University teaching programs

Food Culture

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Quarterly study abroad program of the Gustolab International Institute. The program is worth 15 credits.   


The course will examine Italian’s foodscapes from historical, political, economic, cultural, and culinary perspectives. Students will start with a general introduction to the pillars of the Mediterranean culture and the subsequent shaping of Italy's food culture, resulting in a deep-rooted network of local and regional traditions.

They will also examine contemporary issues, such as the success of the Mediterranean diet abroad, food production, distribution, and consumption through food visits in and not limited to the territory of Rome (the students will in fact travel and visit some productions in the Lazio, Campania, Calabria and Sicily regions). Wine and specific food products, both artisanal and mass-produced, will be tasted and discussed, and their cultural signification evaluated.


Course Goals: 

This course presents students with the basic tools necessary for better understanding Italian food culture. Its broad perspective encompasses traditional farming and processing techniques, the industrial and global food economy and changing consumption habits. 

Its anthropological approach draws from classical and modern writing. Italy is world-famous for its produce diversity and vibrant peasant traditions. 

Even apparently simple, everyday food staples in Italy contain layers of significance connecting to the following topics: the peculiar man-nature relationship needed for their production; preserving and cooking techniques; the influences from foreign cooking philosophies and/or crops; the pressure of the global market; and the type of socialization involved during the meal.

A primary goal of the course is to provide students with theoretical and empirical tools to understand and evaluate food systems and “foodscapes” that they encounter in their home country or abroad, and eventually embrace food-related career paths.


Critical thinking outcomes

Through lectures, field trips and project works, the student will:

1. Be able to identify the major components of the term “food culture”. 

2. Gain knowledge of the orientation, evolution, and trends of food culture as related to the country of study - Italy. 

3. Recognize the areas of influence that contribute to shape dishes especially in the Mediterranean area (Middle-Eastern and Greek, Latin/Etruscan, Germanic, Muslim and French);

4. Develop understanding of the practice and rituals of meal preparation and consumption specific to Italian and European cultures. 

5. Locate the history of Italian cuisine within the larger evolution of agriculture and food production;

6.  exposed to the traditional food production techniques and varied ingredients that blend together to produce the Italian Culture. 

7. Explain how global processes are reshaping the Italian food system from above and below (such as through international trade, homogenization, sterilization and the new farm-to-table movements).



      • Introduction: Our relationships to food, regarding food as a -culture, some analytical keys (LECTURE)
      • Making and shaping fresh pasta, tasting improvised seasonal sauces matched with different shapes (COOKING LAB)
      • The Mediterranean food and farming culture: from middle-eastern foundations to roman empire
      • Preparing ragù sauce as an alchemy, making and tasting lasagna: a multi-layered symbol of cultural influences on the Italian food culture (COOKING LAB)
      • Cultural influences in the formation of Italian cuisine throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance (LECTURE)
      • Italy as a mosaic of regions: local cooking grammars and dialects, regional identity and the unification (STUDY VISIT)
      • Pasta, the industrial revolution, the American dream and the Italian  food Identity (LECTURE)
      • The economic miracle: from nonna’s kitchen to supermarkets… and back to slow-food again. The example of EVO (LECTURE)
      • Eating well in contemporary Italy: farm-to-table versus the delicacies’ marketing (STUDY VISIT)
      • Beyond pasta and pizza stereotypes: an authentic Italian experience of cooking with what you have. Improvisational menu based on fresh in-season veggies from the market (COOKING LAB)
      • Wheat as a plant of civilization, bread as a world (LECTURE)
      • Preparing sourdough bread and pizza with ancient roman spelt varieties (COOKING LAB)
      • The role of the marketplace in linking the city to the countryside, the challenges of a globalized food chain, the revival of agroecology (LECTURE)