italian cityscape view

Galileo on Trial in Italy

  1. Program Details

    Freshman Seminar Abroad: Discover the mark Galileo left on Italy while risking his career, his freedom, and even his life for science.

    Location Florence and Rome, Italy
    Term Spring Break
    Housing Hotel
    Credit Type Resident Credit
    Sponsor Learning Abroad Center

    Program Eligibility

    GPA No Requirement
    Student Type UofM Students
    Student Year Freshmen
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  2. About Galileo on Trial in Italy

    Galileo risked his career, his freedom, and even his life for science. The Renaissance began in Florence, Italy and although much of the history of the Renaissance focuses on artistic achievements, it was also a time of the rebirth of science and technology.  Galileo was born in Pisa, but he spent much of his life in Florence.  In this program, we will study Galileo, his life, his discoveries, and his conflict with the Catholic Church.  While in Italy, we will follow his footsteps through his hometown of Pisa and climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa where it is said he tested a number of his hypotheses on falling objects.  In Florence, we will take ourselves back to the time of the Renaissance and walk the streets as Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Galileo did, and learn how the rebirth of classical antiquity brought about the modern world.  Galileo travelled from Florence to Rome to defend his latest publication. We too will travel from Florence to Rome to see for ourselves how Galileo battled the Church and lost and what it cost him, personally and professionally.  

    Course Description

    In this Freshman Seminar Abroad, learn about Galileo, the conflicts he faced, and how his discoveries forever changed the world. While in Italy, travel to Pisa, home of Galileo, to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa; explore the city of Florence and see one of Galileo's first telescopes; visit Rome to see places such as the Vatican and the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minvera, which provided the backdrop to the end of Galileo's brilliant career.

    While on campus, learn about 17th-Century Italy and re-enact The Trial of Galileo through debate and discussion.

    Housing & Meals

    Live in shared housing at hotels with other program participants. Breakfast, welcome and farewell meals, and some additional dinners are included in the program fee. Take additional meals at local cafés and restaurants around Florence and Rome.


    While in Italy, the surroundings will become your classroom as you explore and experience seminar coursework through site visits. These excursions in Florence and Rome may include:


    • Guided walking tour of Florence, a city of great artistic and religious importance in the heart of Tuscany
    • A Galileo-themed walk through Florence
    • Museo di Storia della Scienza (Galileo Museum), where you can see two of Galileo's original telescopes
    • The Duomo in Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori: optional climb to the top of the Duomo to marvel at the intricate mosaics and frescoes 
    • Santa Croce: explore the Basilica where you will find Galileo's burial and stroll the piazza, one of the main squares in Florence 

    Pisa, Galileo's Hometown

    • Day trip to Pisa to visit the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa
    • Free time to explore other sites in Pisa such as the Piazza Garabaldi and the elegant Borgo Stretto, filled with interesting shops and cafés


    • Pantheon, the most preserved and influential building in Rome 
    • Collegio Romano
    • St. Ignazio of Loyola
    • Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, including the location of the Trial of Galileo
    • Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica


    All program participants will be taking the coordinated group flight to and from the program site. The cost of the group flight is included in the program fee that will be posted to your student account. Do not book your own flight, you will receive information from the Learning Abroad Center regarding your seat on the group flight once your participation has been confirmed.

    Learning Outcomes

    • Socialize first-year students as global professionals who understand that human interaction and culture are relevant to achieving professional goals
    • Discover and connect with the University of Minnesota campus and community
    • Prepare students to think critically, analyze topics, and appreciate diverse perspectives through pre-departure coursework, learning abroad and guided reflection
    • Function as an effective team member by utilizing personal strengths in a group setting
    • Develop an understanding of the importance of future international and intercultural learning

    Faculty & Staff

    On-site support is provided by ACCENT. ACCENT staff will provide orientation, information regarding cultural activities, and 24-hour emergency support.

