Culture Courses

A different selection of the following courses is offered each term based on student enrollments and is confirmed at the time of registration.


  • Bread, Wine & Olive Oil: A Culinary History of Italy

    ANTH 105 / HIST 105 / ITAL 105
    Guido Gualandi

    This course examines the evolution and cultural significance of three staple foods of Italian cuisine, bread, wine, and olive oil, from their ancient roots in the Mediterranean to their role in the enogastronomic traditions of Tuscany. We will start by tracing the origins of these products in Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, and their changing symbolic and cultural meaning across time, from ancient Roman and early Christian civilizations to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. We will then discuss their contribution to the definition of an Italian national identity and their place in today’s food culture. For the study of bread and pasta in modern Italy, we will look at the industrialization of wheat growing and of bread and pasta-making techniques, countered by the recent revival of heritage grains, especially in Tuscany. The analysis of Italian wine culture will address the industrialisation of wine production in Italy and the natural wine movement, with a specific focus on wine production in Tuscany. Finally, olive oil will be studied from a symbolic, agricultural and dietary perspective. Comparative tastings of ancient and modern grain breads, of conventional and natural wine, as well as of traditional Tuscan organic olive oil and commercial oil will be part of the class. Field trips to mills, farms and food sites will complement the class contents.

  • Cities, Environment & Sustainability: A Tuscan Experience

    Peter Fischer

    This course has three main components. First, it will provide a coherent analytical framework for understanding some of the key ideas and issues informing the debate about the environment and about sustainability today. It will examine the principles and practices of sustainable development in the context of urban development. More than half of the world’s population are already living in cities and by the middle of this century that figure will rise to more than 65 percent. With rapid urbanization, cities face environmental, economic and social challenges that pose threats to sustainability of urban development.

    Second, this course will investigate upon the historical conditions for the contemporary debate about sustainability, reviewing the evolution of different approaches towards the environment from the earliest farming societies to present (post-) industrial societies. Adopting a ‘Big History’ approach will help students to see the overall picture, seeking out common themes and patterns that can help to better address the multiplicity of socio-economic and environmental issues that we are facing today.

    The third and major part of this course will look at Tuscany and at Florence in particular, on the basis of the fruitful concept of ‘Urban Metabolisms’ to focus attention on the interdependence between cities and their environments. Tuscan cities such as Florence and Siena are often considered ideal models of sustainable urban and rural development as well as of landscape preservation. This ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ image of Tuscany will be contrasted by a critical analysis of the more complex historical realities. Students will be invited to deconstruct these idealized images of the Tuscan space and to rethink the complex relationship between ‘città and contado’ (city and countryside) in the Tuscan past and presence. A variety of key thematic issues and sustainability challenges will be explored in the context of Tuscan urban environment.

  • Entrepreneurship - The Italian Way

    BUS A 103 / COMM 103 / ITAL 103
    Clive Woollard

    This course provides an in-depth study of the creative chaos of Italian entrepreneurship. From the Medici, who made a fortune and lost it again within a century, to Ferrari, the consummate entrepreneur; from Armani, Ferragamo, and Gucci to Luxottica and Del Vecchio’s sunglasses empire, students investigate the essence of Italian entrepreneurship. In addition, this course scrutinizes examples of family businesses, in which each new generation exhibits entrepreneurship (FIAT, Ferrero etc.), as well as instances of entrepreneurial endeavors that were not successful (e.g. Parmalat). The world of entrepreneurship is evaluated from the perspectives of management, finance, and marketing as well as incorporating sociological skills required to understand these enterprises. The course uses a large array of texts and academic sources that the students assess via real life case studies. Students visit a wide range of entrepreneurial contexts and have the opportunity to interview first hand a number of entrepreneurs and those that support entrepreneurship. Students also critically evaluate major issues such as globalization, sustainability, and ethics, which affect entrepreneurships today.

  • Exploring Florence: City & Language

    Stefano Casu / Language Instructors

    The aim of the course is to give students the opportunity to explore Italian culture and Florence’s rich history and traditions through a hands-on approach. Florence is a complex city with many identities. It is known as the cradle of the Renaissance, but its structure was shaped in the middle ages, in the 19th century, and in recent times. It is an international place, visited by tourists from all around the world, but still maintaining a sense of pride in its own traditions. In the Culture section of this course, students will explore the city through a series of on-site lectures, understanding its structure and its development through the centuries up to today, discovering the significance of its beautiful monuments and the scars left by its fascinating history. The Language component of the course is aimed at giving students the tools and skills to navigate the city and complete tasks in real-life situations and specific contexts. Through small-group work they will acquire basic communicative structures and learn to react effectively to authentic communicative situations.

  • Fashion and Media in Italy

    Isabella Martini

    Fashion and Media in Italy will train students to write and communicate about fashion, with a specific focus on Italy. Students will learn the fundamentals of the historical evolution of fashion communication in the Italian media. They will analyze events, campaigns, exhibitions, fashion shows, public relations activities, press days, customer management, and other fashion-related events to understand the communication strategies of the fashion industry for advertising and promotion purposes. The controversial impact of new technologies (social media, influencers, FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out, and the increasing desire to disconnect) will also be discussed, along with a critical reflection on ethical matters concerning the role of fashion as a major influential presence in the media. 

