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Semester Course Catalog

  /  Semester Course Catalog

Students are required to take Italian Language and the Intercultural Dialogue, Democracy and Global Citizenship course.

In a typical semester students choose 2-3 content courses (taught in Italian) depending on home institution requirements and semester track. Students may also choose one of the scientific track courses (taught in English) for their third content course.


(75 total hours) All students, whether beginners, intermediate or advanced, begin their Siena Italian Studies experience with our Three Week Intensive Italian Language Course. After an entrance exam, students are placed in appropriate levels and participate every day in classes and activities designed to develop all linguistic abilities, from the basic (listening, reading, writing, speaking) to the integrated (responding to questions, note-taking, transcodification). A wide variety of teaching materials is used beyond the traditional textbook to allow each student to best identify and develop his or her abilities. Students also interact with the city environment and help to create their own Italian language study materials. Once a week, students and teachers discuss the dynamics of language learning and the teaching methods used.

(8 hrs/week) Following the Three Week Intensive Italian Course, students are placed in the appropriate level and continue to study Italian language 2 hours a day, 4 days a week for the duration of the semester. Classes include a variety activities linked to experiences in the city, student presentations, discussions, videos, quizzes, and writing assignments, as well as the study of specific aspects of Italian grammar. The intermediate and advanced levels provide a complete study of grammatical and communicative structures using materials that are varied in both content and type.

(45 total contact hours) This course will analyze some of the fundamental themes present in Italian literature during the contemporary period:  love, political consciousness, the search for freedom and the creation of an identity.  The themes will be presented through the reading of various passages from such authors as:  Ungaretti, Montale, Saba and Luzi and short stories from authors such including Ginzburg and Moravia. Students will learn how the works are constructed and how language has evolved by comparing one author to another and discussing the themes presented.

(45 total contact hours) The course will analyze a theme that has been a foundation of Italian literature from the medieval period to the contemporary one:  the love story, with the woman often considered as an angel and inspirational muse.  This theme will be presented through the reading of some of the most poetic works, from Dante to Saba, and from Petrarch to Montale.  This reflection will also be accompanied by the study of some pieces by modern and contemporary authors on the existential crises of the modern man, from Pirandello to Calvino, from Svevo to Tabucchi.


(45 total contact hours) This course is dedicated to exploring the history of Costume in Italy over the centuries, with examples from major works of art from the classical Roman world to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, arriving to the Futurist oddities of the Twentieth century, bringing together art, history, culture and fashion. Museum and gallery visits will be an integral part of the course. Students will observe these trends in paintings and frescoes in museums such as the Museo Civico and Pinacoteca in Siena and the Uffizi Gallery, as well as a visit to the Galleria del Costume in Florence.

(45 total contact hours) This course offers students a journey through the rich pageant of Medieval and Renaissance art and culture. The student will be given important resources with which to understand and appreciate more fully the works of art produced in central Italy from the mid-13th to the mid-15th centuries. We will look closely at the way in which changing styles in art reflected contemporary history and cultural attitudes. With powerpoint presentations and visits to museums, churches and other places of historical or artistic interest in and around Siena and Florence, this course offers the students every opportunity to place their studies from the classroom in context and to see original works by the great masters.

(45 total contact hours) On March 17, 1861 the Italian Parliament convened for the first time. That date, symbolic of Italy’s unification, could also be taken as the beginning of the long process which ended in the creation of a government and a nation. Through the analysis of the most significant periods of Nineteenth and Twentieth century Italian history (the Unification, Birth of the Sovereignty, the Great War, Fascism, the Second World War, the Resistance, the Constitution of the Republic, and ultimately, the creation of the European Union), we will trace the profound social, political, and economic transformations that changed the face of the population and its sense of national identity through over 150 years of history.

(45 total contact hours) This course introduces students to the panorama of Italian culture through the study of its traditions, rites, celebrations and beliefs, which form the basis of the historical and social evolution of Italian identity. Students first become familiar with methodological and conceptual instruments and then apply them to the specific situation of Tuscany and Siena in particular. By looking at celebrations and manifestations including the famous Palio we can observe social, public, secular and religious orders present in cultural legends and traditions that contribute to the formation of the Sienese identity. We also examine perceptions of identity in relationship to foreigners and tourists and the interactions of ‘outside’ cultures with the city of Siena. Visits and excursions are an integral part of the course and include: the contradas and contrada museums of Siena, the Bottini (underground water system), the Museo della Mezzadria (museum dedicated to peasant life and the local share-cropping system) and typical celebrations linked to the grape harvest and winemaking, and other seasonal harvests.

