Engineering Perspectives of the Renaissance and Sustainability: Florence and Venice

This program will not run Summer 2021, but we are already planning for Summer 2022!  So check back later in Summer 2021 for more information about hte program.  
This program is your opportunity to spend a month in the beautiful and historic city of Florence, Italy, exploring the history of art and architecture and  engineering practices of the European Renaissance. 
The program includes a trip to Venice- where we will explore renaissance engineering practices and sustainability efforts. 

What You'll Accomplish: 

You will gain:

  • Insight into the great minds of the Renaissance - including da Vinci, Galileo, and others where they actually conducted their research and studies
  • Important principles of engineering and physics that were developed during the Renaissance in comparison with today’s practices in engineering sustainability
  • A contextual perspective of art history that explains the thoughts and social situations of renaissance engineers in Florence and Venice


Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area. Florence is famous for its history. Once the center of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Due to Florence's artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world; it is noted for its history, culture, Renaissance art and architecture, and monuments. Florence is also an important city in Italian fashion, ranked among the top 50 fashion capitals of the world; furthermore, its status as a tourist and industrial hub makes Florence a major national economic center.
Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces.As with other ancient Italian cities, it’s difficult to imagine Venice facing too many problems. Yet a declining population, flood of tourists, water pollution and congestion, and the constant threat of very real floods plague the insular port city, and the fractured nature of local authority makes it difficult to address the problems.

Where You'll Live: 

You will live like a Florentine during their time abroad. Housing placements are scattered throughout the city-center and location depends on availability and housing option. Exact addresses are provided closer to departure. The city is a very flat, pedestrian friendly, and walkable city.
While in Venice, you will stay in a hotel. 

Like the streets of Florence, no two apartments on the Pitt in Florence program are alike in terms of design, but all will give you a comfortable place to call home in Italy.  Your housing will be shared apartments. Most apartments are located within a walking commute to the CAPA Center.  Apartments are still within what is considered the city-center. 
You can expect the following at your accommodations:

  • A fully equipped kitchens
  • Washing machine(s) in the building (Italian apartments typically do not have dryers).  
  • Shared living area
  • Shared bedroom
  • Wifi


What You'll Study: 

The program consists of two Pitt courses for a total of 6 academic credits.
The engineering 3-credit course is taught by two Pitt faculty members from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science- ENGR 0034.
The second course is called "Italian Renaissance Art History" (HAA 0302). 
Below are how the course counted for requirements in Spring 2020,  how it will count for 2021 will be updated soon

  • Engineering course: Advanced Engineering/ Science/Technical Elective OR Humanities/Social Science elective
  • Italian Renaissance Art History: Humanities/Social Science

Chemical Engineering: Please contact Dr. Bayles to confirm how the course counts
Civil/Environmental Engineering:

  • Engineering course: ENGR Elective for CE Majors and Environmental Program Elective for ENVE Majors
  • Italian Renaissance Art History: Humanities elective for both majors

Electrical and Computer engineering:

  • Engineering course: Technical/Open
  • Italian Renaissance Art History: HSS/Open

Industrial Engineering:

  • Engineering course: Non-IE Technical elective
  • Italian Renaissance Art History: Humanities elective

Mechanical Engineering:

  • Engineering course: ME Technical Elective
  • Italian Renaissance Art History: Humanities/Social Sciences elective

Materials Science: Please contact Dr. Nettleship to confirm how the course counts
Engineering Science: Please contact Dr. Smolinski to confirm how the course counts

Engineering of the Renaissance: Florence and Venice (ENGR0034)

This course will provide you with the background of great art projects of the Middle Ages that defined the religious and political centers of the city. Attention will focus on major monuments of the Renaissance period with specifics to engineering and sustainabiltity practices. You will take full advantage of the opportunities available for the study of art in Florence, several classes will be held in museums, churches, and piazzas. The group will also travel to Vencie to learn about engineering and sustainability efforts. You will also get the experience of learning how to design and create frescos! 
Engineering students can review how the course counts for requirements by contacting the faculty director of their department. Students from other departments should consult their academic advisors. 

Italian Renaissance Art History (HAA0302)

This course introduces students to painting, sculpture, and architecture in Florence in the Renaissance. Beginning with the great projects of the Middle Ages that defined the religious and political centers of the city, attention focuses on major monuments of the Renaissance. Discussion will center on how works of art were made, their style, and how they communicate intellectual meaning. Sub-themes that intersect with the most recent research in the field of art history are interwoven into each class period. Topics for discussion include the cross-cultural fertilization of artistic ideas, how women, the poor, and children were depicted in Renaissance art, conflicting ideas regarding patronage, and how works of art construct religious, political, gender, and class identities. This course analyzes the interrelationship between people's creative achievements and their society. In other words, students must understand a work of art in the social, artistic, and historical context of medieval and renaissance Florence.


