Rich in history and culture, with a singular place in the development of Western art and high profile design, Italy offers unique perspectives to art and design students. Once divided into small warring principalities, the Italian peninsula still retains regional differences in art, architecture, dialect, and cuisine. Today, Italy faces political questions that reflect the pressures of modern globalization, economy, geopolitics, and migrations from neighboring countries such as the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. These multi-ethnic forces are rapidly redrawing the cultural and political landscape.

Italy: Art & Contemporary Culture

Milan/ Florence/ Rome/ Naples/ Pompeii & Herculaneum

Instructor: Mariella Poli
SF campus: Sat., April 16
Italy: June 8–24, 2016
SF campus: Mon., August 15
SF campus exhibition: two Sundays for installation & de-installation / Tuesday Reception

Check-in: Milan, Wednesday, June 8
Checkout: Naples, Friday, June 24

All class sessions and Fall 2016 Exhibition participation are mandatory.

Interested students should contact Mariella Poli ( to start the approval process for registration.              


Open to all disciplines, but especially relevant to students in Architecture, Sculpture, Furniture, Graphic Design, Media Art, Photography, Fashion Design, and Industrial Design, this program brings together past and present with the Milan 21st Century International Triennale Design After Design Exhibition, Renaissance masters of Florence, ancient to contemporary art and architecture in Rome, and studio practice in Naples with a day trip to Pompeii and Amalfi Coast.

Divided into four sections, the course begins with four days in Milan where students experience the Triennale International Design After Design Exhibition, the first after a twenty-year hiatus. Intermingled with the entire city, the exhibition focuses on the global spread of design skills and the increasingly transversal nature of design with the concomitant breakdown of desciplinary boundaries.

The class also visits the atelier of Colomba Leddi, an innovative fashion designer/teacher at NABA, Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA). We visit foundations and museums, which may include the Prada Foundation, the new Milan venue of Fondazione Prada for the Contemporary Arts, conceived by the architectural firm OMA; Armani/Silos Museum, designed by Tadao Ando; the Fornasetti Foundation, showcasing the work of Piero Fornasetti, a visionary Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator, and engraver; and the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which contains one of the most studied, scrutinized, and satirized paintings in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.

From Milan, the class moves on to Florence and Rome, spending two days in each city to explore past masters from Antiquity to the Baroque. A showcase of Renaissance Humanism, Florence provides such lights as Masaccio, Masolino, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, and Brunelleschi, among others. Rome offers up its deep past with sites ranging from Imperial Rome to the Baroque – and also offers a vibrant contemporary art scene. For a glimpse at modern-day Rome, the class visits MAXXI, designed by Anglo-Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid.

The class concludes with eight days of studio practice in Naples where students explore the culture, vibrant in its multilayered history: from ancient myths to contemporary street graffiti, the anonymous language of Naples' youth.

With 4,000 years of history and culture, Naples is one of the most ancient of European cities. This long, eventful past is preserved in its contemporary urban fabric: the pattern of its streets and wide range of architectural styles. Students visit MADRE Contemporary Art Museum and the Naples National Archeological museum, to view one of the world’s best collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, encompassing sculptures, mosaics, gems, glass, and silver, as well as a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii. They also visit Caravaggio’s most important works in a small church ‘Pio Monte Mesericordia,’ one of Naples most prized possessions.

Coupled with the archeological museum visit is a field trip to Pompeii, accompanied by a historian, and the nearby Amalfi Coast. Destroyed and completely buried by a two-day eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, Pompeii provides an extraordinarily detailed insight into daily city life at the height of the Roman Empire. Recently an area of 60 thousand square meters, with shops, businesses, domus (houses), and all accessible road networks, has been refurbished and open to the public.

In the fall, students present an exhibition of their work from the program at the Center Galleries, San Francisco, requiring participation on two Sundays for installation & take down and the Tuesday reception.

Triennale di Milano »

About the Instructor

Mariella Poli was born in Italy and has exhibited there and internationally, in such venues as the MART, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, in Rovereto; Ca’ Foscari and Studio Barberi Arte Contemporanea in Venice; and Studio La Citta' Gallery in Verona.

Before coming to CCA, she taught at the Studio Art Center International in Florence. Her publications in Italy include: Mart: Nascita  di un Museo (Mondadori Electa), Montecatini (Skira'), Savoy Hotel (Antiga Edizioni), No People No Joey (Edizione Osiride).

With her intimate knowledge of Italy, Poli designed a study-abroad course to Italy in 1996 and has been leading classes there every summer since.

She retains her connections to Italy through collaborative courses with the Naples Second University; University IUAV, Venice; and Art Academy, Bologna. In 2014, she spoke by invitation at an international conference in Rome and taught in a media workshop, Giovani Talenti in Basilicata, in Southern Italy.

Learn more about Mariella Poli »


Undergraduates: Completion of at least sophomore level by summer 2016 and instructor approval
Graduate students: Instructor approval

In addition, all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2015–16 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates, this course satisfies a Studio Elective; or for students who have achieved junior or senior standing by the end of Spring 2016, an Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio; or, by prior arrangement with the instrucotr, 3 credits of Visual Studies Seminar 200 or 300-level Visual Studies Elective.

For graduate students, this course satisfies a Grad-wide Elective.

Program Fee

$4,950 + $50 registration fee

Included in program fee:
3 credits, housing, studio, some material (for site specific installation) breakfast, art historian lectures, entrance fees, local transportation, field trips, and travel/health insurance

Not included in program fee:
Airfare to and from Italy, ground transportation to and from airport in Italy, class reader, lunch, dinner

Related Topics
(Please read in entirety)

All CCA summer study-abroad courses (including the New York Studio) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.


Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs