Yale Historians Start New Travel Business

Via Antiqua Travel began as the brainchild of Dr. Anke Tietz and a handful of other alumni from the Yale Classics, Renaissance Studies and Ancient History department. The idea was to bring the best of Mediterranean Antiquity to those holiday-makers who wanted educational growth from their vacations, by way of fine-tuned itineraries, curated by an academic with a passion. The whole thing would be complemented by exclusive socials made possible by the Yale network and on-site lectures in local learned institutions, with a delicious foodie experience thrown in.

Our first appearance at the annual Educational Travel Fair in Orlando, FL in February 2014 was where the harsh realities of running a startup business first kicked in. Alone in a strange town, unable to afford the swanky conference hotel, we followed a flurry of presentations and workshops to understand how the travel business really worked. Everybody was talking about the disappearance of the traditional holiday model.

Our first business partner was Yale. In March 2015, we’ll be taking a group of alumni on one of the classic „Yale Educational Travel“ branded tours, in fact the Masters’ Tour of Italy with Professor Harvey Goldblatt. This week-and-a-half of Italian Renaissance bliss is all about stunning frescoes, paintings, baroque chapels and fantastic Renaissance architecture; it visits Florence, Rome, Perugia, Siena, Pisa and San Gimignano, and we’re sending our own Claudia Portogallo, who is doing her PhD on the Renaissance at Yale right now, as an expert and tour guide, on Professor Goldblatt’s side.

Most recently, we’ve designed an itinerary dedicated to illuminated manuscripts of the Italian Renaissance, a follow-up trip to the Getty Museum’s exhibition on illuminated manuscripts, and are working really hard to make this happen in June. We’ve also created a fabulous new itinerary around Germany’s fairy tale castles, discovering medieval history in the footsteps of the Brothers Grimm; this trip is still up for grabs.

In September, we went to the Adventure Travel Fair in Ireland. Here, we presented an all-new hiking destination in Turkey, known as the Carian Trail. Left abandoned for the last 500 years or so, this ancient footpath has now been re-opened. It’s studded with dreamy ancient monuments awaiting exploration. Passing numerous luscious beach bays, particularly enticing in the high heat of Turkish summer, the hiking experience holds within it all the mystery of the ancient Greeks and their neighboring civilizations, and is punctuated by the charm of forlorn village inns inviting travelers for a break along the way. For this, our own friend authored the very first hiking guide; also our colleague Melanie has written the latest archaeological guide to the Lycian Trail, another ancient hiking trail that tells the fragmented story of the prosperous ancient Lycians, and is enjoying growing popularity in the adventure travel community. We’ll be taking our first adventure-hungry crew here soon.

Here we are hiking amongst the sheep in Ireland. In Ireland also, we met Nicole Wineland-Thompson from America, who impressed us very much. As her family runs the prestigious Thompson Safaris, she herself went ahead and created a new branch of the business dedicated to family travel with children, called Thompson Family Adventures. We’ve been working with her on a new family package for Southern France, incorporating castles, horses, flamingoes, beaches and lavender trails, powered by National Geographic Adventures, the magazine’s popular travel outfit.

Coming back to Yale, and the Classics department where it all began, for the first time this year Yale will offer a travel experience for students who have completed Yale’s online distance learning course in Roman Art and Archaeology. The minute we had uploaded our itinerary for the visit to Rome’s iconic sites and sights, Pompeii and the gulf of Naples, we were booked-out! This trip is also happening in June, with the internationally renowned Professor Diana Kleiner, and we have been working around the clock to piece together the logistics and thinking about special surprises for our guests.

Last but not least, the latest lights on the horizon are in the Balkans, where Anke travelled last week to test out hotels, sightseeing and restaurants together with Kathy Edersheim and Mark Dollhopf of the Yale Alumni Association. We are all extremely taken by the beauty of the Balkans over here, and excited to be offering trips there starting in 2016, when we’ve got a delegation of Yale Alumni Schools Ambassadors (YASA) fellows presenting at a clutch of universities. Here they are:

It’s been a highly productive year, lots of hard work and very upbeat. We wish you the best for festive season, see you soon!