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Harvard Summer Program in Milan, Trento, and Siena, Italy

Spend the summer in Milan, Trento, and Siena, studying and experiencing beauty as an agent innovation, cooperation and sustainability.

  • Program Director

    Francesco Erspamer

  • Date

    June 15, 2024 to August 18, 2024

  • Apply By

    January 25, 2024

  • Cost


  • Housing

    Apartments and Hotels

About the Program

Study aesthetics, social cooperation, cultural and environmental economics, fiction and film in three fascinating Italian cities. Explore beauty as an indispensable device for building attention, care, and community.

Program Structure

The program includes daily course lectures, 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 and is recommended for all participants.

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 almost three weeks in Milan, a world capital of fashion and design, more than two weeks in Trento, a quaint city in the Italian Alps, and four weeks in Siena, a perfectly preserved medieval city that every summer hosts its centuries-old horse race, the Palio. These contrasting Italian cities are the ideal context for experiencing and examining beauty. While the program is in session, personal travel outside of Italy is not allowed.


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.

In Trento, you will stay at the Hotel Hi, in the old town center. All double rooms have a private bathroom, air conditioning, and free wi-fi. Classes will be held in nearby locations.

In Siena, you will stay in double rooms with private bathrooms at the Refugio, a 16th-century former convent located in the historic center—a five-minute walk from Piazza del Campo. Classes will be held in a nearby building of the Università 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 2024 application is now closed. All admissions decisions will be released on March 1.

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 in 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.

Be sure to read about the funding options available for Harvard Summer School Study Abroad programs.

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

Cost & Expenses

Additional Information