Short courses


Italian Life and Culture: Magicians and Philosophers in the Renaissance

  • 20 hours
  • 10 weeks (2 hours per week)


On this ten-week evening course you'll explore the complex interactions between religion, magic and natural philosophy from 15th to 17th centuries.

You'll learn about the history of magic in the Western world, with particular attention to Italy.

The course also raises important issues such as the:

  • value of human life
  • idea of tolerance and respect
  • ethic of care for ourselves and our planet

You'll be encouraged to see Renaissance magic as a way to understand contemporary ethics, social wellness and religion, and explore the Delphic maxim "Man, know thyself".

This course is for anyone who is curious or passionate about Italian culture. Basic knowledge of Italian would be beneficial but isn't essential.

This course is run by the UCL Italian Department. It's part of the 'Made in Italy' series which offers a uniquely comprehensive approach to learning the about the culture and history of Italy.

Structure and teaching

Classes are held on Monday evenings, from 6pm to 8pm, over ten weeks in the spring term.

You'll examine fundamental philosophical and historical issues by reading original texts and discussing them in class.

You'll be encouraged to raise questions and deliver oral presentations in groups and/or individually on the main topics of the course.

You'll be provided with primary sources and text readings.

Course content

Topics covered will include:

  • Renaissance naturalism and Renaissance magic
  • The interpretation of natural signs
  • Hermeticism
  • Renaissance occultism
  • alchemy and chemistry
  • ceremonial magic and demonology
  • the kabbalah

You'll study original texts from the Classical period, Latin Middle ages and the Renaissance. These will include works by:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Pico della Mirandola
  • Marsilio Ficino
  • Giordano Bruno

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course, you'll have:

  • a thorough knowledge of the texts studied in the course
  • a greater understanding of the historical contexts in which ideas are developed, in particular those of the Renaissance
  • developed the critical skills required to assess and analyse early modern texts
  • greater confidence in engaging in critical discussions of the topics covered

Assessment and certificates

There's no formal assessment.

You'll receive a Certificate of Attendance if you attend at least 70% of classes.

Who this course is for

This course is for anyone who is curious or passionate about Italian culture (including art, history, literature, politics and food).


There are no formal prerequisites for this course.

Basic knowledge of Italian can be beneficial but not essential.

You'll need internet access and a computer to make use of the online and multi-media supporting resources.

Costs and concessions

The standard fee for this course is £350.

Discounted rates are available for:

  • UCL staff: £300
  • seniors: £250
  • students: £200

What makes this course unique

Joining this course gives you access to the renowned Italian department at UCL.

Expert staff - you'll be taught by native Italians who are experts in the field, engaged in frontline research.

Breadth of study - you'll have the opportunity to explore a variety of topics and literature that will give you a board view of the subject.

Flexibility - you can choose which courses in the 'Made in Italy' series you're interested in. There are no restrictions on how many you can do.

Based in the heart of London - immerse yourself in a wealth of knowledge and expertise about Italian culture and history within central London, access the wealth of Italian cultural heritage in the city.

You'll also be able to:

  • meet like-minded people with a passion for Italy
  • access the department's library which contains UCL rare books collections (for example Dante Incunables), and other resources
  • become part of UCL's Italian department and enjoy many seminars and other events, including the Italian Film Club

Course team

Dr Tiziana Provvidera

Dr Tiziana Provvidera

Tiziana is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Italian at UCL. Her research interests include the history and culture of the Italian Renaissance and political and moral issues from the 14th to the 17th century.

Course information last modified: 28 Aug 2019, 13:09