Italy: Siena

Program Snapshot
Semester: Spring
Offered: Odd years - Spring 2025, Spring 2027
Estimated Dates: Mid-January to mid-May
Program Focus: Regional Area Study with Language Component
Prerequisites: WLL 101: Beginning Italian (offered semester prior to participation). Students are required to successfully complete the course, earning a C grade or above.* Overall GPA of at least 2.75 and good academic standing required. Students must satisfy the Words and Numbers CORE requirement before participating in an overseas program.
Recommended Courses: ART 301: Italian Renaissance Art
ART 310: Baroque Art and Architecture
ENG 280: The Medieval World
HIST 227: Medieval Europe
HIST 323: Modern European Intellectual History
Housing: Host Families
Spring 2025 Program Leader: Benjamin David
Associate Professor of Art History, 503-768-7393

Program Design

In cooperation with Siena Italian Studies (SIS), Lewis & Clark offers a program of regional area study in Italy. Using Siena as a base, students will explore Italy through the study of its language, history, literature, and art. The program includes an optional community service component, allowing students to volunteer at a variety of community-based organizations in Siena. Over the course of the semester, the group participates in a number of cultural activities and excursions to regional areas of interest, particularly Tuscan hills towns, Florence, as well as three multi-day trips to different regions of Italy and Brussels, Belgium. 

The program begins with a three-day orientation, designed to help students get to know the city of Siena, their peers, and the SIS staff. The orientation will also cover health and safety and logistical information, and help students develop a basic understanding of Italian culture. Students will start exploring the various intriguing, though sometimes contradictory, characteristics of Italian society today. The orientation days also include a series of cultural activities, a welcome reception with the host families, faculty and staff, and a group historical tour of the ancient city.

After the conclusion of orientation, the Intensive Italian Language Course begins. During the first three weeks of the semester, students dedicate their time to improving their Italian language skills, exploring the city, visiting the community service sites, and getting to know their host families. Following the Intensive Italian Language Course, the group takes a break with a 4-day group excursion to a selected destination. Past trips have been north to a spa in the Italian Alps, to Genova and the Cinque Terre and to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast to the south. After the group excursion, the regular semester begins. During the semester, students take Italian Language and choose a series of elective courses.

Onsite Staff: The Resident Director of SIS is Lavinia Bracci. Lavinia is the founder and director of Siena Italian Studies – Intercultural Education and Study Center, which hosts educational exchange programs for undergraduate students as well as the Italian portion of the Graduate Program of International Development and Service organized by the International Partnership for Service-Learning (IPSL). Her research focus and interests are centered on innovative pedagogies in the field of Intercultural Studies and IC assessment. She holds a degree in Translation and Simultaneous Interpreting in German and Russian and taught foreign languages and Italian as a second language for many years. Currently she is teaching Reflective Writing for both undergraduate and graduate students at Siena Italian Studies.

The Service Learning Coordinator and Host Family Coordinator is Michael Manchester. Mike is originally from Denver, Colorado. He attended Lewis & Clark College, earning a BA in Communications. He has been with Siena Italian Studies since its beginning in 2004 and has lived in Siena since 2002. Currently Mike is the Service-Learning Coordinator for SIS and he is also one of the main coordinators for all homestays for the program. He has experience as a translator for the AC Siena professional soccer team and as an English language teacher for children ranging from kindergarten through high school. In his free time Mike enjoys cooking, brewing beer, basketball and anything and everything about the outdoors and mountains.

About the Program Leader - Benjamin David specializes in Italian art from 1300-1600, with an emphasis on Early Renaissance painting. His scholarship and teaching engage the historical and theoretical implications of the practice of narrative in Renaissance art and theories of narrative more generally. He is especially interested in the relationship between art and literature. Other research projects and courses explore the complex nature of the Renaissance engagement with classical antiquity and visualizations of Dante’s Divine Comedy from the fourteenth century to the present day. He is also interested in how contemporary art creates dialogues with Renaissance and Medieval Art and in the intersections of art history and theories of memory. 


Requirements Fulfilled:

General Education - This program fulfills the Global Perspectives general education requirement for students who successfully complete 8 or more semester credits. IS 273 fulfills the Historical Perspectives or the Creative Arts general education requirement. IS 274 fulfills the Historical Perspectives general education requirement. IS 276 fulfills the Culture, Power and Identity general education requirement.

