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Florence, Italy

Program Description

The course is designed as an experiential learning course for Honors College students. It will be a six-credit seminar on the history, art, religion, political thought, and culture of Florence in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. There will be preparatory work at JMU during the spring semester 2020 and reflective work upon return to campus.

On site in Florence, the group will become immersed in the cultural history of Renaissance Florence. During the three weeks in Florence, the group will alternate between seminars on specific topics held at the Palazzo Capponi, visits to major museums and architectural sites, and cultural excursions related to Florence’s history. We envision that most days the students will spend approximately 3 hours in classroom activities and an additional 2-3 hours in outings.

Day trips to Siena, ruled by the Medici at the end of our period, and to three Medici villas in the environs of Florence will be scheduled. There will be a free three-day weekend, allowing students the option to travel further afield.

For more information, please contact the program directors or Mr. Jared Diener, Director of Honors Advising and Global Initiatives.

Location Description

Florence is an extraordinary site for the kind of interdisciplinary learning promoted in this seminar.

Late medieval Florence was, to a large extent, a republic in which political power was relatively broadly based. The Medici family enjoyed a sustained influence on the ongoing development of political and cultural life in Florence, as prominent and wealthy citizens and later, beginning with Cosimo I, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, becoming a powerful noble family.

Christianity was a pervasive and profound influence on all aspects of art and culture.

Florence was also the center of the artistic developments now associated with the birth of Italian Renaissance art, many of which depended on the patronage of the Medici. Donatello and Brunelleschi spent their entire careers in Florence, and other artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo began their careers in Florence before moving to other cities. Major authors, including Dante and Boccaccio, are important for understanding Medici Florence.

Florence was also a vibrant center for the revival of Platonism during the Renaissance, a movement that influenced the development of humanism in modern Europe.


Linda Cabe Halpern | | University Programs

Richard Halpern | |

Scott Hammond | | Political Science


Students and faculty will live at the Foresteria Valdese di Firenze, also known as the Istituto Gould, a dormitory-style guesthouse in a 16th-century palazzo. Students in previous years have been very happy with the housing, which is just a couple of blocks from the JMU premises at Palazzo Capponi. Both are in the Oltrarno quarter of Florence.

Approximately twice a week there will be group meals provided by the program. Other meal costs will be covered through a weekly meal stipend. In the past, students have found the stipend adequate to cover meals.

Additional Items to Consider

The tuition and program fees will cover tuition, housing, meals, local SIM card for your phone, local transportation, field trip transportation, museum entrance fees, and more. The fees will not include travel to and from Florence, passports, personal expenses, and certain books that may be required.

Limited study abroad scholarships are available from the Honors College for qualified applicants. Contact Jared Diener for more information.

Applicant Criteria

Students in good standing in the Honors College.

Preference given to freshman or sophomores.

All students must participate in a preparatory seminar that meets Tuesdays 5:00-7:00 approximately every other week during the Spring 2020 semester.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Program Closed.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


HON 200: Special Topics in Honors: Art, Politics, and Culture in Medici Florence (6 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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