Students in Rome, Italy contribute to the city’s vibrant ecosystem of urban gardens and public space.
As part of their “Italian Food and Culture” course, students studying abroad in Rome, Italy joined the nonprofit Retake Roma to restore the gardens of Piazza Quinto Curzio. The service-learning project gave students the opportunity to apply classroom analysis – on the Mediterranean diet, urban space and the future of agriculture, sustainability and community resiliency – to actionable change.
Their coursework has included studying urban sustainability initiatives that have improved social, economic and environmental conditions in the city, including new trends in urban agriculture, community gardens and activist movements such as “guerrilla gardening,” or the act of planting on land that gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate. Additionally, students have examined advanced integrated urban agriculture systems on the roofs and facades of buildings, and innovative projects for mini and macro foodscapes that can efficiently deliver high-quality products and help solve the problem of food security.
“The community service project was a really great opportunity for a different kind of interaction. Some students mentioned that talking with residents about their clean-up work in the park was a highlight of the day,” says Professor of Art Christine Chin, the faculty leader of the Rome program.
Following their service work, students took a class excursion to Parco degli Acquedotti to see what remains of Rome’s ancient water system. Six of the 11 ancient aqueducts cross the park, including the Julia, the Vetus, Anio Novus, Claudio, Tepula and Marcia. The lesson was tied to another learning objective of the course, which is to understand how the history of food and consumption in the city has shaped the built environment.
The course is offered through a Center for Global Education partnership with the Gustolab International Food Systems and Sustainability. The “Italian Food and Culture” course is taught by Director of the Gustolab Institute Thomas Rankin, the author of Rome Works: An Architect Explores the World’s Most Sustainable City.
Retake is an Italian civic organization promoting grassroots participation in solving everyday urban problems such as litter and graffiti.