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Sicily, Italy

Program Description

Global Temple Conference

Without Sicily, Italy creates no image in the soul: here is the key to everything.” - J.W. von Goethe, 1816

More than 200 years ago the German poet, philosopher, and humanist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, during his visit of the Italian peninsula, spent 40 days in Sicily. He reported all his travel experience into a diary that then was published as “Travel in Italy.” This book quickly became the travel guide of the central and north European wealthy class. This program is conducted on the island of Sicily in the center of the Mediterranean Sea and it provides students with the unique opportunity to learn and practice biotechnology in a new and fascinating context: the art and cultural heritage that Goethe witnessed 200 years ago. The main goal of the program is to learn the biological basis behind the technology used for art conservation. Such knowledge will then be applied in the laboratory and in the field. Sicily offers an incredible setting for this experience, with its seven World Heritage sites of cultural and historical importance.

The program will be supplemented by tours and site visits to local museums, temples and archeological excavations around the island. The tours will focus on three main subjects: the temples and excavations of the  “Magna Grecia” age, which will include visits to the temples of Selinunte, Segesta, Agrigento’s Temples Valley, and to the excavation site and museum of Himera. The Romanic period will be covered by the visit of the Romanic “Villa del Casale.” For the Arab-Norman tour students will visit the Cathedrals of Cefalú, Monreale and Palermo.

The program is based at the University of Palermo laboratory of professor Franco Palla, scientific Head of the Laboratory of Biology and Biotechnology for Cultural Heritage and coordinator of the Degree in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at the University of Palermo. Students will also collaborate with Dr. Sebastiano Tusa, archaeologist and superintendent of the “Soprintendenza del Mare” of “Regione Siciliana,” and Dr. Stefano Biondo, head of the “ Centro Regionale per la Progettazione e il Restauro” while in the lab in Palermo. 

Scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, geology and biotechnogy are developed conceptually and applied in the laboratory in Palermo. Sicily is one of the most important places in the Mediterranean for this type of research due to the many World Heritage sites. Particularly, three of those sites, the Archaeological Area of Agrigento (listed in 1997), the Villa Romana del Casale (listed in 1997) and the Arab-Norman architectural itinerary in Palermo, Monreale (listed in 2015), are central to the applied activity of the researchers and experts listed above.