(40 total contact hours) This course aims to introduce the students to the multifaceted aspects of contemporary Italian, namely through its various axes of variation which are: time, geographical space, communication context, social extraction of the speakers, means of communication. Further discussion will concern simplified varieties of Italian, especially baby talk, Italian spoken by foreign immigrants in Italy and Italian spoken by Italian emigrants abroad. Theoretic analyses and discussions will be supported by literary passages, written and oral samples of several varieties (excerpts from movies, TV programs, etc.), student’s independent research for information, fieldwork activities in the Sienese territory.

(45 total contact hours) The objective of this course is to contribute to the students’ cultural foundation while encouraging them to reflect upon the contribution that Christianity, as a phenomenon, has given to the cultural development of Italy. In order to allow for a clear comprehension of how the events of Christianity have affected the cultural aspects of Italian history, we will accompany the student on a brief but complete voyage through the centuries until today, with the influence of religion from an art historical point of view (religious iconography like the Biblia pauperum), a literary point of view (a synthetic profile of Italian ‘Christian’ literature), as well as a popular point of view (the sacred element that ancient festivals and local traditions held until modern secularization).

(45 total contact hours) The history of Italian emigration speaks of the 26 million Italians that left their country in various periods between 1861 and 1975. The legacy of moral and civil values that these Italians brought with them greatly contributed to the development of their adopted countries around the world. Latin America was the first destination of emigrants outside of Europe, while North America was the recipient of the highest numbers of emigrants during the second wave of emigration.

Over time, communities of Italian origin integrated themselves into the social fabric of the Americas until they became an essential and lively part, not only of the culture and economy, but also of the political realities of these countries. Numerous Italian immigrants became noteworthy figures in politics, such as members of parliament and presidents, while others distinguished themselves in the arts, sciences and professional sports of their new countries.

This course has the objective of reconstructing historic, socioeconomic, and political premises from which Italian emigration resulted in the Americas while identifying geographic areas of emigration and following the integration process of Italians in these areas. The course will have a bilateral approach: it will examine both the impact of Italian culture on the Americas and the influence that the American continent, with its millions of immigrants, has had and continues to have on Italian reality today.

(45 total contact hours) This course explores Medieval art and culture, offering students the critical tools with which to analyze, understand and appreciate more fully the works of art produced in Western Europe from the Fall of the Roman Empire (V century) to the Birth of the Renaissance (XV century). We will explore the development of Medieval Art form Early Christian Art, to Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic Art; Architecture, Sculpture and Painting will be examined, by considering them in their proper historical and cultural context. We will look closely at the way in which changing styles in art reflected contemporary history and cultural attitudes. With powerpoint presentations and also visits to museums, churches and other places of historical or artistic interest in and around Siena and Florence, this course give the students every opportunity to place their studies from the classroom in context and to see works by the great masters in the original.

(45 total contact hours) This course aims to present the main historical events that defined Italian history from the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 BC) to the Peace of Lodi (1454) that, for Italy, signified the transformation from the Medieval Period to the Modern Period. The syllabus outlines the study of the historic events linked to the political, religious and social contexts of the ever-changing Italian reality without ignoring the essential European panorama in which Italy is located. Additionally, more specific themes will also be explored that will offer more cultural context to the historical chronology of facts. There will also be several excursions to relevant points of interest during the course.

  • (45 total contact hours) This course examines the economic, cultural and artistic mechanisms that brought on the Renaissance culture in Tuscany. Students will study the rhetoric of power and politics in the economy during the Renaissance period, and how the arts were influenced by the economic climate, providing ties and reflections on those of today.

The part dedicated to Politics (Power) and Greed will analyse the distribution and the concentration of power and economic resources from the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Era, when the Renaissance flourished in Italy, and more specifically in Tuscany. We will concentrate on the evolution of the Italian peninsula from the City-States of the Middle Ages to the regional states of modern Italy, examining civil and religious power, as well as the crucial role of the city in political, social, economic and cultural transformations. A specific focus will be given to the political and economic relationship between Siena and Florence, from the birth of their rivalry as independent city-states to the creation of the Granduchy of Toscana. Visits will be organised to important economic and political centres of the time, such as the headquarters of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank and Siena’s State Archives.