The University of Pittsburgh partners with the CAPA the Global Education Network for this program. For more than 45 years CAPA: The Global Education Network has worked with institutions of higher education to build programs that meet their goals for learning abroad. CAPA operates education centers in Global Cities and has developed distinct academic offerings, support frameworks, and oversight structures for students and visiting faculty.
The CAPA Florence Center is housed in Palazzo Galli-Tassi, a 15th century palace in the Santa Croce neighborhood. The CAPA Florence team is available throughout your program to assist and support you 24/7 with any urgent situations.
There are many CAPA-led events during the program through CAPA’s own My Global City Program. These events/activities may include a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo for stunning views over the city of Florence and a hike in the nearby hills, followed by dinner in one of the best pizzerias in town. Other activities, often self-guided, reflect the events occurring in the city at the time and may include a walking tour to the most important markets of Florence, tasting typical Italian snacks, a night at the Opera or attending soccer match at the Florence Stadium. Some events/activities are free while others may require a small fee. Many students say that the CAPA My Global City Programs were some of the best experiences on their entire program.

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts: 

Dr. Diane Hardy Saran

Buna! That’s hello in Romanian.  After returning from being a Peace Corp volunteer in Transylvania- I decided to work in the field of international education helping international students.  Life took me back to Buffalo, NY (where I grew up- land of chicken wings)- and I worked for SUNY Buffalo for many years assisting international students and scholars.  In 2010, I moved to the ‘Burgh- and am now assisting engineering students to study abroad.  For fun I enjoy my two kiddos, yoga and fitness, international films, and travel (of course). Come talk with me about studying abroad! |  412-624-9823 | 152 Benedum Hall -   |  


Schedule an appointment

Schedule an appointment with me using Pathways!

To make an appointment- login to Pathways, Select Appointments > Schedule an Appointment> Select Pitt Global as the appointment type> Select 152 Benedum – ENGR International Advising, choose a date and time.

Don't see a time that works for you? Just send me an email!

Dr. Galdi

Dr. Gadli is leading the program for Summer 2020!
He joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall semester 1999. Prior to that, in the years 1980-1985 he was Professor at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Naples (Italy) and, from 1985 until 1998, Professor at the Institute of Engineering of the University of Ferrara (Italy). Dr. Galdi founded and organized the School of Engineering of the University of Ferrara in 1989, where he was the Dean from 1989 until 1995.He has been Distinguished/Chair Visiting Professor in several academic institutions in UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, China, Japan, India, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, France, Portugal, Italy, and Switzerland.With his work, Dr.Galdi has also pioneered several other fundamental areas of mathematical fluid mechanics, including dynamics of viscoelastic fluids, steady-state and time-periodic bifurcation of flow past an obstacle, and fluid-structure interactions. 

Dr. Anne Robertson

Professor Robertson helped to create the program and leads the program every other year.  She earned her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently a Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science and Bioengineering as well as Research Faculty in the McGowan Center for Regenerative Medicine. She is also the Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence. Her research interests lie in continuum mechanics. She emphasizes Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluid dynamics, cerebral vascular disease, and constitutive modeling of soft biological tissues in her research.

Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Tuition (for 6 credits) TBD TBD
Program Fee (see the "What's included" section) TBD TBD
Study Abroad Fee TBD TBD
Total Billed by Pitt TBD TBD


Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs

Airfare  estimated (~$1100)
Meals estimated (~$500) 
Visa costs if applicable- If you are not a U.S. Citizen there might be costs associated with applying for a visa TBD

Total Estimated Program Cost

  In-State Out-of-State

Total Estimated Cost of Program
(Includes items billed by Pitt and additional expenses)


Pricing for 2020-2021 will be posted and announced in the fall term.

What's Included: 

As a part of the fee, the follow are included in the program:

  • Tuition for 6 Pitt credits
  • On-site orientation (including dinner)
  • Housing in furnished apartments in Florence
  • Housing in a hotel in Venice
  • Some other meals
  • Airport transfer
  • Ground transportation for excursions
  • Health insurance
  • Florence museum pass
  • Departure ceremony at the end of the program
  • Time in Venice to explore sustainability efforts

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad.  Visit our budgeting page for more information.
Questions about Funding study abroad?  Check out the study abroad's funding search page and note that SSoE has funding specifically for Pitt engineering students.

What Else You Need to Know: 

Admissions Requirements:

  • This program is for students with a background in math and science 
  • Good academic and behavioral standing, in your second year or higher level at the time of application

Students that have gone on this program before want you to know....
"I would highly suggest all undergrad students take advantage of studying abroad sometime during their college career.  My favorite aspect of the program was learning about a new culture and becoming familiar with the city of Florence while I was studying there.  It was amazing to be able to spend more than just a few days in the city and to learn about its history and be comfortable with navigating around it."
- Kelly Macie 
" I want to incorporate travel into my lifestyle more than I had previously. Being abroad has allowed me to become more independent, brave, flexible, and aware of global issues. Additionally, I love the challenge and thrill of being immersed in something so different and new. Keeping an open-mind is key to personal growth, especially as a foreigner."
- Mahalia Bradford
Check out a few of the students' blogs from this program: