Libraries in Italy

According to the AIB (Italian Library Association) Italy has:

  • 206 public libraries
  • 185 university libraries
  • 75 research centres libraries
  • 40 ecclesiastical libraries
  • 35 national libraries

All of them can be reached through the AIB web-site, but we will list some information here about:

National libraries

All National Libraries require production of a suitable I.D.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze
This is one of the most important libraries in Italy. It has approximately 6,000,000 printed books, 115,000 different periodicals (15,000 of them current), 3700 incunabula, 25,000 manuscripts, 29,000 16th-century editions and 1 million autographs. It is a legal deposit library and holds copies of all Italian research degree theses.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma
With its 6 million volumes, 84,000 manuscripts, 1938 incunabula, 25,000 cinquecentine, 20,000 maps, 10,000 prints and drawings and more than 44,000 different periodicals, the National Central Library in Rome is one of the largest Italian libraries. Besides being a legal deposit library, it also holds copies of all Italian research degree theses. It also houses the 'National Centre for the study of manuscripts', aimed at collecting all microfilms of manuscripts held in other Italian libraries.

Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli
Holding 19,000 manuscripts, 4563 incunabula, 1792 papyri, 1,800,000 printed volumes and more than 8,300 different periodicals, the 'Vittorio Emanuele III' National Library in Naples is the largest Italian library after the libraries in Florence and Rome.

Biblioteca Statale di Macerata
A branch of the National Library in Naples. Particularly relevant are its collections in the Humanities and the History of art.

Biblioteca Nazionale di Milano
The Braidense National Library in Milan holds 1,000,000 printed books, 30,000 autographs, 24,360 cinquecentine, 23,000 periodicals and official publications, 5,760 eighteenth-century prints, 2360 incunabula and 2110 manuscripts. The collection of bans (composed of 20,000 pieces dating from the 16th century to 1859) is worth mentioning, as well as the Aldine and Bodoni collections.

Biblioteca Nazionale di Venezia
The Marciana National Library in Venice holds rich collections concerning Greek culture, general and publishing histories of the Veneto, Oriental civilizations (Teza collection) and travel literature (Tursi collection). It holds 1 million volumes, 13,000 manuscripts, 2883 incunabula, and 24,055 cinquecentine.

Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino
It has 1,600 incunabula, 6,000 cinquecentine, 15,000 prints and a vast collection of periodicals dating from the ancien régime. Its musical collection (with autographs by Vivaldi, Gluck, Haydn and Rameau) is particularly worth mentioning.

University libraries

All Universities obviously house one or more libraries. However we want to bring some of the most relevant University libraries to your attention.

Biblioteca Interdipartimentale 'G. Solari' - Biblioteca di Storia 'G. Tabacco' (Turin)
One of the most important libraries amongst those belonging to the Turin library network. Its collections concern social sciences, politics and history as well as sociology and literature. It holds more than 97,000 volumes (including 65 cinquecentine and 600 eighteenth-century publications).

Biblioteca dell'Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan)
This is one of the most important University libraries in Milan. It owns more than 1,200,000 volumes and pamphlets (including 37 incunabula and 1800 cinquecentine), 16,564 periodicals (6359 of them current) and 5191 titles in full text electronical version. It also has about 1000 papyri. Admission is free for one day. Then you have to pay a fee of 5 euros for 3 days, 10 euros for 10 days (only for consultation). In order to borrow books you need to pay 15 euros for a month, 25 euros for 3 months, 45 euros for 6 months, and 75 euros for one year.

In Milan you will also find relevant for your research:

University of Bergamo - Biblioteca delle Facoltà Umanistiche
This library is specializing in languages and literature, with more than 90,000 volumes and 550 periodical titles in English, French, German, Russian and Spanish literature.

University of Pavia - Biblioteche del Polo Umanistico
The main collections concerning humanities of the University of Pavia are collected in the 'Libraries of the centre for humanities'. This centre brings together 5 different libraries, including the

University of Udine - Biblioteca Umanistica e della Formazione
This library is of relevance for research in languages and linguistics. It owns 130,000 volumes and about 1660 periodical titles (550 of them current). It also has CD-ROMs, CDs, audiocassettes, videocassettes, microfilms and microfiches.

University of Trieste - Biblioteca di Lettere e Filosofia
The Library in Languages of the University of Trieste is particularly relevant for research in library studies.

