Harvard Summer Program in Milan and Siena, Italy

June 16, 2018 to August 18, 2018
Apply by: 
January 25, 2018

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

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.

Read a detailed syllabus. 

ITAL S-190 Study Abroad in Milan and Siena, Italy: Beauty, Leadership, and Innovation (33199)

Francesco Erspamer
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 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.

How to Apply

Review How to Apply before submitting your application.

Application materials include: 

  1. A statement of interest in the program 
    • Includes information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not required) 
  2. Transcripts
    • Harvard College applicants: You may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu.
    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit an official transcript from your university.
  3. A $50 nonrefundable application fee

Note: Interviews may be requested.

Applications are now closed. You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.


The program fee includes tuition, accommodation, scheduled excursions and activities, and some meals. 

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options. 

Student budget

Student budget

In addition to the program fee, you will need to budget for a number of personal expenses: 

  • International airfare ($1,300 to $1,600)
  • Local transportation ($150)
  • Some meals ($1,500)
  • Course materials ($150)
  • Personal expenditures, laundry, communications, and miscellaneous ($300)

Note: The amounts are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not listed here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including your personal spending habits and currency exchange rates. If you have specific questions about budgeting, please contact the program directly.

Additional Information