Milan and Siena 2023

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B e a u t y ,  i n n o v a t i o n ,  a n d   s u s t a i n a b i l i t y

ITAL-S 190 (33199)

This course counts as one full-year course (8 credits) of degree credit. It is taught in English.
Classes are usually on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 11:10-1:00. They are taught by Francesco Erspamer and a few guest speakers, including Prof. Pier Luigi Sacco. At IULM, room TBA. In Trento, TBA. At Università di Siena, Presidio San Niccolò, room TBA.
Sections are taught by Amelia, Katie, and Peter; they are usually on Monday, 11:45-1:00. At IULM: rooms 124 and TBA. At Università di Siena (San Niccolò): rooms TBA.
Field trips last the entire day. We usually leave at 7:30 AM and are back around 10:00 PM.
Events and guided tours are usually on Wednesday and last two to three hours.
Film screenings are usually on Tuesday; they are followed by a discussion with prof. Erspamer. All movies are in Italian with English subtitles. At IULM, room 401. In Trento, TBA. At Università di Siena, San Niccolò, Padiglione esterno, room B (TBC).
Italian dinners are once a week.
Aperitivo (only in Milan and Trento) is usually on Monday.
– Most weekends are free. There are however a few exceptions: on June 17-18 we will have events in Milan;on July 22-23 we will spend the weekend on a lake in the Alps; and on August 12-13 we have exams and Palio activities in Siena.Weekends are also for studying in preparation for the following week and for resting; students are advised NOT to make a trip every time and to avoid long journeys.
– Prof. Erspamer’s office hours are immediately after class, on the bus during our trips, or by appointment.
– TAs’ office hours: TBA.
– Prof. Sacco’s office hours: at IULM, TBA; in Siena, in the Refugio, time TBA.

No prerequisites
This is a very interdisciplinary course, and it is intended for and geared towards students with many different academic backgrounds. No prior courses in the humanities or economics are required. Actually, part of what makes the discussion in this course rich and incisive is the very fact that our group will be composed of students in the arts and humanities, laboratory sciences, and social sciences, all together in one classroom.

Please understand that this course does not fulfill Gen-Ed requirements and that you will need to consult with your concentration advisor or department for information on whether it would count towards your concentration requirements. You may also ask the Office of International Education; their website provides detailed information and they also offer virtual drop-in office hours.

Italian language
Optional Italian language instruction is offered at the beginner, intermediate, and/or advanced levels, though not for credit. Successful completion of the beginner course, though it is not for credit and not directly equivalent to Italian 10, will place students into Italian 11 in the fall semester. This would allow them to take Italian 20 in the spring, accelerating their language trajectory. The intermediate course is recommended for students who have already completed Italian 10, 11, or Italian 15, while the advanced course is recommended for those at any higher level.
The beginner class meets twice a week. Schedule and classrooms TBA.
The intermediate class meets twice a week. Schedule and classrooms TBA.
The advances class meets twice a week. Schedule and classrooms TBA.
It is strongly recommended that students with no prior background in Italian take one of the beginner classes, particularly in anticipation of joining Siena’s contrade in the final weeks of the program. Click here for more information about the language program.

Milano panorama 960x150

Please note: “#” indicates events that are meant for entertainment or as a cultural experience and are not part of the course.


Friday, June 16
Students arrive in Milan

  • 7:30 PM: Welcome dinner at Pizzeria Magolfa (via Magolfa 15).

Saturday, June 17

  • 4:00 PM: Visit to Armani Silos.
    – Reading: Roland Barthes, “The Language of Fashion”.
  • 7:30 PM: Italian dinner at TBA.

Sunday, June 18

  • # East Market Milano: antiques and flea market (via Mecenate 88/A).
  • 6:00 PM: Welcome aperitivo at TBA.

Week 1

Monday, June 19
10:00 AM: Orientation and introduction to the course.
– Readings: 1) Short selections from the Bible (Genesis, 1-3), Plato’s The Republic (book X, 595a-608b) and Symposium (201d-212a), Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier.

  • 2:30 PM: Introduction to sections and language courses.

