Ca' Foscari - Harvard Summer School (joint)

The Ca’ Foscari – Harvard Summer School is a unique, unprecedented joint partnershp between two universities passionate about providing students with an international education of excellence. The programme is interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary, offering courses taught by professors from both Ca' Foscari and Harvard to 100 students rigorously selected from both institutions.

In addition to providing a stimulating and challenging intercultural study environment over the summer, the CFHSS also gives its participants the opportunity to take part in extra-curricular activities in various locations around Venice and its surroundings, allowing students and professors alike to learn, interact, adventure and grow alongside their peers/colleagues from across the Atlantic.

Students enrol in two classes from a range of courses in Social Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Math, and the Humanities, and credits (6 ECTS per course) are recognised at both Universities.

Winner of the CFHSS Creative Experience Competition, 2016

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that is currently affecting the entire globe, the Ca' Foscari - Harvard Summer School 2020 programme has been cancelled.

We have delayed making this decision for as long as we could, in the hopes that the situation would improve both in Europe and in the United States, but it is now clear that there are too many variables for us to continue our planning of the programme when there is still so much uncertainty around its feasibility this summer.

We look forward to welcoming students again in 2021.

Programme 2020

Science and Social Science

Designing Augmented Reality Experiences for Museums and Cultural Sites

Fabio Pittarello

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Tue/Thu 13:15-15:45

Course description
The course teaches students how to create a user experience (UX), based on augmented reality (AR) technology, targeted to cultural heritage sites and art exhibitions. Theoretical lectures are complemented by lab sessions focused on different methodological and technical issues involved in the development of an AR-based UX. The scenario for the development is one of the exhibitions or cultural heritage sites available in Venice at the time of the course—for example, the exhibition spaces of Ca' Giustinian (on the south side of Ca' Foscari), the Svevo Museum in Trieste, or Modus, a collateral event of La Biennale Arte. Students collaborate in small working groups for creating the final prototype.

Prerequisites: Basic use of web-based interfaces; availability of a laptop and of a mobile phone (IOS/Android) for testing the AR application (further details will be given)

An Introduction to Complexity in Economics and the Social Sciences

Paolo Pellizzari

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Mon/Wed 13:15-15:45

Course description
This course provides an introduction to complexity with emphasis on economic and social systems. In the attempt to find a formal and shared definition of complex phenomena, which still lacks in the literature, we explore ideas, models and examples coming from biology, chaos theory, financial markets, computational science, genetics and societies. We mainly aim at showing that, somewhat paradoxically, complex machinery is not needed to generate complexity, which instead is ubiquitous and can be produced by very simple rules of behaviour. We also run some computational models, using free software, to acquire hands-on experience on complex system simulation and control.

Most discussions are non technical but knowledge of Calculus I and II is needed to work on the logistic map. Interest in computational methods and programmingiswelcomed.


Steve Marglin

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Tue/Thu 9:45-12:15

Course description
This course examines the arguments for and against socialism as an alternative to capitalism. We look at different epochs in the history of the debate, from the nineteenth century crucible of capitalism, through the convulsions of twentieth century war and revolution, to the present revival of socialism as a political project. We also look at the particular circumstances of the United States in comparison with Europe. An underlying question of this course is the relationship between economic systems and culture, the extent to which the economy forms the culture and the extent to which the culture forms the economy. The course concludes with an inquiry into the ecological crisis and its implications for a sustainable economic system.

Prerequisites: none

Math 1b

Robin Gottlieb / Brendan Kelly

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday mornings (see syllabus, TBC)

Course description
The language of mathematics has evolved over time, but Galileo's famous statement that, "the book of the universe is written in the language of mathematics," is as true today as it was then. In this course, students deepen their foundation in modern mathematics and learn more about mathematical applications in other disciplines. The course focuses on three related topics which together form a central part of the language of modern science: applications and methods of integration, infinite series and the representation of functions by power series, and differential equations, with an emphasis on modeling and qualitative analysis. The material introduced in this course has applications in physics, chemistry, biology, environmental science, astronomy, economics, and statistics. NB: This course will be held over 8 weeks.