The part of this course that is dedicated to the arts intends to analyze the social and cultural situation of Renaissance Italy with a specific attention to Florence, the birthplace of Humanism and  the Renaissance: lessons will be dedicated to the geography of Humanism, the birth of the Academies, the description of the Renaissance courts and the role of the arts (literature, painting, sculpting and music) within the courtesan society. Visits will be organised to places that were an important part of Renaissance culture: Medici Palace, Palazzo Pitti or Uffizi Museum in Florence; in Siena, the Duomo and the Chigiana Academy.

(45 total contact hours) This course is meant to trace the history of Italian cooking from the Etruscan era to today through the description of recipes, recipe books, ingredients, changes in taste and different ways of eating, over the various centuries. Particular emphasis is given to the historical and linguistic dimensions of our peninsula’s resources, to the regional variations of the so-called “Italian” cooking and to the history and the characteristics of Tuscan cooking in particular; some observations will concern the anthropological and symbolic aspects of food and of eating as part of a community. Classes are organized in an interactive way: students are continuously asked to read and discuss, reflect and taste. The course includes an integral out-of-class element. Students are required to participate in excursions that involve visits and tastings at cheese, ham and olive oil producing farms as well as wineries in Tuscany, visits to museums such as the Chocolate Museum in Perugia and the Museo della Mezzadria agricultural museum. In addition, students will participate in two hands-on cooking lessons. Readings for this course include historic, contemporary and regional cookbooks, as well as historical and sociological texts and articles. Students are asked to complete written exams and oral presentations as well as a research paper that focuses on a topic of choice.

This course combines structured and guided reflection with fundamental issues that characterize today’s world both in a global and a local perspective. Students are invited and led to reflect on the ever-changing challenges that await them as future global citizens.

The course opens with a historical and philosophical discussion about the paradigm of hospitality and its corollaries guiding students to reflect and ponder on how this paradigm has been changing in recent times. It leads students through the understanding of the concept of otherness and includes a brief overview on human rights. It goes on with discussing the history of European institutions and Europe’s efforts to spread the concept of intercultural dialogue and deeply analyzes the most recent European outcomes in terms of democracy protection and democratic competences development.

Reflection in the course is carried out thanks to the discussion of cultural topics that reveal their inner meanings and deepness when put into the right perspective.

The aim of this course is to empower engaged global citizens with the necessary knowledge and skills, and with a reflective attitude that will allow them to open to the world without getting lost, to discover the confines of their own culture, to see reality from different perspectives and to feel common ties of humanity under the flow of apparent differences.

This course will have as its primary focus the presentation and analyses of the XXI century’s many expressions and manifestations of a new diversity within the Italian context. Going beyond the tradition of Italian Studies as the cradle of humanities, SIS faculty offers this interdisciplinary course that highlights the transformations and challenges of Italian society and the many diverse cultural expressions they bring about. The overall aim of this new approach to Italian Studies is to avoid reducing these studies to a “stereotypical” paradigm. The course will stem from the concept of diversity that has been and is developing and transforming in the European context (both internationally and locally), while highlighting differences with the North American perspective.

The interdisciplinary course will be fully integrated with experiential and reflective education as well as service-learning, integral to the overall course offerings at SIS.

The coursework will touch upon the following topics throughout the term: Literature, Cinema/TV & Music produced by “New Italians”, Social transformations regarding gender, The evolving languages of diversity ie. gender inclusive language and expressing diversity in Italian language, as well as diversity in the Italian language itself, integration and inclusion practices.


The course analyzes the modern and contemporary history of this country through its music (melodies, voices, lyrics, traditional dances, socio-historical and political context). Original songs coming from different areas of Italy will be first analyzed from a linguistic point of view; then they will be contextualised into the socio-political framework that generated them.

