Pre-departure guide
Travel and culture
Program Alumni

Pre-Departure Guide for the Off-Campus Program in Coldigioco





About Coldigioco...

About two-thirds of the time we will stay in the very small village of Coldigioco at the Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco (OGC). Coldigioco is a tiny town with a rich history. The other one-third of the time will be spent on field trips to places such as Tuscany, Furlo, the Dolomites and the Sibillini Mountains. In Coldigioco there are a variety of facilities for lab work and report write-ups as well as student rooms, showers, laundry and a small library. It is an excellent base for geological expeditions and is a nice peaceful place to come home to after adventures.


Most of the buildings in Coldigioco are renovated 300-400 year old buildings which are all beautiful in their own ways. There are four buildings which house students. Each "dorm room" holds anywhere from two to four people. The rooms are all quite small and there is little personal space for each person - usually a shelf and a drawer plus storage space under the bed. Indoor privacy is limited, but there is always plenty of room in the Jurassic Pub or outdoors to relax and hang out.

Beds, sheets, and pillows are provided by OGC. Occasionally you may need your sleeping bag to keep warm at Coldigioco, especially later in the fall. On field trips we sleep in tents. Sleeping bags are a necessity and sleeping pads are recommended. Towels are not provided, but are nice to have, especially for swimming in the Adriatic Sea or the local Reservoir.

Water, Showers and Laundry

In the spirit of Coldigioco, a high priority is set on conservation of water and electricity. Each building has a bathroom, but showers are taken in the bathhouse which is better equipped to handle multiple users. Water and electricity are expensive, so it is most appreciated if you take short showers. Small loads of laundry can be done using the laundry machines and detergent provided. And, like in most European households, clothes are line dried.

Computers and Work Materials

OGC has several computers that you can use to write papers and analyze data. OGC also has all the materials that you'll need to make maps, cross-sections, and other fun geologic things - colored pencils, light tables, tracing paper, stereonets, fancy pens, etc.

There is an Internet connection which has been recently upgraded, so you can send email. The email address is:

 If people write to you via email, tell them to put your name in the subject field. (That way no one has to read your mail to see that it is for you.)


Mail comes once a day during the week. Letters from the U.S. take anywhere from 5 to 15 days to arrive, and letters back take about the same. There is a place to leave outgoing mail in Coldigioco, but you must purchase stamps in the nearby towns. The prices in 1997 for overseas letters was about a dollar for letters and about the same for postcards.

It is difficult to get news about the U.S.- or for that matter, about Italy - while in Coldigioco. OGC does get one or two international magazines which will keep you up to date on the bigger stories. You'll also get the Carletonian sometimes. You may want a friend to send you a newspaper from time to time. It is likely that almost everyone would read it.

  • The address in Coldigioco is:

  • Your Name
    c/o Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco
    62020 Frontale di Apiro

    There is one phone in Coldigioco for all students to use. You can either use a calling card or you can pay the OGC in Lira using a system you will learn when you get there. It is cheaper to call from the U.S., so you might consider asking people to call you. There is a fax machine should you need it.

    Phone number from the U.S.: 011-039-0733-618125

    Phone number from within Italy: 0733-618125

    Fax number from the U.S.: 011-039-0733-618291


    On the terrace of Villa K/T

    There are a few radios which play tapes and there is a CD player that lives in Margolis (the kitchen and classroom building). There will probably be a weird collection of CDs waiting there for you, so any you bring along will be appreciated. Mix tapes are always a hot commodity.

    If you have a small musical instrument which you'd like to bring, please do so. Homespun music is fun, and there are plenty of opportunities to play around in the quiet evenings or while traveling. Sandro is an awesome guitar and harmonica player and there are a few extra guitars around which you can use.


    Program teaching assistant Kristin Ulstad with her whistle in the Dolomites


    The students from the first program began a library and each group since has added to the collection with their own books, so there is a small collection of novels and other books. However, we recommend that you bring a book (maybe add it to the collection!). You'll probably end up exchanging books with other people unless you like reading the same book over and over. There are many and varied textbooks on site, so don't feel the need to carry those across the ocean with you.


