5 Subjects You MUST Study Abroad in Italy

by Danielle DeSimone

Italy has curated a long-standing reputation of excellence in both arts and humanities, rooted in its century-old history as a cultural hub of Western Europe. Today, Italy continues to be a leading force in these fields, making subjects related to arts and humanities great course choices for students studying abroad in Italy.

Furthermore, under the wings of these two broad fields lie five particular subjects, which are fundamental elements of Italian culture, that are ideal for studying in Italy. By studying these subjects in Italy, you will be able to take advantage of your location and learn directly from the Italian way of life; these subjects will effortlessly allow you to connect what you are learning in the classroom with what you experience in your life as a student in Italy.

The leaning tower of Pisa

1. Culinary Arts

Italy’s cuisine is world-famous, making it an excellent country in which to study culinary arts abroad. The stereotype of Italian cooking is that it is solely spaghetti and meatballs, with a side of cannoli’s. But, in reality, Italian cuisine varies not only from region to region, but also from city to city.

When studying culinary arts in Italy, it is important to choose your city with the knowledge of the surrounding area’s culinary traditions and customs, as this can have a very significant impact on how and what you learn in culinary arts courses in that location. For example, Northern Italian cuisine typically focuses on heavier, cream-based pasta sauces and meat dishes influenced by its Germanic neighbors. On the other hand, Southern Italy, with its centuries-long history of immigration and invasions by Greek, Arabic, and African culture, follows a more Mediterranean diet, based on seafood, local vegetables, and mozzarella.

Perhaps one the most popular cities to study culinary arts in Italy is Florence, located in central Italy. Aside from the numerous culinary schools within the city, Florence’s local food scene has taken the traditional farm and wild game dishes of the area and elevated it to an elegant cuisine. The elusive truffle is the guest of honor of many Florentine plates.

2. Fashion

Walking down any city street in Italy is like walking down a runway, as the average Italian fully embraces the age-old adage of “dress to impress” on a daily basis. With this nation-wide appreciation for dressing well, it is no surprise that Italy (and more specifically the city of Milan) is considered a fashion capital of the world. Gucci, Armani, Versace, and Valentino are just a few of the designers that call Italy home, not to mention the many break-out designers paving their way in the field of fashion, which lace the streets of almost any Italian city.

Whether your interests lie in fashion marketing, design, or the history of Italian fashion, studying fashion in Italy will take you from the Renaissance to present-day. You will have the opportunity to study Italy’s continually dominant presence in the world of fashion, and witness runway shows or visit top designers along the way. By embracing this chance to learn firsthand from professionals in one of Italy’s leading economic markets, you will be exposed to diverse global fashion design perspectives, which contribute to what Italians (and by default the rest of the world) choose to wear.

There are numerous fashion and design schools in both Milan and Florence that can offer you the opportunity to study fashion in Italy among those at the forefront of the industry. 

3. Art History

Some of the most important and most famous artwork in the world can be found in Italy. From Michelangelo’s statue of David to DaVinci’s painting of The Last Supper, the amount of artwork in Italy is beyond impressive.

Perhaps the most commonly-studied periods of art in Italy include the Renaissance and Baroque periods, as Italy was a leading force in the cultural revolutions that occurred in from the 14th to 17th centuries. Classical artwork from the Roman Empire is found both in Italian museums and on street corners, but Italy has also been well-known for its contemporary art in recent years.

Both Florence and Rome are excellent locations to study art history in Italy, as the collections and galleries of artwork in these cities is incredibly expansive and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

The Altare della Patria

4. Architecture

Italy has seen centuries of world history, which is reflected in the walls of its cities and in its multitude of monuments. Studying architecture in Italy offers you the opportunity to study a variety of time periods and architectural influences, ranging from the Roman Empire’s famous columns to the Gothic arches of medieval Catholic churches to the stark, minimalist buildings of Italian Fascism. 

As the capital of the Roman Empire and modern Italy, the city of Rome is one of the most popular locations to study architecture in Italy. Nearly every street corner is sprawling with Ancient Roman ruins and Baroque palaces, allowing you to apply what you learn in the classroom to what you are seeing daily as a student in Rome. 

5. Religious Studies

Italy’s long religious history has seen the face of many gods. Studying religion in Italy is an incredible opportunity to live and learn from a country whose identity is firmly entrenched in religion and its effect on the human existence. Today, religion continues to influence daily life, culture, and perhaps most importantly, the politics of Italy.

When contemplating religion courses in Italy, the number of religions and subject areas are endless: from the rustic deities of the Etruscan's to the Empire-supported polytheism of the Romans to the humble beginnings of Christianity, which transformed Italy, and Rome specifically, into the powerhouse of Catholicism that it is today.

Although you may study a variety of subjects in Italy, these five are some of the most beneficial courses of study for those looking for a truly immersive experience.

You will never entirely understand the rich earthy tones of a truffle, the quiet murmurings of a monastery, or the grandeur of sweeping Roman colonnades, until you step beyond the textbooks and experience these pieces of Italian culture for yourself. Exploring these specific subjects, which are intrinsic parts of Italian culture, through study abroad in Italy will expand your worldview, and give you incredible opportunities to not only study these topics but also experience these important components of Italy in your daily life.