Pitzer in Italy

Photo of the Parma baptistry and palace

The Pitzer in Italy program is based in Parma, part of the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. Pitzer has selected the city of Parma to provide students with a high degree of integration into Italian family life and community. The charming city is small enough to provide students with many opportunities to practice their language learning, interact with the community, and connect with local university students, but large enough to offer students needed shops, restaurants, cultural activities, things to do, and opportunities for community service projects. The city is also well connected by train to the rest of Italy. This video provides a great mini tour of the city. The program is affiliated with the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world, and the Toschi Art Institute of Parma. The program is open to Pitzer and non-Pitzer undergraduate students.

Parma, Italy Photo Credit: Sayjal Waddy

Program Information

Throughout the semester students take their core course, Italian language course, participate in a service-learning project, and take a half-credit art history course.

In the core course, Studies in Italian Culture, students explore the region’s history, politics, religion, and culture through a series of lectures by local scholars and specialists. In the intensive Italian language course, students will receive classroom instruction as well as language practice outside the classroom by being  paired with an Italian student who is learning English. Students with advanced language abilities can enroll in University of Parma classes instead of the language class. For the service- learning project, students spend time in a local organization or school for a full immersion experience that combines Italian language, socio-anthropological training, and field work. Lastly, students take a half-credit class which provides an overview of the main artists and works of art that have characterized the Renaissance period in Italy.

Map of Italy showing where different foods originateProgram Dates

Fall: Beginning of September to mid-December

Spring: Late January to early May

Eligibility and Preparation

Students must be in good academic standing and have a 2.0 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale. Prior Italian language study and/or coursework in European or Italian history is strongly recommended.


Throughout Italian history, the region has played a vital role in the nation’s economic, cultural and political life. Since Roman times the corridor of prosperity that runs from Parma and Bologna to Rome has produced an entrepreneurial spirit responsible for one of the world’s most sophisticated and ecologically well-balanced economies. The city is known for its architecture, music, art, prosciutto (ham), cheese, shopping opportunities, and its beautiful surrounding countryside. Parma has a bustling student friendly city center full of cafes, restaurants, and high-end retail stores. Click here to view photos of Parma from past students and study abroad staff.

Bosi delegazione
Pitzer students with Vice-Mayor of Parma

A few years ago a gracious host parent arranged an informal visit with Marco Bosi, the Vice Mayor of Parma. Students and staff had a pleasant conversation with Bosi about the history of our program and their experiences living in Italy. Learn more about the history of the program in Parma through an article in Parma Today (in Italian).

  • Academics
    Elena Feboli lecturing in Piazza Garibaldi, Parma

    Below are the courses offered on the program. Students are required to participate fully in all program components and are not allowed to withdraw from individual courses. Students must take all courses for a letter grade. Participating students from Pitzer College will have the grades from the program recorded on their Pitzer transcript and included in their overall GPA. Students from other colleges should check with their study abroad office for information about how grades from a semester abroad are integrated into their transcript.

    Students who wish to receive credit towards their major for a particular course should consult their academic adviser for guidelines. At Pitzer College the field group decides which courses may be counted towards a major or minor requirement. Students from other universities should check with their study abroad office or registrar’s office about their school’s policy.

    Courses Claremont Course Credits Semester Units
    *Core Course: Continuity and Change in Contemporary Italy 1.0 4
    Intensive Italian Language 2.0 8
    Community-based Service Learning 1.0 4
    Survey of Italian Renaissance Art, 1400-1550 0.5 2
    TOTALS 4.5 18
    Study trip in Italy
    Students studying the Duomo in Parma

    Core Course: Studies in Italian Culture

    Using the city of Parma as a case study, students will explore topics in Italian history, politics, economy, religion, art, literature, and culture through a series of lectures by area scholars and specialists. The course also incorporates the home stay, local visits in Parma, and other more experiential components of the program. For Pitzer students, this course will satisfy *Pitzer’s Social Responsibility Praxis (SRX) requirement. Click here to learn more and view a sample syllabus.

    Intensive Italian Language

    During orientation in Parma, students’ Italian skills are assessed and classes are chosen based on the students’ levels. Students with an advanced level of Italian may be eligible to take regular university courses in Italian (in lieu of the Intensive Italian Language course). All other students will take the Intensive Italian class offered at the University of Parma. Becoming fluent in Italian, however, is not just a classroom exercise. It is accomplished by the work done with a Language Tandem Partner (an Italian university student learning English) and also part of students’ everyday life through interactions with their host family and local Italians.

    Community-Based Service Learning

    According to their interests, students are assigned to a volunteer organization in Parma (health, education, fashion, immigrant assistance, environmental, etc.) for a full immersion experience that combines Italian language, socio-anthropological training and field work. Past service opportunities have ranged from assisting refuges from North Africa, working in education, and volunteering in health care facilities. Through hands-on volunteer work at a local service agency, students learn about contemporary Italian society. Past service included:

    • Teaching English in elementary, middle, and high schools
    • Working with recent immigrants through non-profits and centers
    • Assisting in health programs at local clinics and the Public Health Service (Spazio Giovani)
    • Working in various departments at the University of Parma (library, chemistry department, language department)
    • Assisting with local youth activities (art classes, music education, sports teams etc)
    Venice study trip

    Survey of Italian Renaissance Art, 1400-1550

    The course aims to give students an overview of the main artists and works of art that have characterized the Renaissance period in Italy. Students will get an introduction to the historical period, the concepts of Renaissance and Humanism, the main artistic techniques used by the different artists and the set-up of a “bottega“. Students will analyze how the different artistic centers (Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan and Parma) have influenced the artists and their works. Emphasis will be given to the analysis of the different works of art through images and originals. The course will include a series of on-site visits in Parma to see works by Correggio and Parmigianino and a full day trip to Milan to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and other important Renaissance works. Students will receive a half-course credit. Click here to learn more and view a sample course syllabus.

