Skip to content

Harvard Summer Program in Venice, Italy

  • Apply By

    February 3, 2022

  • Cost


  • Housing


Study Abroad Program in Venice, Italy; photo by Jacky Kwong

Explore Venice, Italy, one of Europe's most important nexuses.

Program Directors:

Glenda Carpio

About the Program

Investigate European and American art, culture, history, and economics alongside Harvard University and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice students and faculty. This collaborative, multidisciplinary eight-week program brings together two prestigious universities to deepen your understanding of Venice—a city with a rich history and an environment unlike any other.

You experience the unique culture, art, and history of Venice through workshops, excursions, and field trips, as well as participation in the local community. With a diverse array of course offerings to choose from, you will have the opportunity to engage in a multi-disciplinary exploration of Venice and of historical and contemporary Western society.

Program Structure

The first and last (eighth) weeks of the program provide essential cultural context to frame your academic experience in Venice. You will participate in a variety of required activities and workshops on topics that in past years have included Italian fashion and design, Venetian mask-making, the traditional rowing technique, Voga, and Venetian cooking.

From the second through the seventh week of the program, you enroll in two of the courses listed below. Please note that final course placement is dependent on availability and is determined by the Venice program upon your enrollment.


ECON S-1936 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Redeeming Keynes

Stephen A. Marglin, PhD, Walter S. Barker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course explores the birth, death, and resurrection of John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money from the Great Depression (1929-1939) to the Great Recession (2008-?). Keynes intended The General Theory to provide an intellectually consistent and persuasive argument that would explain the failure of a market system, even an idealized system with all of the warts removed, to provide jobs for willing workers. It is clear from its checkered career that The General Theory was at best a partial success. It is not only difficult to read; it does not make good on the promise of a clear and consistent account of why a competitive economy might fail to reach a full-employment equilibrium. This course attempts to provide the coherent argument that, for all its theoretical innovation, The General Theory did not deliver. In the process we examine the orthodoxy that Keynes attacked and that resurfaced in the 1960s and 1970s; the key concepts on which rest the models implicit in The General Theory; and the attempts of the Keynesian mainstream to make peace with both Keynes and orthodoxy. We also explore the applicability of The General Theory to the long run. A final section views the present economic difficulties through a Keynesian lens.

Prerequisites: introductory economics at the level of ECON S-10ab. A year of college calculus is useful even though mathematics are used very sparingly.

ECON S-1059 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: An Introduction to Complexity in Economics and the Social Sciences

Paolo Pellizzari, PhD, Professsor of Economics, Ca’ Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course provides an introduction to complexity with a focus on economic and social systems. As we work towards a formal and shared definition of complex phenomena—a topic conspicuously absent from much of the literature in the field—we explore ideas, models, and examples from biology, chaos theory, financial markets, computational science, genetics, and sociology. The course guides students in exploring the seeming paradox of the fact that complex machinery is not needed to generate complexity, which instead is ubiquitous and can be produced by very simple rules of behavior. Students also generate computational models to acquire hands-on experience with complex system simulation and control.

Prerequisites :ECON S-10ab or the equivalent, and MATH S-1ab or the equivalent.

ENGL S-36V Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Venetian Art and the Bible

Gordon Teskey, PhD, Professor of English, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

William Blake called the Bible “the great code of art.” Nowhere was this statement truer than in the famous Italian centers of art, Rome, Florence, and Venice. But the biblical culture of Venice was special because of her rich contacts with the East: with Islam, with the Greek culture of the Eastern Mediterranean, and with the Holy Land itself. The great cathedral of Venice, Saint Mark’s, is named for the city’s patron, who wrote the oldest and most venerable of the Christian gospels. The Bible provided the artists of Venice with a rich fund of subjects for painting and sculpture. This course gives students an outline of the contents and structure of the Bible similar to what most people in Venice would have had during the period when its greatest art was produced. The aim is for students to be able to look at a work of Venetian art and read not only its biblical subject but also its biblical thinking, especially the subterranean connections between episodes. We also consider how extra-biblical subjects such as saints’ legends and episodes from the apocrypha are themselves extensions of biblical reading. Meeting times are about equally divided between classroom discussion and field trips to sites around Venice. Among the more important of these are Saint Mark’s cathedral, the Doge Palace, the Basilica dei Frari, the Scuola di San Rocco (with its amazing Tintorettos), the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, the Basilica della Salute (with Titian’s biblical paintings in the sacristry), and the Accademia gallery, with its great hall containing Veronese’s gigantic and exuberant Feast in the House of Levi and Titian’s large but intimate Pieta,with its subtle biblical meanings adopted to personal expression. The course’s final class concludes in this room, in front of these contrasting visions of the meaning of life, seen through the lens of the Bible.

