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Study in Arezzo


All students take three 4-credit courses, which are taught in English, one 4-credit Italian Language course, and an additional 2-credit Culture course implying a direct involvement in a variety of practical experiences. Language instruction is geared to meet the needs of beginning, intermediate, and advanced students. See below for course descriptions.



Monuments of Ancient Italy: History, Structure, and Form

IT 233/AH 226/CLA 223 (2 credits) Instructor: Renato Perucchio


This intensive course is intended to give an introduction to Roman buildings and construction techniques through a multidisciplinary approach. History, architectural expression, structural layout, and construction of ancient buildings will be discussed in order to develop the capacity to look at archaeological remains with a deeper understanding of their physical aspects.

Roman Architecture and Engineering represent one of the most outstanding achievements of past civilizations. Roman architectural expression, structural form, and building technology influenced Western architecture until the inception of Modernity, when a new technology based on the use of steel and reinforced concrete brought radical changes to the structural forms and the loss of a millenary tradition.

Traditional building techniques and structural understanding were perfected over the centuries by means of experimentation, whose successful results were then handed down from generation to generation. Starting from the Greek construction, based on dry masonry and the "post and lintel" structural principle, the Romans developed a revolutionary building technology, which made use of mortared masonry and then pozzolanic concrete, making possible the development of innovative structural forms such as gigantic vaults and domes.

Buildings will be analyzed both for their architectural values but also as the result of a process which took advantage of the available building materials and building technology in a specific historical, political and geographical context.


This is a two-credit course with no pre-requisites. The course is self-contained.


The Course material will be covered at the very beginning of the UR-Arezzo program during the Grand Tour, a 12-day journey of study on location focused on the area of Rome and Naples.

In Rome, Ostia, Naples, Pompeii, Baia, Pozzuoli, and Paestum Roman architecture and engineering and Roman urbanism, and their relationship with the Greek and Hellenistic world will be discussed. The use of mortared rubble and pozzolanic concrete, and the arched and vaulted construction they made possible will be the main focus. The lessons will touch the following topic:

  • Basic notions of statics and structural engineering as related to masonry buildings;
  • building and construction techniques showing how materials were selected and assembled to obtain structures sufficiently resistant to address the architectural programs;
  • civil engineering developments in water management, communication and infrastructures;
  • mechanical engineering used for lifting machines, tooling machines and mechanical components;
  • architectural design of private and public architecture;
  • urban design for city planning.


A crucial component of the course are the on-site visits. The learning strategy is based on developing the skills to understand Greek and Roman construction. Students will have:

  • Class lessons, where the main theoretical questions will be addressed, including an overview of the historical context of the building programs.
  • Field lessons on the archaeological sites where relevant buildings will be selected for each visit.
  • Buildings will be analyzed on site to highlight their location, their architecture and building techniques, the structural layout, the way they were built, and how and why they eventually suffered structural damage. Students will be asked to contribute to the discussion of the topics examined.

The Age of Dante and Beyond: Art, Literature, and History in the Aretine Territory

IT 244/AH 244 (4 credits) Instructors: Alessandra Baroni, Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio

This course is a collaborative and interdisciplinary project realized in tandem by Alessandra Baroni and Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio. Its objective is threefold. The first objective is to introduce students to the history of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art in the geographical, historical, artistic, and anthropological context provided by the Tuscan territory and, for the sake of comparison, by other major centers of Italian art like Rome and Venice.

The second objective is to teach students how to analyze a work of art and recognize its iconographic tradition (e. g. the canonical attributes for the identification of the Evangelists and other Saints) or the meaning behind symbols (such as the cross); its style (the typical features of a Sienese artist versus a Florentine or a Venetian one); its materiality (the artistic techniques and the materials employed), and its multiple functions and uses (e. g. jewelry, reliquaries, stained glass windows etc.). The city of Arezzo, with its wealth of exemplary and acclaimed artistic masterpieces and landmarks—such as the reliquary of Saint Donato, Cimabue’s painted Cross, the fresco cycle by Piero della Francesca, Vasari’s private archive and house (Museo Casa Vasari)—is an ideal laboratory in which the above goals can be met by focusing on specific objects in their original locations, still performing their original function.

