Barcelona to Milan and Florence, Alumni and Friends Tour, 2024

Barcelona to Milan and Florence, Alumni and Friends Tour, 2024

July 3, 2024. We returned from the FPU Alumni and Friends Tour five days ago, and now, after a couple of full-night’s sleep, jet lag seems to be almost over. It’s projected to be 110 today in Fresno, and that already has me thinking about next year’s June tour (2025) to Scandinavia. It’s bound to be cooler.

We traveled on June 9 to Barcelona, and over the next 12 days made our way across Provence, southern France—Carcasonne, Avignon, Arles, Aix in Provence, and Monaco (not French exactly, but surrounded)—and then to the Italian Riviera and Milan. A dozen of us continued to Florence for a short “extension.”  You never know what you will experience as you go to small out-of-the way places, and we had our share of unexpected delights. Our Tour Director’s initial note to the group said we would see beautiful sites and landscapes, and it would just keep getting better. I thought it was just travelling hyperbole, but I was mistaken. He was exactly right.

Here are some highlights, as identified by members of our group on our last evening together, roughly the order of our trip, with a few pictures so that you get a feel for it.

Barcelona’s sights, and especially Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, along with the trip to a pilgrimage site, Monserrat, and the statue of the “Black Virgin. And also, a dinner with Flamenco music and dancing.

The French towns of Arles—where Van Gogh lived for a while and painted many, many pieces, some of his most famous.

The French seaside village Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (Saints Maries by the Sea).

Roman ruins at Pont du Gard (aqueduct from the first century) and in Arles (amphitheater, same time).

The city center of Avignon, right next to the 14th century Papal Palace and churches, along with the bridge that goes half way across the Rhone river, Sur le Pont d ‘Avignon.

The 12th-century Cistercian Abbey of Senanque, hidden deep in an isolated valley, where we also say lavender fields nearing full bloom, and the nearby village of Gordes. The beauty of both places was stunning.

Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera, five small towns (we went to three by train and boat) hugging the hills and coast.

Lake Como—on the edge of the alps, with small villages all along its long shoreline, mansions, and small village churches going back to the 10th century,

Florence—the Duomo (Cathedral), Michaelangelo’s David, the Baptistry and Campanile, the signoria. It happened that the Tour de France bike race was beginning there a few days later and the town was decorated for it.

These were the sites mentioned, but we also saw Milan, Carcassonne, many other museums, and churches (a form of artwork in themselves), went to a Mass in the Duomo in, and ate in local restaurants, patisseries, trattoria, and enjoyed the Spanish, French and Italian foods.

Well, this gives you a taste of what we do on the Alumni and Friends Tours. It takes a couple of years of planning to set up and prepare for each one. I am working on tours for 2026 and 2027 now. We look for places of historical, cultural, religious, and natural beauty and significance. We try as much as we can to stay in places within easy walking distance to the main sites of the region or place. And we build in free time so that individuals and small groups can explore on their own.

Our group came from Fresno/Clovis, Hanford, Lemoore, and Strathmore, Bakersfield, Mendota, and Aptos, with alums and friends of Fresno Pacific, from 50 years ago to this year! In a post like this I can’t convey well the relationships that were formed or deepened, the fun we had, the moments of exhilaration, and exhaustion, the serendipitous events we encountered, and the insights into people, history, and culture that we gained. And these, when it comes down to it, are the reasons we travel.

Educated State
Steve Varvis

Steve Varvis

Tagged: Alumni Tours