    Galileo on Trial in Italy is led by Laura Coffin Koch, Director of International Initiatives and Relations and Associate Professor of the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Professor Koch has been a faculty member at the University of Minnesota since 1985 and has taught study abroad courses for 14 years, in both Florence, Italy, and Istanbul, Turkey.  

    About the Learning Abroad Center

    Learning Abroad Center programs are:

    • Affordable: our programs are cost effective.
    • Academically strong: many programs have strong University of Minnesota departmental support and offer pre-approved courses for many majors.
    • Culturally rich: regardless of the program you choose, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
    • Expertly managed: our staff in Minnesota and abroad are trained professionals and are always available to answer your questions from extensive pre-departure advising and online orientations to reentry programming. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we work hard to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience abroad.
  3. Program Structure

    Program Type Instructor-Led
    Program Level 1900-level course

    One 3-credit course

    Course Schedule

    Combine on-campus class during the spring semester with study abroad during spring break. On-campus Spring Semester 2020 course meets: Mondays from 2:30–5 p.m., on East Bank. Abroad term: Spring Break 2020


    Syllabus for Spring 2019

    This course will use books, articles, writing, site visits, videos, discussions, and debates to understand the role of science, politics, and religion in seventeenth century Italy. Students will be evaluated through class participation, debates, discussions, and writing assignments.

    During the Spring Break week, students will have the opportunity to apply the knowledge learned in the early Spring semester to observations and experiences in Italy. In Florence, we will visit the Duomo and marvel at the construction of its dome and the issues regarding its construction. We climb to the top of the Duomo to closely examine the construction of this magnificent structure erected over 700 years ago. We will walk through the city of Florence and tour the Galileo Museum to learn about Galileo’s scientific inventions and theories and see one of his first telescopes.

    In Pisa, we will climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa where it is said Galileo dropped cannonballs to prove his one of his theories. Galileo attended college in Pisa and was a professor of mathematics there. In class, we’ll discuss Galileo and his contributions to mathematics and science and how, through his lifetime, his changing views of the world caused him to come into conflict with his benefactor and the church. We will discuss the development of Galileo’s ideas and how they changed the world and the political, artistic and religious environment in Italy during his time impacted how we now think about the world.

    In Rome, we will tour St. Peter’s Cathedral and climb its dome – the dome that was designed by Michelangelo. Then we will spend some time in the Sistine Chapel – one of the greatest artistic feats ever. Our visit to Rome will also include a visit to the Pantheon and the Bibliotecha della camera dei deputati, the room where the Trial of Galileo was held.

    While in Minnesota, we’ll look closely at Galileo and his confrontations with the Catholic Church as we re-enact history through “The Trial of Galileo.” Students will be assigned to a one of three factions and take on the roles of cardinals, the pope, members of the clergy, and members of learned organizations. Through classroom discussions and debates, students will attempt to garner votes either for or against the issue of whether or not Galileo defied the church in his writings. The students will use the readings of Aristotle, Galileo, and church documents to decide Galileo’s fate.

    This course will use books, articles, writing, site visits, videos, discussions, and debates to understand the role of science, politics, and religion in seventeenth century Italy. Students will be evaluated through class participation, debates, discussions, and writing assignments.

    This seminar focuses on how such a great thinker, mathematician, and scientist came into conflict with arguably the most powerful institution in Europe, and maybe the world. As we study Galileo, we will delve into the intersection of scientific ideas, society, culture, religion, politics, etc. As we proceed through the course, students will need to reflect not only on what they are experiencing/learning about 17th century Italy, but also how the themes and issues surrounding Galileo are manifested in today’s world.

    Receive credit for: EDHD 1909W

    Approved for: Global Perspectives Liberal Education theme and Writing Intensive course

  4. Dates & Deadlines

    Submit the online application and complete the assigned application checklist according to the appropriate deadline:
    Term Program Dates Application Deadline
    Spring Break 2020 Mar 6, 2020  –  Mar 15, 2020 Dec 1, 2019

    Program dates are subject to change.

