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Harvard Summer Program in Venice, Italy

  • Date

    June 22, 2023 to August 5, 2023

  • Apply By

    January 26, 2023

  • Cost


  • Housing


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

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

Program Director:

Glenda Carpio

About the Program

Investigate European art, culture, history, and society alongside Harvard University and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice students and faculty. This collaborative, multidisciplinary 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 program provides essential cultural context to frame your academic experience in Venice, with 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.

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.

Each program course counts as one semester-long course (4 credits) of degree credit; students enroll in two courses for 8 credits total.

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.

Monday/Wednesday, 9:15-11:45am

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, Full Professor of English, Ca’ Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Monday/Wednesday, 12:45-3:15pm

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.


Professor Greenblatt will lecture for two weeks of the course.

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.

Tuesday/Thursday, 12:45-3:15pm

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.

Tuesday/Thursday, 9:15-11:45am

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.

Tuesday/Thursday, 9:15-11:45am

Saving the planet is necessary and will actually make us happy, right? The good news is that we’re already using ethics to define how we can and should do the right thing in relation to the natural world. In fact, all ethics in the western tradition have used “nature” and “natural” as foundational definitions—we’re more than halfway there! But obviously, we need to be conscious that we’re using those definitions and we must decide which of them to correct or reject. (Ethics from western philosophy have an outsized place in global debates over policy and science, for instance, but should this continue to be the case?) And we’ll need to be more disciplined in how or when we use these ethical definitions, in a calm and rational way, even during panic-inducing states of emergency, such as the climate crisis. (Or a pandemic.) This class is designed to give you, as a human being with rights and as a global citizen with obligations, an intellectual, verbal, and ethical toolkit for dealing with the debates over imperiled natural resources and competing human needs that have become urgent. To do that, you’ll read classic texts in western ethics, analyze contemporary statements on the human-nature interface to how those ethics continue to be used, and write some ethical statements of your own.

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.

Monday/Wednesday, 12:45-3:15pm

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.

Tuesday/Thursday, 12:45-3:15pm

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, Associate Professor in Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, Ca’Foscari University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Monday/Wednesday, 9:15-11:45am

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). 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 a 5-7 minute 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 can cook your own 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.


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 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