The third objective is to show how in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, art, literature, and spirituality intersect and interact with one another. The figure who best represents medieval spirituality and one who sets in motion a new development in both figurative arts and vernacular literature is Saint Francis of Assisi. For this reason, the Saint and the order he founded have a central role in our course as a nodal point of connection between the part led by Alessandra Baroni and the one led by Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio. In the unit on Dante, Boccaccio, and the Aretine territory, we study Saint Francis in the Divine Comedy and we put him in his territorial context the way Dante did. A privileged place for our purpose is La Verna, the first Franciscan sanctuary founded by Francis himself in 1216, and fundamental center for Renaissance art. Here Andrea Della Robbia and his followers were appointed between the XV and the XVI century to make sixteen glazed terracotta sculptures whose technique, colors, and subjects perfectly represent Franciscan theology and spirituality. Continuing with Dante as our guide, this part of the course focuses on some fundamental moments of the political history of Florence and Arezzo such as the war between Guelphs and Ghibellines that Dante experienced as a protagonist and depicted as a poet-narrator. Once again this implies visits to historical locations whose relevance is both artistic and literary such as the Cathedral of Arezzo and the castles of the Counts Guidi of Poppi and Romena in the Casentino Valley. The castle of Poppi, in which Dante was hosted during his exile and wrote a portion of his Comedy, houses the Rilliana Library with its extraordinary collection of illuminated medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and old masters’ prints.

Tying literature, history and art—in this case the art of illumination and printing—the instructors address here the theme of the transmission of ancient culture through the manuscripts. A final, short portion of the course takes into consideration the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, another great Trecentista and vernacular narrator connected to our territory, whose work, as much as Dante’s, nourished a vast iconographic tradition. We conclude the course by discussing Botticelli’s depiction of the banquet of Nastagio degli Onesti (Decameron V,viii), and his famous illustrations of the Divine Comedy.

Observational Documentary and Intercultural Communication

IT 228/HIS 233/CLT 207C (4 credits) Instructor: Federico Siniscalco

Albert Maysles, a founding father of American Direct Cinema, maintained that making documentary films is a way of helping to create a better world. According to Maysles, documentary allows people of different cultures to come to know one another on a deeper level and helps to avoid misunderstanding that often degenerates in conflict, intolerance and violence. Today, thanks to the digital revolution, filming is widely available (many successful documentaries have been produced with nothing more than a simple smart phone). The abundance of technology, however, is not enough to guarantee successful outcomes. Most casual video making is often of little value and usually of interest only to the people directly involved with it. Acquiring a basic grammar of documentary filmmaking can make the difference.

The English 19th Century art critic John Ruskin would say that only when one sketches an artwork does he or she really see and understand it. Today we can substitute a video camera for the pencil and notepad. Creating a documentary film will enable the students to see and understand Italy and its culture in a unique way.

The course aims to introduce students to the history of the documentary film and to some major issues in intercultural communication as well as offer hands-on experience in documentary film production. In the historical survey of the special emphasis will be given to Italian documentaries; this will enable the students to become acquainted with certain aspect of contemporary Italy as they have been represented by documentary filmmakers.

In the production segment of the course the UR students will work together with a group of Italian students attending my Digital Media Studies course at the University of Siena - Arezzo campus. The UR students will be engaged in producing short documentaries on some aspects of the culture surrounding them, such as the Aretine antiques fair, or the worshiping of the Madonna del Conforto, as seen from the point of view of a foreigner visiting the city. Throughout the three phases of documentary filmmaking (pre-production, production, and post-production) a strong interaction between the foreign and the local students will be encouraged, during which the intercultural communication process will be strengthened. At the end of the semester there will be a final general screening of the films created both by the UR and the University of Siena students.

