Centennial Program in Poppi, Italy

Dante in Poppi 2024: Art, Language and Food Culture in the Manuscripts of the Rilliana’s Library

This summer program will run from June 16 to July 13, and have a maximum of 20 students.

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Project Description

An exterior view of Dante's castle in Poppi, Italy.

The aim of this project is to offer students a full immersion into the medieval history, culture, and language through an in-depth study of Tuscan food tradition. The program will consist of several academic learning and experiential workshops to complement this aim, including a study of architecture and art, history of ancient manuscripts, and earlier printed books that are preserved in the Castle of the Counts Guidi and the Rilliana collection. Formal instruction will also include seminars on the history of Tuscan cookbooks, utensils, food, and communication media.

The project is structured over four weeks. It will include general training on the main topics of the course during morning classes (9 a.m.-12:20 p.m.) and both beginner and advanced Italian language classes during afternoon learning labs (2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.). The courses will also cover Medieval history, the history of manuscripts and books, as well as art history in Tuscany. You can see a complete schedule, including activities, on the 2024 Dante in Poppi schedule (PDF).

Student Activities

Students in this program will have a chance to reside at the Counts Guidi Castle in Poppi, located in the Casentino Valley, 30 kilometers from Arezzo, Tuscany. This famous castle, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in the late thirteenth century, belonged to the Counts Guidi of Tuscany. The castle overlooks Campaldino, the field of the memorable 1289 battle between Florentine Guelfs and Aretine Ghibellines in which Dante himself took part. It is also one of the places where Dante spent time as a host of the same noble family during his subsequent exile from Florence and where he is likely to have written Canto V of Purgatorio. Today the castle is home to the Rilliana Library, one of the richest Italian collections of medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and fifteenth century printed books, along with a comprehensive historical archive pertaining local history since the Middle Ages.

Students will also get to participate in a workshop held by professional chefs where they will learn about ancient cookbooks of the Rilliana Library. During the workshop students will familiarize themselves with the Italian food terminology and cooking practices described in the ancient manuscripts.

Classes and workshops will alternate with visits to the main sector farms and companies in the area, including the ‘Mausolea’, once the agricultural estate of the Camaldoli hermitage. There, students will also meet with the:

  • Staff of the Casentino Forestry Corps (land protection)
  • Consortium for the Protection of Tuscan IGP Extra-Virgin Oil

Visits to Camaldoli, Arezzo, Florence and Siena are also planned by public transportation and private busses. Participants will be operating in conjunction with the Comune di Poppi (city administration) and the Biblioteca Rilliana (city library).

Study and analysis of the 18th-early 19th century handwritten cookbook written by the “Tuscan Anonymous” (Ms 567) will be the core of experiential labs at the Rilliana Library. Here, students will be involved in an object-based study that includes an analysis of the Italian language, vocabulary, and materiality of the manuscript under examination. Specific readings and language instruction will be overseen by the project director, Professor Murano, and associate director, Dr. Baroni). Students will also receive a historical introduction on Poppi and the artistic, cultural, and architectural features of the surrounding territory, complemented by organized visits to other locations relevant to Dante and the Counts Guidi in Casentino.

Students will also participate in weekly conversation with Italian students, and visits to historical locations:

  • Weekly conversation with Italian Students
    • Swimming pool day
    • Spectacular meeting with popular Poppi Falconry expert
    • Trekking excursions in Parco Nazionale Foreste Casentinesi
    • Golf club Casentino
  • Visits
    • Visit to the major monuments of Poppi
    • Trip to Camaldoli to visit to the Library of Camaldoli Convent and Hermitage
    • Trip to Arezzo to see medieval and early Renaissance monuments, and explore to the Bartolini collection and the historical archive of the Fraternta dei Laici
    • Trip to Florenze to visit to Museo della Natura Morta, Medicean Villa at Poggio a Caiano
    • Trip to Siena to see the Palalzzo Pubblico Museum and Cathedral


There are two exams in this program:

  1. Italian Language Final Test: This is an exam focused on testing your proficiency in the Italian language.
  2. Final Project: this consists of two parts:
    1. A Final Paper: a research paper about a specific recipe related to the manuscript “Tuscan Anonymous” (Ms 567) from the Rilliana collection.
    2. An oral presentation: a presentation on the same subject as your research paper.

Admission Criteria

Students must be at least 18 years of age. The course is open to students in modern languages and cultures, history, English (digital humanities), art history, religion and classics, and medieval studies.

Apply now!

On-Site Teaching Team

There are two on-site professors for this program:

  • Professor Teresa Murano (University of Rochester faculty), project director
  • Professor Alessandra Baroni (independent scholar), associate director