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JMU Office of International Programs Summer Study Abroad

 Arts and Culture of Venice

 Session Coordinator: Professor Jeffrey E. Bush

JMU School of Music



May/June, 2019

Program Highlights — all included in the Program Fee

The session fee includes room, meal allowance, class materials, Rolling Venice Student Card, a 3 day pass for the canal ferries (vaporetto), Chorus Pass, a visit to the island of Murano with a stop at a glass-blowing demonstration, tour of La Fenice ( ), concert tickets to a Venetian concert ( ), a visit with a world-renowned mask maker ( ), a meal allowance and weekly group meals as well as much more.

An extensive orientation to the six sestieri (neighborhoods) – including several walking tours - will provide you with the comfort and familiarity to navigate this intimate city on your own. Venice is an incredibly safe city and there are no ‘bad areas’ that need to be avoided.

Program Fee: TBA (yet to be set)


Tuition: three credits of JMU tuition (per-credit amount varies by residency and undergraduate/ graduate status); per-credit cost is identical to JMU’s regular semester tuition per-credit fee for a given academic year.  All financial aid plans used for regular semester tuition costs are eligible to be applied toward Summer Study Abroad tuition and program fees.


Course offered (fulfills Cluster II General Education, Group I requirement)

HUM 250 Foundations of Western Culture: Venice through the Ages (3 credits)



    Venice is one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world. It is said that it takes less than a day to traverse the city but more than a lifetime to see it. Venice is truly a living museum and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

    The majority of our time will be spent traversing the calles (streets) and campos (squares), learning about the arts and culture of this gorgeous city. Our explorations will include a variety of spaces and events, including visits to the island of Murano, trips up/down the Grand Canal, the Doge’s Palace, a number of churches (including St. Marks Basilica), La Fenice Opera House, a classical music concert featuring Venetian music, St. Mark’s Square and much more (including regular stops for gelato!).

    Italian food is incredibly diverse with dishes for every taste and price! Being a major tourist destination, there are many ethnic restaurants (including McDonalds – which is an ethnic restaurant in Italy!), so variety is also possible. Apartments also have cooking facilities, so you always have the option of eating at a restaurant or your Venetian home.

    Two of the three weekends are open for personal exploration and travelling. There is enough to explore in Venice to keep you occupied for years, but you may also wish to take the opportunity to travel to another destination in Italy. Direct train travel can be booked to Verona (65 minutes), Milan (1 hour, 30 minutes), Bologna (2 hours, 25 minutes), Florence (3 hours, 15 minutes) or Rome (3 hours, 45 minutes). Weekend excursions are at the student’s expense.

Enrollment Procedure

1.         Inform the Arts and Culture in Venice Coordinator (Jeffrey Bush, of your interest in the session.   We will schedule a brief interview (non-JMU applicants may be able to waive the in-person interview requirement).

2.         Complete the required online application form. Click on this link: scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on “Apply Now.”

(Note, starting the application does not obligate you to attend the session; only completed applications will be reviewed for acceptance.)

3.         The initial application deadline is November 1. If room exists in the program, we may continue to accept applications until March 1, but the program will be capped at 20 participants or less.  Once the enrollment cap has been reached, additional applicants will be wait-listed and may not be able to be accepted due to space limitations.  See the on-line application form for instructions to complete the application process.

If you are considering going, but need further information, please email Professor Bush ( ) with questions or to arrange a meeting (see the FAQ).

A few of the sites we will be visiting in Venice include:

Gran Teatro La Fenice -


teatro la fenice

     La Fenice is one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Several of the most famous operas of all time (such as “La Traviata,” “Rigoletto,” and “The Rakes Progress”) were first staged here. The theatre is well-named (La Fenice means to rise from the ashes) as the building has twice burned to the ground but rebuilt each time. The exterior of the building is fairly plain, in a neo-classical design. However, the interior is brilliant with copious amounts of gold leaf, painted cherubs, and ornate carvings. The acoustics are considered excellent, as they had been measured just before the last (1996) fire and were therefore able to be replicated.

Doges Palace -

 palazzo ducale

    The Doges Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was not only the home to the Venetian ruler (doge), but also the seat of Venetian government. The present building was started in the 12th century, although little remains of that structure. What we see today – in another example of ‘west meets east’ architectural style – had it’s origins in the 14th century. Numerous changes and additions continued to be made through the 18th century. Resplendit with copious art works by the republic’s greatest artists, the interior was designed to impress foreign dignataries and highlight, in art, the great moments in Venice’s history. Among other highlights is the Il Paradiso by Tintoretto in the Chamber of the Great Council – the largest canvas painting in the world.

Saint Mark’s Basilica -



    One of the most famous churches in the world, this cathedral was built to house the earthly remains of Saint Mark. The current construction began around 1060 but has been constantly expanded, renovated and decorated through the late 18th century. The church was initially built as a private – albeit large – church for the doge (Venetian ruler); only later were lay people regularly admitted. Due to the riches brought back to Venice, the building is lavishly decorated; mosaics covering the majority of the ceiling are one of many impressive features. Many features – such as the famous four horses on the balcony and the numerous marble columns – were looted from Constantinople and other Venetian conquests. The architecture demonstrates a ‘west meets east’ sensibility truly unique to European churches. Music was an important component of Saint Mark’s; the position of composer and choirmaster was one of the most important and highly sought-after in all of Europe.

