University of Bologna, the oldest university in the Western world.

The University of Bologna is recognized as the oldest university in the Western world. Among its many famous alumni, we can mention the poet Dante Alighieri, the mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus, the Nobel Prize in Physics Guglielmo Marconi and many more, including my husband Alberto!

The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and throughout the centuries, it has never been out of operation. The term, “university,” was coined at its creation from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which means “community of teachers and scholars”.

Civil and canon law were the main subject studied at the University but, throughout the years more courses of study have been added. The university only taught doctorate studies at its origin, but today it has a wide range of programs at all levels. Located in Bologna, Central Italy, it has an enrollment of around 80,000 students, of which 30,000 are postgraduates. About 5,000 students are from outside Italy and, an additional 2,000 study at the university every year as part of its exchange programs.

If you visit Bologna, it’s amazing to see some of the historical places and to understand what made the University of Bologna famous worldwide.

When the University started, doctors were holding lessons in their own houses or in rooms rented by the Comune (city council). Around the middle of the 16th century finally, the University of Bologna had its own building. It’s fascinating to still be able to visit the places where hundreds of years ago doctors and students were gathering to share their knowledge and learn.

Some of this places still exist and you can visit them. The San Procolo‘s church in Via d’Azeglio, that contains the tomb of one of the first Christian martyrs of Bologna, was a centre for law students. The “portico”  (arcades) of the Ospedale della Morte (Death Hospital), was attended by students of medicine who were studying anatomy on corpses of prisoners in the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio located next to the Death Hospital. The Palazzo Poggi (Poggi Palace), renovated in the middle of the 16th century, it was chosen by Napoleon as a new seat of the University of Bologna in 1802.  The Biblioteca Universitaria (University Library) opened to the public in 1756 in via Zamboni, the main street of the student’s life in Bologna. I only mentioned a few of the beautiful places and things to do connected to the history of the University of Bologna. It’s just amazing how the University and the city managed to preserve throughout the years so many wonderful memories.

Bologna, definitely a place to visit next time you go to Italy!


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