Ca' Foscari Columbia Summer Programme

As a Ca' Foscari student you can apply to be one of 10 students who will join around 30 students from the prestigious Columbia University of New York, embarking on a truly international summer experience right here in Venice. You can choose to take one or two courses in Italian culture and society, which upon completion can be recognised within your academic transcript.

The programme is designed with full interaction in mind: through the numerous field trips and extra-curricular activities, you will have many opportunities to engage with international students both culturally and academically, communicating in both Italian and English, while forming new professional and personal relationships.

Find out more, and see what Columbia students had to say about past programmes on the Columbia programme website.

2018 Summer Programme

Programme information available soon.

Courses offered in 2017

Art in Venice

Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Caroline Wamsler

Venice's unique geographical location in the reflective waters of the Adriatic and at the crossroads between East and West has had a profound impact on all aspects of Venetian life and culture. This course will investigate the artistic production of the Lagoon City between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. The compelling works of Venetian artists, such as Carpaccio, Bellini, Giorgione and Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, as well as the great civic and religious monuments, including the Palazzo Ducale, the great mendicant churches and the Basilica di San Marco, will be considered in light of the sophisticated political and social systems of the Venetian Republic. Issues such as the development of the distinctive urban fabric, the invention of a civic iconography, the role of the artist, and the Venetian workshop practices, as well as the impact of the Islamic world, and private and corporate patronage, will be examined.

1. Review Exam (20%): Scheduled for Wednesday, July 15 in the Ca’ Foscari Classrooms at San Basilio.
2. Journal/Sketchbook (20%): A visual and written record chronicling your explorations Venetian art due Monday, July 20.
3. Term Essay (35%): final critical term essay due Wednesday, July 22.
4. In-class participation (30%):Class discussions and participation form an essential part of this course.  Students will be asked to give presentations on specific buildings and will lead discussions based on the readings and their research.

Contemporary Art in the Biennale

Prerequisites: none
Instructor: Alexander Alberro

This course introduces the relationship between contemporary artistic practices and this year’s Venice Biennale. The course will expose students to the historical, political, and cultural developments linked to the biennale from its inception to the present day. Through this exciting event, we will explore connections between art and nationalism, as well as the changing character and shape of this event over time, taking into account political and aesthetic shifts in Italy and beyond. We will consider the history of various countries’ presence (and absence) at the Venice Biennale with a view toward how this biennale compares to other international contemporary art fairs such as those now held in Saõ Paolo, Istanbul, Havana, New York, and this year’s events at Münster (Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017), and Kassel and Athens (Documenta 14).

Beyond a focus on the history of the Venice Biennale, the course will introduce some of the key concepts of contemporary art as they have been developed in the past three or so decades. We will seek to come to an understanding of the complexity of the contemporary art world, a network based on local customs and productions but defined by global art fairs, exhibitions, markets and magazines. Instead of the modernist assumption that art has a geographic center, usually located in Europe or the United States, we will explore the Biennial’s attempt to present a more decentralized vision of contemporary art’s communicative potential. Diverse nations and cultures, their images and their issues, will be described and analyzed so that the multiplicity of today’s international discourses can be assessed. This will entail a consideration of contemporary art’s relation to theories of modernism and postmodernism, the historical development of the project of globalization, and the expansion of the art world to a much greater geographical region than ever before. The increased significance of photography, site and context specific installations, performance art and dance, moving image installations, and other techniques of media in artistic production will provide the framework for an examination of various characteristics of contemporary art.

- two exams
- four 500-word accounts of the reading
- one 1500 word paper

Introduction to the Conservation of Venice's Built Heritage

Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Mieke Van Molle

The course aims at providing participants with an understanding of the Built Heritage of Venice, its historical development, construction techniques and building materials and at gaining insight in the related conservation problems. Students are first introduced to the particular conservation problems of the city of Venice and its Lagoon environment. The course then addresses the historical growth and architectural development of Venice, its specific construction techniques and its great variety of stone materials, originating from all over the Mediterranean. It subsequently focuses on the conservation process, including the diagnostic survey, the different decay mechanisms and finally offering an overview of the conservation treatment.

The course includes a series of guided walking tours and diversified site visits which will illustrate and complement class lectures. In addition, participants will conduct a diagnostic field work on the façade of a historical building in Venice consisting in a visual condition survey for conservation of the façade where they will be requested to observe, discuss, describe and document the different constituent materials, their various forms of decay and the related distribution pattern, integrated with historical information on the monument.

Grading will include active class participation (25%), a written and documented research paper to be completed at mid-term (25%), as well as a documented end-term research (written paper 25% and oral presentation 25%). Detailed information will be given during the course. It is important that students bring their camera for documentation as well as closed comfortable shoes with rubber soles (e.g. sneakers) for visits to ongoing conservation projects.

Nobility and Civility

Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Jo Ann Cavallo

Nobility & Civility: East and West is an interdisciplinary colloquium that focuses on the examination and comparison of different cultural understandings of the concepts of nobility and civility as they appear throughout the ancient, medieval and early modern world.  Our project involves the analysis of important philosophical, religious and literary texts from the East Asian, Indian, Islamic and Western traditions. A fundamental aim of this course will be the formulation of an intercultural perspective from which the core human concerns of nobility and civility, which these various traditions share, can be more coherently articulated.

More generally, this course seeks to provide a model for integrated undergraduate education focusing on common human values and universal perennial issues while also recognizing cultural and historical differences.  Providing students with a perspective on themselves and their place in a larger world has become ever more crucial in an increasingly globalized society.  The course thereby contributes to the broadening and deepening of the liberal arts education that characterizes Columbia College and that many of Columbia's alumni have paid tribute to over the years. As a capstone Global Core course, Nobility & Civility: East and West would not only continue the work of the core abroad, but would be taking the Global Core curriculum to an international setting.

