Ca' Foscari Columbia Summer Programme (joint)

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.

Applications for Summer 2020 will open early 2020.

2019 Summer Programme

Dates: June 7th-July 19th, 2019

Courses 2019

Art in Venice

Prerequisites: None
Instructors: Caroline Wamsler and Johanna Fassl

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.

Review Exam (20%)
Journal/Sketchbook (25%): A visual and written record chronicling your explorations of Venetian art
Term Essay (30%)
In-class participation (25%): Class discussions and participation form an essential part of this course. Students will be asked to give presentations on specific works of art and architecture and will lead discussions based on the readings and their research.

Contemporary Art & the Biennale

Prerequisites: none
Instructor: Alexander Alberro

This course introduces the relationship between contemporary artistic practices and this year’s Venice Biennale. In addition to classroom meetings with PowerPoint presentations and seminar-style discussion, students will visit exhibition spaces located in the historical national pavilions of the giardini, the arsenale, and other temporary venues located throughout the city as we investigate not only the art but also the unique spaces we encounter it. Through this exciting event, we will explore connections between art and globalization, 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, Münster, Kassel and Kochi.

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. 


  • class presentation (including case studies and reading reports) 40%
  • class participation 20%
  • final paper 40%

Mediterranean Venice: Living and Losing a Maritime Empire

Prerequisities: None
Instructor: Konstantina Zanou

Venice is today a northeast province of the Italian state. For the largest part of its history, however, the city had very little to do with the rest of the Italian peninsula; it was instead the northwestern metropolis of an Eastern Mediterranean Empire, stretching all the way to (today’s) Croatia, Albania, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. By studying the history of Venice’s imperial past, the course aims precisely to relocate the students’ geographical and cultural perception of the city. Combining readings and documentaries with weekly walks and guided tours in the city, it invites students to explore themes such as the history of the Venetian Republic (and especially of the maritime state stato da mar), Venice’s relations to the Ottoman world, the city’s ethnic and confessional diversity, the ‘myth of Venice’ and the fate of Venice after ‘Venice’. Visits include the Correr Museum, the Doge’sPalace, the Arsenal, the Jewish Ghetto, the Campo Dei Greci, the Church of San Giorgio degliSchiavoni, the Island of San LazzarodegliArmeni, the FondacodeiTurchi, and others. An one-day trip to Trieste will be optionally offered.

Class participation: 30%
Weekly written responses: 30%
Final presentation: 40%

Conservation of Venice and its Built Heritage

Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Mieke Van Molle

The course aims at raising awareness about the importance of conservation and maintenance by conveying methods & principles through the particular example of Venice, where many conservation problems are concentrated and intensified due to its location in an aggressive lagoon environment and the proximity of the largeindustrial area of Marghera. The safeguarding of Venice will also be seen under the perspective of the fragile modern urban community beyond the mere physical survival of the city.

The program is structured in a progressive learning process,providingparticipants with an understanding of the Built Heritage of Venice, its historical development, construction techniques and building materials,aimedat 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 large variety of stone materials, originating from all over the Mediterranean. It subsequently focuses on the multidisciplinary conservation process, including the diagnostic survey, the different decay mechanisms and finally offering an overview of the conservation treatment. 


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 comfortable closed shoes with rubber soles (e.g. sneakers) for visits to ongoing conservation projects.

Venice and its Musical Identity

Prerequisites: none
Instructor: Giuseppe Gerbino

**This course has been cancelled

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 Venice

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 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? In California?

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.

Konstatina Zanou (Instructor for Mediterranean Venice), Assistant Professor of Southern
Mediterranean Studies at Columbia University.

Alexander Alberro (Instructor for Contemporary Art at the Venice Biennale), Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Art History Barnard College

Elizabeth Leake (Instructor for Venice and Modernity), Professor and Director of Graduate
Studies in the Italian Department at Columbia.

Mieke Van Molle (Instructor for Introduction to the Conservation of Venice's Built Heritage) Freelance Conservator

Caroline Wamsler (Instructor for Art in Venice), Lecturer in the Art and Archeology Department
at Columbia University.

Giuseppe Gerbino (Instructor for Venice and its Musical Identity), Professor of Music and Historical Musicology at Columbia University

Last update: 15/01/2020