Friday 14th August 2020

Take IDS classes in FLORENCE, ITALY

Interactive Digital Studies students at UNI who are interested in visual culture now have a variety of course options for their .ids major or minor.

PALAZZI is an all-English speaking university in Florence. Most of the digital visualization classes fall under DIVA (the School of Digital Imaging and Visual Arts), which is located in the Palazzo Bombicci Pontelli Guicciardini Strozzi—about a 10-minute walk from Florence’s famous central bridge, the Ponte Vecchio. Classes include digital photography, classical photography, photographic history, podcasting, and a special digital photographic project that takes students out onto the streets or into the Italian countryside. When you visit the Study Abroad office at UNI, staff will help you figure out which courses can transfer over.

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The classical beauty of Florence is a photographic muse that will inspire students as they learn about framing, shutterspeed, HD range shooting, digital photo stitching, and dark room techniques. Surrounded by Italian culture, you will also learn about the language, food, art, architecture, landscaping, design, and rich history of Italy.

Florence is one of Europe’s treasures.  It’s the symbol of the Renaissance, one of the most powerful and influential cities in 15th century Europe, and home to an incredible array of artistic geniuses:  the architects Brunelleschi and Battista Alberti, the painters Masaccio, Uccello and Botticelli, and sculptors Donatello, Ghiberti and della Robbia, as well as the greatest of them all, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. To study at PALAZZI is to be surrounded by artistic grandeur and illustrious history, and PALAZZI itself is indeed in the center of all of this.

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PALAZZI basically means a “group of prestigious, meticulously renovated historic buildings,” and the “PALAZZI” institution operates nine schools under the larger “Florence University of The Arts.”

  • DIVA, the School of Digital Imaging and Visual Arts
  • APICIUS, International School of Hospitality
  • FAST, Fashion and Accessories Studies and Technology
  • IDEAS, Interior Design, Environment, and Sustainability
  • SAS, School of Arts and Sciences
  • ISB, School of International Business
  • J SCHOOL, School of Journalism, Communication and Publishing
  • SQUOLA, Center for Contemporary Italian Studies

These schools are housed in numerous historic buildings around Florence (all within walking distance of each other).  According to the PALAZZI website, these buildings “have witnessed the civic, political, and economic life of Florence since centuries that strive to bring innovation to the present and future in the midst of a rich historical context.”  PALAZZI thus offers an atmosphere that, like Florence itself, is rich with character and history.

Since one of PALAZZI’s stated goals is to mix disciplines, students from different PALAZZI schools are encouraged to meet each other, work together, and learn from each other.  For example, every semester the FAST school puts on a huge fashion show, DIVA photographers photograph the event, APACIUS student-chefs supply the hors d’hoevres for the party afterwards, and J SCHOOL students write about it.  All of this collaboration adds to the vibrant and multi-functioning spirit of Palazzi: collaboration leads to exploration, which leads to new ideas about how the various disciplines of art, fashion, food, writing, media, interior design, commerce, and language intersect.

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Ponte Vecchio


The entrance to Palazzo Bombicci Pontelli Guicciardini Strozzi, where  UNI’s .ids  students will study as part of the School of Digital Imaging and Visual Arts (DIVA)

Go up the stairs....

Go up the stairs….

And down the hallway...

And down the hallway…

To find the main “Strozzi” meeting room…

To find the main “Strozzi” meeting room…


One of DIVA’s main instructors is photographer David Weiss, who was born in Chicago, has Italian roots, and has permanently settled in Florence as one of DIVA’s main instructors in digital photography. Weiss assigns mostly hands-on learning projects, and nurtures his students to express the world visually.

DIVA’s main digital photography instructor, David Weiss, meets with UNI’s Bettina Fabos in March, 2013.

As for living arrangements, students are placed in local apartments throughout the historical city center—these are also within walking distance to all campus facilities.   PALAZZI also offers a meal plan at Ganzo, the institution’s non-profit, student-run restaurant/cafeteria (part of APICIUS–the School of International Hospitality).   Ganzo specializes in modest Italian food prepared under the supervision of PALAZZI culinary professors.

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As an experiential learning center for students studying culinary arts, hospitality, and wine studies, Ganzo (and its pastry counterpart, Fedora), connect students with the Florentine community.  In fact, any PALAZZI student can volunteer at Ganzo (working in food prep or wait staff) and in doing so, learn a little bit more about Italian food, wine, and culture.

UNI students studying in Florence can take courses that expose them to a wide range of creative projects, historical context, and technique.  

In addition to the 5 core photography courses, the bundle also emphasizes four ½-day seminars (all taught during a weekend) in specific topics such as Picture Editing, Fashion Photography, Food Photography, Photojournalism, and Silver Halide Photography. These seminars are taught by industry experts and are quick, hands-on immersions introducing students to photographic topics one can usually only find in commercial photography schools.

DIVA coursework is also strengthened by four ½-day seminars (all taught during a weekend) covering  topics such as Picture Editing, Fashion Photography, Food Photography, Photojournalism, and Silver Halide Photography. These seminars are taught by industry experts and are quick, hands-on immersions introducing students to topics one can usually only find in commercial photography schools.

Student digital photography work

Student work in digital photography.

On a live fashion photo shoot.

On a live fashion photo shoot.

Associate Professor of Visual Communication Bettina Fabos visited PALAZZI in March 2013 and is excited about what this program can offer UNI .ids students.  “I’ve  always told my students to travel and see how other people live, think, eat, and, express themselves,” she says.  “It builds perspective, and builds understanding of our huge world,  and I am so proud that our .ids program is connected to Florence, one of the world’s most captivating cities.”

Bettina Fabos with PALAZZI's Massimo XXX, the schools Director of Public Relations.

Bettina Fabos with PALAZZI’s Massimo Coppetti, the institution’s Public Relations Coordinator.

To find out more information about taking classes in Florence, visit with Melvin Fatimehin ( in UNI’s Study Abroad office (Gilchrist 028).  To set up an appointment, email Melvin or call him at 273-7078.


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