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Study Abroad: Rome

Architectural Immersion in the Cradle of Western Civilization

Aug – Dec 2018 / Jan - May 2019
The Urbs as Design Labroratory: Architecture & Urban History + Contemporary Architecture in Historic Contexts

Romolo Martemucci:

James Cooper:

Known as the Eternal City and the City of the Seven Hills, Rome is a virtual classroom in itself, rich in history and culture. Visitors and students alike quickly recognize many of the artistic, historical, and cultural landmarks in this center of western culture: Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica; the Coliseum, Forum, and Arch of Constantine; the baths of Caracalla; the Catacombs; the Pantheon; Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain. Museums and libraries abound throughout the city. Rome is also a city of churches. Architectural styles include early Christian basilicas, the Gothic church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and many important baroque monuments. The city has an extensive, rich, and varied history, dating back to the first millennium B.C. Tradition has it that Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 B.C., although fortified elevations on the Palatine Hill date back to a much earlier period. The city is the capital of not only the country, but also of Latium, a region of central Italy, and of the province of Rome itself. Economically, the city has become a center for tourism, banking, insurance, printing, publishing, and fashion.

The study abroad program is hosted by the Pantheon Institute and provides the critical and invaluable opportunity for students to understand, through first-hand experience, both historic and contemporary architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism, and be immersed within the society and culture of which they are inextricably a part. As part of the intensive “Analysis of Italian Architecture” course, students participate in a number of field trips to various cities and regions all over Italy, including Florence and Tuscany, Venice, Verona, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Paestum, and they record their learning experience in the sketchbooks. Studio design courses provide the opportunity for students to further analyze and synthesize the architectural and urban context of Rome through a series of design exercises, culminating in the design of hypothetical projects on sites located within the historic core of the city. One of the most unique and invaluable courses students are required to take is “Cartography”, in which students learn about the long-term morphology and history of the city through the study of many historic maps of the “urbs” and carefully choreographed walks though the urban fabric. Students also have the opportunity to choose from other courses, including Art and Architectural History, Italian Language, and Culture.

Repeatedly, alumni of the program describe their semester in Rome as the most memorable and life-changing experience of their education at Penn State.

The Pantheon Institute

Romolo Martemucci (Director)

 Via del Pantheon 57

Rome, Italy 00186

[39] 06-454-36032



Program Details


The Penn State Rome program is a required one-semester study abroad experience in Rome, Italy for Penn State students enrolled in the Bachelor of Architecture or Bachelor of Science in Architecture. It is administered by the Office of Global Programs and the Pantheon Institute, with studios and classrooms located in the historic Palazzo Doria Pamphili, overlooking the Piazza del Collegio Romano, and Piazza della Rotonda, with a view to the ancient Pantheon. These historic sites are located in the heart of the “centro storico” (historic center) of Rome, and not far from the ancient Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican.

Although Penn State’s architecture department has had a program in Rome since 1992, the collaborative partnership with the Pantheon Institute began in 2011. The program director of the Pantheon Institute, Romolo Martemucci, is a professor emeritus of the Department of Architecture at Penn State and a former department head. 


The Penn State Department of Architecture Rome Study Abroad Program, provided by the Pantheon Institute Study Abroad Programs for architecture and the arts and sciences, is firmly rooted in the American liberal arts tradition and is internationally recognized for quality and service. The Pantheon Institute brings together students and faculty from a variety of colleges and universities to learn amidst the unprecedented historical and cultural treasures of Italy.

The Pantheon Institute is committed to:

  • Providing educationally rewarding academic programs in a friendly and safe foreign environment that inspires and encourages participation, exploration, and a desire to embrace new cultures and international experiences.
  • Maintaining its reputation as a distinguished institution for study abroad that is known and widely regarded for its quality academic program, services to its academic constituency, and sponsorship of international education.
  • Bringing together an academic community that fosters intellectual tolerance and awareness, while encouraging students to appreciate, learn, and benefit from fellow program participants as well as the local student community.
  • Providing centrally-located and well-equipped academic facilities and studios that promote advanced learning in the historic center of Rome.
  • Providing an increasingly diversified curriculum that incorporates the multitude of cultural and educational resources of Italy with emphasis on the local region (Rome, Lazio).
  • Providing a variety of extra- and co-curricular activities that support the academic program as well as opportunities to interact with the local community and allow students to further explore and discover Italy.
  • Maintaining a full-time and visiting faculty of distinguished and dedicated professors who are committed to international education and recognized for teaching excellence and scholarly achievements.
  • Providing opportunities for faculty and administrators of U.S. colleges and universities to obtain an international experience through cooperative agreements that allow them to participate in study abroad programs with students of their institution.
  • Contributing to the development in all students the skills, habits, motivation, and desire for learning that will make it possible for them to educate themselves for the rest of their lives.