University of Padua - Biblioteca di Palazzo Maldura
Hosted by Palazzo Maldura, a sixteenth-century building that houses several departments of the Faculty of Lettere e Filosofia of the University of Padua, this library is one of the best in Italy for linguistic and literary studies. Particularly well-stocked is the literary journals collection.

University of Verona - Biblioteca 'Arturo Frinzi'
Besides departmental libraries, such as the library of the Department of linguistics, literature and communications, or the library of the Department of history, arts and geography, this library which belongs to the University of Verona has a centralized library for humanities which allows readers, including foreign students, to borrow up to three books at a time.

University of Bologna - Biblioteca Universitaria
The University of Bologna Library owns more than 1,280,000 volumes (including 11,443 manuscripts, 1021 incunabula and 14,950 cinquecentine), 10,000 periodicals (800 of them current), 17,270 graphic works (prints, drawings, photographs) and 69,454 microcopies. It also has 50 Greek and Latin papyri.

The University of the Republic of San Marino Library
This library is relatively small, but it preserves a unique collection on the subject of memory, the Fondo Young (Young collection), which consists of 2000 volumes (200 dating from the classical period) and manuscripts.

The University of Urbino Library
This library is mainly devoted to humanities and has about 500,000 volumes, 5000 periodicals and 26,453 pamphlets.

University of Florence - Biblioteca Umanistica
This library unites the collections of seven different libraries specializing in literature, philosophy, geography, North-American studies, history of Art, psychology and pedagogy. The library specializing in literature alone has 1 million books.

Library of the European University Institute (Florence)
The collections of this library consist of more than 3000 current journals, over 50,000 working papers and approximately half a million books in law, economics, history and the social sciences, with European issues being particularly well represented. The library has also taken out licenses for many digital resources and electronic access is provided via its website to more than 2000 journals, to many bibliographic, full-text and numeric databases as well as to many web-based resources.

Library of the Dutch University Institute for Art History (Florence)
This library possesses a rich and well-developed collection of scholarly texts on the history of art and civilization. Its main areas of specialization are the art of Italy and of the Low Countries.

Berenson Library in Villa 'I Tatti' - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (Florence)
The Berenson library is one of the world's leading resources for research on the late Middle Ages and Renaissance in Italy. It possesses an extensive collection mainly of published materials in the history, fine and applied arts, music, literature, science, religion, and philosophy of Italy from circa 1200 to 1650, a rich collection of international scholarly journals, and an exceptional repository of visual materials on Italian Renaissance art. The library also has substantial holdings in the fields of classical studies and archaeology, medieval studies, the Mediterranean region, Renaissance Europe, and Asian and Islamic art and archaeology, as well as a noteworthy collection of historical and current art auction catalogues. Included as integral parts of the Biblioteca Berenson are the Morrill Music Library, the Oriental and Islamic Collection, the Berenson Fototeca, and the Berenson Archive.

Library of the State University (Scuola Normale Superiore) of Pisa
This library holds 550,000 books and pamphlets as well as 4,000 periodicals (2650 of them current). The Kristeller and Momigliano collections are worthy of a special mention.

Library of the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali in Rome
If your research concerns social sciences you will find relevant material in the Free International University of Social Sciences in Rome. It owns about 100,000 volumes and 2100 periodical titles (1550 of them current).

University of Salerno - Biblioteca Centrale 'E. Caianiello'
This library of the University of Salerno has a centralized library which holds 400,000 volumes placed on open shelves in 18 different reading rooms.

University of Calabria - Library for Humanities
The University of Calabria has recently renewed its collections. It now holds 170,000 volumes and 25,000 periodicals, most of them on open shelves.

University of Palermo - Library Specializing in Music
Besides having a centralized library for humanities, the University of Palermo also runs an important music library. It holds the microfilms of almost all works of Sicilian composers who were active between the 16th and the 17th century, as well as 2000 scores and 5000 cassettes and CDs.

University of Cagliari - Biblioteca Interfacoltà di Scienze Umane
This library is of relevance for the humanities. It brings together three different libraries specializing in literature and philosophy, science of education and foreign languages and literature.

Municipal and specialized Libraries

Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milano
The Biblioteca Ambrosiana has 450,000 books dating from the 16th century, but is particularly renowned for its collection of incunabula (consisting of about 3000 pieces) and manuscripts (about 15,000, both medieval and modern). It also has 12,000 drawings (including masterpieces by Pisanello, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer and Rubens). You will need a letter signed by your supervisor if you want to consult the incunabula and manuscripts. Admissions charge: 3 euros for 1 day, 8 euros for a week, 26 euros for a month, and 100 euros for a year.

