The University of Pisa (UniPi) is an Italian public research university located in Pisa, Italy. It was founded in 1343 by an edict of Pope Clement VI. It is the 19th oldest extant university in the world and the 10th oldest in Italy. The university is ranked within the top 10 nationally and the top 400 in the world according to the ARWU and the QS. It houses the Orto botanico di Pisa, Europe’s oldest academic botanical garden, which was founded in 1544.
The University of Pisa is part of the Pisa University System, which includes the Scuola Normale Superiore and the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies. The university has about 50,000 students (of which 46,000 are undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and 3,500 are doctoral and specialization studies).
In the fields of philology and cultural studies, the University of Pisa is a leading member of ICoN, an inter-university consortium of 21 Italian universities supported by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, as well as a member of the European University Association, the Partnership of a European Group of Aeronautics and Space Universities network and the Cineca consortium. It’s the only university in Italy which has become a member of the Universities Research Association.
Among its notable graduates there are several national and foreign political leaders including two Italian presidents, five Popes, five Italian prime ministers and three Nobel Laureates as students, faculty or staff affiliates.
Pisa has an intense athletic rivalry with the University of Pavia, which traditionally culminates in the Pisa-Pavia Regatta (Regata Pisa-Pavia), the oldest competition of this kind in Italy, and second in Europe only to the Oxford Cambridge boat race.
In 2013, the University of Pisa finished with La Sapienza University of Rome in first place among the Italian universities, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
The University of Pisa was officially established on 3 September 1343. However, a number of scholars claim its origin dates back to the 11th century.
The initial evidence of the presence of secular and monastic law schools in Pisa dates back to the second half of the 12th century, when the city had achieved significant economic development. In the following century, the first attestations concerning the presence of doctors of medicine and surgery were made.
The actual foundation of the school would be identified with the bull In supremae dignitatis, signed by Pope Clement VI in Avignon on September 3, 1343, from whose beginning the university motto originates: In supremae dignitatis specula. However, some historians such as Angelo Fabroni and later Nicola Carranza and Giuseppe Rossi Sabatini, anticipate the foundation date to 1338, placing the distinction between de facto birth and the granting of the privileium. A few months later, the first papal bull was followed by a second with which Clement VI, in an absolutely exceptional way, allowed the religious to attend the Pisan Study. In 1355 the study was also recognized by the emperor Charles IV and in the following years, despite adversities such as wars and plagues, the University grew, starting the teaching of grammar in 1369. With the conquest of Pisa – now semi-destroyed and impoverished – by the Florentines, the fate of the university followed that of the city, so that after 1406, it had to close.
From the fifteenth century to the sixteenth century
In 1473 Lorenzo de ‘Medici reopened the firm which lasted until 1509 when the city of Pisa, brought back under the dominion of Florence, was deprived of its university since it rebelled in 1494 on the occasion of the descent of Charles VIII of France. Six years later, the University was reopened and was able to enjoy the pre-eminent role assumed by the city where, by the will of the Medici, the commercial and real estate interests of the Florentine families of the time converged.
The Pisan studio was definitively reopened, thanks to Cosimo I de ‘Medici, on 1st November 1543 and located at the Palazzo della Sapienza, where it could have the innovative botanical garden and a qualified and duly remunerated teaching staff.
From the seventeenth century to the nineteenth century
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the university had a period of intense and prolific activity, the new chairs of physics and chemistry arose, the botanical garden and the museum of natural sciences were expanded and the Specola was completed.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the chair of surgical clinic was born and the first faculty of agriculture, the latter by Cosimo Ridolfi. From 1 to 15 October 1839, Pisa hosted the first congress of Italian scientists, attended by over four hundred scholars. From 1850 the engineering courses developed with the institution of the degree courses of civil engineering and architecture, which was followed in 1875 by the first application course for engineers.
The university’s development continued under the Lorenas. They completed the construction of the astronomic observatory (a project initiated by the Medicis), and enriched the university library with important publications. They helped develop the botanical gardens, and natural science museum, and established new chairs including experimental Physics and Chemistry.
The annexation of Tuscany to the Napoleonic Empire resulted in the transformation of the Studium into an Imperial Academy. The Athenaeum became a branch of the University of Paris, and the courses and study programs were structured following the French public education model. Five new faculties were established: (theology, law, medicine, science and literature), along with examinations, different qualification titles and graduation theses. In 1810 the scuola normale was established, after the École normale of Paris.
The Restoration wasn’t able to cancel the effects of the Napoleonic experience. The first Congress of Italian Scientists was held in Pisa in 1839. Over 300 experts of various disciplines and 421 scientists discussed zoology, comparative anatomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, agronomy, technology, botany, vegetation physiology, geology, mineralogy, geography and medicine.
