An American in Pollenzo

Master’s in Italian wine and food culture to be offered in English @Unisg (I’ll be teaching 3 courses)

Please click here for info on the UniSG Master’s in Italian Wine Culture. And here for the Master’s in Food Culture & CommunicationsBoth programs will be offered in English for the first time next year.


Wine’s role and function in Boccaccio is just one of the three courses I’ll be teaching next year for UniSG.

It’s enough to make even my Jewish mother proud (since I’m the only one of her children who’s not a lawyer).

In my new role as an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont next year, I’ll be teaching three courses in the Master’s in Italian Wine Culture and Master’s in Food Culture & Communications programs: intro to English-language wine writing, blogging, and social media; intro to English-language food writing; and, dulcis in fundo, Italian wine culture and literature.

Honestly, I was surprised when the program director (and my good friend) Michele Fino proposed a course on Italian wine culture and literature. I immediately revealed to him that I’ve been quietly working for years on a project tracing wine’s role and function in Boccaccio’s Decameron. I’m thrilled that he liked the idea and I’m looking forward to publishing the seminar description in early January (stay tuned… this is going to be fun!).

The other great news is that both programs will be offered in English next year. This year, I taught my class in Italian, which was great, but opening the program up to English-speakers will make it possible for more of my countrypeople to join me on this adventure.

The University of Gastronomic Sciences has always been part of the official university system. But next year the Italian ministry of education is expected to grant it full accreditation, which means that coursework will be recognized by every major university in the world.

To offer some background on the programs and why they’ve decided to offer them in English next year, I sent a few questions to Michele, who, beyond his role as program director, also teaches ancient Roman jurisprudence and contemporary food and wine law (here’s his bio page on the UniSG website).

Stay tuned for more info on the programs and previews of my classes. In the meantime, here are Michele’s notes. I hope you join us in Piedmont next year! Thanks for your support and thanks for being here.

Michele, please tell me a little bit about the university’s origins.

The University of Gastronomic Sciences was founded in 2004 following a major restoration of the historic farm where the university’s departments were combined together with a hotel, the Albergo dell’Agenzia, and the university’s Wine Bank.

The core building dates to the mid-19th century and it’s known as the Agenzia (literally, the Agency, but better rendered as the Farm). It’s been a UNESCO heritage designated site since 1997.

In May 2005, the Italian ministry of education officially recognized the university and make it part of the Italian university system.

And what about the Master’s in Wine Culture?

The Master in Italian Wine Culture was launched in 2014 and the first year of course work was in 2015. Up until now, the official language has been Italian. But with the launch of the third year of the program, we’ve decided to offer classes in English because the “Wine Tellers” we aim to create will be asked to share their knowledge of Italian wine history and the culture all around the world.

What inspired you personally to found/launch the Master’s program?

The university owes a huge debt to the wine producers of Italy: many of them provided financial support to the university and the first seminars we organized. So we wanted to do something to give back to the wonderful world of Italian wine in the year of our 10th anniversary (2014). So we gathered a bunch of internationally renowned winemakers and asked them what would they have expected from “their” university.

Their answer was that they wanted us to help them create ambassadors of Italian wine: not just limited to the brands and wines but rather as representatives of Italian wine as a whole. The idea is that “Wine Tellers” should know not only how wine is made but they should also be able to tell the story of the land where the wine comes from, the people that have built the Italian wine trade over generations, and the art of the Italian peninsula that is embedded in the liquid contained in each bottle of wine.

What prompted you to offer the Master’s in English?

Initially, we thought that the Wine Tellers would be working here in Italy with Italian wineries. But over the years, we realized that needed people to be able to share their experiences all over the world. And with the Master’s program in English, they will be able to reach a global audience.