Prerequisites: Students are expected to be familiar with trigonometry, inverse trig, exponentials, and logarithms, and have a basic understanding of elementary calculus, including the notion of a derivative, differentiation using the product, quotient, and chain rules, and definite and indefinite integrals.

NB: Successful Ca' Foscari applicants will have the possibility of participating in a brief trigonometry refresh course prior to the beginning of the programme. More information available soon.

The Earth's Climate: past, present and future

Carlo Barbante

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Mon/Wed 9:45-12:15

Course description
This course deals with past present and future climate changes as evinced from the most recent studies on palaeoclimate archives, such as marine sediments and ice cores. The techniques available for the study of climate will be carefully reviewed and the most recent results will be presented. Climate changes involve multiple interactions among different components of the climate system, such as the atmosphere, the ocean, the earth, the biosphere and the ice sheet. One way to make sense of this complex system is to understand the inherent rate at which each of its components respond both to the primary causes of climate change and as part of a web of interactions within the system. Testing of hypothesis by means of climate models strongly supports the experimental data presented in the course.

Prerequisites: none


Private and Public in Renaissance Venice and Beyond

Martina Frank

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Mon/Wed 13:15-15:45

Course description
Venetian nobles in the Renaissance were remarkable commissioners of works of art and architecture as well as of literature and music. Venetian patricians were also cultured collectors of antiquities and even owners of villas and gardens on the mainland. At the same time many of them were distinguished politicians, ruling the state in order to guarantee social peace and the independence of the Serenissima Republic from other European powers. Their private life was performed in a universe of palazzi (buildings), ville (villas) and giardini (gardens), while their public role was practiced both in the Ducal Palace and the basilica of the piazza San Marco, and in the scuole (charitable organizations). The first part of the course focuses on the interaction between private and public life in Renaissance Venice. The chronology is extended to the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries in order to explore the changes that occurred in economic and cultural life and to determine their influence on the residential behavior of the Venetian ruling class. The second part of the course focuses on a number of meaningful locations where, during the Renaissance and beyond, the boundaries of public and private sphere overlapped and blended. These case studies offer examples of critical junctions between private origins and present public use or vice versa, exploring new paradigms in the definition of space in Venice.

Prerequisites: none

The Ethics of Identity

Jay Harris

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Tue/Thu 13:15-15:45

Course description 
Personal identity is, to say the least,a slippery concept. Yet insofar it constitutes whoand what we are—whether it is explicitly acknowledged or not—identity has deep ethical and political implications, and “identity politics” is one of the most significant contemporary dimensions in political and social thought. This class, which is structured around Anthony Appiah’s 2005 book The Ethics of Identity, delves into the ethical, social, and political questions around identity. Each section of the book will be complemented by readings that put the issue in a larger context.These textsinclude a few of the foundational philosophical works for contemporary debates around identity, contemporary philosophical analyses of the underlying issues, and critiques of the discussion of identity as understood by philosophers like Appiah. The purpose of the course is not to try to answer the questions, but to have a rich and open discussion of the issues, and help shapea richer and more nuanced private and public deliberation on identity and ethics beyond the classroom.