Biblioteca Civica in Verona
It holds more than 700,000 books and periodicals, including 1200 incunabula (among them De re militari by Roberto Valturio, Horae ad usum romanum printed in red and black ink by Aldo Manuzio and Hypnerotomachia Poliphili are worth mentioning) and 8000 cinquecentine (600 of them printed by Manuzio and another 500 by Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari). The collection of manuscripts comprises 3500 items.

Biblioteca Capitolare in Verona
This dates back to 517 A.D. and is probably the oldest library in Europe. It contains 1200 manuscripts, 245 incunabula and 2500 cinquecentine, as well as codices, scrolls, miniatures, prestige bindings and musical works dating prior to 1630. Particularly precious are the fifth century Evangelarium Purpureum, St. Augustine's The City of God and the collection of choir books for the cathedral.

Biblioteca Estense - Universitaria in Modena
Merged in 1995 with the University library, it preserves more than 1600 incunabula, about 16,000 cinquecentine and 164,000 manuscripts (including some notebooks by Giambattista, Francesco and Piranesi). It also has more than 1000 periodical titles.

Biblioteca Ariostea in Ferrara
Besides being the main library in Ferrara, the Biblioteca Ariostea is well-known because of its collections of manuscripts by (and monographs about) writers and essaysts of international interest such as Ariosto, Tasso, Monti, Govoni and Caretti. It offers an inter-library loan service as well as a service for the international delivery of copies (xerox and/or microfilm).

Biblioteca Italiana delle Donne in Bologna
This is the largest library in Italy exclusively dedicated to women's studies. It has more than 20,000 volumes and 300 periodicals.

Biblioteca dell'Archiginnasio in Bologna
Its collections mainly concern cultural studies, history, philosophy, politics, literature, history of art, biography. It has about 800,000 volumes and pamphlets, including 2500 incunabula and 15,000 cinquecentine. It also holds 7500 periodicals, 750 of them current.

Biblioteca di Storia Contemporanea 'Alfredo Oriani' in Ravenna
The Alfredo Oriani Library is an institution specializing in contemporary history and political, economic and social studies, with particular regard to Fascism, Antifascism, and the history of political parties and of workers' and labour unions. Currently the library collection consists of about 130,000 volumes, not including its 1,200 magazines (700 of which are current) which mainly focus on history, politics and economics.

Biblioteca Classense in Ravenna
Besides holding about 600,000 volumes, it has some of the most important collections in Italy, such as the Dante collection, which includes two codices dating back to the 15th and 16th century. It also preserves 1000 other codices, 800 incunabula and several thousand of cinquecentine. Among the manuscripts, the correspondence between Lord Byron and Countess Teresa Gamba Guiccioli is worth mentioning. The collections of printed games and of 15th-century prints are unique, too. 

Biblioteca Palatina in Parma
This has now more than 700,000 books, amongst which there are 3044 incunabula and some 11,600 16th century editions. It holds 370 current periodical titles, 52,479 prints and drawings - the Ortalli Collection is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. There is a unique musical section of 93,000 books, 30,340 manuscripts and 45 periodical titles.

Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena
Founded in the 15th century, it holds 404,000 books including 287 incunabula, 3,200 16th-century editions. The 'Biblioteca Piana', the personal library of Pope Pius VII, is deposited here.

Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana in Florence
The collection is numerically small but extremely precious. It has 11,000 manuscripts (plus 150 boxes of papers), 2500 papyrus,  43 ostraka, 566 incunabula, 1681 cinquecentine, 592 periodicals and 126,000 printed books (from the 17th to 20th century). Owing to the uniqueness of its collections, students need to provide details about their research and the material they wish to examine as well as an official document bearing a photograph as proof of identity and a letter of recommendation on headed paper signed by their supervisor. The letter should state the student's course, his/her capacity to work with manuscripts or rare books and the approximate time required for the study of the items cared for by the library.

Biblioteca Marucelliana in Florence
It has about 554,000 volumes and pamphlets (including 487 incunabula and 7995 cinquecentine), 2574 collected manuscripts and 30,405 papers. Particularly important is its collection of about 53,000 printings and 3200 drawings (15th to 19th century). It also holds 9000 librettos.

Biblioteca Labronica 'F. D. Guerrazzi' in Livorno
This is one of the largest libraries in Tuscany. It has 360,000 volumes, 3400 periodical titles (900 of them current), 60,000 autographs (including an important collection of Foscolo's works) and numerous codices, incunabula and manuscripts.

