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COVID-19 Update: All 2021 Harvard Summer School courses and activities will be offered online.

Harvard Summer Program in Milan and Siena, Italy

  • Date

    June 1, 2021 to August 31, 2021

  • Apply By

    January 29, 2021

  • Cost


  • Housing


Milan and Siena, Italy

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

Program Director: Francesco Erspamer

About the Program

Contemplate beauty, its meaning, its history, and its connection to technological innovation and economics in two of Italy’s most beautiful cities. You study aesthetics, cultural economics, smart cities, storytelling, fiction, Italian film, fashion, and creative industries as an indispensable vehicle for change and sustainability.

Program Structure

In this program, you explore how and why beauty and culture are critical for real innovation, social change, and sustainable economic development. Classroom instruction is accompanied by numerous field trips, excursions, and activities for you to explore Italy’s artistic heritage and contemporary culture.

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, Leadership, and Innovation

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 culture and aesthetics are indispensable for real innovation, social change, and sustainable economic development. Students read and discuss the main thinkers that defined the concept of beauty, from Plato and Immanuel Kant to John Dewey and Elaine Scarry. They are introduced to topics such as storytelling, fashion, transgression, material culture, and contemporary art. One of the leading experts in 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 taste olive oil, aged vinegar, wine, and saffron, and we learn the techniques for making espresso and latte art and also encaustic paintings. We visit Renzo Piano’s eco-friendly district in Trento as well as the oldest bank in the world still in operation (Monte dei Paschi) and the Vittoriale, the eccentric house-museum of the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, overlooking Lake Garda. We attend seminars on identity design, on innovation, on tourism and territorial management, and on comics and video games. We visit fashion showrooms, concept stores, and spaces dedicated to the production, exhibition, and enhancement of contemporary culture such as Armani Silos, the Triennale Design Museum, and the Piaggio Museum. We participate in the momentous preparation for the Palio, which takes place each year and has been Siena’s most important event for centuries. A detailed syllabus can be found here.

Where You'll Live and Study

You 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 Italian cities are ideal 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 stay at the Residence Pola, just half a mile from the city’s main train station and a half-hour walk to Piazza del Duomo, at the very center of the city. All double rooms have a private bathroom, free wi-fi, TV, air conditioning, and a fully equipped kitchenette. Classes are held at IULM University, which can be reached with a short subway ride.

In Siena, you stay in double rooms at the Collegio Santa Chiara, the collegiate residence of the University of Siena. You have access to the common areas of the Collegio, including a kitchenette, computer room, tea room, and the gardens. Classes are held in a nearby building. This beautiful residence is in the historic center of the city—a five-minute walk from Piazza del Campo.


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 late February.

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, audio or video submissions, 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