    If the deadline falls on a weekend, submit your materials on the following business day.

    Important Note: Enrollment on this program is limited to 20 students. Admission is granted on a rolling basis and applications are reviewed in the order they are completed. Some programs may fill to capacity prior to the application deadline, therefore applying early is recommended. Additionally, applying early will allow for more time to plan ahead and prepare for the program.

    On Campus Dates

    Mondays 2:30–5 p.m.; East Bank, Minneapolis

    Orientation Dates & Locations

    Orientation will be conducted in 2 parts: an online orientation, which is mandatory for all students, and an in-person, program-specific session. You will receive more information about the online orientation via email. Failure to complete the online orientation will impact your ability to go abroad.

    See below for tentative dates and times for your in-person session. You will be notified of the official date and time via email. Participants will receive applicable orientation materials via email approximately 1 week prior to the in-person session.

    Term Abroad Date/Time Location
    Spring Break 2020 TBD TBD
  5. Fees for Galileo on Trial in Italy

    Spring Break 2020 Cost of Participation

    The program fee includes airfare, housing, program administration, welcome and farewell meals, most additional meals, international health insurance, entrances to course-related excursions and site visits, airport transfers, and in-country transportation for all course related activities. Typically, program fees range between $4,000–$4,500. Students must also budget for passport and passport photos, a few meals, spending money, and miscellaneous living expenses.

    If you do not see a budget estimate for the term you intend to go abroad, the fee has not yet been finalized. We strive to post fees for this program at least 30 days prior to the application deadline. The Learning Abroad Center will delay the posting of some fees until enrollments, inflation and exchange rates are determined. Note the average increase in fees will be 3–10%. Program fees are based on estimates and may change depending on international economic factors.

    If you are registered for less than 13-credits or if you are a non-UofM student, you will be charged tuition for this course in addition to the program fee.  Notify the Learning Abroad Center if this applies to you.  

    Billing & Payments

    Visit Billing for information about the billing process for application fees, deposits, and program fees.

    Financial Aid & Scholarships

    Visit Financial Information for information on using financial aid and scholarships for study abroad.

    Freshman Seminar Abroad participants are eligible to apply for a specific Freshman Seminar Abroad scholarship. Applications are due October, 15, 2019. Apply HERE.

    Bridging Loan

    Bridging Loan, a no-interest/no-fees loan that funds the upfront deposit and flights costs, is available for this program for eligible students.

    Cancellation Policy

    Before you apply to or confirm your participation on this program, review the Learning Abroad Center's Cancellation Policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
  6. Prepare

    Complete pre-application advising.

    Be aware: All programs require a $50 application fee. This fee will be charged to your student account upon submission of an online application.

    To complete the online application for this program, you will need to select or provide the following information on the online application:

    Center Name TC Learning Abroad Ctr
    Education Abroad Term Spring Break 2020
    Program Name Freshman Seminar Abroad: Galileo on Trial in Italy
    Track Name Freshman Seminar Abroad: Galileo on Trial in Italy
    Country Italy


    University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Use your University of Minnesota internet ID and password to log into the Education Abroad application system. Your student account will be charged a $50 application fee.


    After you submit your application, you will receive an email notification confirming that your application was received. Submitted applications are assigned an application checklist, which will include the following items:

    • Application Essay

    Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist assigned to you.

    Next Steps

    After your application checklist is complete, your application is reviewed by our program team. You will be notified of an acceptance decision by email. If accepted, you will be assigned a confirmation checklist, which you will complete to confirm your participation in the program. If you decide not to continue with the application process, log into the online application system and submit a Cancel Request.

    Register for On Campus Course

    Your participation on this program is secured by applying and confirming through the Learning Abroad Center application process.

    You will also need to register for the on-campus course EDHD 1909W.

    Note: Registering for the course, but not confirming through the Learning Abroad Center, will not hold your spot in the program.

  7. Program Contact

    For further information or questions about this program, send an email to

    Amy Garwood-Diaz or call at 612.624.1537.