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Summer 2023: Coronavirus Information

Harvard Summer Program in Milan and Siena, Italy

  • Date

    June 16, 2023 to August 18, 2023

  • Apply By

    January 26, 2023

  • Cost


  • Housing


Milan and Siena, Italy

Spend the summer in Milan, Siena, and Trento, studying the intersection of beauty, innovation, and sustainability.

Program Director:

Francesco Erspamer

About the Program

Learn about beauty, its meaning, its history, and its connection to change, community-building, and sustainability in three fascinating Italian cities. Study aesthetics, cultural economics, social cooperation, fiction, film, and fashion as indispensable devices that inspire innovation while they develop our attention and care for cultural heritages and the environment.

Program Structure

The program includes daily course class session, smaller discussion 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 coursework in the humanities or economics is 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 counts as one full-year course (8 credits) of degree credit.

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

Francesco Erspamer, 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 essential for true 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, Martha Nussbaum, and Elaine Scarry. They are then invited to reflect upon the connection between beauty and the other two main values in the philosophical tradition, truth and goodness. We address topics such as critical thinking, cultural agency, etymology, storytelling, design, tradition, 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 the Romanesque abbey of Sant’ Antimo in Tuscany, 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 eight 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, Benetton’s Fabrica, and the Prada Foundation. We learn the techniques for making espresso and cooking meals as Italians do. We bike the Lucca city walls and are taught the basics of Alpine climbing. 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 three weeks in Milan, a world capital of fashion and design, two weeks in Trento, a quaint city in the Italian Alps, and three weeks 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.


In Milan, you will stay in studio apartments 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. Each apartment accommodates two students and has 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.

Details regarding accommodations in Trento will be posted here soon.

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 of the Universita di Siena.


To apply, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student
  • Be in good academic standing

Students enrolled at any accredited university are welcome to apply. See the How to Apply page for more information.

The Summer 2023 application is now closed. All admissions decisions will be released on March 3. 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