Prerequisites: none

Venetian Art and the Bible

Gordon Teskey

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Mon/Wed 9:45-12:15 (but see important schedule changes)

Course description
William Blake called the Bible “the great code of art.” Nowhere was this statement truer than in the famous Italian centers of art, Rome, Florence, and Venice. But the biblical culture of Venice was special because of her rich contacts with the East: with Islam, with the Greek culture of the Eastern Mediterranean,and with the Holy Land itself.  The great cathedral of Venice, Saint Mark’s, is named for the city’s patron, who wrote the oldest and most venerable of the Christian gospels. The Bible provided the artists of Venice with a rich fund of subjects for painting and sculpture. This course proposes to give students an outline of the contents and structure of the Bible similar to what most people in Venice would have had during the period when its greatest art was produced. The aim is for students to be able to look at a work of Venetian art and “read” not only its biblical subject but also its biblical thinking, especially the subterranean connections between episodes.We will also consider how extra-biblical subjects—e.g., saints’ legends and episodes from the apocrypha—are themselves extensions of biblical reading. Meeting times will be about equally divided between classroom discussion and field trips to sites around Venice. Among the more important of these are Saint Mark’s cathedral, the Doge Palace, the Basilica dei Frari, the Scuola di San Rocco (with its amazing Tintorettos), the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, the Basilica della Salute (with Titian’s biblical paintings in the sacristry), and the Accademia gallery, with its great hall containing Veronese’s gigantic and exuberant “Feast in the House of Levi” and Titian’s large but intimate“Pietà,” with its subtle biblical meanings adopted to personal expression. The course’s final class will conclude in this room, in front of these contrasting visions of the meaning of life, seen through the lens of the Bible.

Prerequisites: none


Joyce E. Chaplin

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Mon/Wed 13:13-15:45

Course description 
It may seem that questions about human responsibility toward the natural world are new, but there are long-standing traditions within Western philosophy of arguing for ethical behavior in relation to nature, whether to benefit humans or to help non-humans. This course offers a critical and historical analysis of selected texts that identify human beings as a distinctively ethical species within the natural world, with particular attention to the emergence of normative theories that rank humans with and against other natural beings. Topics include: definitions of wilderness and property; agriculture, industrialization, and consumerism as historic transformations of humanity; social hierarchies based on perceived natural abilities; ideas of natural rights; conservation and environmentalism; and animal rights. Readings include Aristotle, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, Bentham, Malthus, Mill, Emerson, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Singer. We also examine how contemporary debates over the human place within nature have continued to cite and critique normative traditions defined in the past.

Prerequisites: none

Syllabus: please visit the Canvas website

Shakespeare's Venice: Jews, Blacks, Muslims, and Christians at the Origin of the Modern World

Shaul Bassi & Stephen Greenblatt

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Mon/Wed 9:45-12:15

Course description 
A great early modern metropolis and a richly symbolic landscape, Venice is the setting of two seminal plays by Shakespeare, a comedy and a tragedy. The Merchant of Venice and Othello have made the Jewish moneylender Shylock and the Moor Othello the emblematic ethnic and cultural outsiders, figures who both foreshadow and challenge the modern notion of a multicultural community. This course will analyze the Shakespearean texts, read their principal sources, and chart their controversial critical and theatrical histories.  We will examine the rich cultural and literary material that informs the plays, including the representations of African, Jews and Muslims;, and their multiple resonances in different times and places, including modern adaptations in fiction and film. Our presence in Venice will be crucial to our understanding:  we will explore why the setting for these plays had to be here and not elsewhere, and we will visit Venetian sites that illuminate the Biblical, classical, and ethnographic contexts that forged Shakespeare’s notions of cultural and religious difference. 

Prerequisites: none, but a background in Shakespeare is highly advisable.

Italy in a Global Context: 16th-19th Centuries

Giulia Delogu

Classroom: TBC
Schedule: Tue/Thu 13:15-15:45

Course description
This course re-examines the history of Italy in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries through a global lens, highlighting how the Italian peninsula was not a decadent, insular region during this period, but a vital center of far-reaching networks of commercial, political, and cultural exchange. These networks reveal Italian cities as both recipients of and active agents in processes of knowledge formation. The course highlights the importance of port cities such as Venice, Trieste, and Livorno, exploring their roles in the circulation of information ranging from commercial reforms and ideas of human rights to immigration and public health policies. Students examine historical documents from the state archives of Trieste, Modena, Venice, Genoa, and Milan, as well as literary masterpieces of the period, and gain a comprehensive view of recent scholarship on Italy and the new methodological horizons of global history.

