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Food and Innovation in Rural Transition: the Tuscany case




Rural transition has recently become a hot issue in both European and non-European countries. Rural areas are involved in dynamics of development whose sustainability cannot be taken for granted. Four main factors influencing the sustainability of rural transition can be identified:

  • The capacity of rural areas to be suitable for the set up and operation of economic activities that are economically viable while being appropriate for, and able to valorise, the socio-cultural and demographic conditions of the context;
  • The capacity of rural areas to host a range of diversified activities with specific attention to sustainable rural tourism;
  • The capacity of rural areas to protect, valorise and enhance the natural resources offered by the local environment;
  • The capacity of rural areas to be included in the policy agenda of local, national and regional institutions.

European rural areas are populated with small farms. They contribute to the production of food that is, later on, self-consumed or acquired by consumers in both rural and (peri)urban areas. For the mere fact that they operate in rural areas, small farms are part of rural dynamics (e.g. economic, social, environmental) that influence rural transition. In other words, in Europe rural transition goes along to issues related to agriculture and food production and consumption, many rural areas and businesses operating there contributing to food provisioning and acquisition.

The Summer School Food and Innovation in Rural Transition explores how small farms impact on sustainable rural transition while contributing to food provisioning.
In particular, the programme walks students along the investigation of five themes. These themes fall into the four above mentioned factors influencing the sustainability of rural transition and keep a focus on small farming. The themes can be synthesised as it follows:

  1. Small farms, economic viability and socio-cultural suitability. This theme explores how small farms are organised and work. It focuses on their dimensions with respect to production, income generation and consumption, employment and market integration. Moreover, the theme investigates the ability of small farms to provide employment opportunities and foods, adequate to meet the (local and non-local) expectations and needs (e.g. jobs and products for which there is demand of; practices of food provisioning and acquisition, in line with food traditions, local gastronomy and culture)
  2. Small farms and social services. The social role of farming is increasingly recognised in the provision of ‘social’ services by the farm, either implicitly or explicitly. The case of agricultural realities that perform a social function explicitly, are defined as "social farms". Social farming refers both to entrepreneurial or voluntary initiatives (i.e. promoted by associations), or even by the public sector (e.g. for mental health services). All these realities pursue social purposes through the development of agricultural activities, in a broad sense (crops, breeding, transformation of products, farm holidays, sale of farm products, etc.), with the explicit aim of involving persons with special needs
  3. Small farms and the environment. There is a growing recognition that agriculture can contribute to providing ecosystem services, defined as the multiple benefits provided by ecosystems (i.e. life support, such as nutrient cycle, soil formation and primary production, supply such as food production, drinking water, materials or fuel, regulation, such as climate, water purication, pollination and infestation control, cultural values including aesthetic, spiritual, educational and recreational ones). This theme focuses on the relations between farming and the environment and, particularly, on the way small farms contribute to the use and reproduction of genetic  resources and agroecosystem services
  4. Small farms, sustainable tourism and territorial valorization. This theme explores how small farms contribute to creating opportunities for a sustainable, experiential and multiseasonal quality tourism sector. This theme includes analysis of rural tourism supply systems with particular reference to local production and agro-food supply chains and other traditional local products; multi-functionality and diversication of agriculture, agro-tourism, social agriculture, analysis of short supply chains
  5. Small farms in a digitalizing society. Digital technologies can contribute to addressing important and urgent economic, social, climatic and environmental challenges facing the EU agri-food sector and rural areas. The role of digitalization, its characterization and the multiple impacts on farming and rural areas, will directly be discussed in part of the lectures.

These five themes will be elaborated and debated during the Programme on the base of a reflection on the specificities of small farming (definitions, characters, connections with their food system and their socio-economic and ecological context). The reflections will focus on the role that small farms can play in the transition pathways towards more sustainable rural and agricultural configurations, with attention paid to specific elements of these processes.
The transition perspective adopted in the Programme leads to consider some basic conceptual elements that shape the current reflection of this issues, and an overview on some key policy goals providing bases of political action and scientic research supporting transitions.
The challenges posed by COVID in the last years make the above-mentioned issues particularly timely and urgent for rural areas, perhaps more than ever before.

Work plan

The Summer Course is organized into 3 learning sections:

  1. Literature review
  2. Research Methodologies
  3. Different types of rurality (case-study)

Some of the main concepts that students will elaborate and debate during the Programme as listed as followings:

  • Transition and sustainable development in rural areas and in agriculture
  • Rural-urban divide and bridge
  • Policies for rural areas and small farms
  • Multifunctional agriculture: concepts and implications
  • Social learning approach to innovation.

Discussing about selected case studies in Tuscany, students will be stimulated to reflect on the issues emerging from the theoretical framework.
The part of “Research Methodologies” uses a participatory learning approach, where students will be actively involved in observing and understanding the empirical reality, engaged in reflection, discussion and reporting – elaborating concepts individually as well as in groups.


  • Interviewing methodologies
  • Visual monitoring activities
  • Group work facilitation
  • Data elaboration
  • Reporting methods.

Visual methods will be integrated in this framework, being very useful to build, elaborate, exchange and communicate new knowledge.

“Food and Innovation in Rural transition” case study introduces students to the application of the theoretical and methodological background to the empirical cases.
A guided tour of field visits to the Tuscan northern territory, together with meetings and interviews with special informants and stakeholders, will be organized in order to expose students to the specific issues of the course. Within this section of the course, main tasks for the students will be to collect, elaborate and report data and information, according with the theoretical background received and by implementing research methodologies.

Course Organization

  • 4 weeks residential of intensive course in a Tuscany rural village (from Monday to Friday):
  • 2 weeks of theoretical and methodological background
  • 2 weeks of field works - collecting, elaborating and reporting data
  • Overall load of 250 hours of activities (lectures, workshops and field trips) corresponding to 10 ECTS


The location of the case study is Sillico village, which is located in the northern part of Tuscany (province of Lucca, 85 km from Pisa), called Garfagnana. This small village has medieval origins and is situated in the mountains, at 700 meters above the sea level. 


The Summer School aims to increase awareness and competencies about food issues and transition in agriculture and rural areas and to prepare students in order to design future sustainable transitions pathways able to meet medium and long-term societal concerns and emerging consumer demands. The Course will provide students engaged with agricultural and rural studies an immersive experience on the Tuscan territory, which provides interesting world-wide known examples of diversied rural development

Who can apply

EU and Non-EU students (University degree or Bachelor degree, Master degree) as well as PhD students



Program Intensity



Admission Requirements

Bachelor Degree

Fluent Engish

Background in rural development field

Required Documents

  • Identity Document (*PASSPORT in case you are a foreign student*)
  • Enrolment Form 
  • Curriculum Vitae

All the documents must be in pdf format, in order to upload them on the portal when required.

Application has to be submitted via Alice portal following the instructions of the "How to apply" page.




1000 Euro

(+ 700 euro for accomodation)

Pay fees by Debit/Credit Card or PayPal online using the following form filling it with all the required data:

Payment Form 


  • International students without Italian Tax Code: please tick the box 'Anonymous' in order to disable the field 'Italian personal ID/VAT number'.
  • Please type your NAME and SURNAME next to the pre-filled text of the field 'Reason'
  • Please pay only after receiving the admission letter

More information on accomodation and its booking and payment methods will follow in the next weeks.


Please write to the coordinator for further details.


29 June - 26 July 2024

Application Deadline

30 April 2024


Prof. Roberta Moruzzo Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo.  
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Ultima modifica: Mer 12 Giu 2024 - 09:53

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