Milan and Siena 2023

Beauty, innovation, and sustainability

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A course about beauty, its meaning and history, its connection both to innovation and to community-building, its importance as a practice of care for others and the world.

An experience of beauty: three weeks in Milan, a world capital of fashion and design; two weeks in Trentino, a region famous for the Dolomite mountains and for its cooperative economy; and three weeks in Siena, a perfectly preserved medieval city that every summer hosts its centuries-old horse race, the Palio.

Learn about the main thinkers and writers that have defined the concept of beauty, from Homer, Plato, and Immanuel Kant to John Dewey, Martha Nussbaum, and Elaine Scarry. Study aesthetics, cultural economics, heritage conservation, political philosophy, and Italian culture. Address topics such as rhetoric and etymology, fiction, design, tradition, good manners, mutual enterprises, cultural agency. Understand beauty as an indispensable device for critical thinking, sustainable change, and solidarity.

Outside the classroom, numerous activities and trips constitute an integral part of the course. Visit fashion showrooms and concept stores, Isola Bella and its garden extravaganza, the oldest surviving bank in the world, Renzo Piano’s eco-friendly district in Trento, and contemporary cultural spaces such as the Armani Silos, Benetton’s Fabrica, the Prada Foundation. Watch eight masterpieces of Italian cinema, from Fellini’s La dolce vita to Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza. Taste DOCG wines, DOP olive oil, and aged vinegar; learn the techniques for making espresso and for cooking meals as Italians do. Understand the basic procedures for branding and design a logo for our program under the supervision of leading strategic designers. Bike the Lucca city walls, learn the basics of rock climbing, spend a weekend on a lake in the Alps. Join one of Siena’s contrade and participate in the preparation for the Palio, the horse race that for centuries has taken place annually in Piazza del Campo.

No knowledge of Italian required. Optional Italian language instruction is offered both at the beginner and intermediate/advanced level, though not for credit. No prior courses in the humanities or economics are required to apply to the program. Part of what makes this program rich and incisive is the very fact that our group will be composed of students in the arts and humanities, STEM, and social sciences and economics.



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