Tribute to Amy Kotkin

photoI am very lucky to have spent so much of my career with Amy Kotkin, Smithsonian Journeys’ Director since 1995. She retired last week after a brilliant career at the Institution, where she held several important posts during her decades-long tenure there.
Amy was at the helm of the largest, most comprehensive museum-based travel program on earth, through good times and challenging ones. She rode the wave of the economic boom of the “go-go 1990s” and bore the shock of 9/11 and Americans’ ambivalence to travel at all for some time afterwards. She helped open up destinations previously off limits to Americans, like Saudi Arabia and Cuba, and pioneered new ways to see the world, whether by private jet, chartered train, or small ship.

She challenged us to scale new heights of creativity with the types of programs we proposed to Smithsonian Journeys each year. She allowed us to contribute our talents to the Smithsonian brand, which has always been an honor and a pleasure for our staff.

We will sorely miss our smart, funny, fair-minded, forward thinking, passionate, practical, kind colleague in travel! Our gratitude and best wishes, Amy! We are excited to hear where you will travel next.

Chase Poffenberger


Falling in Love with Ferrari

photo[6]Smithsonian Journeys’ has hit an all-time high for offering travelers exclusive behind the scenes access!  During the first day of their Passion Sculpted in Steel tour of Northern Italy yesterday, the group got into the Ferrari factory for a private tour.  This factory is the mecca of all car factories and many of the  clients on this tour are fans and owners of this unique marque.

photo[3]Here is a personal account from our Program Manager, Emma, who is on tour with the group…

Before we knew it, we were  entering building after building to see where the engines are made and  watched the fascinating production line putting the body work together  until body and engine are “married” as the lines of Ferraris glided

over our heads. I thought we needed some resounding opera music but one of the clients said “oh this is like a beautifully choreographed ballet!” He was right, it was an amazing show watching the different processes, every twenty minutes the car moved to its next station for the next stage in its creation. We saw the the upholstery department too and the range of materials and styles. Everything is personalized to the customers desires – which would explain the price tags on these babies and the fact that it takes 3000 employees over a year to get the car from order to delivery to the client.

photo[2]The Ferrari factory is also an amazing village – with lots of green  spaces inside and outside the buildings, employees are treated very well, the temperature is very controlled inside the buildings as is the waste, all powered by solar energy and noise levels were very manageable – until we got to the private client’s car storage area. A couple of models had to be moved  – the guide ran out of the garage, I guess she hears the roar of those engines enough – but to my group it was music to their ears. A Ferrari engine makes a unique sound, quite unforgettable. It was a fitting end to a fabulous three hour tour. We also saw the Fiorano test track and the Formula One race cars. I don’t think we could have asked for a better start to this tour. Its only day one. Tomorrow we can Pagani and Maserati and much more.

ferrari-autosStay tuned for more accounts from Emma on Smithsonian Journeys’
Italian Auto tour!

Trailing La Traviata


In our series, “Following the Soprano”, we trace the steps of our talented soprano, Diana Damrau. She will star as Violetta in La Traviata  in Zurich during our Smithsonian Journeys’ opera tour this May. (There’s still space to book!) But before seeing her in Zurich, Diana is taking on this famed role at the Met. It’s been a dream that she has had since she was 12 years old having seen Zeffirelli’s sumptuous production of the opera.

We can’t wait to see you soon, Diana!

In the Footsteps of Galileo

Portrait of Galileo Galilei

Portrait of Galileo Galilei

Did you know it is the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s discovery of the telescope? I am very excited to be escorting this unique trip with Smithsonian Journeys which will take us through the major landmarks where Galileo lived, studied, and wrote his most landmark achievements. Leading us is an expert in communicating the wonderment of science to all types of audiences – popular Harvard scientist, David Aguilar.

Some highlights include Venice’s Murano Glass Factory to learn about the art of glass-making and see where Galileo obtained the very glass used in his telescope lenses. Later we are off to an evening of stargazing in Padua from the place where Galileo first discovered Jupiter’s moons, telling him more of the nature of orbiting planets in our solar system and directly contradicting established beliefs that everything revolved around the Earth. In Florence, we’ll visit where the great astronomer’s theories were first attacked from the pulpit in Santa Maria Novella, the city’s first great basilica and principal Dominican church. And in Arcetri, we’ll enjoy stunning views and glimpse the Villa il Gioello, where the persecuted scientist spent the final years of his life.

Off to a fascinating voyage of discovery and we still have a few spots left – please join us!

October 11-18, 2009, with Smithsonian Journeys

Bookmark and Share

CET Teams Up with Smithsonian Journeys

Student group in Beijing

Student group in Beijing

CET is excited to announce a new avenue for high school students looking for unique study abroad opportunities for 2010. CET has now teamed up with Smithsonian Journeys and will offer study programs in Spain, Italy, and China for 2010.

CET Academic Programs is a private study abroad organization based in Washington, DC that has been designing and administering innovative educational programs abroad since 1982. CET is known for their high academic standards, innovative approaches to teaching and careful student management. Their programs integrate students into their overseas communities and lead them to create lasting relationships with their local hosts. Staffed by over 40 full-time employees in the US and abroad, CET currently sends around 1000 US students abroad annually.

Smithsonian Journeys will be offering Smithsonian Studies Abroad programs in Italy, Spain, and China summer programs geared specifically to high school students looking to take advantage of the benefits of studying abroad programs.

Students in Avila, Spain

Students in Avila, Spain

These programs will include;

Rigorous courses of study led by highly qualified teaching staff.

All programs feature a language component, cultural explorations, sightseeing, and weekend excursions.

Student accommodations feature modern facilities, internet service, most meals, and a dedicated full-time residential staff.

More about the programs;

• Florence, Italy –Renaissance Treasures

Florence offers an ideal location for students to study Italy’s rich artistic and cultural legacy. Surrounded by brilliant art and architecture, students will be uniquely immersed in contemporary Tuscan life with many opportunities to practice their language skills.

• Avila, Spain – Life in a Medievil Walled City

Located halfway between Madrid and Salamanca, medieval Avila is recognized as one of Spain’s most distinguished centers of learning. Students will strengthen existing Spanish skills during a comprehensive cultural course at the University of Salamanca.

• Beijing, China – The Heart of Imperial and Modern China

The Beijing program focuses on China’s extraordinary past and present. Students will reside at China’s top-rated Capital Normal University, located just outside of Beijing. Students will study Chinese politics, economics, history, and environmental policies, and gain a foundation in Chinese language.

To learn more, visit

Also visit CET’s website to learn more here: