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Florence, Rome, Italy

Program Description

Michelangelo’s Italy provides first-hand knowledge of the art and architecture of Italy through on-site visits to the archeological sites, monuments, and museums of Florence and Rome.

We begin our study by tracing Michelangelo’s origins in Florence, a city still devoted to its most famous son. Often referred to as the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is celebrated for its contributions to art, literature, philosophy, science, politics, and cuisine. We will traverse streets and piazzas once familiar to Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo, all of whom honed their artistic skills in the workshops of Florentine masters.

After a week in Florence, we will follow Michelangelo to the Eternal City, where the artist became deeply invested in the study of classical antiquity and managed the demands of multiple popes. Over the course of 2.5 weeks, we will consider the evolution of Roman art and architecture, beginning from the city's days as a small settlement on the banks of the Tiber River, to one that became the seat of the Roman Republic and Empire, where Julius Caesar was both assassinated and deified. We will make our way through the Renaissance of the "divine" Michelangelo and his papal patrons. Our journey concludes with the Baroque glories and dramas of Bernini and Caravaggio as they redefine the conventions of painting, sculpture, and architecture.

Class meets each day on-site for 2 sessions (approx. 3.5 hours each), in the morning and afternoon. A small number of pre-departure, on-campus class meetings will be required during the Spring 2024 semester.

As a whole, all four courses offered focus on the cities of Florence and Rome in the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance & Baroque eras. The Art History courses closely examine the art and architecture of the two cities, while HUM 250 incorporates the literary traditions as well. All four courses offered are taught on-site, in museums, churches, archaeological sites, and city streets. The majority of the instruction is provided by the program director, with the exception of a few sites that require their own guides. Our itinerary will include the most celebrated sites of Florence and Rome - Brunelleschi's Dome, Michelangelo's "David," the Roman Forum & Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel - but we will also take the time seek out the quieter corners of the cities.

Watch a 5-minute program info session!

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Location Description

Location 1: Florence, Italy (1 week)

Florence has long been celebrated as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, home to artists, writers, and thinkers who had a profound influence on the Western tradition. Built around the banks of the Arno River, the small scale of the city allows for an unhurried exploration, encountering Florence’s rich cultural heritage at every turn. In a single piazza one finds the intersection of Italian ingenuity across six centuries – the haute couture Italian powerhouse Salvatore Ferragamo faces off against the church of Santa Trinita, home to Ghirlandaio’s 15th-century frescoes for the Sassetti family. It’s only a few steps more to Ammannati’s Ponte Santa Trinita, destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt with stones raised from the Arno.

Program itinerary includes:
Cathedral & Brunelleschi’s Dome
Uffizi Gallery
Accademia Gallery – Michelangelo’s David
Palazzo Medici
Santa Maria Novella – Masaccio's Trinity

Given the small size of Florence, daily transportation will be on foot.

Location 2: Rome, Italy (2 weeks)

Often referred to as the Eternal City, Rome has been a site of continuous cultural development and change for several millennia. Though Rome is the largest city in Italy and a bustling center of modern life, evidence of its past can be found everywhere, woven into the fabric of Roman daily life. A visit to the Feltrinelli bookstore at Largo Argentina reveals ancient temple ruins now converted to a cat sanctuary, a stroll down the shaded Via Giulia meanders past Raphael's house, a gelato from Venchi is best enjoyed while sitting on the low walls next to the Pantheon. This is our classroom.

Program itinerary includes:
Roman Forum
Golden House of Nero (Domus Aurea)
St. Peter’s
Vatican Palace & Sistine Chapel
Galleria Borghese

Daily transportation will utilize Rome’s extensive public bus lines. The subway, necessarily limited by Rome’s status as a sprawling archeological site, will be used on occasion. The cost of public transportation passes is included in the program fee.

Admission fees for all sites visited as a group are included in the program fee.


Jessica Stewart | | Art, Design, and Art History


Accommodations will be provided through furnished apartments or hotels with 2-4 students per room. Accommodations are centrally located, and public transportation in Rome is easily accessible. Students will be able to take advantage of vibrant summer markets, as well as a wide array of open cafes, ice cream shops, and outdoor entertainment, all within walking distance of the accommodations.

Students will be allocated a meal stipend, which will be distributed every 3-5 days. We will have two group meals (welcome and farewell).

Italian cuisine is among the most celebrated in the world, and summer markets are teeming with fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, and meats. Students will be able to explore an abundance of cafes, espresso bars, bakeries, gelaterias, and pizzerias.

Additional Items to Consider

Travel to Italy:
We anticipate that US citizens will need to register for ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) in order to travel to Italy in 2024. ETIAS is not a visa but will be a mandatory requirement to visit Italy and the rest of the EU once it is fully implemented. Registering requires: (1) valid passport with a minimum validity of 3 months from the expected date of departure from Italy; (2) demonstrate you have sufficient financial means to support the stay in the country; (3) You do not appear on the “non-admission” list of the EU; (4) International medical insurance; (5) Accommodation; and (6) round trip ticket.

Mobile service:
US cellphone plans can be extended to Rome through the student’s carrier, or students can purchase an e-sim if eligible.

No knowledge of Italian is required for this program. Italian is the native language, but English is widely spoken and common on signs and menus.

All logistics, including these, will be fully discussed in group meetings leading up to the program.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

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 
  • List of academic references
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students

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

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


ARTH 205: Survey of World Art: Prehistoric to Renaissance (3 credits)

HUM 250: Foundations of Western Culture: Ancient & Renaissance Italy (3 credits)

ARTH 327: Topics in Pre-Modern Art: The Cities of Rome & Florence (3 credits)

ARTH 489: Special Topics in Art History: Patrons and Curators: Building Italy's Greatest Collections (3 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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