Semester Course Descriptions

Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Art History: History of Italian Costume

    (45 total contact hours) This course is dedicated to exploring the history of Costume in Italy over the centuries, with examples from major works of art from the classical Roman world to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, arriving to the Futurist oddities of the Twentieth century, bringing together art, history, culture and fashion. Museum and gallery visits will be an integral part of the course. Students will observe these trends in paintings and frescoes in museums such as the Museo Civico and Pinacoteca in Siena and the Uffizi Gallery, as well as a visit to the Galleria del Costume in Florence.

  • Art History: Rediscovery of Humanity – The Renaissance in Central Italy

    (45 total contact hours) This course offers students a journey through the rich pageant of Medieval and Renaissance art and culture. The student will be given important resources with which to understand and appreciate more fully the works of art produced in central Italy from the mid-13th to the mid-15th centuries. We will look closely at the way in which changing styles in art reflected contemporary history and cultural attitudes. With power point presentations and visits to museums, churches and other places of historical or artistic interest in and around Siena and Florence, this course offers the students every opportunity to place their studies from the classroom in context and to see original works by the great masters.

  • Contemporary Italian History: From the Italian Unification to the European Union

    (45 total contact hours) On March 17, 1861 the Italian Parliament convened for the first time. That date, symbolic of Italy’s unification, could also be taken as the beginning of the long process which ended in the creation of a government and a nation. Through the analysis of the most significant periods of Nineteenth and Twentieth century Italian history (the Unification, Birth of the Sovereignty, the Great War, Fascism, the Second World War, the Resistance, the Constitution of the Republic, and ultimately, the creation of the European Union), we will trace the profound social, political, and economic transformations that changed the face of the population and its sense of national identity through over 150 years of history.

  • Cultural Anthropology

    (45 total contact hours) This course introduces students to the panorama of Italian culture through the study of its traditions, rites, celebrations and beliefs, which form the basis of the historical and social evolution of Italian identity. Students first become familiar with methodological and conceptual instruments and then apply them to the specific situation of Tuscany and Siena in particular. By looking at celebrations and manifestations including the famous Palio we can observe social, public, secular and religious orders present in cultural legends and traditions that contribute to the formation of the Sienese identity. We also examine perceptions of identity in relationship to foreigners and tourists and the interactions of ‘outside’ cultures with the city of Siena. Visits and excursions are an integral part of the course and include: the contradas and contrada museums of Siena, the Bottini (underground water system), the Museo della Mezzadria (museum dedicated to peasant life and the local share-cropping system) and typical celebrations linked to the grape harvest and winemaking, and other seasonal harvests.

  • Religious Culture and Traditions in Italy

    (45 total contact hours) The objective of this course is to contribute to the students’ cultural foundation while encouraging them to reflect upon the contribution that Christianity, as a phenomenon, has given to the cultural development of Italy. In order to allow for a clear comprehension of how the events of Christianity have affected the cultural aspects of Italian history, we will accompany the student on a brief but complete voyage through the centuries until today, with the influence of religion from an art historical point of view (religious iconography like the Biblia pauperum), a literary point of view (a synthetic profile of Italian ‘Christian’ literature), as well as a popular point of view (the sacred element that ancient festivals and local traditions held until modern secularization).

  • Italy - Land of Migrations: Emigration and Immigration Through History

    (45 total contact hours) The history of Italian emigration speaks of the 26 million Italians that left their country in various periods between 1861 and 1975. The legacy of moral and civil values that these Italians brought with them greatly contributed to the development of their adopted countries around the world. Latin America was the first destination of emigrants outside of Europe, while North America was the recipient of the highest numbers of emigrants during the second wave of emigration.

    Over time, communities of Italian origin integrated themselves into the social fabric of the Americas until they became an essential and lively part, not only of the culture and economy, but also of the political realities of these countries. Numerous Italian immigrants became noteworthy figures in politics, such as members of parliament and presidents, while others distinguished themselves in the arts, sciences and professional sports of their new countries.