WLL 201 fulfills the World Language proficiency general education requirement.

Credits: 18 credits. Students take 8 credits of Italian language, a 2-credit Intercultural Dialogue class, and two 4-credit electives chosen from the list below.


Language Courses: Students attend the initial three week intensive course for 75 hours. They will study the main grammar and vocabulary structures of the language and practice the communicative functions needed for an effective interaction in the host community. Students take weekly written and oral tests and engage in many language-based activities (such as task-based projects, visits to museums, etc.).

During the regular semester, students continue to attend Italian language courses for 8 hours a week. They continue learning language and culture, delving more deeply into grammar, vocabulary and in practical communicative functions. At the end of the semester, depending on their level, students will be able to achieve primary linguistic competencies such as speaking, understanding and interacting with local native language speakers. Students also take ‘Intercultural Dialogue, Democracy and Global Citizenship through Reflection’ as well as their choice of electives from the options listed below.

Students who have placed into a level of Italian Language beyond the 201 level** may, in consultation with the Overseas Office and Program Leader, elect to take higher level Italian language classes in place of WLL 102 and WLL 201. Alternately, students may elect to replace one or both courses with the approved electives listed above.

Students who have placed into the 201 level of Italian** may replace WLL 102 with one of the additional elective courses listed above, or an additional Italian language course at the 202 level.

Course List:

Please note: all courses are taught in Italian

WLL 102:  Beginning Italian

WLL  201: Intermediate Italian

IS 271: Intercultural Dialogue, Democracy and Global Citizenship through Reflection

Choice of:

IS 273: Topics in Art History

IS 272: Modern Italian History

IS 274: Religious Cultures and Traditions in Italy

IS 275: Introduction to Sociolinguistics

IS 276: Emigration in Italy and Europe

Course Descriptions:

IS 271 Intercultural Dialogue, Democracy and Global Citizenship through Reflection (2 credits)

This course combines structured and guided reflection with fundamental issues that characterize today’s world both in a global and a local perspective. Students are invited and led to reflect on the ever-changing challenges that await them as future global citizens. The course opens with a historical and philosophical discussion about the paradigm of hospitality and its corollaries guiding students to reflect and ponder on how this paradigm has been changing in recent times. It leads students through the understanding of the concept of otherness and includes a brief overview on human rights. It goes on with discussing the history of European institutions and Europe’s efforts to spread the concept of intercultural dialogue and deeply analyzes the most recent European outcomes in terms of democracy protection and democratic competencies development.

IS 272 Modern Italian History (4 credits)
On March 17, 1861 the Italian Parliament convened for the first time. That date, symbolic of Italian unification, could also be taken as the beginning of the long process, which ended in the creation of a government and a nation. By looking at the most significant periods of Nineteenth and Twentieth century Italian history (Unification, birth of Sovereignty, the Great War, Fascism, the Second World War, the Resistance, the constitution of the Republic), we will trace the profound social, political and economic transformations that changed the face of the population and its sense of national identity throughout over 150 years of history.

IS 273 Topics in Art History (4 credits)
This course offers on rotation a series of different topics of Italian Art History. Based not only on specific time periods but also on themes that tie various historical or cultural eras together, each semester offers an opportunity to explore topics ranging from a brief but exhaustive panorama of Italian Romanticism, to a specific theme-based topic such as the use of the portrait in the Renaissance. For each historical and cultural era or topic, we’ll examine major themes and artists, thus opening windows onto the cultural and historical worlds of each topic or period.

IS 274 Religious Cultures and Traditions in Italy (4 credits)
This course explores foundations and contributions of Christianity in the cultural development of Italy, in particular in the Tuscany region, from the Roman Empire to the twentieth century. Study focuses on how religion is expressed and shaped through art history, literature, and popular media.

IS 275 Introduction to Sociolinguistics (4 credits)
This course focuses on history, regional variety, and structure of the Italian language through a study of sociolinguistics. Key course themes include Latinate origins of the language, study of dialects and diastatic variation, and Italian in mass media and as an “ethnic language” abroad.

IS 276 Emigration in Italy and Europe During the Globalization Era (4 credits)
This course provides a wide overview of the migratory processes and movements from and to Italy in the past thirty years. Students analyze the reasons and consequences of this transformation. Key course themes include Italian emigration in the twenty-first century, extra-European emigration, and the impact of movement on Italian society.