Grand Canal



    The Grand Canal is the widest and most impressive waterway in Venice. Shaped like a large “S,” it is approximately 2.6 miles long, 100 – 300 feet wide, and averages 16.5 feet deep. The Grand Canal became one of the most exclusive ‘streets’ in 16th through 18th Century Europe; the most well-to-do Venetians build large, impressive palaces (palazzos) along its banks. Virtually all major architectural styles can be viewed on a trip up or down the Grand Canal. There are only four bridges across the canal; the two we will use the most are the famous Rialto and the Accademia bridges. As well, a form of small ferry known as a traghetti are available to take passengers across the canal at a number of locations.


Venice Summer Session: Frequently Asked Questions

Is this study abroad course open only to JMU students?
    No. JMU Study Abroad courses are open to anyone, including students at other universities and non-students as well. Participants under the age of 18 are eligible to participate with the permission of the OIP Director. If you have friends who attend other universities, or even friends who aren't in college, they are welcome to participate in this session; have them contact Professor Bush.  The application procedure varies slightly for non-JMU applicants, contact JMU’s Office of International Programs for details.  Course credits earned as a part of this session can be transferred to another university’s major programs.


Do I need to speak Italian?
    No.  English is spoken everywhere in the city. This is a city that has been an international travel destination for hundreds of years: most locals speak Italian, English and several other languages. If you have studied Italian, however, it is great fun to practice speaking it with the locals, when ordering at a restaurant, or reading the street signs. The Venetian dialect is unique, but if you have any knowledge of Italian, it is not so different as to cause problems.

What is covered in the Session Fee?
    The session fee covers all housing costs as well as entry/admittance costs associated with all group events (entry into music concerts, tours, churches, student discount card, etc.). Additionally, there will be weekly group meals as well as a food allowance provided to every participant.

What is not covered in the Session Fee?

Airfare to Venice, transportation from the airport to the city, some transportation (we will provide at least one three day pass on the city ferries; if further passes are desired, they will be the student’s responsibility), and any touring done during weekends, food costs over the allowance, incidentals of a personal nature (such as laundry soap, toiletries, etc.) and souvenirs.


How will I be reimbursed for concert, museum, or transportation tickets?
    OIP regulations stipulate that session money can only be distributed onsite, in local currency (NOTE: we can’t give you session money before you leave the US or after you return to the US).  If you purchase tickets in advance online, you will be reimbursed in euros once you arrive in Venice.  Tickets purchased in Venice will be reimbursed as soon as you present the receipt to the Program Director (Dr. Bush).  The same applies for museum and required transportation tickets; for those events we attend as a group, the entrance fees will be paid ahead of time.


How will the food money be distributed?
    OIP requests that we distribute food money in increments over the course of the session, in order to prevent students from running out of cash before the end of the 3 weeks onsite.  Essentially, JMU acts as a banker: the OIP collects everyone’s session fee and deposits them into a Wells Fargo account; the Program Director is given a Wells Fargo debit/credit card that accesses the account, and we give you a big chunk of your session fee back in European funds over the course of the session.  Food money (each student: 100€ per week x 3 weeks) is distributed upon arrival in Venice, and approximately every seven days of the program.  Note: All of the group dinners are paid as one bill for the entire group (from the Director’s credit card), but students still receive their full weekly food budget.  Grocery stores are plentiful (as well as numerous open-are markets, including the famous Rialto Market), so there are ample opportunities to stretch your food dollars!

What do the courses entail?
    We are currently arranging classroom space in Venice, but we plan on only three or four classroom meetings per week: most of our time will be spent in the streets and squares. In-class time will typically be 60-90 minutes. However, some of the ‘on the street’ classes may be considerably longer! You should anticipate that, between full-class work, readings, and projects, you will average three to six hours a day. You will be provided with all necessary reading: in many cases, discussion of material will be on the streets, as opposed to in a boring classroom!

How much time is devoted to full-group activities?

Most days, we will spend some time together as a full-group. However, a number of the assignments involve individuals exploring a site (e.g. building, museum, church), so time will be allotted allowing you to do some exploring on your own.

What is the summer weather like in Venice?

Warm – and often humid: after all, we will be on an island in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea! Daytime highs during May/June are typically in the 70s. Bring a small umbrella if so inclined: Venice typically gets several inches of rain a month during the summer. Mosquitoes can be a problem, so insect repellent (which can be bought there) may be a good idea.

Navigating the city

     The city is deceptively small; you can walk between the farthest corners in under an hour. Navigation around Venice is both simple and complicated! There are numerous signs pointing you in the direction of the major landmarks (San Marcos, Rialto, Train Station, etc.). However, streets are often narrow and short; additionally, the building numbering system is  . . . well, wacky! Every building has a unique number in the sestieri. A good map or map app for your phone (I suggest one that can be downloaded so that you do not need internet access) is a valuable tool. That being said, expect to get lost (it’s really not a bad thing, as it’s easy to find your way to the major landmarks). Because of this, leave early for any appointments in areas that are somewhat unfamiliar.

What is the drinking age in Venice?
    It is illegal for a vendor (shop or restaurant) to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. JMU students enrolled in Study Abroad programs are subject to drinking age laws of the host country, not Virginia statutes or the JMU Honor Code. Note that all group meals will have a no alcohol policy.


How safe is Venice and are there facilities in case someone get sick?

   Venice is a safer city than many major European tourist destinations. While I have never experienced one, there are pickpockets, so be cautious in areas that are cramped (such as the ferries and St. Marks Basilica). Pharmacies are readily available and there are plenty of English-speaking doctors and a full-service hospital. 

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