    Students will learn how fashion communication works also by acquiring and practicing communication skills in fashion communication projects. They will understand hands-on how the fashion communication process develops, experimenting first-hand how to create fashion communication items (articles, blog entries, social media posts, etc.) and projects. They will explore their own potential as fashion communicators, learning the basics to create a media campaign for the fashion industry and choosing the most suitable media outlets and sketching promotional projects. A critical analysis of how fashion language has evolved, from 19th–century fashion magazines to today’s blogs and influencers, will also help students acquire the fundamentals of how to communicate fashion.

  • Florence Overexposed: Photography, Cinema & Urban Development

    FILM 106 / ITAL 106 / URB S 106
    Donata Panizza

    What is the relationship between a city’s structure and the way it is represented? This course will answer this question by analysing Florence’s urban history and its visual representation in paintings, frescoes, maps, photographs, and films from the 14th century to today. As the city has been in turn the site of a proud communal society, the main centre of the Medici and then Lorraine rule, the capital of newly unified Italy and the repository of national and international cultural and ethical (and touristic) values, we will examine how Florence has been both shaped by and represented according to different political and cultural agendas, and how the city’s structure and its representation have constantly affected each other. Special emphasis will be put on the emergence of photography and cinema and the radical visual and conceptual shift that these media have produced in the city’s image. Some of the issues this course will examine are: the role of linear perspective as a scientific and political tool for representing, conceptualizing, and controlling urban space; the ways in which the city has been reconfigured and portrayed by foreigners from the 17th century on; and photography’s and cinema’s potential for addressing compelling urban issues such as the contrast between memory and urban modernization, the elusive relationship of past preservation and mass tourism, and the enmeshment of notions of tourism and surveillance.

  • Genius and Innovation in Italian Renaissance Art

    ARTHS 113 / ITAL 113
    Cecilia Martelli

    This course is designed for students interested in an in-depth exploration of the artistic production of Italy from the 14th to the 16th centuries, with a special focus on Florence and its social, political and devotional context. Starting with the Gothic, the course will follow the development of different forms of art – painting, sculpture and architecture – up to the middle of the 16th century, thus covering the period known as the Renaissance. This time underwent an extraordinary renewal in all fields of human knowledge, from literature and philosophy to the visual arts, the latter being considered a fundamental instrument for the investigation of nature and of human experience. The course analyzes how the recovery and study of ancient sources and the work of contemporary humanists inspired and stimulated painters, sculptors, and architects. For the analysis of the Early Renaissance, special emphasis is placed on such figures as Giotto, Ghiberti, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Masaccio, and Fra Angelico. Moving on to the High Renaissance in the second part of the course, the works of Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, the young Raphael and Giorgio Vasari are considered in the light of the Medici family political rule and artistic patronage. Through lectures, class discussions, and frequent site visits, the course aims at training students to study works of art in their original context, to recognize iconographic features and subjects and distinguish the different styles and techniques used by the artists.
    * Not offered in Summer

  • Made in Italy: Marketing the Italian Style

    ITAL 104 / COMM 104
    Francesca Passeri

    The course examines the notion of “Made in Italy” as an intangible asset and traces its evolution in time, starting from its creation in Florence in the 1950s up to the current global success of Tuscany-based icons such as Vespa, Gucci, Ferragamo, and Chianti. The main aim is to explore the appeal of “Made in Italy” as a global brand and the marketing of “Italian Style” throughout the world. To this purpose, we will analyze important Italian companies in specific sectors – fashion, food, wine, leather, design and art – and discuss their innovative branding practices. The focus will be on key Italian cultural products, their significance and symbolism, as well as the concept of “Country Branding” within the industrial, leisure, lifestyle, food and fashion industries. An array of educational tools – lectures, class discussions, fieldtrips and visits to food and fashion retailers, corporate museums, design studios – will allow students to acquire an in-depth knowledge of trendsetting communication strategies and gain first-hand experience with some iconic products commonly associated with the idea of “Italianness”, from concept to consumption.

  • Unity in Diversity: The Making of Italian Identity through Food

    ANTH 111 / ITAL 111 / HIST 111
    Peter Fischer

    This course explores the unique significance of food for the definition of “Italian-ness”. Pasta, pizza and cappuccino have become some of the most recognizable signs for Italian identity and they contribute to the creation of a coherent, unified image of Italy. To fully understand the evolution of this fascinating relationship between “Italian-ness” and food, a cornucopia of historical, cross-cultural and theoretical views is offered, drawing from history, anthropology, sociology, as well as from geography.  The course will trace the historical evolution of Italian food culture in the geographical and cultural context of the Mediterranean from the times of the classical civilizations until today. Topics will include: Food as a Marker of Cultural Identity in the Classical Mediterranean World, Food as a Source of Sin and of Salvation, the Importance of Food for the Definition of Identity among Italian Immigrants in the United States as well as the Making of Italians after National Unification and the Particular Role of Food. Lectures and class discussions will be supplemented by special food workshops in which we will explore the history, culture and taste of some Italian key products such as bread, wine and olive oil. We will visit food markets in Florence, and go on a fieldtrip to the Tuscan countryside. This course is designed for undergraduate students of history, anthropology, sociology and geography and students generally interested in food studies.