    I think she is going for one of the sheep....

    Expect to be doing a lot of hiking. You can also go running and bike riding. OGC provides bikes in various stages of repair that you are welcome to borrow for cruising around. Be warned that it is quite hilly, there are a lot of dirt roads, and "various stages of repair" should be taken most literally. Sometimes it is possible to organize a frisbee or soccer game in the sheep field next to Coldigioco. This is great except when the soccer ball rolls down the steep hill into the stream a half mile away. Fetching that ball is pretty good exercise, actually.


    One large room in Margolis, one of the first renovated buildings, serves as the classroom and dining room. In nice weather meals are eaten on the open walk-out terrace with a spectacular view of a nearby tower. It is especially nice to eat dinner on the terrace when the sun is setting and the wind cools things off a bit. A small kitchen in the building is used for cooking and washing dishes.

    Usually we eat breakfast at 7:45am and dinner around 7:30pm or whenever we return from the field. Breakfast consists of fresh bread from the nearest bakery, yogurt, jam, espresso and cereal. Bread and yummy pasta (lots of it) are staples for dinner. A couple of times on the program we will go out for dinner at a restaurant, which is always lots of fun and extremely tasty.

    On field day mornings everyone will pack a lunch of a sandwich, fruit and cookies to carry with them. Some people have found it useful to bring a Tupperware container along to avoid squished lunches. It is also necessary to bring a water bottle along during the day. You may choose to bring a Nalgene water bottle, but you can also use one of the store-bought water bottles which you will invariably acquire sometime during your travels in Italy.

    In the nearby towns there are grocery stores, bars, and occasionally open markets where you can buy extra snacks and drinks if you like. Occasionally a few people will organize a trip to the store in the evening (before the stores close around six p.m.) or during the day if we are doing lab work in Coldigioco.

    On your days off you will be given a food stipend of $10-15 a day. This is enough to eat well if you go to a grocery store, but if you choose to go to a sit-down restaurant you will end up paying at least this much just for your dinner. It is wise to budget a little extra money for food if you want to experience a bit of Italian dining on your days off.


    You can exchange traveler's checks in Apiro. American Express and Visa traveler's checks work well. Among credit cards, Visa is most widely accepted in Europe. The amount of money you choose to bring depends on what you think you'll do on your days off and how long you may opt to travel before and/or after the program. In the past, people have spent between $500 and $1000 including train tickets. Recall that during the program you'll be given $10-15 for each day off (approximately 12 days off total), but it seems that this money tends to evaporate instantly for food.


    Most of the time it is sunny and mostly dry in Coldigioco, which means wearing shorts and a T-shirt during the day, pants and a sweater for evenings. This is true until late October, when it gets cold and damp. A good yet lightweight raincoat will really make a difference when we are in and out of the rain all day.

    Field Trips

    Camp coffee setup 

    Extended field trips make up a good portion of the Carleton geology program in Italy. We go to places such as Tuscany, Furlo, Trento and the Sibillini Mountains. Students work in small groups and complete a short project as well as visiting interesting outcrops just for the heck of it. There are a fleet of cars which are used for caravanning to and from field trips. Students who bring an international drivers liscense (see Packing List for more info) and go through a brief training session are authorized to drive.

    Field trips are usually 4-5 days long. We stay at campgrounds and have a schedule similar to the Carleton geology department field trips in the U.S., including getting up around seven am, working in the field until about five pm, and eating dinner in the campground. We occasionally make side trips to museums or, if we convince someone, ice cream stands.

    Nearby Towns

    What to Bring

    Most important, we recommend above all else to bring as little as possible. There are, of course, a few things you may need. These are just suggestions.


