Studying abroad in Cortona, Italy

Art & Design student, Ziwei Huang, shares what it's like to finally experience Italian art, culture and history without a textbook.

Erik Einsiedel - 18 March 2019

Ziwei Huang is a third-year student in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture program at the University of Alberta, and (at the time of this writing) is currently in Cortona, Italy, as part of the Cortona Study Abroad program offered through the Faculty of Arts.

Ziwei was kind enough to send us an update from Cortona, giving a glimpse into the opportunities offered through Study Abroad.

ARTS NEWS: What drew you to the Cortona program?

ZIWEI HUANG: I think the program itself is very well structured. It covers various interesting topics from Renaissance cities to Italian Mafia to ancient civilizations. Also, there are many field trips that take students to different parts of Italy, helping to test our knowledge and relate it to real life experience.

AN: What is a typical day for you like in Cortona?

ZH: I usually wake up at 8:30 a.m. and have breakfast with other students. Then I walk to the classroom with other students and spend most of our day there. The building where we attend lectures is a beautiful convent that once belonged to the order of St. Agostino. The construction of the building dates back to the thirteenth century.

Every Tuesday afternoon, we spend some time with our professors discussing what we have been learning. After that, we would head to a restaurant for dinner at about 7:30 p.m. Food in Tuscany is very healthy, yet delicious. There are many vegetables such as beans, carrots and potatoes. And beef in Tuscany is comparable to Albertan Beef!

Ziwei Huang Cortona

AN: What are you most excited for during your stay there?

ZH: I am excited about different art experiences in Italy. I only saw some Italian art -- such as the Vatican City, Michelangelo's David, or Italian Futurism -- in an art history textbook. I am excited to have an in-person experience with these famous pieces of art in history as well as the present. I am also excited to see ancient Etruscan and Greek ruins. I think these are great places to not only learn about the ancient world but also a place for contemplation and meditation.

Stay tuned to Arts News when Ziwei returns from Cortona with exciting tales of his experiences in Italy, and how they impacted him!

Ziwei Huang Cortona


Each year, students from all Faculties and disciplines travel to Cortona, Italy and enrol in courses that take advantage of this unique Tuscan location. UAlberta and local instructors conduct regular classroom lectures in English on diverse topics like Renaissance Art, Roman Civilization, Sociology and Political Science.

Instead of studying it in a textbook, students actually travel to see Michelangelo's David. Instead of reading about architecture of the sixteenth century, students live in a converted monastery dating back to the 1500s. Studying at the School in Cortona is more than just attending lectures - it's about immersing yourself in a cultural experience.

Learn more about the School in Cortona and other Study Abroad programs offered by the Faculty of Arts.