 Expectations + REquirements


Students must be in good academic standing and be enrolled in the B.Arch. professional program. Must have successfully completed third-year design studio.

As part of the curriculum students are required to attend several orientation meetings to help prepare them for the trip. 

Required Courses:


Program Documents + FAQs

Question: Where will we live in Rome?

The Pantheon Institute provides a variety of housing options giving our students and faculty an unparalleled experience living in the historic center of Rome or in nearby Trastevere, a historic neighborhood across the Tiber River. There is a scenic walk to our studios and offices.

To request housing for faculty or students, please email the housing department at the Pantheon Institute.

Question: Do I need a visa for Italy?

Answer: All students studying in Rome for a full semester must have a valid passport and a student visa. The Office of Global Programs at Penn State organizes and oversees the visa process the semester before the program begins. Students will be required to attend meetings about the Visa process and other important issues.

Italy has extensive visa agreements with most countries – including the United States. Foreign students studying at University Park, however, do not enjoy the benefits of agreements with the American government. In many cases, foreign students will have to apply for visas through their embassies. For more information, contact Jamie Weaver at Global Penn State.

Question: What do I need to pack?

Italy has a temperate climate – it can be extremely hot and humid in early fall and late spring, and cold and wet in the late fall and early spring. Although the temperature rarely drops below freezing, warm clothes and jackets/coats will be required for late fall or early spring. Students will need a small backpack for weekend and overnight trips. Good walking shoes are essential.

Question: Are there any dress requirements?

Students should be aware that in Italy people don't generally dress as casually as students at University Park. For certain dinners and other festivities, students will need to wear more formal attire. There are certain guidelines that all students must adhere to when visiting churches. Gentlemen are expected to remove hats. Tank tops or sleeveless shirts are not appropriate. For women, short shorts or skirts are not appropriate, and shoulders must be covered. A simple solution is to carry a lightweight shawl or scarf which can be worn over the shoulders or around one’s waist. If you are not properly dressed, you will be refused entry into most churches. 

Question: What supplies should I bring?

Students are advised to bring basic drawing supplies with them to Rome. Art and drafting supplies are available in Italy, though they are typically more expensive. Paper and certain model building supplies are readily available at an art supply store right around the corner from the studios.

Students are encouraged to bring their own personal laptops. Basic and commonly used programs are available on Mac computers in the Pantheon Institute offices and studios.

Question: Are any types of crime common in Rome and other cities in Italy?

All of the cities we will visit on field trips are relatively safe. The most common crimes are petty, such as pick-pocketing. Students need to use common sense, especially when in crowded, touristy areas. Wallets and cash should not be kept in pockets, backpacks should be swung forward, and periodically checked to make sure all zippers and pockets are closed. Never leave backpacks, cameras, or other personal belongings unattended.

Question: What happens if I get sick while traveling?

Italy has a first-rate, world-class public health care system. The Pantheon Institute has partnerships with a number of highly experienced physicians both on-call and in clinics or private hospitals who speak English, treat acute/on-going conditions, can write or refill prescriptions, and are able to make referrals, often with a same day appointment. Students must secure international health insurance, including repatriation insurance, before traveling to Italy. Students who must take specific medications on a regular basis are advised to bring enough to see them through the course of the semester, and a copy of the prescriptions themselves if they need to be filled in Italy.

For more information, visit the Pantheon Institute website and the Global Penn State.

Question: Will I have Wi-Fi access?                      

Yes, the offices of the Pantheon Institute, the architecture studios, and all housing units include free Wi-Fi. The hotels we stay at on field trips do not typically have free Wi-Fi, though some do in common areas.

Question: Is financial support available?

Penn State students studying through Education Abroad can use most components of their existing financial aid packages toward the cost of study abroad. This may include federal and state grants, VA educational benefits, federal student loans, and University scholarships and grants. Notable exceptions include work-study awards and some athletic scholarships.

The University Office of Global Programs also administers a number of grants and scholarships. Eligibility is based on academic excellence and/or financial need. There is also funding available for study abroad programs in diverse locations and for students from diverse backgrounds. In most cases, applicants should have a current year Free Application for Federal Student Aid form on file with the Office of Student Aid. Funding opportunities may also be available through Penn State academic departments. For detailed information on financial aid and scholarship opportunities and application procedures, please visit the Funding Study Abroad section of the Global Penn State website.

What does the Penn State program fee cover?

Please see the Pantheon Institute tuition page.

Can I buy peanut butter in Italy?

Yes, but not at all grocery stores. Nutella is the preferred spread in Italy. 

Program Links

Image Galleries

The Pantheon
Students and faculty gather for a group photo in a kitchen
A view of Ostia
Students on a field trip in Italy
Students exploring the historic views in Rome
Students looking at the architecture of historic buildings in Rome