    Most students in the past have packed in a large backpack of some kind and found it to be versatile and transportable. Keep in mind, however, that when packed to capacity, frame packs (internal and external) can be difficult to manage on trains and in crowded spaces. Your best bet is to keep your pack as small and light as possible. You will also need a daypack for fieldwork. This is nice to have as carry-on for the plane or when you go on short trips. Keep in mind that when you are traveling to and from Italy, especially on the trains, it is convenient to have everything in one bag, but you can always put the big pack on your back and the day pack on your front if need be. Another essential luggage-type item is a neck or waist pouch which can be worn underneath clothing to store essential items such as money, passports, and other forms of identification.


    You will need a current passport to travel to Italy. While traveling in Italy you should keep it on you in case of trouble. Once you arrive in Coldigioco you will go as a group to get passes issued by the local government which permit you to stay for an extended time. For these you will need to have two extra passport photos. Bring these with you. Don't plan on getting them in Italy. If you plan to drive in Italy you will need to get an international driver's license. These can be obtained from your local AAA office. You do not need to take a test to get this license ? you just present your passport and U.S. license and they will issue you an international license.



    It will be very hot sometimes (100deg F) and very cold other times (it has snowed in the past on trips to the mountains.) You can get some idea about the range of clothing past students have used by looking at the photos in various places in this website. The following is a list of recommendations.

    Hygiene Gear


    The Sibillini Mountains seen from Monte San Vicino (view to the south)
    Fieldwork Entertainment, Etc. Money

    Most students on the past programs have spent $500-$1000, depending on what they did on vacation days and if they travelled before or after the program. Our wisest recommendation in the financial department is to have a back-up way of getting money (e.g. extra traveler's cheques or a credit card). Read credit card policies carefully for information on cash advances, currency exchange rates and overseas usage. We have found that ATMs usually give you fair exchange rates. Visa is the most widely accepted card at ATMs, banks and shops.

    Getting to Coldigioco

    In the Airport

    Most international flights arrive in Rome. When you get off the plane, follow the signs to get through the Passport check, baggage claim, and customs. The first thing you'll need to do when you get to the main terminal is get some money. You can go to any of the airport vendors which have a sign that says "Cambio," meaning currency exchange. They all have about the same rates in the airport, so don't worry about shopping around. However, the exchange rate tends to be bad at the airport, so just get enough Lira to get you to Coldigioco (about $50).

    Next, go to the subway station. You can do this by following signs with pictures of little trains on them. It is easiest to get tickets at the ticket window in the subway station, but you can also get them from machines in the airport corridors. You want to get a ticket to Termini Station, the main train station in Rome.

    At Termini Station

    When you arrive at Termini station, buy a ticket to "Castelplanio/Cupramontana" (it should cost around 30,000 Lira). Be ready! Castelplanio is not a common destination, so you may need to insist that it exists. It is on the line from Rome to Ancona, between Fabriano and Jesi ("Yay-zee"). If it is clear that you are not going to get a ticket to Castelplanio and you are about to give up, a ticket to Jesi will do, but that means that you will end up about an hour further away from Coldigioco (inconvenient for whomever is picking you up).

    Once you have your ticket, the next thing you want to do is call the Osservatorio and let them know when you will be arriving so someone can meet you at the station. The number to call is 0733 618125. If no one answers, leave a message and be sure to let them know the date, time and place of your arrival and departure.

    Departure platforms are called Binario, and you can find out which one your train is on by looking on the boards marked Partire (departing). Also, there are signs at the end of each Binario saying where the next train is going. The trains are usually at Termini well before departure, and you can get on whenever you want. However, it is important to make sure the train you're on is actually headed for Ancona (it never hurts to ask... "per Ancona?").

    The class of the car is on a sign near the doors, right next to the sign for smoking or non-smoking. You probably have a second-class ticket. The ride takes around 3 hours, so you may want to get some water and/or food before departing Rome. You can either buy water at shops or vendors in the station or fill a water bottle at a water fountain. Watch out for sinks that are marked "non-potabile", meaning non-potable (undrinkable).

