Science and Culture Merge Around Food in Italy

Food Science and Italian Studies represented by Anuradha Prakash and Federico Pacchioni, respectively, joined efforts this summer to launch a new Chapman travel course to Italy.

In exploring the food system from farm to fork, students witnessed directly the making of world-renowned products such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma, accompanied local fishermen and truffle hunters in their harvest, and surveyed the offerings in local markets and supermarkets.  The cultural underpinnings of Italian food were brought to life with the help of food anthropologists and historians at our host institution, the Umbra Center for Sustainability and Food Studies, based in Perugia, the medieval capital of the Umbrian green heart of Italy.

Students were immersed in a unique culturally layered environment where food plays vital economic and social functions and traditional methods of food processing confront modern realities.  The course led to original self-directed research projects in which scientific investigation was enlivened by historical context and cultural study was grounded in technical knowledge.

In the words of some of the students…

“Thanks to our professors, we explored Italian culture in a much more immersive way than an average trip abroad. Our itinerary was booked with incredible opportunities, but my favorites included watching the beginning stages of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese being made, fishing with local fishermen at Lake Trasimeno, and just the hospitality the different facilities showed us by welcoming our group and serving us delicious local food. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.” – Jen McCoy Sanders

“My time in Perugia helped me understand the cultural importance of foods. Helping encourage traditions and cultural significance through food regulation was a new aspect of food safety for me that is not often discussed in the US” – Grace Marquis

“Attending this travel course has far exceeded my expectation. I have created long-lasting connections with my peers and learned the culture and rich traditions behind the foods in Italy.” – Eric DeGuzman

“I’d recommend this course to anyone interested in food production, sustainability, or business practices abroad” – Taylor Thompson

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