Excursions: Each semester program includes a 4-day group excursion to a chosen location. This excursion follows the Intensive Italian Course and includes some relaxation time as well as visits to culturally significant sites. Students will also attend several half-day and full-day excursions that are designed to give students a wide-ranging and meaningful experience of Tuscany (and other regions of Italy) of the sort tourists rarely have. We visit farms that produce wine, olive oil and pecorino cheese; relax in one of the region’s many natural hot springs; experience traditional Tuscan festivals such as Carnevale in Foiano della Chiana. Each semester also includes a visit to Florence and the Uffizi Gallery, as well as an Italian Opera in Florence or Pisa as well as a day trip hiking along to Tuscan coast to an unspoiled beach in the Maremma Region of Tuscany. Excursions vary from semester to semester.

* Students may be exempted from the pre-semester Italian 101 course at the discretion of the instructor, or by submitting an official placement exam result indicating placement into a higher level of Italian. The instructor may not exempt the student from WLL-102 or 201.  Students are required to enroll in WLL-102 and 201 unless an official, qualifying  placement exam** has been submitted to the Registrar’s Office.

** Placement exams must be administered by a regionally accredited institution of higher learning (US or Canada). See the Registrar’s Office for more information on the placement exam requirements.

Student Life

Housing: All participants are accommodated with local host families. The home-stay is an integral and indispensable part of all SIS programs, offering students the opportunity to make lifelong friends, reinforce the language skills acquired during daily lessons and to experience modern Italian culture from “the inside.” The carefully selected families, whether a single mother, a young married couple with children or an elderly widow, are all experienced in hosting American students. The host families view this experience as a form of cultural exchange and are eager to share their version of Italian culture with program participants.

Conversation Partners: Students have the opportunity to practice their spoken Italian language with the help of Italian native speaker language partners. Students and partners take part in some activities and meetings, usually once a week at school or in the city. When needed, students also can contact tutors (Italian students serving internships at Siena Italian Studies) to receive help studying for their language or content courses.

Community Service: Participants in SIS programs are encouraged to perform service in the community through the IC partner Ulisse Cultural Association. This service can range from 1-5 hours a week and opportunities are in a variety of different service sites. Students might set tables at the city soup kitchen, visit with the elderly at a nursing home, teach English to local elementary school children or volunteer on the city ambulance. Volunteering in the community is an unparalleled way to improve language skills, get involved in the local social fabric and make a genuine contribution to the host community.


2024-2025 Fee Breakdown*

Total Fee (includes Tuition, Program Fee, and Health & Wellness Fee): $40,962

Tuition: $32,197

Program Fee: $8,728

Health & Wellness Fee: $37**

Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, and administrative fees. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals. 

*Fees are updated every February for the following academic year.

**The Health & Wellness Fee supports the operations of Wellness Services staff in delivering pre-program orientation services, as well as in providing health-related consultation regarding participant health needs. All students in the College of Arts and Sciences pay a mandatory fee of $37 per semester.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.

Estimated Airfare (Round Trip PDX to FLR): $1,000 - $1,500

Estimated Travel Document Fees: $60 - $80

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,906

All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding health insurance & overseas programs.  

Program Preparation

Application Process: This program has a dual application process. Student must first submit a Lewis & Clark Application one year before the start of the program. Once admitted by Lewis & Clark, the students will receive instructions for submitting their secondary application to SIS and will receive a separate notification letter of admission.  Please keep a digital copy of your essays and other application materials as you will need to submit these similar materials to SIS. Please note that this secondary application process can be as late as the semester preceding your scheduled participation.

The semester before the program, students who have been accepted will meet regularly for orientation. This orientation is meant to prepare the students for life in Siena by exploring literature and culture, and provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the logistical details of the program.

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into the Pisa airport (PSA), where they are met by SIS staff and will travel to Siena as a group.

Visa: Students will be required to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. Students are required to visit a consulate in their jurisdiction to make a personal appearance to apply for this visa. The nearest official consulate that serves the Portland, Oregon area is San Francisco. In the past students have been able to apply with the Honorary Consul in Portland. However, this is not a guarantee. More information will be provided upon admission to the program.

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to Italy.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s Italy page.

Italy, Siena