    This course has the objective of reconstructing historic, socioeconomic, and political premises from which Italian emigration resulted in the Americas while identifying geographic areas of emigration and following the integration process of Italians in these areas. The course will have a bilateral approach: it will examine both the impact of Italian culture on the Americas and the influence that the American continent, with its millions of immigrants, has had and continues to have on Italian reality today.

  • Art History: The Middle Ages

    (45 total contact hours) This course explores Medieval art and culture, offering students the critical tools with which to analyze, understand and appreciate more fully the works of art produced in Western Europe from the Fall of the Roman Empire (V century) to the Birth of the Renaissance (XV century). We will explore the development of Medieval Art form Early Christian Art, to Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic Art; Architecture, Sculpture and Painting will be examined, by considering them in their proper historical and cultural context. We will look closely at the way in which changing styles in art reflected contemporary history and cultural attitudes. With power point presentations and also visits to museums, churches and other places of historical or artistic interest in and around Siena and Florence, this course give the students every opportunity to place their studies from the classroom in context and to see works by the great masters in the original.

  • Medieval Italian History

    (45 total contact hours) This course aims to present the main historical events that defined Italian history from the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 BC) to the Peace of Lodi (1454) that, for Italy, signified the transformation from the Medieval Period to the Modern Period. The syllabus outlines the study of the historic events linked to the political, religious and social contexts of the ever-changing Italian reality without ignoring the essential European panorama in which Italy is located. Additionally, more specific themes will also be explored that will offer more cultural context to the historical chronology of facts. There will also be several excursions to relevant points of interest during the course.

  • Greed, Politics and the Arts in the Renaissance

    (45 total contact hours) This course examines the economic, cultural and artistic mechanisms that brought on the Renaissance culture in Tuscany. Students will study the rhetoric of power and politics in the economy during the Renaissance period, and how the arts were influenced by the economic climate, providing ties and reflections on those of today.

    The part dedicated to Politics (Power) and Greed will analyse the distribution and the concentration of power and economic resources from the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Era, when the Renaissance flourished in Italy, and more specifically in Tuscany. We will concentrate on the evolution of the Italian peninsula from the City-States of the Middle Ages to the regional states of modern Italy, examining civil and religious power, as well as the crucial role of the city in political, social, economic and cultural transformations. A specific focus will be given to the political and economic relationship between Siena and Florence, from the birth of their rivalry as independent city-states to the creation of the Granduchy of Toscana. Visits will be organised to important economic and political centres of the time, such as the headquarters of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank and Siena’s State Archives.

    The part of this course that is dedicated to the arts intends to analyze the social and cultural situation of Renaissance Italy with a specific attention to Florence, the birthplace of Humanism and  the Renaissance: lessons will be dedicated to the geography of Humanism, the birth of the Academies, the description of the Renaissance courts and the role of the arts (literature, painting, sculpting and music) within the courtesan society. Visits will be organised to places that were an important part of Renaissance culture: Medici Palace, Palazzo Pitti or Uffizi Museum in Florence; in Siena, the Duomo and the Chigiana Academy. 

  • History of Italian Cuisine

    (45 total contact hours) This course is meant to trace the history of Italian cooking from the Etruscan era to today through the description of recipes, recipe books, ingredients, changes in taste and different ways of eating, over the various centuries. Particular emphasis is given to the historical and linguistic dimensions of our peninsula’s resources, to the regional variations of the so-called “Italian” cooking and to the history and the characteristics of Tuscan cooking in particular; some observations will concern the anthropological and symbolic aspects of food and of eating as part of a community. Classes are organized in an interactive way: students are continuously asked to read and discuss, reflect and taste. The course includes an integral out-of-class element. Students are required to participate in excursions that involve visits and tastings at cheese, ham and olive oil producing farms as well as wineries in Tuscany, visits to museums such as the Chocolate Museum in Perugia and the Museo della Mezzadria agricultural museum. In addition, students will participate in two hands-on cooking lessons. Readings for this course include historic, contemporary and regional cookbooks, as well as historical and sociological texts and articles. Students are asked to complete written exams and oral presentations as well as a research paper that focuses on a topic of choice.