Tuesday, June 20
– Reading: Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, Preface, Introduction, and Part I, section I, book I.

  • 2:30 PM Italy on screen/1: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (1988). Discussion to follow.

Wednesday, June 21
– Reading: Kant, Critique of Judgment, Part I, section I, book II, and section II.

  • 8:00 PM: Italian dinner at TBA.

Thursday, June 22
– Reading: Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just.

Friday, June 23
Field trip: Lake Garda.

  • 7:30 AM: Coach bus leaves from the Residence Pian della Nave.
  • Visit to the Vittoriale, once home to the eccentric writer and political leader Gabriele d’Annunzio and now a museum that preserves his collection of eclectic objects, memorabilia, furniture, and tapestries.
  • Class on Gabriele d’Annunzio in the open-air amphitheater.
    – Reading: Gabriele d’Annunzio, Pleasure (Il piacere).
  • Lunch at: TBA.
  • Boat trip around the peninsula of Sirmione.
  • Free time to tour the medieval town or for a swim in the lake.


Week 2

Monday, June 26

  • 6:30 PM: Aperitivo at TBA.

Tuesday, June 27
Guest lecturer: Pier Luigi Sacco, Economy and culture: How culture creates value
– Reading: Pier Luigi Sacco, “From Culture 1.0 to Culture 3.0: Three Socio-Technical Regimes of Social and economic Value Creation through Culture.”

  • 2:30 PM Italy on screen/2: Bella addormentata (Dormant Beauty), directed by Marco Bellocchio (2012). Discussion to follow.
  • 8:00 PM: Italian dinner at TBA.

Wednesday, June 28
Guest lecturer: Pier Luigi Sacco, Culture, crossover, and innovation.

  • Fashion tour, with Anna Paola Vergani, founder of PFR Polly’s Fitting Room:
    – 3.30: NonostanteMarras, concept store, via Cola di Rienzo 8.
    – 4:30: Tora Tora showroom, via Valsugana 15.
    – 7:00: Accademia del Lusso, fashion show (sfilata), Talent Garden Calabiana, via Arcivescovo Calabiana 6.

Thursday, June 29
– Reading: Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, part 2 (“Evolution and Art”).

Friday, June 30
Field trip: Lake Maggiore:

  • 9:00 AM: Coach bus leaves from Residence Zara.
  • Visit of Isola Bella, the Borromeo Palace, and the terraced gardens.
  • Lunch on the Isola dei Pescatori.


Week 3

Monday, July 3

  • 7:00 PM: Aperitivo at TBA.

Tuesday, July 4
Guest lecturer: TBA.
– Readings: TBA

  • 4:30 PM: A conversation on identity design with Antonio Romano, CEO of Inarea Identity & Design Network (via Andrea Doria 7).
    – Reading: Roland Barthes, “The New Citroën”.
  • 7:00 PM: Aperitivo at TBA.

Wednesday, July 5
Field trip to Torino

  • Train leaves from Stazione Centrale at TBA
  • At TBA: Guest lecturer: Maurizio Ferraris (Università di Torino), The beauty of webfare.
    – Reading: Maurizio Ferraris, TBA.
  • Visit to the Museo nazionale del cinema.

Thursday, July 6
– Reading: Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, part 3 (“Evolution and Fiction”).

  • 2:30 PM Italy on screen/3:Perfetti sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers), directed by Paolo Genovese (2016). Discussion to follow.

Friday, July 7
– Readings: 1) Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”  2) Chantal Mouffe, “Art and Democracy: Art as an Agnostic Intervention in Public Space.”  3) Doris Sommer, The Work of Art in the World, chapter 1 (“From the Top: Government-Sponsored Creativity.”

Week 4

Monday, July 10
– Reading: Sartwell, Six Names of Beauty: STUDENTS’ PRESENTATIONS.


Tuesday, July 11
Program moves to Trento
– 8:30 AM: Coach bus leaves from Residence Zara.

