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Palermo, Sicily, Reggio Calabria, Naples, Ischia, Rome, Italy

Program Description

This interdisciplinary study abroad program examines Organized Crime and Anti-Mafia movements in Southern Italy. Students may choose between two courses-- JUST 301 or ENG 221, offering curricular approaches from a social science perspective. Assignments and readings will be unique to each course, but the sociocultural content of our travel experiences will be shared. Both courses will explore the impact of this kind of organized crime on the culture of southern Italy from an interdisciplinary perspective, and in terms of politics, justice, literature/art, and daily life. Both courses will also have an emphasis on the ways in which women in Italy have been involved in and impacted by organized crime--as offenders, but also as victims and as activists/informers.

Both courses will include a pre-program reading period, to better prepare students for the fast-paced, on-site experiential learning in this study abroad program. Through prior reading, followed by presentations and conversations with those people involved in the anti-Mafia movements in Italy, and participation in events such as the annual Anti-Mafia march in Palermo (commemorating the assassination of Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone), students will come to understand the incredible staggering and widespread impact of this type of crime the Italian Mafia on the lives of people who live in this area, and the resilient social justice movements to resist organized crime.

The program will take place in southern Italy -- Sicily, Calabria, Naples, the island of Ischia, with a final stop and end in Rome. These somewhat remote, “less traveled” parts of Italy are among the most beautiful places in the world, providing a backdrop of dazzling beaches, spectacular mountains, and rural countryside, quaint villages and centuries-old cities. Both our courses will explore how this particularly isolated region is heavily defined and influenced by the three most powerful organized crime groups in Italy (and in the world). Students will visit places significant in the history of organized crime and as well as more recent locations for the anti-mafia movements in Italy; to talk with activists, prosecutors, and journalists who have been part of the are involved in anti-Mafia and womens’ rights movements. Students will also, of course, spend some free time in some of the most beautiful parts of Italy, and have the opportunity to tour Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Rome’s Vatican and Coliseum.

Students will choose ONE of two courses:

JUST 301 Special Topics: Mafia and the Anti-Mafia Movements in Southern Italy
This course will provide an overview of the significance of the 3 major mafia groups active in Southern Italy, along with a consideration of the powerful and inspiring anti-Mafia movements. Students will have the opportunity to talk with activists and academics, to visit major sites related to the organized crime presence in Italy, and participate in the annual anti-Mafia March in Palermo. There is an emphasis on the ways in which women have been involved in organized crime in Italy, both as offenders and as anti-Mafia activists.

ENG 221 Women's Lives, Loyalties and Stories in the Mafia Cultures of Southern Italy
Fulfills Arts and Humanities Area Gen Ed: Literature, Culture, ideas
Women’s lives are often overlooked or shoved to the margins in the mainstream, predominant literature and film adaptations about the Italian Mafia (ex: The Godfather, Good Fellas, Donnie Brasco). This Gen-Ed course is designed to bring women center-stage by examining their friendships and communities, their struggles for education and autonomy even as they exude loyalty and love for their families; their silence, oppression, and victimization in a heavily patriarchal and violence-driven culture of organized crime. The required literature will also celebrate the bravery, resilience, and heroism of real women who have come of age inside southern Italy’s Mafioso culture.

If students choose to enroll in ENG 221, they will take a 1-credit prepatory course in the Spring semester.

ENG 221 is a General Education course and fulfills the Literature requirement within the Arts and Humanities group.

As a Study Abroad course with an interdisciplinary and experiential focus, this course will further offer an overview of the three major mafia groups active in Sicily and southern Italy, and also consider the powerful and inspiring anti-Mafia movements that have arisen as a resistance to mafia violence since the 1990s. Students will have the opportunity to talk with social activists and academics, to visit major sites related to the organized crime presence in Italy and participate in the annual anti-Mafia March in Palermo, Sicily.

Location Description

The program involves travel throughout several areas of Southern Italy--Sicily, Calabria, and the Naples area, with a short visit in Rome at the end of the program. The Southern part of Italy is beautiful--dazzling beaches, old cities and amazing countryside. We will spend about a week in Sicily and another week traveling between Reggio Calabria and the Naples area.


Peggy Plass | | Justice Studies

Laurie Kutchins | | English


Students will stay in hotels/hostels with internet access. Students will be in shared double or triple rooms.

Some meals are provided as part of the program (all breakfasts; some lunches and dinners). Details on which meals are provided will be found in the final itinerary. Because Italy has a deserved reputation as a food capital, students will also have the opportunity to organize some meals on their own, to explore this important part of Italian culture. Students should plan to spend their own money to cover the costs of these meals, with the ability to eat as economically as they wish.

Additional Items to Consider

While familiarity with Italian would be great, all instruction will be in English, and there will be translations for presentations given by local scholars and activists.

No background checks are required. We've discussed the dates of the trip in other fields here--we'll be starting in Palermo, on May 16. We'll move on to the mainland on May 24, and travel from Reggio Di Calabria to Naples, with a side trip to the Island of Ischia (which will include a free day), and then move on to Rome for the conclusion of our tour. The program won't provide cell phones, but American cells can be used quite easily in Italy. 

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

For JUST 301: JUST 200 for Justice Studies majors. This pre-req can be waived for students in other programs

For ENG 221: During the Spring, students will take the 1-credit hour ENG 294 class

Open to all majors

Application Process

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

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short Essay

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


Apply for Waitlist Only 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


JUST 301: Special Topics: Organized Crime and the Anti-Mafia Movement in Italy (3 credits)

ENG 221: Women's Lives, Loyalties, & Stories in the Mafia Cultures of Southern Italy (3 credits)

ENG 294: Internship in English (1 credit - spring semester)

UNST 390: Special Topics: Women, Organized Crime and the Anti-Mafia Movements in Southern Italy (1 credit)

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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