Summer Abroad in Italy

Urs Fisher at the Arsenale, Venice Biennal 2011

The following course was held in summer 2013. Complete information for Summer Study Abroad 2014 will be posted (dates, descriptions, pricing) by December 20, 2013.

This interdisciplinary course examines the art, culture, and everyday life of Italy, while providing students an opportunity to work in the medium of their choice. The course traces Italian art and culture from the Renaissance to present day as well as contemporary international art hosted in the many museums designed by world famous architects in Rome and Venice.

Italy: Art & Contemporary Culture

Rome / Ravenna / Venice
Instructor: Mariella Poli

SF campus: April 20, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Italy: June 12–26, 2013
SF campus: August 24, noon–3 p.m.

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

Prerequisites | Course Satisfies | Program Fee


After visiting Rome and Ravenna, the class experiences in-depth one of the most prestigious art-world events: The Venice Biennial 2013, encompassing not only the two official historical sites -- Giardini and Arsenale -- but also exhibitions spread all over Venice and its surrounding islands.

While exploring the fabric of specific neighborhoods, participants pursue individual projects that correspond to their experiences and observations. In Rome the class dedicates two days to the urban neighborhood of Prati, adjacent to the Vatican City. Two days are then spent exploring the contrasting provincial life of small-town Ravenna.

The course concludes in Venice, where students visit Giudeca island, the residence of primarily middle-class Venetian families. This lively neighborhood was once industrial, but is now developing a new district of art galleries and five-star hotels.


The course begins with five days in Rome, divided between studio practice and field trips that encompass Imperial Rome; the High Renaissance, such as the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel; and the Baroque, viewing Caravaggio and architectural sites designed by Michelangelo, Bernini, Borromini, and Bramante. The class also experiences contemporary exhibitions in Rome’s two 21st-century art museums: MAXXI and MACRO.

Devoted to the exhibition of contemporary international art and architecture, MAXXI was designed by the Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who integrated the new museum building into the surrounding historical urban fabric. MACRO, designed by the French architects Odile Decq and Benoit Cornette, is a converted 19th-century Peroni brewery. While the brewery's exterior walls were left untouched, its interior was stripped of historical context for a complete embrace of the modernist aesthetic.


Students spend three days in Ravenna, where the concentration is on studio practice. The class dedicates a day to visiting the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna's 1,500-year-old churches: Basilica di San Vitale, Mausoleo di Galla Placida, and Basilica do Sant’ Appolinare Nuovo. Briefly a capital of eastern Rome during its decline, Ravenna was captured by the barbarians, then became the westernmost pillar of the Byzantine Empire in 540 A.D., under Byzantine Emperor Justinian. A pinnacle of civilization in that age, Ravenna was a light in Europe's Dark Ages.


The course concludes with six days in Venice, concentrating mainly on the Art Biennale International Exhibitions (55th Venice Biennale). Since 1895 the Venice Biennale “has been in the avant-garde, promoting new artistic movements and organizing international events in contemporary arts in accordance with a multidisciplinary model which characterizes its unique nature.” Massimiliano Gioni, associate director and star curator at New York's New Museum, has been chosen to curate in 2013.

The class also views among others, the Francois Pinault Contemporary Art Collection at Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi, designed by Japanese architect Tadeo Ando; an exhibition of film and video art, including works by Mircea Cantor, Yang Fudong, Hassan Khan, Shirin Neshat, and Adel Abdessemed; the Emilio Vedova Foundation, Magazzini Del Sale, restored by Renzo Piano; and The Peggy Guggenheim Museum, with its modern collection of painting and garden sculpture from the Surrealist and Futurist movements; and many more.

See updates on the new artists chosen for the Biennale.

Students receive a reader that pertains to museums and historical sites, to which they must respond before they arrive in Italy. Students are also required to participate in a CCA fall exhibition (two Sundays and a Wednesday night reception -- to be announced).


Undergraduates: completion of sophomore level by summer 2013 and instructor approval
Graduates: instructor approval

In addition, all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2012–13 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates, this course satisfies a studio elective; an upper division interdisciplinary studio; or, with prior instructor arrangement, 3 credits of Visual Studies Seminar or a 200- or 300-level Visual Studies elective.

For graduates, this course satisfies a gradwide elective.

Program Fee

$4,650 + $50 summer registration fee

Program fee includes

3 units, housing, studio, breakfast, art historian lectures, museum entrance fees, local transportation, field trips, and travel/health insurance (see insurance)

Program fee does not include

Airfare to and from Italy, class reader, lunch and dinner

Please make sure you read the related links in full:
Financial Aid
Passport, Visa, and Insurance
Code of Conduct

In-person registration begins on Friday, March 1, for all summer study-abroad courses. Students should register no later than Monday, March 25. If spots are available in the course after this date, students may still register as long as accommodations have not been finalized.

All CCA Summer Study Abroad courses (including the New Mexico, New York, and Texas 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