Italian Program

Whether or not you have Italian roots, dozens of your everyday words do. Chances are, Italian is in your cultural DNA. You speak some of the language already: join us and learn why. Let us bring you to Italy, one of the most visited countries in the entire world.

Italian is spoken in more than 30 countries around the world and over 1,000,000 people in the US alone speak Italian. Many of them—but not all—identify as Italian Americans, and in fact Italian Americans are the 4th largest European ancestry group in the United States. Italian is the language of music, art, opera, fashion, and food, as well as design and technology: Italy now has the 8th-largest economy in the world and is home to the largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites in the entire world.

Pittsburgh and Pitt have a long history with Italy and Italians. Long seen as central to a complete education in Western Civilization, the Italian language has been taught here at the University of Pittsburgh since at least the 1840s. 

Today, the Italian Program—with an active student-run Italian Club founded in 1914 and an annual Contemporary Italian Film Festival—is a hub of Italian culture and a gateway to Italy right here in Pittsburgh. We offer a Major with two tracks—an Italian Language & Literature Major and an Italian Studies Major—or, students can earn an Italian Minor with any five 3- or 4-cr. Pitt courses that have the ITAL designation.

Our new curriculum was designed with students in mind: its first three classes use a free, online textbook that was developed specifically for Pitt students. Even our most introductory language courses teach students about contemporary Italian society at the same time that they teach them how to talk about it and about themselves. Our new gateway course, Made in Italy, stands alongside other large introductory courses such as Food for Thought  and Italian America on Screen that focus on important themes in Italian life and culture. Many of our courses—Translation Workshop, Italian Theatrical Workshop, and Songs of the Self (Poetry)—feature significant creative and “hands-on” components. And our most advanced students eventually attain impressive levels of spoken and written proficiency: they take courses taught entirely in Italian on topics ranging from Linguistics to Translation; from Dante to Detective Fiction; from Fascism to Theatre. Our most high-achieving students are inducted each Spring term into the Gamma Kappa Alpha Italian Honor Society, whose Pitt chapter now numbers over 150 students.

More than 4/5 of our majors double-major with programs of study from the A&S/Business dual major to Urban Studies, and just about everything in between. About 3/4 of our majors study abroad, mostly to one of our Panther Programs in Rome, Genoa, and Florence; each year we distribute almost $5000 in Departmental Scholarship funds to help them get there and our students have been very successful in winning the annual Italian Nationality Room Scholarship, as well. Our small size allows us to offer individualized advising, as well as unique internship, undergraduate research, and undergraduate teaching opportunities. Many of these experiences can also be funded. Our students leave Pitt with enhanced communication and analytical skills, a deep understanding of one of the world’s most fascinating cultures, and foreign language proficiency that is vital in today’s increasingly interconnected world. Learn more about how they’re using their Italian Major in our Career Paths feature.