Our students are the global leaders of the future

The UMass Amherst Italian Studies Program contributes to the internationalization of the college experience.

Rich in history, arts, and culture, Italy lies in the middle of the Mediterranean, at the crossroads of east and west, Continental Europe and North Africa, providing, today more than ever, a privileged point of view to observe and understand the geopolitical, cultural, social, and financial dynamics that connect Europe to the rest of the world. Historically an open gateway to cultural and socio-political influence from the Mediterranean, as well as its continental neighbors, Italy also stands at the crossroads of time—past, present, and future—as a vibrant example of transformation and evolution. Migrations to Italy and from Italy have always signed its history from ancient to post-modern times, and constituted the intrinsic diversity of the country’s culture.

Italy’s rich and multifaceted social and intellectual heritage informs the work of modern and contemporary writers (Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco) and scientists (Rita Levi-Montalcini, Margherita Hack, Carlo Rubbia). Modern cinema had its birth in Italy, among the rubbles of WWII, with neo-realism; it continued to evolve in the parallel and yet diverging masterpieces of Antonioni and Fellini, and still endures in Paolo Sorrentino’s recent Academy Award winner, The Great Beauty. The multidisciplinary perspective of the Italian program at UMass Amherst allows our students to understand how Italy’s history and modernity are crucial to the broadening of the cultural horizons of future leaders.

Italian Culture's Global Influence

Exterior of the modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. A building with a reflecting pool in the foreground and a blue, evening sky behind it.

Languages and cultures indeed belong to specific geographic areas, but their presence and influence travel around the world. The image that accompanies this paragraph depicts the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, designed by Renzo Piano, the world-renowned architect from Genoa, Italy. His work in the United States includes iconic landmarks such as the New York Times Building and the Morgan Library in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Resnick Pavilion, the Harvard Art Museum, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Expansion in Boston. Piano is also the mind behind many other iconic buildings in the US and around the world, from Paris’ Centre George Pompidou to the London Bridge Tower, to numerous other structures in Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, New Caledonia, and, of course, all over Italy and Europe.

Piano’s work for the Chicago Art Institute is just one example of how the artistic contributions of Italian arts to the world go well beyond the legacy of the timeless masterpieces of the Renaissance Masters and their tradition. That tradition is indeed alive and present in the definitively modern work of fashion and industrial designers, architects and engineers. This daily relationship with beauty is what makes Italian style a trademark of elegance and refined taste cherished by the most prestigious international institutions and individuals the world over. That creative spirit born from a centuries-old tradition is perhaps the most powerful driving force behind Italy’s economy today, Italy’s most recognizable trade mark in the international community, and an inexhaustible reservoir of ideas and inspiration that is waiting to reveal its secrets to young and curious minds.