Italy: The Piazza & The Nature of Things

Majors open to

All undergraduate majors

Host Department

Humanities & Sciences & Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography

Faculty Lead

Dennis Phillips, ArtCenter


15 units of ArtCenter Humanities & Sciences credit

How To Apply

The application cycle is now closed. Please check back in Fall 2019 for the Summer 2020 application cycle.


  1. Must have completed at least four terms of undergraduate study
  2. Must have at least one, term remaining upon return to ArtCenter
  3. Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  4. Must not be on academic or disciplinary probation at the time of the application

* If you do not meet the minimum eligibility requirements you still may be able to apply. Please contact


Travel Stipend: We are pleased to recognize the generous support from the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography for this program. The HMCT funding will be divided up equally and disbursed as stipend checks among accepted students. For more information on the HMCT, go to:Picture1Program Fee: In addition to Art Center tuition, you will be responsible for a program fee of approximately $3,500 (total pending). This fee covers the following costs: accommodations (shared rooms), daily breakfast, ground transportation, excursions and entrance fees, Italian language classes, on-site orientation, airport pick-up, 24/7 emergency support, and travel/medical insurance.

Additional: Costs that you will be responsible for that are NOT included in the program fee include: a passport ($135), a visa (if necessary), round-trip airfare LAX-Bologna, Italy (~$800 to $1,200), and daily personal expenses—food, souvenirs, etc. ($70-$100/day).


Term: Summer 2019
Dates Abroad: April 23, 2018 – May 31, 2019*

Students will be abroad for six weeks, which will comprise the entire, compressed Summer term.

*Housing for this program will begin on Monday, April 23, 2019. Housing will end the morning of Friday, May 31, 2018. In order to arrive by April 23, students will likely need to leave the U.S. on April 22nd. 

Print Friendly
Bologna cityscape view
Piazza Carpi
Group Pic in Parma
Italy, Italia; Emilia-Romagna; Modena district. Modena. Piazza Grande, the Cathedral

Spend six weeks in and around Modena, Italy, while completing 15 units of Humanities and Sciences credits! Immerse yourself in Italian culture, art and food, while taking a series of courses that will enrich your understanding of the meaning of The City as a foundation of civilization, the focal point of which will be central piazzas in each Italian city we visit. Students will be immersed in Italian culture, as their course work uses the piazza (town square) as a lens through which the idea and reality of The City may be studied. This project-based, concentrated semester will focus on the piazzas, streets and architecture of­­ the ancient city of Modena, currently famous as the home of Ferrari, Maserati, and balsamic vinegar. We’ll explore five other Italian cities: Florence, Parma, Piacenza, Carpi and Mantova, which will be visited as weekly field trips during the six-week course of study.

The creation of a daybook – that is, a daily journal that combines writing with any other material that can be placed on a page – will be the primary vehicle for the synthesis of these five courses:

  1. Writing the City, a creative writing course that emphasizes daily writing practice in both poetry and prose, using the daybook as the primary ground for exploring ideas, finding the dynamics of creative process through the interplay of daily activity and the imagination, and encountering the poem as an object. Field trips to the studios of several Italian artists and designers will be part of this exploration. (Dennis Phillips & Paul Vangelisti)
  2. The Piazza, an art historical study of the role of the piazza in the development of European culture. Besides classroom sessions, there will be field trips to various Italian cites, such as Capri, Bologna, Montova, Ravenna and Parma. (Andrea Borsari)
  3. The Nature of Things: The Piazza in Literature and Cultue. Using as a base text the Roman poet Lucretius’ The Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura) and its espousal of the materialist philosophy of Epicurus, this literature/philosophy/social science course will examine the possibility that an early understanding of matter may have contributed to (or at least anticipated) the development of European Civilization. From this platform the course work will cover a variety of examples in literature and philosophy of the Piazza as a central location or subject. (Paul Vangelisti & Dennis Phillips)
  4. The Piazza as Fractal. Students will quickly learn that in most towns and cities in Italy, the word piazza has different meanings. A piazza is certainly the classic center of an old city, such as Modena’s Piazza Grande. But a piazza can also be any place in the city where streets converge. This course will use that idea as the jumping off point to look at the fascinating concept of fractals, as found in nature and as created by humans. That the whole is a recapitulation of the part, is a concept that has mathematical, scientific and philosophical implications (anticipated by Lucretius.) Students will have the opportunity to field test this concept walking through some of Italy’s most historic and beautiful cities. (Andrea Borsari & guests)
  5. Basic Italian, Part Two. In the Spring of 2019, H&S will offer a recommended Basic Italian course, directed at students wishing to participate in the Italian Summer Program. This course will be the continuation of the first, designed to help students increase their knowledge of and comfort with Italian, as they travel, dine and shop in Italy. (Romanica Language School, Modena)

Although the course work is listed as five distinct courses, and although there will be separate meetings for each course, it would seem a lost opportunity not to take advantage of the circumstance of a small group of Art Center students living, eating, studying and traveling together. Accordingly, every effort will be made to integrate each course with the others, and to blur the line between classroom time and extra-curricular time. An example of this would be that after a morning’s course work, students and professors will take lunch together, walking through the city, continuing to talk about the various topics of the more formal course work in a more casual and improvisational way. In this way, students and professors can do together what work in the daybooks will be doing in a singular way.

Information Sessions:
Monday, October 8 (Week 5) at 1pm in Conference Room B, Hillside
Friday, October 12 (Week 5) at 1pm at 950 in HMCT

Selection and Notification Timeline:
Apply By: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO Monday, November 5 (Week 9) at 1pm
Notification of Acceptance: Monday, November 12 (Week 10)
Commit to Program: Monday, November 19 (Week 11) at 1pm

Scholarship Information: