Engineering Perspectives of the Renaissance and Sustainability: Florence


Spend a month in the beautiful and historic city of Florence, Italy! Through two courses for a total of 6 credits you will explore the history of art and architecture, as well as the engineering & sustainability practices of the European Renaissance.  

Students will be introduced to engineering and technological achievements of the Renaissance period and place these achievements within the sociological and artistic context of that period. We will focus on revolutionary advances in understanding of physics and engineering during the Renaissance, with particular emphasis on architecture, mechanical inventions and biomedical engineering. Students will gain an introduction of  how concepts of sustainability were prevalent in the Renaissance and show parallels to modern day design.

This program is comprised of classroom lectures, special guest visitors and related museum visits and excursions! 

Prerequisite: Open to any Pitt student at the sophomore level or above with a basic knowledge of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, introductory physics, and calculus.  (Students do not need to be in the Swanson School of Engineering to apply.)



What You'll Accomplish: 

You will gain:

  • Insight into the great minds of the Renaissance - including da Vinci, Galileo, and others where they actually conducted their research and studies
  • An understanding of important principles of engineering and physics that were developed during the Renaissance in comparison with today’s practices in engineering sustainability
  • A contextual perspective of art history that explains the thoughts and social situations of renaissance engineers in Florence


Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area. Florence is famous for its history. Once the center of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Due to Florence's artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world; it is noted for its history, culture, Renaissance art and architecture, and monuments. Florence is also an important city in Italian fashion, ranked among the top 50 fashion capitals of the world; furthermore, its status as a tourist and industrial hub makes Florence a major national economic center.

Where You'll Live: 

You will live like a Florentine during your time abroad. Housing placements are scattered throughout the city-center and location depends on availability. Exact addresses are provided closer to departure. Florence is a very flat, pedestrian friendly, and walkable city.

Like the streets of Florence, no two apartments on the Renaissance program are alike in terms of design, but all will give you a comfortable place to call home in Italy. Your housing will be shared apartments. Most apartments are located within a walking commute to the CAPA Center. Apartments are within what is considered the city-center. 

You can expect the following at your accommodations:

  • A fully equipped kitchen
  • Washing machine(s) in the building (Italian apartments typically do not have dryers).  
  • Shared living area
  • Shared bedroom
  • Wifi


What You'll Study: 

The program consists of two Pitt courses for a total of 6 academic credits.

The engineering 3-credit course is taught by two Pitt faculty members from the Swanson School of Engineering - ENGR 0034.  The updated syllabus for this course will be available soon.

The second course is called "Italian Renaissance Art History" (HAA 0302). 

Prerequisite: Open to any Pitt student at the sophomore level or above with a basic knowledge of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, introductory physics, and calculus.  (Students do not need to be in the Swanson School of Engineering to apply.)


Engineering students can view how these courses will fulfill degree requirements here:

Other students: please check with your academic advisor for fulfillment of degree requirements.

Engineering Perspectives of the Renaissance and Sustainabilty (ENGR0034)

The objectives of this course are many-fold. On the one hand, to review the main historical, technological, and scientific events preceding the advent of the Renaissance. On the other hand, to introduce students to the relevant engineering and technological achievements of the Renaissance period and place these achievements within the sociological and artistic context of that period. In particular, the course will focus on revolutionary advances in understanding of physics and engineering during the Renaissance, with particular emphasis on the contributions of Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei. We will introduce and demonstrate how concepts of sustainability were prevalent in the Renaissance, and show parallels to modern day design. 
Engineering students can review how the course counts for requirements by contacting the faculty director of their department. Students from other departments should consult their academic advisors. 

Italian Renaissance Art History (HAA0302)

This course introduces students to painting, sculpture, and architecture in Florence in the Renaissance. Beginning with the great projects of the Middle Ages that defined the religious and political centers of the city, attention focuses on major monuments of the Renaissance. Discussion will center on how works of art were made, their style, and how they communicate intellectual meaning. Sub-themes that intersect with the most recent research in the field of art history are interwoven into each class period. Topics for discussion include the cross-cultural fertilization of artistic ideas, how women, the poor, and children were depicted in Renaissance art, conflicting ideas regarding patronage, and how works of art construct religious, political, gender, and class identities. This course analyzes the interrelationship between people's creative achievements and their society. In other words, students must understand a work of art in the social, artistic, and historical context of medieval and renaissance Florence.


The University of Pittsburgh partners with the CAPA: The Global Education Network for this program. For more than 45 years CAPA has worked with institutions of higher education to build programs that meet their goals for learning abroad. CAPA operates education centers in Global Cities and has developed distinct academic offerings, support frameworks, and oversight structures for students and visiting faculty.
The CAPA Florence Center is housed in Palazzo Galli-Tassi, a 15th century palace in the Santa Croce neighborhood. The CAPA Florence team is available throughout your program to assist and support you 24/7 with any urgent situations.
There are many CAPA-led events during the program through CAPA’s own My Global City Program. These events/activities may include a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo for stunning views over the city of Florence and a hike in the nearby hills, followed by dinner in one of the best pizzerias in town. Other activities, often self-guided, reflect the events occurring in the city at the time and may include a walking tour to the most important markets of Florence, tasting typical Italian snacks, a night at the Opera or attending soccer match at the Florence Stadium. Some events/activities are free while others may require a small fee. Many students say that the CAPA My Global City Programs were some of the best experiences on their entire program.
Dr. Anne Robertson and Dr. Melissa Bilec will co-teach this program in Summer 2024.

