Pitzer in Italy

(Open to Pitzer and non-Pitzer students)

italy-mapThroughout Italian history, the Emilia-Romagna 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. Pitzer has selected the city of Parma in Emilia-Romagna to provide students with a high degree of integration into Italian family life and community.

Photo provided by Comune Matteo Fornari

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. The Parma Today article (in Italian) was published March 5, 2019.

  • Academics
    ITAL101A PZ   Core Course: Continuity and Change in Contemporary Italy
                              Intensive Italian Language
    ITAL104 PZ     Community-based Service Learning
    ITAL109 PZ     Survey of Italian Renaissance Art, 1400-1550
    Suggested Preparation
    Prior Italian language study and/or coursework in European or Italian history is strongly recommended.
    Students must be in good academic standing and have a 2.0 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale.
    Grades for this program will be recorded on a Pitzer College transcript and included in the Pitzer GPA. 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.
    Program Dates
    Fall: Beginning of September to mid-December
    Spring: Late January to early May
    Full Year: Beginning of September to early May

    Host Institution

    italy-parma_cityThe Pitzer College in Italy program is affiliated with the University of Parma.

    Required Courses

    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 to put a human face on the material presented in lectures and readings. For Pitzer students, this course will satisfy Pitzer’s Social Responsibility Praxis (SRX) requirement.

    Intensive Italian Language
    Intensive Italian is offered at the University of Parma. Becoming fluent in Italian, however, is not just a classroom exercise. It is part of students’ everyday life through interactions with their host family and local Italians. The competence students develop in Italian will be one of the treasures of their Pitzer in Italy experience. Working with their Language Tandem Partner (an Italian student learning English), auditing University of Parma classes, participating in a Community-Based Service Learning (CBSL) project will advance their fluency.

    Parma and Venice trip 2006

    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. Class will meet twice a week for a total of 30 hours. Students will receive a half course credit.


    Community-Based Service Learning (Independent Study)
    According to their interests, students are assigned to a volunteer organization in Parma (health, education, immigrant assistance, environmental, etc.) for a full immersion experience that combines Italian language, socio-anthropological training and field work. Through hands-on volunteer work at a local service agency, students learn about contemporary Italian society. Click here for a list of CBSL opportunities.

    Course Options

    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 (Italian 44 or higher) may be eligible to take regular university courses in Italian (in lieu of the Intensive Italian Language course)  if the test results in orientation show they have sufficient skills.

  • Course Descriptions



    Lecture #1:  “Roman and the Medieval Italy” ( 2 hr.)

    Readings: C. Duggan, A concise history of Italy, pp. 9 – 31 (Ch. 1&2)

    Lecture #2:  “Risorgimento & Fascismo” (2 hr.)

    Readings: C. Duggan, A concise history of Italy, pp.87–143/205-240 (Ch. 4,5,8)

    Lecture #3:  “Contemporary Italy” (2 hr.)

    Readings: C. Duggan, A concise history of Italy, pp. 240 – 299 (Ch. 9)

    Three questions exam on history (1 hr. and half)



    Parma, like many cities in Italy, has many churches – 52 at last count – and yet Parma is not known as a city of churchgoers.  How does one account for this apparent anomaly?  At the same time, Italian politics seem to be constantly affected by the opinions of the Vatican institutions. How are issues such as  divorce, abortion, cohabitation, bioethics issues etc. seen in Parma and Italy in general?  Using specific examples drawn from the readings assigned and interviews with Parmigiani of three different age groups:  senior, middle-aged, young adult or teen, analyze the relation between Church and State.

    Suggestions:  Write a set of questions for interviews to elicit information on direct and indirect aspects of religion in people’s lives. Attend daily and Sunday Mass at several churches, noting who is there. Interview a priest. Write down your assumptions before starting and try to find ways to challenge them.  Note the presence of religious items in the home and other secular places.


    Reading Packet #1

    From Catholic Encyclopedia: Roman Catholicism; The secular power of the Popes

    The ambiguities of the Catholic church, from Paul Ginsborg, Italy and its Discontents: Family, Civil society, State: 1980-2001

    Pietra e Parola, from T. Jones, The Dark Heart of Italy

    Level of religiosity by country in Europe (1980-2008)

    From Modern Italian Culture, ed. by Z. G. Baranski and R. J. West

    Catholicism………………………………………………………….       p. 97

    Church and State: The Cold War……………………………………   p. 133

    (Readings can vary as they are constantly up dated and/or integrated with current newspaper articles)




    “A Parma si è golosi come in tutta l’Emilia, ma ci si vanta d’essere più raffinati, di svolgere, direi, gli stessi temi con maggiore capriccio.  Si entra qui nella terra d’Italia dove il cibarsi è un aspetto della cultura e quasi dell’erudizione….”

    Guido Piovene
    Viaggio in Italia,   1977

    Eating in Italy is not only “cibarsi” but can be considered as “il piacere di stare a tavola,” a sort of social rite.  Based on your readings, lectures, visits and on your experience eating at home with your family and eating out, explore the role that food seem to play in Parmesan and Italian society in contrast to other cultures you are familiar with.  Why is food so important in Italy and what does this tell you, if anything, about Italian culture?  Are attitudes toward food changing (are vegeterians/vegans present in Italy? What is the attitude towards eating meat?)  If so, what influences are responsible for the change?


    Reading Packet #2

    Emilia-Romagna; Reggio-Emilia, from Root, W., The Food of Italy

    Parma simply primo for ham and cheese and Italian cuisine, by English, J., For the Journal-Constitution

    (Readings can vary as they are constantly up dated and/or integrated with current newspaper articles)



    “In the late 1960’s, Italy was still a country of emigration, and there were only around 150,000 immigrants living in the country; twenty years later, Italy had over 500,000 immigrants, while having the lowest birth rate in Europe.” (R.West, Modern Italian Culture)

    Today the number of immigrants has reached about 3,400,000 (7% of the population). Discuss this phenomenon analyzing the readings provided and interviewing two Italians of different ages and one immigrant person. Use his/her life story as a case study. What is his/her condition today? How does he/she perceive Parma and Parmesans’ attitudes? How do Parmesans perceive immigrants? Can you find examples of integration in Parma?


    Reading Packet #3

    Immigration and racism, from Paul Ginsborg, Italy and its Discontents: Family, Civil society, State: 1980-2001

    1. Rusconi, Italy’s migration experiences

    The Italian Diaspora, from Wikipedia

    Immigrants abandoning recession-hit Italy, by Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, January 6, 2013

    From Modern Italian Culture, ed. by Z. G. Baranski and R. J. West

    The Notion of Italy……………………………………………………p. 17

    Italian Culture or Multiculture in the New Millenium?……………….p. 337

    (Readings can vary as they are constantly up dated and/or integrated with current newspaper articles)

    • Lecture on history of Parma and walking tour (4 hr.)
    • Lecture on “Intercultural Communication” (2 hr.)
    • Lecture on “Life with an Italian family”(2 hr.)
    • Mid-term discussion (3 hr.)
    • Preparatory lecture (2 hr.) and study trip to Venice (two days). Visit to: Santa Maria dei Frari church, Ponte di Rialto, Piazza and Basilica of San Marco.

    Three questions exam on Venice (1 hr. and half)

    History of Art

    Renaissance Art in Parma and Northern Italy:

    Correggio, Parmigianino and their influence on Italian Art

    Sample Syllabus 

    Lesson 1: (2 hr.)

    Historical introduction: Italy in the Renaissance time

    The concept of Renaissance: meaning and philosophy


    Hersey, G., The Liberation of Italy. From High Renaissance Art in Italy, Chicago Press

    Lesson 2: (2 hr.)

    The “bottega”. The artist workshop. Civic and religious patronage


    Welch, E., Part I: Artistic Enterprises. Materials and Method. The Organization of Art, and Part II: Sites of Devotion. From Art in Renaissance Italy 1350-1500, Oxford University Press

    Lesson 3: (2 hr.)

    Renaissance Florence: The Medici family and the guilds.

