Tasting the Roots of Western Civilization: An Environmental-Historic-Enogastronomic Journey through Italy’s Cilento Region

Summer 2017 | Cilento, Italy


Journey to a cradle of Western civilization: the small, coastal town of Ascea and the surrounding Cilento region of southern Italy. Here, centuries-old social and culinary traditions are intrinsically tied to the region’s bountiful natural environment, while its historic significance as a confluence of the Greek colonies and the native Etruscan and Lucanian peoples has fascinated philosophers, adventurers and travel writers—from Homer to Hemingway—for millennia. Study at the Fondazione Alario per Elea-Velia, with visits to Paestum or Pompeii and a side trip to the Amalfi Coast.


Insights on Western Civilization
Recognize the importance of the Cilento region on the development of Western thought. Study Magna Graecia—the Greek colonization of southern Italy—and its legacy in Cilento, home to Elea-Velia, Paestum and other ancient Greek settlements. Consider the ways in which Greek influences—in particular, Eleatic philosophy—have shaped both Italian culture and Western civilization across the centuries.

Appreciation of Regional Culture
Understand life in Cilento through enogastronomy, the expression of local culture through its food and wine traditions. Understand why the Mediterranean diet is a way of life—rather than merely a way of eating—in this region. Consider the historic, sociological and environmental roots of the Mediterranean diet and examine its associated traditions through the lens of cultural anthropology.


Academic Instruction
Take classes at the Fondazione Alario per Elea-Velia, an internationally known center for the study of Magna Graecia civilization and the Eleatic school of philosophy, two cornerstones of Western thought. Learn to connect disparate avenues of inquiry—literature, history, geography, anthropology, gastronomy, philosophy and more—to evaluate and understand the influence of the Cilento region on Western civilization and, by extension, our modern world.

Cultural and Environmental Immersion
Visit the places and taste the dishes that are integral to the Mediterranean diet. Through site visits and hands-on workshops, make connections between Cilento’s environment—its green hills, fertile valleys and bountiful coastal waters—and the foods grown, farmed and fished here. Key stops include the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, a World Heritage Site of incredible biodiversity, and the home of Ancel Keys, the American physiologist who championed the Mediterranean diet.

Travel Writing and Reflection
Follow in the footsteps of Arthur John Strutt, an English painter and traveler who explored the region in 1838 while walking from Rome to Palermo. Read his memoir, then tour the same spots Strutt visited and enjoy the same foods he tasted. Drawing on this experience as well as extensive readings in travel literature, reimagine Strutt’s pedestrian tour for the digital age, creating a Facebook travel diary of your own encounters and reflections.