(45 total contact hours) This course focuses on the most important Italian cinematic movement, Neo-realism, and includes discussion of the practical aspects of filmmaking. In the first part of the course, we watch and discuss the principle neo-realist films, presenting the historical period and overviews of each director’s production while analyzing structure, storyline, protagonists, etc.
The second part concentrates on the masterpieces of one of the great Italian directors, Luchino Visconti. After learning about the main characteristics of his work and comparing him to other important Italian directors like Fellini and Antonioni, we analyze, compare and contrast his most significant films. During the course, we will discuss themes relating to the planning and realization of films, including screenwriting, acting and cinematography. In addition, students may participate in seminars offered by Italian directors currently working in the film industry in Rome.
Students are asked to write two short papers during the course. Films are shown in Italian and accompanied by the instructor’s explanations.

(45 total contact hours) This course aims to stimulate the personal creativity of each student, allowing them to express themselves through their artistic notions. During the semester, students will develop aesthetic sensibility through their interpretations of contemporary Tuscan society, and of Sienese society in particular. The student will also be made familiar with local artistic culture through visits and guest lectures featuring local artisans. Students will work with various artistic materials and in various genres in the creation of a series of projects that will then be displayed at the conclusion of the semester. The course is designed to inspire admiration for originality or contemporary works, as well as the value of historical works in their respective contexts.


(45 total contact hours) This course is designed for students who are interested business and legislative Italian language and aims to provide students with the basic vocabulary and professional expressions that are most often used in Italian business and legal interactions. After identifying the basic technical vocabulary and expressions, the student is helped to assimilate them through targeted exercises and discussions. Throughout the course, students will also discuss various aspects of the business and legislative structures in Italy as well as visit various local offices and conduct interviews with relevant figures.

(45 total contact hours) The course aims to show the student a more ethical and solidarity-based “use” of finance, which today no longer corresponds to the “moral” sense of market economy but is too often seen in the speculative sense instead of a motor of real economy. Through a general historic overview on the birth of economy and finance, tracing the foundations and the main objectives of banks (the bank of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, for example, was one of the first banks ever founded), we’ll arrive at studying the corrective measures that can be taken to counteract credit aberrations through visits to and lessons on “ethical” structures that have the specific objective to assist, finance and support the people and the ideas for which profit is not the only goal of market economy.

This course focuses on the challenges posed by globalization and the global economic, political, cultural and social environment where economic actors operate,  the process of European regional economic integration,  and the COVID-19 Pandemic effects on international business patterns.

A general part will concentrate on the actors of international business (multinational corporations, Governments, International Organizations), with a focus on liberalization of trade, the role of the World Trade Organization, the discipline of tariffs and other measures of international trade regulation, and the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Trade and development.

A specific part will be devoted to an experience of regional economic integration through the creation of the European Union: after a brief historical overview, the economic competences and the role of the European Union in the global economy will be examined.

A third part will be devoted to the analysis of specific case studies related to the international dimension and patterns of the Italian wine and food industry.  

The course aims to examine the development of accounting in the Italian context and in the European Union. The course content will cover the period from the Middle Ages until the current days, affording also some specific sub-areas such as Accounting History, Accounting & Banks and Accounting & Art.
The topic will be extended also to international accounting and it will be focused on the analysis of the processes of standardization and harmonization and the introduction of the IAS/IFRS in the European Union.

A large portion of the lessons will be devoted to international accounting institutions and particularly to the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). The course will examine the rules issued by the European Union to endorse the IFRS.

The course uses interactive methods aimed at transmitting skills, abilities and attitudes which encourage learning and teamwork.


This course is principally designed for undergraduate students studying Italian as a foreign language that have an interest in Cell Biology. A background in Biology is desirable although the syllabus targets individuals with little or no knowledge of the subject. The course is focused on basic aspects of Cell Biology ranging from a study of cell structure, function and molecular organization, while learning about the tradition of science and the school of medicine in Siena and its relevance in the social background of this ancient city.

As part of the program will explore basic aspects of Plant Biology, during some of the lectures, on-site visits to the Dept of Plant Biology and the Botanic Garden will be organized; On-site visits will also be organized to the Museum of Natural History of the old Accademia dei Fisiocritici and to the famous Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala;

The final objective of the course is to enable students to confidently and creatively express principal ideas and scientific concepts in the target language. Lessons are primarily held in Italian (target language). At the beginning of each new topic, a portion of the lesson will aim to build up the new vocabulary in order to facilitate lessons. However, more complex readings might be done in English and coupled with comprehension activities in the target language to balance the learning process that will be regularly monitored with specifically designed class activities.