    The great Florentine Renaissance works: Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo

    Preparation to study trip to Florence


    From: Paoletti J.T. –Radke G.M, Art in Renaissance Italy, Laurence King

    Florence I: Civic and Guild Commissions as Expressions of the New Republic: Decoration for the Cathedral; The Competition for the Second Baptistery Doors; Ghiberti versus Brunelleschi; Brunelleschi’s Dome; The Strozzi Chapel,  pp. 176-199

    Florence: Civic and Personal Commissions under the Medici: The Gates of Paradise; Civic Imagery; The Tomb of Leonardo Bruni; The Medici; Donatello’s Bronze David and Judith and Holofernes,  pp. 216-232

    The Myth of the State; Restructuring Civic Space: The Uffizi, pp. 397-398

    Sandro Botticelli and the Neo-Platonism of the Medici, pp. 15-39, from: B. Santi, Botticelli, 1991

    Lesson 4&5: TRIP TO FLORENCE (two days): Uffizi museum, Duomo and Baptistery, Piazza della Signoria

    Lesson 6: (2 hr.)

    Correggio: life&works


    Degrazia, D., Correggio and His Legacy, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

    Fornari Schianchi, L., Correggio, Scala Editore

    Lesson 7: (2 hr.)

    Parma on-site visit: Correggio’s frescoes in Parma:

    Camera di S.Paolo, Monastero di S.Giovanni, Cupola del Duomo


    Mendogni, PP., Correggio and St. Paul’s Monastery, PPS Editore

    Art History paper #1 due

    Lesson 8: (2 hr.)

    Mannerism & Parmigianino


    Degrazia, D., Parmigianino, in Correggio and His Legacy, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

    Mannerism, from Encarta Encyclopedia

    Sypher, W., Mannerism, from Four Stages of Renaissance Style, Anchor Books

    Lesson 9: (2 hr.)

    Parma on-site visit: Correggio&Parmigianino panel paintings in the Galleria Nazionale and the Teatro Farnese; Parmigianino’s frescoes in the church of S.Maria della Steccata


    1. Maria della Steccata, from Wikipedia

    Lesson 10:  (3 hr.)

    On-site visit: The castle of Fontanellato

    Parmigianino’s fresco and Parma high Renaissance school


    Parmigianino and the Castle of Fontanellato, Dall’Acqua, M., Rocca Sanvitale, FMR, Editore

    Guadalupi, G.- Ricci, FM., The Room of Parmigianino, FMR Editore

    McIver, K., Love, Death and Mourning: Paola Gonzaga’s Camerino at Fontanellato

    Lesson 11: (3 hr.)

    On – site visit: The castle of Torrechiara

    Lesson 12: (2 hr.)

    Leonardo da Vinci. Life&works. Focus on Milano and “Last Supper”

    Preparation to study trip to Milano


     Paoletti J.T. –Radke G.M., Santa Maria delle Grazie. Leonardo da Vinci. Madonna of the Rocks. Leonardo at Ludovico’s Court. Epilogue: Milan under Foreign Rule. From Art in Renaissance Italy, Laurence King


    Visit to: Castello Sforzesco museum, Leonardo Da Vinci “Last Supper”, Michelangelo “Pietà Rondanini” 

    Lesson 14: (2 hr.)

    Discussion and wrap-up session

    Art History paper #2 due

    ART HISTORY FINAL EXAM (1 hr. and half)

    (Readings may change and/or updated)

  • Family Stays
    Amelia Abramson '16 and host family
    Amelia Abramson ’16 and host family

    Students live with families for the entire program except on study trips.

    The heart of the Pitzer Exchange in Italy program is being a full member of an Italian family with all its privileges and responsibilities. Through your family, you have the best opportunity to be incorporated into the social fabric of the local community. You witness the real rather than the theoretical culture and, as a consequence, come closer to knowing what it means to be Italian. Most families speak little or no English, though younger family members may be studying English in school. They usually live in apartments with amenities similar to those of an American middle class home. You will find there is less privacy than you may be used to and that there is the expectation that you will spend time with the family. Host families may be located in central areas or outside the town of Parma. Our criteria of selection are primarily based on family’s willingness to open their homes to our students making them feel as members of the family.

  • Study Trips

    To deepen students’ understanding of topics covered in the core course, students visit important sites in the city of Parma and participate in study trips to Venice and Florence.  In Florence, students spend two days exploring the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria and the Uffiizi Museum.

    Venice study trip Spring 15
    Venice study trip spring 2015
  • Meet the Directors

    Professoressa Franca Mora
    Director, Pitzer in Italy

    Director of the program since the beginning of the program in Spring 1992 and Legal Representative of Pitzer College in Italy, Franca Mora is one of the founders of the program, recognized by the Italian Ministry of Education. 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
    Acting Director, Pitzer in Italy

    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).