioned in the Summer NEWSLETTER we realize that some of you find the current 6-8 day tour format too short and would prefer longer trips of 12-16 days. The 6-8 day trips have been very popular with most of you and we will continue to offer that option.  On the other hand, we are also eager to accommodate those who desire longer itineraries. The two week foliage/historical tour of Southern France and Northern Italy in November are an effort to address that need. The two back-to-back tours with totally different itineraries described below may be taken as individual tours or as a two tours package. In offering such a program we hope to serve the needs of both those who prefer the one week tour and those who seek a longer travel experience. We plan to offer a substantial discount to those who register for both trips. We will offer a similar opportunity in early 2008 with two back to back tours of Andalusia.

We are flying Northwest/KLM which offers excellent fares and very good service. However, they also have a very Draconian refund policy on unused tickers. To help determine the number of tickets we will need and to urge you to register early, we are offering a $100 discount to anyone who registers before March 1.

Day 1. Arrive Barcelona & overnight in Carcassonne
Day 2. Depart Carcassonne for Albi and return to overnight in Carcassonne.
Day 3. Depart Carcassonne for Avignon. Overnight in Avignon (visit Pont du Gard on way to Avignon). Overnight Avignon
Day 4. Visit Nimes. Overnight Avignon
Day 5. Departure for the Alps. Overnight Grenoble.
Day 6. Depart Albertville for Aosta. Explore Valle d' Aosta . Overnight Aosta.
Day 7. Depart Aosta for Lake Como Region.
Day 8. Very early departure for Milan Airport and Boston (for those returning home.)

Day 1 Arrive Milan & overnight in Lake Como Region.
Day 2. Depart Lake Como for Genoa. Overnight Genoa.
Day 3. Depart Genoa for Gorges du Verdon, the Grand Canyon of France.
Overnight Moustiers-Ste-Marie.
Day 4. Explore Gorges du Verdon. Overnight Moustiers-Ste-Marie
Day 5. Depart Moustiers-Ste-Marie for Arles, Overnight Perpignan.
Day 6. Depart for Barcelona. Overnight Barcelona
Day 7. Barcelona. Overnight Barcelona
Day 8. Departure for Barcelona Airport and Boston.

We will have FULL details in the next NEWSLETTER. We can tell you now that it will be in early April; it will be 9 days 8 nights and will include Genoa, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, the Cinque Terra and Lerici on the Gulf of Poets. We anticipate a price of $1895.00 and we are now accepting names for the waiting list.

We have begun working on two one week tours of Andalusia (Southern Spain and Portugal.). Full details of these tours will appear in the next NEWSLETTER. As in the France and Italian Foliage Tours they may be taken individually or together. Both will have completely different itineraries. The first tour will commence in Lisbon and end in Madrid. The second tour will commence in Madrid and end in Lisbon. Among the places to be visited are Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Toledo, the Pueblos Blanco, Gibraltar, Cadiz, the Portuguese Algarve and Evora. These tours will be in January of 2008.



Many Fellow Travelers recently had the opportunity to visit Nocciano’s 12th century castle and enjoy a banquette in the great hall. The castle also serves as a summer educational facility for the Mediterranean Studies Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to international education. Since 2003 the Castle has been home to the Nocciano Institute for Arts and Culture serving high school students and Art Education teachers from all over the U.S. Director Tony Miraglia is assisted by Kathy Miraglia and faculty from UMD and other institutions. The program continues to grow (we expect 25 students this year) but an impediment for many potential students is cost, acerbated by rising airfares. A number of fellow travelers recently expressed interest in helping raise scholarship funds to aid needy students. A committee consisting of Liz Martin, Ann Bedser, Jeanne Drury and Chris Starvaggi is working to organize a fund raising event that will be held on April 15 on the UMD Campus. More information to follow. All of us associated with the Nocciano Institute thank everyone involved for their interest in helping needy students participate in the Institute. For more information about the Institute see