Biblioteca Leonardiana in Vinci (Florence)
This has 9915 books and pamphlets, including all editions and reproductions of Leonardo's manuscripts and drawings. It also holds 300 of the most important publications on Leonardo in the 'Fondo Uzielli'.

Biblioteca della Camera dei Deputati in Rome
This library has about 1 million volumes concerning the political activity of both houses (Chamber of Deputies and Senate). It holds all parliamentary acts and numerous collections of laws, including the statutes of pre-unitary governments. Moreover it is the legal deposit of all publications printed by the State and by public institutions. Admission is granted on filling in an application form in which applicants specify the subject of their research and producing a document of identity and a headed letter signed by their supervisor specifying the title of the dissertation.

Biblioteca dell'Associazione Nazionale Biblioteche
The AIB library specializes in Library and Information Science. The library holds 7700 monographs, 460 journals (117 currently received). The library has open access.

Biblioteca 'Luigi Chiarini' in Rome
This is the library of the Scuola Nazionale di Cinema (National Film School). It contains 34,500 volumes and periodicals, non-book materials (microfiches, microfilms, playbills, and slides) and, as a legal deposit, 6000 Italian scripts. It also collects articles concerning cinema and TV from major magazines and newspapers.

Biblioteca e Raccolta Teatrale del Burcardo in Rome
This theatre library contains about 40,000 volumes, ranging from 16th-century editions to contemporary publications. They include drama works of all ages, nations, genres, critical essays and histories of theatre and the performing arts in all forms, reference books and repertories, including library science professional literature. Particularly important are the 16th and 17th-century editions. Moreover, the Burcardo library boasts a large collection of librettos. Four hundred periodicals are stocked (of which 80 are current), mostly Italian. Another source of information is the collection of over 570,000 reviews. This library also preserves SIAE's historic archives, a collection of some 2500 documents, including applications, declaration slips, correspondence, contracts and meeting minutes, as well as Carlo Emilio Gadda's library (bequeathed by the writer to SIAE short before his death in 1973).

Biblioteca Hertziana in Rome
This library focuses on Italian history of art from the Middle Ages to the modern day. It holds approximately 236,000 volumes and 1900 periodicals (1108 of them current). Admission on producing a letter signed by your supervisor.

Biblioteca M. Pallottino in Rome
This was the library of archaeologist Massimo Pallottino. It includes monographs, corpora, catalogues, periodicals and conference proceedings that were commercially unavailable. Besides 6000 titles in the fields of philology, linguistics, ancient history, it has 500 periodicals and more than 6000 abstracts.

Biblioteche di Roma
This site links to all libraries in Rome.

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
The Vatican Library is a research library with large worldwide collections in the field of the humanities, and it also covers, though in less depth, the social sciences. Holdings include 1,600,000 printed books, 8300 incunabula (of which 65 printed on vellum), 150,000 manuscript volumes, 100,000 prints and engravings, 300,000 coins and medals, and 20,000 objects of art. The Coin collection ('Medagliere'), which is a section of the library, contains the most extensive collection of papal medals and coins, as well as one of the largest with respect to coins of the Roman Republic age, in the world. The engravings and drawings collection includes, among the rest, 161 volumes bound earlier than 1793, containing almost 42,000 engravings arranged according to different criteria. Admission for scholars is granted on submission of documentary evidence of qualifications.

Biblioteca Arcivescovile 'Annibale De Leo' in Brindisi
This is Salento's oldest library. It contains more than 90,000 volumes and pamphlets, 214 manuscripts, 17 incunabula and 276 cinquecentine concerning church history, sciences, Latin, Greek and Italian literature and history of art. The 'capitular archive' consists of 400 parchments and 10,000 documents dating back to the 11th century.

Biblioteca Centrale della Regione Sicilia
This is the most important Sicilian library. Founded in the 18th century by the donations of intellectuals of the Enlightenment, it includes important collections, coming from the abolished religious orders in Sicily (Jesuits, Capuchin friars, Franciscan friars). In 1878 it became a legal deposit library and now receives a copy of every book published in the district of Palermo. Among the most significant collections are the holdings on Arabic language and literature. The library serials collection is one of the best in Southern Italy.

Biblioteca Fardelliana in Trapani
This library holds one of the most precious collections of incunabula in Italy: 120 pieces by Aldo Manuzio, Arnold Pannartz and Conrad Sweynheym, Eucharius Silber, Vindelino da Spira and Lorenzo d'Alopa. Most of these are rare, some even unique.