    At some point during the train ride, a conductor will come around and collect tickets, at which time you can just hand yours over. If possible, stay awake through the ride, because it will help with jet lag. More importantly, you don't want to miss the stop since conductors won't make sure that you get off. Just to remind you, Castelplanio is a couple of stops after Fabriano.

    Traveling in Italy

    Just some facts and suggestions...
    (The short version)


    There are three types of trains: Locale (super-slow, stops everywhere), Diretto (normal speed, stops at large cities and towns), and I.C. (super-fast, stop only at major cities, costs extra). You can either buy a ticket at the window in a station every time you ride the train or get a train pass.

    There are two kinds of commonly-used passes: Italian-Rail passes (Kilometrica) and Eurail passes. The Kilometrica pass will work on Locale and Diretto trains, but you'll need to pay extra for I.C. trains. This pass has 3,000 kilometers on it - quite a bit. Get this pass in Italy (you can get them at any major train station). Most passes have a time limit, so you may or may not want to use it on your first trip to Coldigioco.

    Eurail passes are more expensive but are valid in other parts of Europe. It is best to buy these from a travel agent in the U.S.. These passes have a time limit once they are activated, so think twice before using them to make the short and inexpensive trip to Coldigioco on your first day in Europe..


    The cheapest way to eat is to buy food at the grocery store (Alimentari). When buying food, you can get things in small portions. It is good to learn your italian numbers for this because things are sold by the kilo. It is important to know the hours of the Alimentaris. They are usually closed in the afternoons, between 1:00-3:00, and on Sundays. Be sure to have food before they close, otherwise you can get stuck paying a lot of Lira for a little food.


    There are different types of restaurants: Ristorante (fancier, cost more), Trattoria (basic, family restaurant, medium cost), and Bars (really like cafes, they might have warm food, might not). Sometimes, there is a cover charge for sitting down. A glass of water usually costs money - you can get "naturale" (normal) or "minerale" (fizzy). It is easy to eat vegetarian. There is more variety than in the U.S., and most menus have the ingredients listed.


    Travel books are good sources for finding places to stay. Guidebooks have phone numbers and short descriptions. A good method for finding a place to stay is to look in the guidebook for an area with a few places. Once you arrive, take a look at the places in the book but also keep and eye out for hostels or rooms less well publicized, which tend to be cheaper and have more vacancies. If you want to make reservations, it is best to call ahead (usually from the train station) and communicate as best you can in Italian. International Youth Hostel cards are required at some hostels and/or may give discounts at others.


    Beware of pickpockets, especially in large cities such as Rome. Keep your money and valuables in a neck or waist pouch and be alert. Even cute little kids can rob you of your valuables. One may distract you while another reaches in your pocket. It happens.


    Traveling in Italy can be a little different than in the U.S.. Staying in groups at night and avoiding areas that seem scary are good measures to take. In general, it is not advisable to wear tank tops or short skirts.

    The more problematic places are large cities and touristy places. Southern Italy (Rome, Naples) seems to have more trouble than northern Italy.

    Beware on the subways - people are squished together, and sometimes men take advantage of that closeness to touch you. If possible, move away. Saying something sternly is often effective. A short, easy thing to say is "Basta" which means "enough". If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, just try to get away from them. You do not need to justify to anyone why you feel uncomfortable - "gut-feelings" often prove to be right on.

    Avoiding dangerous or uncomfortable situations is your best defense. Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings.

    Italians in General

    In general you will find that Italians are friendly, outgoing people, especially in rural areas. You may want to take advantage of opportunities to stumble through Italian conversations. People are usually surprised and delighted if you know even just a few words and show enthusiasm for the language or the country. In stores people will usually be patient with your language abilities and help you with what you need.

    Buona fortuna e buon viaggio!

    Adapted from Ofori and Jesdale, 1995 by Ulstad and Propson, 1999.