San Ramón is situated about halfway between San José and Puntarenas, in the beautiful Central Valley of Costa Rica. Set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains, San Ramón is truly the heart of Costa Rica, where you will encounter friendly people and a peaceful, relaxed lifestyle. It is an ideal location for students interested in ecology and biology. Manuel Brenes, one of the richest forest reserves in Costa Rica, is located just outside the city. It offers a number of hiking trails and canopy tours where one can explore the cloud forest and spot rare quetzals, hummingbirds, monkeys, coatis, deer, and sloths. Within the city, you will find an impressive church, many excellent restaurants and shops, a variety of banks, a mall, and theatres. Just north of the main square is the Museo de San Ramón, which showcases the important role the city has played in Costa Rican history and culture. Known as "the city of presidents and poets," San Ramón has been home to many of Costa Rica’s great political and literary figures, such as former President Jose Figueres Ferrer, who abolished the country’s army and granted women the right to vote. Most San Ramón residents are involved in farming and agriculture, so the weekly Saturday morning farmers markets, or "ferias del agricultor," are not to be missed. You will find a delicious variety of locally grown fruits, vegetables and coffee. Another festive San Ramón tradition occurs in August: San Ramón Day is a day of citywide celebration that includes music, dancing and parades of saints.
Viterbo is a medieval city with a lively university community and active art scene. It is about one and a half hours from Rome and three hours from Florence, with easy connections to the Mediterranean and mountain regions. Viterbo residents have retained the charm and leisurely quality of life of days gone by. They still retain, for the most part, the tradition of closing from 1 pm to 4 pm in order to enjoy a relaxing lunch at home with the family. Each Saturday, there is an outdoor market in the main piazza where people browse and shop for clothes and houseware items. Fresh produce from local farms is also sold every morning in outdoor markets around town. Viterbo has kept a fascinating historical record of its past better than almost any place in Italy. Protected by a medieval wall, Viterbo’s fountains, palaces, quarters, and churches all exemplify its glorious and eventful heritage of art and culture. The San Pellegrino quarter is certainly the most characteristic and best preserved medieval quarter in Italy, a jewel of a thirteenth-century contrada with its small squares, houses, narrow lanes, arches, and characteristic profferli—the typical external stairs of the medieval houses of Viterbo. The thirteenth-century papal palace is evidence of Viterbo’s significant role as a place of refuge for medieval popes, and more recently as the film location for Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Viterbo cuisine is some of the best in Italy thanks to the city's green surroundings, zero pollution, and the "art" of entertaining. Two local dishes not to miss are Lombrichelli alla viterbese and Acquacotta. Be sure to visit the Sagra festivals throughout the summer where one can sample pasta, gnocchi, and more.
Haifa is a beautiful city, set on the Mediterranean Sea on the slope of Mount Carmel. Israel’s foremost port city, it plays a major role in the nation’s economy and is a center for high tech research and industry. Its 17 kilometers of beaches host excellent surfing and sailing conditions and nature trails, bicycle paths, wildlife reserves, and Carmel National Park beckon for outdoor enthusiasts. The city’s historical and cultural riches include museums, film and music festivals, an internationally acclaimed symphony orchestra, theatre, and numerous cinemas, discos, restaurants, and pubs. It provides easy access to other parts of Israel, with Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Ben-Gurion Airport all less than two hours away. In addition to Haifa’s vibrant Jewish community, its cultural and religious mosaic includes many churches and mosques. Haifa is also host to the center for the Baha’i faith and to Israel’s only Ahmadi Muslim community. The Ahmadiyya is an Indian sect of Islam, founded in the late nineteenth century, which promotes peace among nations and opposes religious coercion. Their large mosque houses a prayer hall and a first-floor exhibit of their history and significant contributions. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Baha’i World Centre is an expansive complex of gardens centered around the gold-domed Shrine of the Bab. Other sights in Haifa include Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, home to a cave considered by Christian tradition to be the grave of the Prophet Elijah, the nineteenth-century German colony, Paris Square, Carmel National Forest, Ein Hod artist’s colony, the Haifa Theatre and numerous museums.