Skip to content

Programs : Brochure

This page is the brochure for your selected program. You can view the provided information for this program on this page and click on the available buttons for additional options.
  • When applications open, you will see an "Apply Now" button. Please check back at a later date.
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Language Prerequisite: No Language(s): English
Click here for a definition of this term Type of Program: GU Faculty-Led, GU Villas Non-GU Students May Apply: Yes
Housing Options: Onsite Level of Support: High (Comprehensive onsite support)
Application Deadlines: December, February Fields of Study: Health Sciences, History
OGE Advisor: Mia Pezzanite
Program Description:

Georgetown at Villa Le Balze

Plague, Tuscany, & the Globalization of a Disease

Brochure Header Florence

At a Glance

Location: Fiesole, Italy

Program Length: 3 weeks
Arrive on: June 28, 2019
Depart on: July 20, 2019

Georgetown welcomes participation in this course from all qualified university students (non-Georgetown students are welcome) with good academic and disciplinary standing.

Number of credits: 3 credits

Program Description

This class presents both micro and macro histories of plague. On the one hand, you will learn about and visit multiple plague sites in Tuscany, private and public spaces (like hospitals, foundling homes, churches) constructed to help contemporaries cope with the disease and medieval and early modern art that conveys the magnitude of the mortality Italians witnessed firsthand. Florence in particular is used as an ‘open book’ on the premodern plague experience. Key plague sites are also visited in Lucca, Pisa, Prato, and Siena. Yet, on the other hand, the Black Death is presented not as an Italian or European disaster but as an Afro-Eurasian catastrophe. You will be introduced to plausible evidence of late medieval and early modern demographic ruin from regions as disparate as East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Greenland.

This course is thus deeply multidisciplinary. It is at once a history, biology and art history class. You will be introduced to the written and architectural sources for plague as well as to the evolutionary biology of Yersinia pestis, the bioarcheology and detection of pre-laboratory disease, and the methods of the paleopathologic and paleogenetic sciences. In other words, they come face-to-face with the urban fabric of premodern public health, the written record of mass death, and the bones of medieval plague victims.

Georgetown Faculty Director(s): Dr. Timothy Newfield and Dr. Elena Brizio


This course examines the history of health and disease in Italy in the late Middle Ages and early modernity, exploring the economic and social impact of plague and disease, as well as its religious, cultural, and artistic implications, effecting everything from gender roles to agriculture and labour law. The course will utilize both micro and macro histories, exposing students to literary and artistic manifestations of the impact of plague on individual people and societies, while also considering the Black Death (Yersinia pestis) as but one of three ‘global’ pandemics of a bacterium which has afflicted people from Bronze Age Russia to 21st-Century America.

The course is deeply multidisciplinary, drawing on the analytical traditions of history, biology, and art history. Students are introduced to historical source materials and physical spaces that relate the experiences of life and death in medieval and early modern Tuscany. Students will also learn about the evolutionary biology of Y. pestis, and the scientific methods used for the detection of pre-laboratory disease. Students will also study how the experience of plague was rendered visually and textually in the artistic and literary works of the time. In other words, the course combines the investigative techniques of three very different disciplines to piece together a complete and multidimensional understanding of what life in plague-era Italy was like.

Upon successful completion of the program, students receive 3 GU undergraduate credits for the following course: HIST-147 / BIOL-268. This course can count for the History major or minor and the Biology major.

Non-Georgetown participants will receive an official transcript from Georgetown for their completion of academic coursework and should discuss transfer of credit with a dean or academic adviser at their home university.


The program includes several organized excursions designed to engage students with major course topics as well as to explore the culture and history of their host country in a direct, hands-on manner. Past excursions have included:
  • Day trip to Prato and Pisa
  • Day trip to Lucca
  • Day trip to Siena


You will live on-site at Georgetown’s historic Villa Le Balze where you will be placed in in double, triple or quadruple rooms with private bathrooms. Visit our website for more information on housing.


All meals are provided and included in the program cost, with the exception of Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch. The majority of these meals will be provided at the Villa and prepared by our on-site cooks. We are able to accommodate most dietary restrictions and students are encouraged to speak with an advisor if they have any concerns.

Program Cost

The program fee for Summer 2019 is $4,995. This amount, billable to your GU student account, includes: tuition, academic fees, accommodations, some meals, program excursions, local public transportation, and supplemental insurance.  The program fee listed above does not include: airfare to/from your program site, passport and visa fees (if applicable), and other individual expenses.

For more information on total costs of this program, please visit the program's budget sheet


The Office of Global Education awards need-based scholarships on a competitive basis to participants on summer study abroad programs. OGE Summer Scholarship awards range from 20% to 50% of billable program cost and are scaled in proportion to program price and demonstrated financial need. Students who are currently receiving financial aid are automatically considered for this scholarship; there is no application process.

OGE advises students to research and pursue a wide range of available funding opportunities. To find scholarships applicable to your program, browse the scholarships section of OGE’s website.

Commitment and Withdrawals Policy

A student’s commitment to a study abroad program confirms his or her intention to participate in that program.  Students who notify the Office of Global Education of their intention to withdraw from their overseas program after the stated Commitment Deadline will be assessed a withdrawal fee of $300, in addition to all non-recoverable costs that have been paid on their behalf, as determined by the Office of Global Education and its overseas partners.  These costs may constitute as much as twenty-five to one hundred percent of the program fee.

A committed student’s decision to withdraw from a study abroad program is effective from the date on which the Office of Global Education receives a written confirmation of the student’s decision to withdraw.  All withdrawal fees and refundable program costs will be calculated from the date the Office of Global Education is notified in writing of this decision.  No refunds will be given for the education abroad insurance fee.  

Georgetown University is not responsible for indirect costs paid directly by the student including, but not limited to, passport fees, vaccinations, and transportation costs.  Georgetown University reserves the right to cancel programs without prior notification; however, every effort will be made to provide participants with information on cancellations in a timely manner.  In the event of a non-voluntary cancellation, Georgetown University will refund application fees as well as all recoverable program costs.

The Office of Global Education is committed to making study abroad accessible to all interested and eligible students. OGE hopes that students with accessibility needs will pursue study abroad opportunities and use the available support services on campus for assistance and advice when necessary.

With over 200 approved-programs, OGE is confident that you will find a program that fits your interests and goals. Programs offer varying degrees of academic and lifestyle support. Please make an appointment with the OGE advisor specializing in your geographic area of interest to discuss how to best support any special needs you might have on programs that may interest you.

To learn more about the resources for students on campus and also for advice on how to request accommodations overseas, please visit the Georgetown Academic Resource Center’s website. Additional support can be found on the Mobility International website.

Contact Information

Office of Global Education
Car Barn, Suite 210
Georgetown University
Washington, DC 20057
(202) 687-5687
Dr. Elena Brizio
Faculty Director
Villa Le Balze
Fiesole, Italy 50014
Dr. Timothy Newfield
Faculty Director
Georgetown University
Washington, DC 20057
(202) 687-6061

Useful Links

Villa Le Balze website

Student Voices

Join Reilly during her Summer 2018 Snapchat takeover of the Health & Sickness program.

Open Application Deadlines & Dates

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.

When applications open, you will see an "Apply Now" button. Please check back at a later date.