Study Abroad / Affiliated Programs / HECUA

Montespertoli, Italy


Spend a semester in Italy!

Fall Semester

Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and Justice in Italy is HECUA’s program where students 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.

In this new program, students explore how culture and food production intersect in Italy. They learn about Italian and European agricultural movements and initiatives and their political and cultural contexts. They see firsthand how people in Tuscany and Italy are working for sustainability—agricultural, environmental, cultural, and economic.

Students also learn how agriculture and food policy, business practices, and financial structures within Italy and across the European Union affect the health and wealth of farmers, workers, families, and communities.

  • Agriculture and Sustainability in Tuscany
  • Economics of Sustainable Food Production in Contemporary Europe
  • Italian Language & Sustainable Italy Internship
  • Independent Study Project

Total: 4 courses / 16 credit hours
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.


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 furnished apartments on the Sonnino grounds, and receive a food stipend and cooking lessons. By living at the Castello Sonnino, students enter the landscape and the political and economic context of the farming and food movements particular to Italy.

Explore Castello Sonnino’s web site here to see the housing and the farm. Through an internship placement on the Castello Sonnino farm, in the village of Montespertoli (five minutes’ walk), or at a nearby farm, 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.


This HECUA semester abroad is an Saint Mary’s Affiliated Program. As such, all Federal and State aid (except work study) and up to $2,000 in Saint Mary’s institutional aid may be applied to the program’s costs. Contact the Director of Study Abroad to discuss program fees and financial aid.

HECUA distributes three distinctive scholarships to students applying or enrolled in HECUA programs. To learn more visit HECUA’s Scholarship Resource Page.

Program Dates/Application Deadlines

Fall program dates are September 3 to December 14, 2018. Application deadline is March 15, 2018.

Application Procedures

To be eligible, you must have at least a 2.0 GPA (preferably a 2.5 GPA) and be of sophomore status.

Apply and Pay Application Fee of $50 online, submit a copy to the Study Abroad Office along with Saint Mary’s required paperwork. Application may be picked up in the Study Abroad Office, International Center, the Heights.

Apply Now!

Acceptance is contingent on a thorough review of the student’s application and subsequent approval from HECUA.

Next Steps

After acceptance, complete the following required items.

  1. Pay $500 non-refundable program deposit payable to Saint Mary’s.
  2. Attend all orientation sessions.
  3. Obtain a passport. Submit a copy of the first page to the Study Abroad Office.
  4. Obtain a student visa.
  5. Arrange travel plans. Submit a copy of your flight itinerary to the Study Abroad Office
Culture/City Information

Tuscany is a region in central Italy. Its capital, Florence, is home to some of the world’s most recognizable Renaissance art and architecture, including Michelangelo’s “David” statue, Botticelli’s works in the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo basilica. Its diverse natural landscape encompasses the rugged Apennine Mountains, the island of Elba’s beaches on the Tyrrhenian Sea and Chianti’s olive groves and vineyards.

Winter months in Italy are generally cloudy and rainy. Cold temperatures rarely fall under 32 ° F (0 °C). January-March in Florence will typically be cool, damp, foggy and rainy, ranging in temperatures from 40-50 °F (4-10 °C). Temperatures in April will be warmer, around 60-65 °F (16-18 °C). In Italy, temperature is measured in Celsius. F=(C*1.8)+32. Ex. 21 °C = 70 °F.

When Central Standard Time is in effect in the United States, Italy is seven hours ahead. Daylight Savings Time is also observed in Italy.

The currency in Italy is the Euro. Euro bank notes come in the following denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. Coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 1 euro and 2 euro.

More Information

Find Us

The Heights International Center, Room 103
Winona Campus
Hours: Monday–Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Fax: 507-457-6917