Aside from attendance and participation, there are four other factors of assessment:
- Written Work: Two 5-6 page papers are required. Students may consult with the instructor on the scope and topic of their essays, which should be critical and interpretive, not research papers.  (25% of grade)

- Presentations: Each student will make at least two introductory, seminar-style presentations on one of the assigned texts.  Presentations will be evaluated on their organization and concision, as well as on how well they draw out issues and themes for class discussion. (25% of grade)

- Response paragraphs: Thoughtful responses to the readings should be posted in CourseWorks the evening prior to each class, and all students are responsible for reading these prior to class discussion. (25% of grade)

- Final examination: There will be a 2-hour written examination. (25% of grade)

Portraiture in Renaissance Venice

Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Diane Bodart
From Bellini to Tintoretto, Venetian artists elaborated individual portraits that were to be an influential model in Renaissance art, while poets, from Bembo to Aretino, celebrated in their verses the perfect illusion of presence and life performed by these works. Nonetheless, the representation of the self in Venice was challenged by the corporative structure of the society and its political institutions: the image of the individual was often to integrate group portraits, while the Venetian woman was generally depicted as an ideal beauty. Through a cross-analysis of sources and works, the course will investigate this tension between the fashioning of the self and the construction of the social and political identity of Venice in the frame of its cosmopolitan world. The classes will be held in situ in order to train the students to analyze original works in their context.


  • Attendance at lectures, visits field-trip (mandatory)
  • Weekly readings to prepare for each lecture/visit
  • Active participation to the discussion
  • Oral presentations during the visit (2 or more)
  • Journal / Sketchbook
  • Term essay (7-10 double-spaced typed pages + illustrations).The essay will be graded for form as well as content

Grade Breakdown

  • 20% - Class participation
  • 25% - Oral presentations
  • 20% - Journal/ Sketchbook
  • 35% - Term essay

Students are encouraged to read, for an historical survey:

  • Frederic C. Lane,Venice, a maritime republic (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973)
  • Edward Muir, Civic ritual in Renaissance Venice (Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1981)

For a general narrative about the Venetian Art in the Renaissance:

  • Patricia Fortini Brown,Art and life in Renaissance Venice (New York : Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997)
  • Peter Humfrey,Painting in Renaissance Venice(New Haven : Yale University Press, 1995)
  • David Rosand, Painting in Cinquecento Venice : Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto (New Haven : Yale University Press, [1985], c1982)
  • Norbert Huse, Wolfgang Wolters,The art of Renaissance Venice : architecture, sculpture, and painting, 1460-1590, (Chicago : University of Chicago Press), 1990.

Venice and its Musical Identity

Prerequisites: none
Instructor: Giuseppe Gerbino

Throughout its history, Venice cultivated an idealized image of its political and civic identity. Music played a central role in the construction of the myth of the “Most Serene Republic” both through the prestige of the Venetian music establishment and as a symbol of social harmony and cohesion. This course explores the history of this unique bond between Venice and its musical self-fashioning. The historical scope of the class includes key moments in the cultural life of Venice and its musical institutions: the development of polychorality in the architectural space of St. Mark’s Basilica; the opening of the first public opera houses and the commercialization of opera; the phenomenon of musical tourism, which attracted international visitors as early as the 17th century; the establishment of the music printing industry; and the cloistered virtuosity of the women musicians of the “conservatories.” The last part of the syllabus is devoted to the political legacy of Venice in 19th-centry opera as well as to the construction of a nostalgic image of the city’s past musical splendor in twentieth-century music. Rather than following a strict chronological order, the syllabus is meant to reflect the topographical organization of Venetian society along the lines of the six sestieri and their musical venues, from the St. Mark’s Basilica, opera theaters, and aristocratic academies, to the charitable organizations known as scuole grandi, and the trade guilds for foreign communities (fondachi).

Class participation and presentations will account for 30% of the final grade. Students will also have to take a final exam (20%) and complete two essays (25% each) on a choice of assigned topics related to class discussion. Students will be required to attend two concerts outside class time.

Venice and Modernity: Screening La Serenissima

Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Elizabeth Leake

This class will explore the city of Venice as it appears on screen and in real life. We'll watch films from such directors as Woody Allen, Federico Fellini, Andrea Segre, Luchino Visconti, and Silvio Soldini, then explore the city ourselves to experience first-hand its importance as the setting for so many cinematic masterpieces. We will also examine representations of Venice in order to identify forms of aesthetic modernism within the specifically Venetian context. How do these modernist narrations engage with their location—imagined or otherwise--in Venice and its environs? Is there such a thing as Venetian regional modernism, and what are its parameters? What are their relations to modernism’s broader national iteration? What about Venice in Vegas?

Grading / Course Requirements
Active participation in all class discussions; design and lead one field trip based on one of our texts; final in-class exam. Discussions in English, readings in English or Italian.

How to apply (Ca' Foscari students)

Applications for 2017 are now closed.

Admission Requirements (Ca' Foscari students):

To apply for the Ca' Foscari Columbia Summer Programme as a Ca' Foscari student you must meet the following requirements:

  • be regularly enrolled (degree seeking) as of 31 January, 2017
  • 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 Columbia Summer Programme 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 all students coming from all other Universities must apply through Columbia University.

Credit recognition

For academic credit at Ca’ Foscari, students will be required to fill out a recognition request (available following selection) in which they specify how they wish the credits to be recognised, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Head of Studies for each degree programme.

CFCSS courses can be included on your academic transcript in one of two ways:

  1. “Choice” credits (“esami a libera scelta”)
  2. “Extra” credits (“esami in sovrannumero”)

NB: Students who are unable to recognise the credits are still able to attend the programme.