The objective of this course is to acquire an awareness of scientific skills and attitudes, while developing a critical interpretation of theoretical concepts on the field.This course will provide the students with general knowledge of pharmaceutical principles but the main aim is to apply them on the job with different types of simulations. We will accompany the student on a brief but complete voyage through the pharmaceutical world within the Siena city network. Particular focus will be on the influence of the historical background of Siena (Sclavo/Novartis pharmaceutical company), as well as Siena’s famous artistic and naturalistic patrimony. An important aim of the course is to present the typical scientific life experience, attempting to create a personal and critical view of the pharmaceutical world. In their personal journals, students will elaborate their judgment, developing ideas, doubts, and thoughts to be discussed in classroom at the beginning of each lesson for a dedicated time.

The course aims to direct the students into the set of problems relevant to Italian archaeological research in order to obtain theoretical knowledge of the methodological and technical fundamentals of Archaeology. The contribution of the scientific disciplines to archaeological studies (geomorphology, sedimentology, paleobotanics, zooarchaeology and so on) and methods of collecting, quantification and documentation of the archaeological finds will be described. The course focuses on the studies carried out by the Research Unit of Prehistory and Anthropology of Siena. This institution has been involved for many years in the investigations of the earliest migration of Homo sapiens into southern Europe and of the replacement of the Neanderthal by the Anatomical Modern Human. To the students attending the course will be offered the possibility to visit the laboratories of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Physical Sciences of University of Siena.

The World Health Organization has recently shown that about 80% of the world
population uses plants as a main, if not exclusive, source of therapeutics. This course aims to guide students in the acquisition of the basic elements of phytotherapy.
Phytotherapy is the branch of medicine that studies the use of medicinal plants capable of producing a pharmacological effect. With this regard, the city of Siena hosts innovative research institutes such as the seat of the National Society of Phytotherapy (S.I.Fit – Societa’ Italiana di Fitoterapia) as well as museums and academies of renowned traditions such as the Academy of Sciences (Accademia dei Fisiocritici) and the Botanical Gardens of the University of Siena. During the course students will learn about the main plant- based active ingredients, as well as the methods utilized for their extraction and their effects on the organism through theoretical lessons and simple lab activities carried out inside the research or museum sites. Special attention will be given to the description of the common uses of the plant extracts and to their examination from a scientific perspective.

Within the region of Tuscany one can find all of the three main climates and environments most common of the Italian peninsula: the typical Mediterranean coastline, grasslands and valleys of a more continental character and the Apennine peaks with a mountain climate. Numerous and diverse are the animal and plant species that are found in these areas. Within the city of Siena there are academic institutions and museums that represent a true “window” which opens onto the Tuscany territory. The frontal lessons of this class will serve to give the student a general picture of the common flora and fauna of Italy, which will then be further illustrated through practical activities included in the course.

In these practical sessions the student will be introduced in the activities of a research center or a museum, actively participating in the consultation and even the preparation and management of the naturalistic collections.

This course will analyze the main issues related to Sustainable Development, based on the idea that no growth process can be considered authentically sustainable without considering the interactions between the evolution of the economic system and the evolution of the natural environment. Only after a careful analysis of traditional economic theory, of ethical issues and of the contributions of ecology and thermodynamics, will it be possible to define the importance of safeguarding the stock of natural capital and the need for a transition from the traditional approach linked to the concept of growth to the new approach oriented towards sustainable development. We will also briefly present the international debate, both in official institutions, such as the UN (with UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals) and the European Union, and in civil society. Everything will be seen in a positive light, thanks also to the presentation of the case studies of Siena and Tuscany, taken as a feasible and exportable example of a virtuous relationship between community and territory. In this analysis we will try to clearly highlight the three economic functions of the environment: that of a supplier of resources, that of a receiver of waste and that of a direct source of utility. An important sustainability indicator, the Ecological Footprint, will also be presented with the aim of measuring the sustainability of our economy on the basis of the study of the impacts it causes on the environment. The course will be completed by excursions, service-learning activities, visits and meetings with important local organizations that will present us with studies, projects and good practices present in our territory.