  • 2:30: Visit to the Castello del Buonconsiglio, former residence of the prince-bishops of Trento, and to its Cycle of the Months, one of the most fascinating pictorial cycles of the late Middle Ages.
  • 4:30: Visit to the Gallerie, two former road tunnels that were transformed into a history museum. With Giuseppe Ferrandi, director of the Foundation of the Historical Museum of Trentino.
  • 5:30: Guest lecturer: Silvana Kühtz (Università della Basilicata/Associazione Leggo quando voglio), Sensory concert: A reading of Italian poetry. With Susanna Crociani, sax.
  • 8:00 PM: Italian dinner at Trattoria di Piedicastello.

Wednesday, July 12
– Reading: Machiavelli, The Prince.

  • 3:00 Italy on screen/4: Le meraviglie, directed by Alice Rohrwacher (2018). Discussion to follow.

Thursday, July 13
– Readings: 1) Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, chapter 6 (“Think Young: Youth Culture and Creativity”).  2) Anthony Julius, Transgressions: The Offences of Art, chapter 1 (“A Transgressive Work and its Defences”).  3) Tibor Scitovsky, The Joyless Economy: The Psychology of Human Satisfaction, chapter 3 (“The Pursuit of Novelty”).

Friday, July 14
Field trip to Veneto

  • 8:00 AM: Coach bus leaves from Hotel Hi.
  • Guided tour of Fabrica, “a residency for creative talents under the age of twenty five” based in an old villa restored and augmented by renowned architect Tadao Ando.
  • Visit to the Abbey of Santa Maria of Follina.
  • Prosecco tasting (Cantina Gregoletto).


Week 5

Monday, July 17

  • 6:30 PM: Aperitivo at TBA.

Tuesday, July 18
– Readings: 1) Pico della Mirandola, On the Dignity of Man.  2) Giorgio Vasari, Life of Michelangelo (from The Lives of the Artists, 1550).  3) Jonathan K. Nelson and Richard J. Zeckhauser, The Patron’s Payoff: Conspicuous Commissions in Italian Renaissance Art, chapter 3 (“Theories of Distinction: Magnificence and Signaling”).

  • 8:00 PM: Italian dinner at TBA.

Wednesday, July 19
– Readings: 1) John Dewey, Art as Experience, chapters 1 (“The Live Creature”) and 14 (“Art and Civilization”).  2) Martha Nussbaum, Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life, chapter 4 (“Poets as Judges”).

  • 3:00 PM: Italy on screen/5: Le fate ignoranti (The Ignorant Fairies / His Secret Life), directed by Ferzan Özpetek (2001). Discussion to follow.

Thursday, July 20
Midterm exam.

Friday, July 21
– Readings: Roberto Esposito, Communitas, “Introduction”.


Week 6


Sunday, July 23
3:00 PM: Program moves to Molveno

Monday, July 24
Field trip in the Dolomites: Walk to Lake Molveno. Cable car from Molveno to Altopiano di Pradel, at the foot of the Brenta Mountains. Visit to to Malga Tovre and its educational farm. With Juri Bottura (Dolomit Learning Experiences).


Tuesday, July 25
Program moves to Siena

– 8:00 AM: Coach bus leaves from the hotel in Molveno.

  • Savor Siena walk (at Tuscan Wine School, Via Stalloreggi, 26): 2 hours; first group 3:00 PM; second group 4:30 PM: an introduction to Siena while tasting cheeses, Tuscan bread, olive oil, aged vinegar, wine, coffee, honey, saffron, and gelato—with an emphasis on what is typical and local.

Wednesday, July 26
– Readings: 1) Alan Dundes and Alessandro Falassi, La Terra in Piazza, chs. 3 and 4.  2) Jane Tylus, Siena: City of Secrets, chapter 4 (“Neighborhoods”).

  • 3:00 PM: Italy on screen/6: Palio, directed by Cosima Spender (2015). Discussion to follow..
  • 8:15 PM: Dinner at the “Mangia e bevi” of Contrada della Torre. During the dinner each student is assigned to a contrada and will then participates in the preparations for the Palio and the ceremonies and events that precede it.

Thursday, July 27
Guest lecturer: Simone Borghesi (Università di Siena),  Environmental economics.
– Reading: TBA.

  • 5:30 PM: Visit to Palazzo Pubblico with a close analysis of Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good and Bad Government..
  • 8:30 PM: Italian dinner at Trattoria Papei.

