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Summer 2022: Coronavirus Information

Harvard Summer Program in Milan and Siena, Italy

  • Date

    June 18, 2022 to August 18, 2022

  • Apply By

    February 3, 2022

  • Cost


  • Housing


Milan and Siena, Italy

Spend one month in Milan and one in Siena, Italy, studying the intersection of aesthetics, innovation, and sustainability.

Program Director:

Francesco Erspamer

About the Program

Learn about beauty, its meaning, its history, and its connection to innovation, community-building, and economics in two of Italy’s most fascinating cities. Study aesthetics, art, cultural economics, smart cities, storytelling, fiction, Italian film, fashion, as indispensable vehicles for social change, sustainable development, and the creation of value and well-being.

Program Structure

The program includes daily course classes, sections, and guest lectures during the week, as well as numerous field trips, excursions, and activities that allow you to delve into Italy’s artistic heritage and contemporary society. No knowledge of Italian or prior courses in the humanities or economics are required to apply to this program.

Note: Non-credit Italian language instruction is available for interested students.

To learn more, visit the Milan and Siena program website.


ITAL S-190 Study Abroad in Milan and Siena, Italy: Beauty, Innovation, and Sustainability

Francesco Erspamer, Laurea in lettere e filosofia, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University
8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

The purpose of this course is to show that aesthetics and culture are indispensable for real innovation, community-building, and sustainable development. Students discuss the main philosophers and writers that have defined the concept of beauty, from Homer, Plato, and Immanuel Kant to John Dewey, Arthur Danto, and Elaine Scarry. They are then invited to reflect upon the connection between beauty and the other two main values in the Western tradition, truth and the good. We address topics such as critical thinking, cultural agency, storytelling, design, transgression, innovation, good manners, material culture, rhetoric, and visual sociology. The readings include Machiavelli’s The Prince, Pico della Mirandola’s On the Dignity of Man, and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. One of the leading experts on cultural economics, Professor Pier Luigi Sacco, teaches several classes on smart cities, new modes of cultural production, and creative industries. Outside the classroom, numerous activities and trips constitute an integral part of the course. We visit Palladio’s Villa La Rotonda in Vincenza, Renzo Piano’s eco-friendly district in Trento, the oldest bank in the world still in operation (Monte dei Paschi), and the garden extravaganza of Isola Bella, on Lake Maggiore. We attend seminars on identity design, on territorial management, and on comics and video games. We watch together ten masterpieces of Italian cinema, from La dolce vita to La grande bellezza. We visit fashion showrooms, concept stores, and spaces dedicated to the production, exhibition, and enhancement of contemporary culture like Armani Silos, the Prada Foundation, and the Piaggio Museum. We taste olive oil, aged vinegar, wine, and saffron, and we learn the techniques for making espresso, gelato, and hand-made pasta. In Siena, students will be deeply involved in the local community; each of them will be invited to join one of the city’s contrade (wards) and participate in the preparation for the Palio, the horse race which has been the city’s most important event for centuries. A detailed syllabus can be found here.

Where You'll Live and Study

You will spend one month in Milan, a world capital of fashion and design, and one in Siena, a perfectly preserved medieval city that included the creation of beauty as part of its original constitution. These contrasting Italian cities are the ideal context for experiencing and examining beauty.

You also have the opportunity to:

  • Watch the Palio, the horse race that for centuries has taken place annually in Siena, and participate in the momentous preparation for it.
  • Visit Monte dei Paschi, the oldest surviving bank in the world.
  • Work with Inarea, a cutting-edge network specializing in the creation and management of identity systems.
  • Explore poet Gabriele d’Annuzio’s eccentric house-museum overlooking Lake Garda.
  • Tour fashion studios, concept stores, and spaces dedicated to the production, exhibition, and enhancement of contemporary culture such as the Armani Museum, HangarBicocca, and the Vespa scooter collection of the Piaggio Museum.


In Milan, you will stay at the Residence Zara, less than a mile from the city’s main train station and a forty-minute walk to Piazza del Duomo, the very center of the city. All double rooms will have a private bathroom, free wi-fi, TV, air conditioning, and a fully equipped kitchenette. Classes will be held at IULM University, which can be reached via a twenty-minute subway ride.

In Siena, you will stay in double rooms with private bathrooms at the Refugio, a 16-century former convent located in the historic center of the city—a five-minute walk from Piazza del Campo. Classes will be held in a nearby building.


The Summer 2022 application is now closed. Each program has unique requirements included in the online application. Beginning your application early is the best way to ensure that you have sufficient time to review and complete the application requirements by the deadline.

You may apply to no more than two programs; if applying to two programs, you will be asked to rank your two applications in order of preference (first and second choice). Any applications submitted in excess of the maximum of two will be automatically withdrawn. You will be notified of your admissions status in each program by early March.

A complete online application includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • A statement of interest
  • Your most recent transcript
  • Program-specific requirements (if applicable; may include letters of recommendation, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program.

Harvard College students applying for funding from the Office of Career Services (OCS): Please note that the OCS funding application is separate. OCS funding awards are tied to a specific program, and cannot be transferred to another program.

If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at

Cost & Expenses

Additional Information