Live and study at the intersection of food politics, sustainability, and culture on a working farm in Tuscany.
Italy is the birthplace of the Slow Food movement. Unpack the movement’s motto of “good, clean, and fair food” on the farm and with producers, processors, food activists, and consumers across the region.
Explore how the business of food affects the health and wealth of farmers, workers, families, and communities.
Students live and work at the Castello Sonnino, a historic estate roughly 12 miles outside the major city of Florence. Since the early 1800s, the Sonnino family has run the estate, and the current generation is deeply committed to cultural and architectural preservation. Their vision for sustainable development encompasses the beautifully preserved family residence, as well as 300+ acres of woods, olive groves, vineyards, and working farm land.
Students live in apartments on the Sonnino grounds, studying the political and economic context of the farming and food movements particular to Italy. Through an internship placement on the farm, in the village, or in nearby Florence, students gain firsthand experience of sustainable local food systems and the role those systems play in maintaining rural culture in Tuscany. At the beginning of the semester, there is intensive instruction in basic Italian (or other levels for those with previous experience). Finally, students complete a guided independent study project on a topic that deeply interests them.
The program is based in the olive and grape-growing region of Tuscany. Students live and study on a working farm with active cultivation and processing of olives and grapes, and land in farro (spelt, an ancient wheat). There are also chickens and bees on the farm. Field trips will include visits to other farms, agricultural coops, food processing plants, and grassroots organizations. Historically, settlement and farming have been quite different in northern and southern Italy; the program will include comparative study with at least one other location in Italy.
Prerequisites/Eligibility: Students must have completed their first year in college
Students must be in good academic standing overall – 2.0 GPA or higher (any GPA lower than 2.5 will receive extra evaluation)
Students must also complete all home campus requirements for off-campus study
No course or language prerequisites. Instruction is in English. At the beginning of the program, students will receive intensive instruction in basic Italian language (or at other levels for those with previous study).
Total: 4 course credits / 16 credit hours
- Agriculture and Sustainability in Tuscany
- Economics of Sustainable Food Production in Contemporary Europe
- Sustainable Italy Internship
- Independent Study Project
The courses are taken as an integrated whole and provide the equivalent of a semester's worth of credit, i.e. 4 course credits, 16 semester credits or 27 trimester credits. This program is full-time, five days a week, with classes scheduled for two days a week, and two or three days a week in an internship.
This is a list of pre-approved GE credits. If you want other courses to be considered for GE credit, contact your St. Olaf Program Adviser:
ITALY: SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, FOOD, AND JUSTICE IN ITALY (HECUA)