ENGL S-122 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Shakespeare's Venice—Jews, Blacks, Muslims, and Christians at the Origin of the Modern World

Stephen Greenblatt, PhD, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
Shaul Bassi, PhD, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca’ Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

A great early modern metropolis and a richly symbolic landscape, Venice is the setting of two seminal plays by Shakespeare, a comedy and a tragedy. The Merchant of Venice and Othello have made the Jewish moneylender Shylock and the Moor Othello the emblematic ethnic and cultural outsiders, figures who both foreshadow and challenge the modern notion of a multicultural community. This course analyzes the Shakespearean texts, reads their principal sources, and charts their controversial critical and theatrical histories. We examine the rich cultural and literary material that informs the plays, including the representations of Africans, Jews, and Muslims, and their multiple resonances in different times and places, including modern adaptations in fiction and film. Our presence in Venice is crucial to our understanding: we explore why the setting for these plays had to be here and not elsewhere, and we visit Venetian sites that illuminate the biblical, classical, and ethnographic contexts that forged Shakespeare’s notions of cultural and religious difference.

Note: Professor Greenblatt will lecture for two weeks of the course.

ENGL S-177V Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: American Literary Expatriates in Europe

Glenda R. Carpio, PhD, Professor of English and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course explores the fiction and travel literature produced by American writers living in Europe, from Henry James to the present. In the course of this period the relationship between old to new world continuously evolves. While Europe becomes the battlefield for two bloody World Wars as well as a museum of the past, the United States assumes a dominant role on the world stage. At the same time, America also betrays key fundamental ideals as it seeks to extend its sphere of influence. American writers living and traveling in Europe reflect on these shifts and changes while also exploring the complex set of contradictions that expatriate life reveals. For African American writers, for instance, Europe represents both a site of liberation from the oppression of American color codes and also an area of the world where they are often exoticized. We focus on American literature set in Europe with readings that include but are not limited to essays, travelogues, poems, novellas, novels, and short stories.

Prerequisite: none.

ENVR S-133 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Earth's Climate—Past, Present, and Future

Carlo Barbante, Laurea, Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Ca’ Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course deals with past, present, and future climate changes as evinced from the most recent studies on palaeoclimate archives, such as marine sediments and ice cores. The techniques available for the study of climate are carefully reviewed and the most recent results are presented. Climate changes involve multiple interactions among different components of the climate system, such as the atmosphere, the ocean, the earth, the biosphere, and the ice sheet. One way to make sense of this complex system is to understand the inherent rate at which each of its components respond both to the primary causes of climate change and as part of a web of interactions within the system. Testing of hypothesis by means of climate models strongly supports the experimental data presented in the course.

Prerequisite: none.

HARC S-140 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Private and Public Life in Venice, in the Renaissance and Beyond

Myriam Pilutti Namer, PhD, Adjunct Lecturer in the History of the Arts of Venice and the Veneto, Ca’Foscari University
Martina Frank, PhD, Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage, Ca’ Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Venetian nobles in the Renaissance were remarkable commissioners of works of art and architecture as well as of literature and music. Venetian patricians were also cultured collectors of antiquities and even owners of villas and gardens on the mainland. At the same time many of them were distinguished politicians, ruling the state in order to guarantee social peace and the independence of the Serenissima Republic from other European powers. Their private life was performed in a universe of palazzi (buildings), ville (villas) and giardini (gardens), while their public role was practiced both in the Ducal Palace and the basilica of the piazza San Marco, and in the scuole (charitable organizations). The first part of the course focuses on the interaction between private and public life in Renaissance Venice. The chronology is extended to the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries in order to explore the changes that occurred in economic and cultural life and to determine their influence on the residential behavior of the Venetian ruling class. The second part of the course focuses on a number of meaningful locations where, during the Renaissance and beyond, the boundaries of public and private sphere overlapped and blended. These case studies offer examples of critical junctions between private origins and present public use or vice versa, exploring new paradigms in the definition of space in Venice.