Friday, July 28
Field trip: Florence.

  • Discovery coffee course at the Espresso Academy, in Florence (2 hours; time TBA). Instructor: Gabriele Cortopassi, barista, restaurant manager, coffee expert. See how coffee is blended and roasted. Learn the main types of coffee and the techniques for preparing espresso, cappuccino, latte. Then make your cappuccino with the heart.
    – Reading: Jeffrey Schnapp, “The Romance of Caffeine and Aluminium”.

5 cappuccino art 960x150

Week 7

Monday, July 31

  • 16:30 PM: Guided tour of Santa Maria della Scala, former hospital of the city, now a museum.
    – Guest lecturer: Pier Luigi Sacco, Culture and health.

Tuesday, August 1
Guest lecturer: Pier Luigi Sacco, TBA [cooperation].
– Reading: TBA.

  • 2:00 PM Italy on screen/7: La dolce vita, directed by Federico Fellini (1960). Discussion to follow at the Refugio and at dinner..
  • 8:30 PM: Italian dinner at Il Pomodorino (via Camporegio 13).

Wednesday, August 2
Guest lecturer: Pier Luigi Sacco, TBA [community].
– Reading: TBA.

Thursday, August 3
Guest lecturer: Ambrogio Camozzi Pistoja (Harvard University), Safeguarding the Past: What Is a UNESCO Heritage Site?
– Reading: TBA

  • 5:00 PM: Cooking class at Trattoria Fonte Giusta (via Camollia 102).
  • 8:30 PM: Italian dinner at Trattoria Fonte Giusta.

Friday, August 4
Field trip: Lucca

  • 8:30 AM: Bus leaves from TBA.
  • Riding the medieval walls of Lucca on bike, tandem, or surrey bike.
  • Lunch at Trattoria Giulio in Pelleria (via delle Conce 45).
  • Lecture by Emanuele Vietina (Lucca Comics and Games) and Cosimo Lorenzo Pancini (Studio Kmzero); at the Museo della Zecca (the ancient mint).


Week 8

Monday, August 7

  • 2:00 PM Italy on screen/8: La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty), directed by Paolo Sorrentino (2013).

Tuesday, August 8
– Reading: Giovanni Della Casa, Galateo.

  • 3:00 PM: Slideshow and discussion of the final projects.

Wednesday, August 9
Field trip: The Val d’Orcia and Montalcino.
With archeologist Stefano Campana (University of Siena).

  • 8:30 AM: Bus leaves from Piazza Gramsci (bus station).
  • Along the old Via Francigena, through the Crete Senesi hills.
  • Visit to hot springs of Bagno Vignoni, and the Abbey of San’Antino.
  • Wine tasting in Montalcino, home of the famous Brunello wine. Free time to visit the medieval town.

Thursday, August 10
– Readings: Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (Le città invisibili).

  • # Palio events: 7:00 PM presentation of the drappellone (banner) in Cortile del Podestà, in Palazzo Pubblico. Be there half an hour earlier..
  • # Perseid meteor shower.

Friday, August 11
10:00 AM: Final exam/1 (at the Refugio)

Saturday, August 12
10:00 AM: Final exam/2 (at the Refugio)

Sunday, August 13

  • # Palio events:
    – 1:00 PM (be there 20 minutes earlier): La tratta (selection of the horses).
    – 7:00 PM: first trial.

Palio1 960x150

Week 9

Monday, August 14
Guest lecturer: Ralf Gawlick (Boston College), The Beauty of Music.

  • 16:00 PM: Guided tour of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the oldest bank in the world still operating (founded in 1472).
  • # Palio events: second and third trial.

Tuesday, August 15
Ferragosto: national holiday

  • # Palio events: prova generale (final trial).
  • Cena della prova generale, open-air dinner in each contrada.

Wednesday, August 16
Palio dell’Assunta
– Reading: Alan Dundes and Alessandro Falassi, La Terra in Piazza, chs. 5 and 6. 

Thursday, August 17
The Palio: rain date

Friday, August 18
Program ends.

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