The documentary filmmaking technique which the students will be adopting is inspired by American Direct Cinema, which believed in a non-invasive, minimalistic, observational approach to filming: no extra lights, no tripods, small unobtrusive cameras, no re-enactments. For this reason students are encouraged to bring their own equipment, which can be as minimalist as a smartphone. The final editing will be done on locally available Macs and Final Cut Pro software, though the students may use their own computers and software if they prefer.

Italian Language: Elementary Italian

IT 111 (4 Credits) 

Italian Language: Accelerated Italian

IT 153 (4 Credits) 


“Il corso intende portare lo studente a contatto con la lingua vera, quando possibile attraverso materiali autentici; arricchire il lessico; far riflettere sulla lingua leggendo ed ascoltando in modo attivo con la guida dell’insegnante; presentare aspetti della cultura italiana.

I testi e gli ascolti proposti contengono sicuramente parole ed espressioni sconosciute e a prima vista difficili. Ciò non deve creare ansia o scoraggiare: da solo lo studente dovrà arrivare alla comprensione generale; le parole ed espressioni nuove da ricordare compariranno nelle attività di riflessione e saranno oggetto di attività da svolgere in collaborazione con i compagni: lo scopo è che gli studenti imparino insieme, grazie all’aiuto reciproco.”

  • Comprehension: students will gain understanding of oral and written material on a variety of topics, ranging from standard phrases (questions, commands, and courtesy formulae) to include increasingly elaborate topics such as personal routine, taste and hobbies, family, fashion and cinema. Students will be able to acquire key information in the listening and reading of authentic material describing present and past events, presented clearly and supported by pertinent vocabulary. Their understanding will grow to include standard Italian conversations, presented in a clearly audible (and occasionally slowed) speech, in a variety of familiar subjects.
  • Production and interaction: students will be able to engage in conversations on a variety of real-life situations regarding familiar subjects, to respond to open-ended questions and initiate communication on these topics. They will be able to give and follow directions, instructions and commands. Students will be able to debate in small groups on a specific topic. Skills in mono-directional oral presentation will also increase. Writing skills will focus on both present and past events, personal experiences, school and work situations, as well as brief messages.
  • Linguistic structures: subject and object pronouns, articles, adjectives, present indicative and imperative, irregular and reflexive verbs. The passato prossimo and imperfetto, passato remoto, trapassato remoto and trapassato remoto as well as future semplice and future anteriore tenses will be covered, allowing students to expand their grammatical knowledge acquired in their previous studies.


The teaching method used is based on a communicative approach.  You will be working in groups, pairs and individually.

Students are encouraged to:

  • share responsibility for their own learning;
  • show respect for one another, the teacher and other staff;
  • participate actively in class and respond positively to the challenge of language learning;

Learning is based on co-operation with fellow students. Classes will be conducted in Italian in order to help students think and react in Italian.

Italian Culture in Context and On-going Orientation in Arezzo

IT 150 (2 credits) Instructor: Donna Logan

Living and studying for a semester in a foreign country, in a foreign language, far from the comforts and services of the home campus can prove to be remarkably challenging to the undergraduate student. Without active cultural mediation, a student may find themself feeling alienated in an unfamiliar setting. That feeling can influence and hinder the students’ abilities to understand their host culture and reap the benefits of their study abroad experience.

This 2-credit course aims at guiding the student through the differences of life in a small, Tuscan city from that at the UR campus. Pre-program activities and reading assignments are made two-months prior to arriving in Italy in preparation of each individual ‘journey.’  Students are encouraged to keep journals and are required to attend regularly scheduled meetings as well as travel together to places of interest. These afford opportunities to share experiences that form integral elements in our on-going discussions on cultural differences. An initial focus on non-verbal cultural cues that are dissimilar to those in the US is followed and developed into learning how to travel and visit cultural centers as the educated traveller and not the consuming tourist.