HIST S-35 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Nature

Joyce E. Chaplin, PhD, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

It may seem that questions about human responsibility toward the natural world are new, but there are long-standing traditions within Western philosophy of arguing for ethical behavior in relation to nature, whether to benefit humans or to help non-humans. This course offers a critical and historical analysis of selected texts that identify human beings as a distinctively ethical species within the natural world, with particular attention to the emergence of normative theories that rank humans with and against other natural beings. Topics include definitions of wilderness and property; agriculture, industrialization, and consumerism as historic transformations of humanity; social hierarchies based on perceived natural abilities; ideas of natural rights; conservation and environmentalism; and animal rights. Readings include Aristotle, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, Bentham, Malthus, Mill, Emerson, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Singer. We also examine how contemporary debates over the human place within nature have continued to cite and critique normative traditions defined in the past.

Prerequisite: none

HIST S-1158 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Italy in a Global Context, 16th to 19th Centuries

Giulia Delogu, PhD, Assistant Professor of Early Modern History, Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca’ Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course re-examines the history of Italy in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries through a global lens, highlighting how the Italian peninsula was not a decadent, insular region during this period, but a vital center of far-reaching networks of commercial, political, and cultural exchange. These networks reveal Italian cities as both recipients of and active agents in processes of knowledge formation. The course highlights the importance of port cities such as Venice, Trieste, and Livorno, exploring their roles in the circulation of information ranging from commercial reforms and ideas of human rights to immigration and public health policies. Students examine historical documents from the state archives of Trieste, Modena, Venice, Genoa, and Milan, as well as literary masterpieces of the period, and gain a comprehensive view of recent scholarship on Italy and the new methodological horizons of global history.

Prerequisite: none.

HUMA S-125 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: The Ethics of Identity

Jay M. Harris, PhD, Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course engages with the ethical challenges presented by personal and group identities. Built around K. Anthony Appiah’s book, The Ethics of Identity, in conversation with his predecessors, interlocutors, and opponents (among them Kant, Mill, and Rawls), the course focuses on contentious contemporary issues regarding inclusion and exclusion, and on how we can engage with our multiple identities in ethically responsive ways.

VISU S-168 Study Abroad in Venice, Italy: Designing Augmented Reality Experiences for Museums and Cultural Sites

Fabio Pittarello, PhD, Assistant Professor in Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, Ca’ Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

The course teaches students how to create a user experience (UX), based on augmented reality (AR) technology, targeted to cultural heritage sites and art exhibitions. Theoretical lectures are complemented by lab sessions focused on different methodological and technical issues involved in the development of an AR-based UX. The scenario for the development is one of the exhibitions or cultural heritage sites available in Venice at the time of the course—for example, the exhibition spaces of Ca’ Giustinian (on the south side of Ca’ Foscari), the Svevo Museum in Trieste, or Modus, a collateral event of La Biennale Arte. Students collaborate in small working groups for creating the final prototype.

Prerequisite: none.

Where You'll Live and Study

The lagoon city of Venice, la Serenissima, was for centuries a cultural and commercial center of Europe, and a vital link between East and West. Now it is the site of an educational crossroads and this multidisciplinary program that brings together students and faculty from Harvard University and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.


You stay in the newly renovated dormitory “Camplus” in the Santa Marta area, about 5-7 minutes walk from the classrooms and the Summer School office in Venice. All rooms are doubles and have air conditioning and internet. With the exception of breakfast, which is provided in the dorms, you are responsible for your own meals. All rooms include a kitchenette so that you have the opportunity to cook meals.

Venice has many restaurants, bars, cafes, and pasticciere. You have the opportunity to shop at the local markets and frequent the restaurants and bars in your neighborhood. Cafeterias offering low-cost meals are another popular option.


The online application will be available in early December. 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, 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