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts: 

Jodi Suckle

Bonjour, Shalom, Sawadee-ka! I'm Jodi, a Global Programs Manager in the Swanson School of Engineering. My study abroad experiences to France and Turkey fueled my passion for travel and international education. I have helped students travel to, and participate in programs on 6 continents, and love enabling students to experience and learn about the world. I grew up in New York and have lived in Israel, Thailand, and Guatemala. Every time I go somewhere new my favorite thing is learning about the history, cultures, and traditions of the place, and trying new food of course. Come talk to me about engineering Panther Programs and Plus3, or if you're an international exchange student new to Swanson and Pitt. 

Schedule an appointment

SSOE students: schedule an appointment with me using Pathways via this link!
non-SSOE students-- send me an email and we'll set up a time to meet!

Your In-Country Contacts: 

Dr. Galdi

Dr. Galdi will lead the program for Summer 2023. 
He joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall semester 1999. Prior to that, in the years 1980-1985 he was Professor at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Naples (Italy) and, from 1985 until 1998, Professor at the Institute of Engineering of the University of Ferrara (Italy). Dr. Galdi founded and organized the School of Engineering of the University of Ferrara in 1989, where he was the Dean from 1989 until 1995.He has been Distinguished/Chair Visiting Professor in several academic institutions in UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, China, Japan, India, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, France, Portugal, Italy, and Switzerland.With his work, Dr.Galdi has also pioneered several other fundamental areas of mathematical fluid mechanics, including dynamics of viscoelastic fluids, steady-state and time-periodic bifurcation of flow past an obstacle, and fluid-structure interactions. 

Dr. Melissa M. Bilec

Dr. Melissa Bilec will co-lead the program in Summer 2023. She is the William Kepler Whiteford Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co-director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. Dr. Bilec has published 135 peer reviewed articles and secured $10 million in funding, including 14 National Science Foundation grants. Her research focuses on the sustainable built environment. She is committed to exploring how the built environment can be an integral part of climate change solutions. She views the world and her research using a systems-level approach, as she is an expert in the life cycle assessment. Using this view, she integrates critical built environment modeling approaches from building energy modeling to indoor air quality to develop robust strategies to mitigate climate change and deleterious environmental and human health impacts. Most recently, she is working to solve the global waste challenge through the advancement and development of circular economy principles, since the built environment is a major consumer of resources and producer of waste.

Dr. Bilec is committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity. She is working to advance the issues around and the solutions to environmental justice in the City of Pittsburgh. Dr. Bilec is co-leading her department’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access committee. She is also the co-faculty advisor for Pitt Society for Women Engineering.  She was awarded the School of Engineering Diversity Award 2017-2018 and received Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction award in 2019.  

She has received four education excellence awards, and she developed a new M.S. in Sustainable Engineering degree and co-developed a university-wide undergraduate certificate in sustainability. Dr. Bilec’s work prior to academia focused on green infrastructure projects, including the conversion of a 100-year bridge into a pedestrian bridge. She has two amazing kids, a supportive and funny partner, and two puppies that keep her active.


Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Program Fee (see the "What's included" section) $6550 $6750
Study Abroad Fee $300 $300
Total Billed by Pitt $6850 $7050


Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs

Airfare  estimated (~$1,500)
Meals estimated (~$500) 
Visa costs if applicable- If you are not a U.S. Citizen there might be costs associated with applying for a visa TBD


What's Included: 

As a part of the fee, the following are included in the program:

  • Tuition for 6 Pitt credits
  • On-site orientation
  • Arrival and departure group dinner
  • Housing in furnished apartments in Florence
  • Airport transfer upon arrival in Florence
  • Ground transportation for academic excursions
  • Health insurance
  • Florence bus pass
  • Excursions and cultural activities, including the CAPA My Global City calendar of offerings. My Global City events/activities from the past have included: a gelato tour around the city, a boat ride on the Arno, a legends of Florence tour, and more! (view this YouTube video about my Global City.)

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad.  Visit our budgeting page for more information.

**Note that Pitt Global Experience Office courses/programs such as this one, operate outside of normal tuition and fee schedules and cannot be combined nor included in full-term tuition pricing. 

For global scholarship opportunities, check out:

  • the Pitt GEO scholarship page for links to national, provider and private scholarship samples
  • PittFund$Me  for Pitt sponsored funding including Pitt wide global scholarships, Nationality Rooms, VIH, etc.
  • PittFund$Me  for the SSOE Global Experience Scholarships!



What Else You Need to Know: 

Admissions Requirements:

  • This program is open to any Pitt student with a basic knowledge of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, introductory physics, and calculus. (Students do not need to be in the Swanson School of Engineering to apply.)
  • Good academic and behavioral standing, in your second year or higher level at the time of application

Students that have gone on this program before want you to know....
"I would highly suggest all undergrad students take advantage of studying abroad sometime during their college career.  My favorite aspect of the program was learning about a new culture and becoming familiar with the city of Florence while I was studying there.  It was amazing to be able to spend more than just a few days in the city and to learn about its history and be comfortable with navigating around it."
- Kelly Macie 
" I want to incorporate travel into my lifestyle more than I had previously. Being abroad has allowed me to become more independent, brave, flexible, and aware of global issues. Additionally, I love the challenge and thrill of being immersed in something so different and new. Keeping an open-mind is key to personal growth, especially as a foreigner."
- Mahalia Bradford
Check out a few of the students' blogs from this program: