I had an incredible study abroad experience. The program is located on Ortigia which is a small (~1.5 mile circumference) island right off of Syracuse. There are ancient Greek ruins everywhere and there is so much history/ mythology surrounding the island. The size of the program is also pretty small, between the 3 options (business, marine biology and archeology) there are only 17 students, and I had 5 in my marine bio program. Sicily is cheaper than Italy, and has a culture that is just as interesting. I would highly recommend any study abroad program here.
During the summer sessions you take two classes, Italian and then whatever class falls under your program. I was the only student who tested into the advanced Italian class, so the professor of the intermediate Italian class gave me individual assignments that were mostly based on engaging the local community and then writing about my experiences. I didn't really take any exams. Giovanna, the Italian professor was lovely.
For the marine biology class, we had a few tests but the bulk of our grade was determined by a research paper that pertained to subjects we discussed in class. We were allowed to work with other students for the paper and the one I turned in ended up being around 40 pages. The class was challenging but not impossible. What was really unique about this class was that even though the first week was dedicated to regular class sessions, most of the course consisted of field trips where we would hike and examine ecosystems and scuba diving and learning underwater research techniques. I became scuba-certified on the trip and completed a total of 15 dives which was awesome because the Mediterranean is great for diving. Students in this program are also allowed to dive in Plemmirio, a marine protected area, which is off limits to most of the public. It was by far the most rewarding academic experience I've had.
Our group of students became extremely close over the trip, which the teachers told us was not incredibly common (I've head that sometimes the people who do these programs are kind of weird). A lot of times we would have "family dinners" where we would all go to the fresh air market and then cook at someone's apartment together. There were several bars we could go to, and because the island was so small by the end of the trip we new most of the bartenders well and had made Italian friends as well. Everyone we met in Ortigia was extremely friendly, and they didn't seem to be hostile to Americans at all.
Arcadia puts you up in decently nice apartments. Mine had marble floors and high ceilings and had 2 bedrooms but slept 5. The apartments have a full kitchen and bathroom and a washing machine. Even though Arcadia's website says that you could be up to 45 minutes away from the school, all of our apartments were within 5 or 6 minutes from the school so that shouldn't be a concern for anyone. It is important to note that they don't have air conditioning (like most apartments in Italy) but with the windows open it was never unbearably hot.
We had several trips built into the program: we went to Catania, Palermo and the Aeolian Islands. On the weekends where we didn't have planned trips we would travel on our own to places like Cinque Terre, Paris, Rome, Milan and Taormina. There is time to travel but it is also nice to just hang out in Ortigia as well.
RANDOM THINGS WORTH MENTIONING
-you should definitely bring bug spray, I had really bad reactions to the mosquito bites (one was almost the size of my palm)
-food is pretty cheap, comparable to prices in the US
-you can drink the tap water, but it tastes salty so we always bought bottled water, which sometimes was more expensive than wine
-if you want to travel on your own on the weekends, the school will often be able to help you find hotel deals, but you should probably start thinking about that before you head on the trip