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Who we are


With over 10 years of experience, Gustolab International (GLi) is a pioneering leader in developing international education programs and research projects. 


Our programs, courses and academic internships broadly cover food studies and sustainability topics such as the history of food, the chemistry of production processes, the critical analysis of food systems, the study of food cultures, sustainable agriculture, the architecture of space related to food, food waste, nutrition, psychology, communication and the design of food systems, just to name a few. 


We are specialized in experiential education.  Our goal is to promote critical thought as well as transdisciplinary and multicultural thinking by:

  • creating study abroad programs in Italy and Asia (Japan and Vietnam) open to students from anywhere in the world
  • creating research and networking opportunities for faculty, researchers and independent students. 
  • co-designing customized faculty-led courses, trips and programs
  • creating customized spring, summer and fall semester academic programs for our partner universities specific to their students
  • organizing customizing academic internships for students from anywhere in the world 

Gustolab International is the academic headquarters in Italy for programs specialized on Food Culture, Communication, Media and Nutrition for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. 


Gustolab International has also worked on abroad programs in collaboration with over 30 universities including Auburn University, Bowling Green State University, Chatham University, New York University, State University Of New York At Oswego, University Of New Haven, University Of Redlands, Negocia Chamber Of Commerce of Paris, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Canada), McGill University (Canada) and Vantan Design Institute (Japan).

Directors’ Message

Dear Students and Faculty, as CEO of Gustolab International Food Systems and Sustainability (GLi), I am pleased to welcome all of you here in Rome! As an Italian, I know the importance of food culture in Italy and have always considered Italy to be the perfect laboratory for studies related to food. I am happy to share that our center is celebrating its 10 anniversary this year. I remember when in 2005, following my true passion and through the opportunity to work with an enthusiastic team, I proposed and launched the idea for the first program on Food and Culture in Italy together with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This idea become a reality in 2007. Since then, Food Studies as field of study has increased in importance by becoming a field that is fundamentally interdisciplinary, and therefore many food-related study abroad programs are now flourishing as a response to the increasing awareness and demand in society. I am sure that, through our programs, you will be able to appreciate food as a cultural product of Italy but also to use food as an instrument of analysis of our economy, society and politics. My wish is that during your study abroad, you will be able to immerse yourselves completely in the Italian culture, to have a unique experience and to broaden your horizon. Buon lavoro!

Pier Alberto Merli, PhD



Exploring and driving the future of food through awareness, higher education and changing perspectives. Gustolab International Food Systems and Sustainability (GLi) in Rome provides a strategic European base for education and research collaborations. Since its establishment with the first University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign Program in 2007, thousands of foreign students and researchers have benefited from our center’s strong links throughout Europe. I have been privileged to work as Director of GLi since its inception. As a researcher and innovator, I have found GLi to be an incredible place to foster cross-disciplinary thinking, and to educate and inspire and to enable new thinking and innovations to reach the food world and market. The synergies, collaborations and new endeavors that have come out in our programs have been spectacular right from the start. Several new initiatives and fast moving programs emerged from the first pilot program of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, including Faculty-Led Programs, Food Tours and Alumni excursions. In 2010, as a result of growing interest across UMASS Amherst, GLi together with select UMASS Amherst faculty, conceived a focused open study abroad program entitled “Critical studies on Food” to bring together different disciplines, students, professors and approaches and to help reimagine and reinvigorate the future of food. This unique, cross-disciplinary program educates, informs and prepares future food studies experts and students who want to approach the food field to understand and recognize the opportunities and influences of the exponentially growing trends, policies and technologies within agribusiness, food consumption trends and practices, as well as to understand the number of rapidly developing and converging fields that affect the future of wellness, sustainability, food practices and industry. Vibrant community engagement programs ensure that GLi’s visiting staff and students are embedded in the local context and have the opportunity to develop their understanding of contemporary Italian and European food culture. We welcome proposals for collaboration in education and research and encourage you to visit us when you are next travelling through Europe. Ciao!

Sonia Massari, PhD

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