  • Student Experience
    Fall 2022 group on Parma food valley study trip

    Study Trips

    To deepen students’ understanding of topics covered in the core course, they visit important sites in the cities of Parma, and often take longer trips to Milan, Florence, and/or Venice. The main costs associated with the study trips (transportation, lodging, meals) are covered by the program. Students explore Parma in depth by visiting its great monuments and beautiful castles outside the city (view slideshow). They also have the opportunity to attend an opera in the glamorous 1800’s opera theater of the city, watch master cheesemakers turn milk into Parmigiano Reggiano, and tour pasta-making facilities. You can read more about the region of Parma via this travel blog which highlights some of the top sites.

    On longer trips, students have visited Milan (view slideshow) to visit the world-renowned Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. During the trip to Florence (view slideshow), students admire the masterpieces of Italian Renaissance Art in the Uffizi Gallery, explore the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Baptistery, and climb the 400 steps of Giotto’s Bell Tower. The trip to Venice (view slideshow) provides students with the opportunity to stroll along the canals and admire the golden mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica.

    Interior of main concert hall of Teatro alla Scala an opera house in Milan
    Teatro alla Scala, an opera house in Milan
    Florence, Italy
    Photo Credit; Sayjal Waddy

    Family Stays

    Molly Rosenbloom with host family

    The heart of the Pitzer in Italy program is being a full member of an Italian family with all its privileges and responsibilities. Students live with families for the entire program except on study trips. Through the host family, students have the best opportunity to be incorporated into the social fabric of the local community. Participants witness the real rather than the theoretical culture. Host families may be located in central areas or outside the town of Parma.

  • Next Steps
    Parma, Italy

    Next Steps

    Interested in the Pitzer in Italy program? Great! Learn more by attending an information session, scheduling a meeting with a study abroad adviser, and connecting with program alum.

    How to Apply

    Application Steps and Deadlines for Pitzer College Students:


    Application Steps for Non-Pitzer Students:


    Before You Go

    After students apply and are accepted into the program, they will participate in a pre-departure program orientation before leaving for Italy. The orientation will provide cultural context, health and safety information, and academic guidelines. At the pre-departure orientation, students will also receive details specific to the program including program dates, flight arrangements, immunization documents, safety guidelines, and the handbook.

    Students are responsible for researching country specific information and the visa process. Everyone on the program needs a passport. Check the expiration date. If you do not have a passport valid for six months after your planned return from study abroad, then you will need to renew your passport.

    Typically, students in the Pitzer in Italy program will need to obtain a NATIONAL VISA for Italy before leaving the U.S. The Office of Study Abroad & International Programs will provide instructions on how to book a visa appointment and issue the necessary documents. Once students receive instructions and needed documents, they should begin the visa process ASAP as it takes 3 months. To apply for the visa, students must make an online appointment and appear in person at their Italian consulate. Some students may need to travel to get to a consulate. To get an idea of what to expect for the visa appointment, please visit: https://conslosangeles.esteri.it/consolato_losangeles/en/i_servizi/per_chi_si_reca_in_italia

  • Meet the Directors

    Professoressa Franca Mora
    Director, Pitzer in Italy

    Professoressa Franca Mora is the director of the program since Spring 1992. Franca Mora is recognized by the Italian Ministry of Education as one of the founders of the program. With a degree in English language, she also holds a Laurea (B.A. and Master) in Art History (Dottoressa in Discipline dell’Arte, Musica e Spettacolo) at the Università degli Studi di Bologna. Her wide experience as a teacher, cultural mediator and administrator also includes organizing courses for Italian students of English in English-speaking countries both in Europe and in the United States. She has taught English and Art History for over 40 years. Languages known: Italian, English, French, Spanish.

    Dottoressa Elena Feboli
    Co-Director, Pitzer in Italy

    Dottoressa Elena Feboli is the President of the Cultural Association “Discover Parma”. Professor of Italian Culture in the courses: Studies in Italian Culture: Continuity and Change in Contemporary Italy and Survey of Italian Renaissance Art, 1400-1550. Pitzer In Italy Program Coordinator since 2002, she holds a Laurea in Art History and Preservation of the Cultural Heritage (Dottoressa in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali) at the Università di Pisa and a Master in History of Art (with distinction) at Warwick University (UK). She teaches “History and Art in Parma” to MA International students at the Università di Parma. She is also a licensed Guida Turistica Professionale for the Province of Parma. Her academic career also includes a semester at Pitzer College in Claremont as an international student. She has been tutoring Italian students of English and American students of Italian for several years. Languages known: Italian, English, French, Classics (Latin and Greek).