Prerequisites: none

Orientation and activities

A mandatory Orientation session is held on the first day so as to provide students with the necessary information for the duration of the programme: course schedules, course materials, orientation around Venice and residence information for Harvard students, activity lists, important events, etc.

Orientation week will include a variety of cultural activities that students can sign up to so as to get to know Venice, and each other, before classes start.

Additional activities and events are planned throughout the programme, and again in the final week after exams.

Admission Requirements (Ca' Foscari students):

To apply for the Ca' Foscari - Harvard Summer School as a Ca' Foscari student you must meet the following requirements:

  • be regularly enrolled (degree seeking) as of 31 January, 2020
  • hold a good working knowledge of English: all applicants are required to sit an assessment in the form of an interview which counts for 60% of the overall selection grade
  • have an above average academic record, counting for 40% of the total points used in the selection process

Minimum academic requirements

The CFHSS is a programme for students of excellence, and to be eligible for selection, students must therefore have a minimum grade, which makes up 40% of the total points used in the selection process.

NB: students without the minimum requirements can still apply, but will be placed in a waitlist, and considered separately by the commission.

Undergraduate students:

1st year students: 85/100 in the High School completion exam ("esame di stato / maturità") or equivalent
2nd year students: an average grade of 26/30 and the completion of 40 ECTS
3rd year students: an average grade of 26/30 and the completion of 90 ECTS

Graduate students:

1st year students: a grade of 100/110 for your Bachelor's Degree (degrees in Sciences, Economics) or 105/110 for your Bachelor's Degree (degrees in Languages and Humanities)
2nd year students: an average grade of 28/30

Please note that Harvard students, as well as all students coming from other Universities, must apply through the Harvard Summer School.

The Ca' Foscari - Harvard Summer School was established in 2006 in an unprecedented joint venture between two universities eager to develop a unique bond. The programme was to be based on the principle of an equal footing; both universities contributing equally, same number of professors and students, same requirements, same procedures of admission, a board with an equal number of members from each university directing the course of studies.

Throughout the numerous summers, one after another, this unparalleled programme has not only strengthened academic and professional bonds between the two Universities and its students, but has also formed long-lasting memories and friendships across the Atlantic. The uniqueness of the CFHSS comes from its direct cross-cultural exchange, its distinguished academic schedule supported through a rich array of activities and events, and - of course - its magical location!  

Decennial edition

“What was Venice and what is Venice? The center of an Empire, a visitable past, a modern tourist’s extravaganza? Big questions that touched the students, we are being  turned into pioneers, said one of them, pioneers in making Venetian culture new by becoming part of it. They visited San Marco at night, confronted its mosaics with those of Sant’Apollinare in Ravenna, made mosaics, and potteries, took photographs of Venetian types, went along the Brenta, roamed in the lagoon, paused in front of the Carpaccios, the Veroneses and in front of Tiepolo’s Mondo Novo. And congregated in Campo Santa Margherita,  at the end all together rooted for Italy in the soccer world cup.  Friendships in and outside the classrooms, studying hard and helping each other, celebrating July 4th and the Redentore. Understanding differences and embracing similarities. And now, ten intensive years later, this for me is the accomplished mission of the Ca’ Foscari – Harvard Summer School, and it is most deserving of celebration”

Alide Cagidemetrio
Director, Ca’ Foscari – Harvard Summer School 2006 - 2015

In 2015 the Ca' Foscari - Harvard Summer School celebrated its 10th year. The programme organised a weekend of activities and events in order to celebrate, continue, and consolidate the bond that has formed between Venice, Ca' Foscari and Harvard over the years. 

In occasion of the 10 year benchmark, the Summer School also published a collection of works, thoughts, experiences and memories, as recounted by students, Faculty and staff of the programme.

Last update: 25/02/2021