Why Study in Florence?

“In the speed-oriented video and texting culture of our age, it seems to me to be of exceptional importance that students do not lose the “arts of reading” (reading texts, pictures, sculptures, artifacts, buildings): to read, to read carefully (less is more), to reread, to read in dialogue, to interpret, to interpret in context.

Through Brunelleschi, Donatello, Masaccio the reading of art can be taught in a context that could not be more enticing to the human mind, eye, and heart.”

- Excerpt from “Why Stanford in Florence?
Keynote Address by Gerhard Casper, President Emeritus, Stanford University on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Stanford University’s Breyer Center for Overseas Studies in Florence in June, 2010.

“Italy has more history, and more of it accessibly displayed, than any country in the world. And no Italian city has a richer stock of that visible history – not to mention an abundance of beauty and sheer enchantment – than Florence. My own studies in Florence as a Stanford undergraduate altered my sense of history itself, of time’s scale and weight. I also fell in love with a culture, a language, and a people in ways that have deeply affected my life ever since.”

- Professor David M. Kennedy
Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus

“While many Stanford undergraduates take advantage of the Overseas Studies programs, relatively few in the School of Engineering consider Stanford's oldest campus in Florence. They should! Florence is the birthplace of the artist/engineer, a great place for students interested in subjects like Product Design to immerse themselves in a culture where no apology is made for the role of art in engineering and vice versa. The tradition continues today, with Ferrari, Lamborghini, and many other industries located a short train ride from the Florence campus, not to mention the fashion firms like Gucci and Ferragamo right in town.

And then there is the new campus in the Palazzo Capponi alle Rovinate, a 15th century palace beautifully restored for Stanford. With today's Internet access you can catch up on a core engineering course while taking local courses in surroundings that are simply inspirational."

- Professor Mark Cutkosky
Fletcher Jones Chair II in the School of Engineering

"I spent part of my junior year abroad and it was a transformational experience for me. It is for many students. Here’s why, and here’s what is special about choosing to study in Florence."

- Excerpt from "Why Stanford in Florence?"
Rob Reich
Faculty-in-Residence, Stanford in Florence, Autumn 2013-14

Top Reasons to Study in Florence

  • The Breyer Center for Overseas Studies in Florence is Stanford University’s longest standing center abroad (we celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2010).
  • Italy is a place that has a ridiculous amount of history and art; it is a critical place for modern politics and can also lay claim to a warm and fun-loving people.
  • Well over 5,000 Stanford students have studied at the Stanford in Florence Program including the former U.S. Ambassador to Italy, the founders of expedia.com and Instagram and the current President of Yale University.
  • Giotto, Dante Alighieri, Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo were all born in the Florence area. Chaucer, Milton, Mark Twain, Henry James, Bernard Berenson, Robert Browning and Ezra Pound all lived in the city for a period of time.
  • You can do an internship in Florence and gain invaluable work experience in any given field.
  • You can study Brunelleschi’s Dome while standing on it.
  • You can gain an understanding of contemporary Italian and European society while fulfilling University Ways and your major requirements.
  • Florence is the “cradle of the Renaissance” but it also has a bustling fashion industry and houses the corporate headquarters of Ferragamo, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli.
  • Stanford in Florence students say that living like a local with an Italian host family and savoring gourmet meals every night are the highlights of their Florentine experience.
  • Students find friends for life through the "Friends a Firenze" program.
  • You hone your language skills through in-class instruction and extra-curricular activities with native speakers.
  • You visit Italy’s most famous landmarks on Bing trips.
  • You attend operas, study some of the world’s most important art on-site, and learn the secrets of one the world’s greatest cuisines.
  • You enjoy modern Italian life from the privileged point of view of an insider thanks to public service, internships and extra-curricular activities such as cooking classes, fashion shows and soccer games.
  • Italy is not only the homeland of a rich and unique cultural, artistic, and historical tradition, it is also a world leader in the culinary arts, music, fashion, industrial design, architecture and engineering.
  • Italy is an important presence in international business and politics.
  • According to UNESCO over 60% of the world’s greatest art is housed in Italy - studying in the country is the only way you can fully understand, appreciate, and immerse yourself in it.

Benefits by major

Why Study Italian?

  • Italian is the language of opera and great cinematic and literary works. Studying Italian and becoming proficient in it means finding a key to access Italy’s rich cultural heritage and to understand its unparalleled contribution to western civilization.
  • Mastering another language gives you a competitive edge in a globalized world.
  • Italian courses offered on Campus are very flexible and enable students to fit in studying the language with a variety of majors.
  • Learning Italian will help you understand other languages better and it will also open the doors for new interests like, for example, Italian cinema.
  • Students with a very strong background in another Romance language (French, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) can complete the first-year sequence in two rather than three quarters by taking the First-Year accelerated sequence.
  • Italian is one of the most beautiful languages and can make a great foundation for learning other romance languages. If you already have experience with French or Spanish, Italian grammar and vocabulary is not too difficult to understand and you can be rewarded quickly if you put in the right amount of effort.
  • Taking Italian will enable you to meet great teachers and classmates.
  • Featuring the Italian language on your résumé is not only a conversation starter - it sets you apart from others.

More Information

Italian Language Program
Stanford Language Center
Main Quad, Building 30
Stanford, CA 94305
Email Anna Cellinese

Student and Faculty Testimonials

“My academics and my real life have never been so unified before. Florence hosted the European Union Festival while I was learning about EU politics. Also, my class about Florentine social history and architecture never really ended, because 1) they were mostly walking tours throughout the city and 2) even outside of class, I was still walking around in the city. This kind of educational experience was unbelievable.”

“Gaining knowledge about architecture and history while standing in the spot where everything happened is an unmatched experience. Also, the ability to further knowledge of a language both in and outside of the classroom was also wonderful.”

“Taking Italian in Italy was truly amazing. I became so good at the language, not only as written in the textbook but as spoken by people in real life settings. I loved my film class because it was so different from what I would usually take and it made me want to take more classes on film and art in general.”

“I loved working at my internship. It showed me a different side of politics, the more day-to-day happenings.”

“I really enjoyed making friends with real Italians. This was extremely important for me and helped me to learn about the culture and society of my host country and improved my language skills as well.”

“This has been the most amazing experience and I am so appreciative of the requirements Stanford has for us before coming and the expectations they give us to be travelers and learners of the culture rather than tourists. I loved that we could actually participate in the culture.”

“For me it was an academic experience just talking with my host father about Italian History and the cultural differences that exist between the southern half of Italy where he grew up and Northern Italy. It was another class in a sense just to listen to him and hear about how the way the capstones were laid on the periodic pillars surrounding the top of a fortified castle designated whether in fact a castle sided with the Guelphs or the Ghibellines.”

“Prof. Verdon is a master in art history and manages to bring paintings from the 16th and 17th century back to life through his clever, elevated and on rare occasions even licentious narratives.”

“Just exploring the city, meeting Italians and trying to be as non-touristy as possible and having intellectual and cultural encounters help you grow as a person while you are studying abroad.”

“I would say my experiences with my host family stand out the most. I went to the movies, theater, and church with my host-mom. Also, my day-travel was very fun (though I tried to not travel too much at the expense of not getting to know Florence!).”