The Geography Department at Portland State University conducts a short term study abroad program to Tuscany during September. The program -- Tuscany: Sustainability in City and Country -- explores historic and contemporary connections between city and country within a framework of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Through student projects and site visits we have explored topics such as rural land use, sustainable agriculture and forestry, food production and food networks, agritourism, landscape stewardship, urban design, and alternative energy production. This program is designed to fit with PSU’s growing focus on international sustainability and the transferability of those concepts. Our intent is to expand understanding of how lessons from other countries can inform local and regional sustainability efforts (notably Portland’s urban growth management goals and growing food & place initiatives).
This web page is part of our effort to communicate the results of work done by our many student participants and as a forum for ongoing research interests.
Gil Latz, former Geography Department faculty and Vice-Provost for International Affairs at Portland State University, began the program in 2004 after visiting Spannocchia as part of a research project on sustainable forestry. His collaboration with Mauro Agnoletti, geographer at the Universitá of Florence, has provided the organizing concept for the ongoing program: sustainability in city and country. PSU Geography Professor Tom Harvey’s work with the program and his research on Siena resulted in a 2007 article on Siena and Sustainability: City and Country in Tuscany. Students working on projects under a subsequent program leader, David Banis – Associate Director of CSAR in the Geography Department – has resulted in a series of hilltown vignettes for Spannocchia and Tuscany. Martha Works, PSU Geography professor, joined the Spannocchia program in 2010 and in 2012 added an emphasis on food and farming.
The program (Tuscany: Sustainability in City and Country) includes two days in Siena and 1-2 weeks at Spannocchia, an organic farm and sustainable estate 25 miles from Siena. Spannocchia is one of many agriturismos in Tuscany but it may be the only one that is strongly focused on sustainable agriculture and forestry, landscape conservation, and education. Conservation is the central objective of all activities on the property. Spannocchia’s distinguishing characteristics include: its designation as a historic site; its inclusion within the Riserva Naturale Alto Merse; its status as a wildlife refuge; its certification as an organic farm raising endangered breeds of domestic farm animals and producing wine and olive oil; and its activities as an educational centre, including an internship program, programs in archaeology and architectural conservation, sustainable agriculture, and landscape stewardship in association with the American not-for-profit Etruscan Foundation and the Spannocchia Foundation. The property represents in the present day the system by which rural Tuscany – and its cultural landscape – was organized and functioned, from as early as the 1100s.