In 1839–1840, the Director of Education Gaetano Giorgini brought about the most important reform in the University of Pisa by raising the number of faculties to six (theology, law, literature, medicine, mathematics, and natural sciences). Giorgini also created the world’s first chair of agriculture and sheep farming.
In 1846, the Scuola Normale reopened. At the same time, liberal and patriotic ideals were spreading at Athenaeum and a battalion of the university (composed of lecturers and students) distinguished itself in the Battle of Curtatone and Montanara in 1848.
During the Second Restoration in 1851, Leopoldo II united the universities of Pisa and Siena in a unique Etruscan Athenaeum, motivated in part by economic reasons, but primarily for political control. The faculties of theology and law rested at Siena, while those of literature, medicine, mathematics and natural sciences remained at Pisa. Following the Florentine insurrection and the fleeing of the Grand Duke in 1859, one of the initial measures imposed by the provisory government was the restitution to the city of Pisa of its Studium with all six of its faculties.
With the law of 31 July 1862, the Pisan university was recognized as one of the six national primary universities, together with those of Bologna, Naples, Palermo, Pavia and Turin.
With the birth of the Kingdom of Italy, the University of Pisa became one of the new state’s most prestigious cultural institutions. The first European Institute of Historical Linguistics was founded in Pisa in 1890. Between the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, lecturers who taught at Pisa included the lawyers Francesco Carrara and Francesco Buonamici; philologists Domenico Comparetti and Giovanni D’Ancona; historians Pasquale Villari, Gioacchino Volpe and Luigi Russo; philosopher Giovanni Gentile; economist Giuseppe Toniolo and mathematicians Ulisse Dini and Antonio Pacinotti.
From the twentieth century to the present
The Engineering Application School was inaugurated in 1913, then established in the university’s engineering faculty in 1935. In 1923 the Gentile reform recognized the Pisan university as a university of rank. The university was the first in Italy to establish a computer science degree in 1969. In October 2008, the university was the epicenter of a critical movement towards the school and university reform implemented by the Berlusconi government; these protests erupted during 2010, in the occupation of various university faculties and strategic places in the city such as bridges, stations, airport and the characteristic leaning tower.
During the years of fascism, the Pisa Athenaeum was an active centre for political debate and antifascist organisation. After the second world war, the University of Pisa returned to the avant-garde style of learning in many fields of knowledge. To the faculties of engineering and pharmacy, established pre-war, were added economics, foreign languages and literature and politics. In 1967 the Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari e Perfezionamento S. Anna was founded which, together with La Scuola Normale, formed a learning and teaching centre.
Today, the University of Pisa has 20 departments, with high-level research centres in the sectors of agriculture, astrophysics, computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine and veterinary medicine. The university has close relations with the Pisan Institutes of the National Research Council, with many cultural institutions of national and international importance, and with industry, especially that of information technology, which experienced a phase of rapid expansion in Pisa during the 1960s and 1970s.
The Palazzo alla Giornata overlooks the Lungarno Pacinotti in Pisa. The building is now the seat of the Rectorate of the University of Pisa.
Built at the behest of Battista Lanfreducci, an exponent of an important and ancient Pisan family of the thirteenth century, it owes its current aspect to the works carried out by the Sienese architect Cosimo Pugliani between 1594 and the early seventeenth century.
The Pisans called it “Palazzo alla Giornata”, inspired by the motto chosen by its owner, the knight of Malta Francesco Lanfreducci the Elder. One of the many legends aroused by the enigmatic motto “a day” says that after a long detention in Algiers prisons, Cavalier Lanfreducci placed that inscription above the door of his residence to testify to the precariousness of earthly life. Also to the Algerian captivity would refer to the piece of chain hanging above the main entrance of the building. In reality, the motto, or more properly “the enterprise”, “at the Day” literally means “on the day of the battle” and represented a sort of challenge thrown at an antagonist who had prevailed unfairly on Lanfreducci in the power struggle that the Order of Malta was agitating towards the end of the sixteenth century. The motto alludes to the revenge on the battlefield, “in the moment of truth”. By choosing that motto Lanfreducci intended to remember that the value of a man is measured in the face of danger, on the field of honor and that the men of the Lanfreducci family had never escaped this test. The palace and its writing are named in the lyricD’Annunzio’s camels “… per day, he wrote on the architrave, and the Arno was sweet ”
Behind the building there was a church called San Biagio delle Catene, owned by the Lanfreducci family.
The Torre dei Lanfreducci is one of the best preserved ancient medieval towers in Pisa, located in the internal courtyard of the Palazzo alla Giornata on Lungarno Pacinotti.
The tower, with a rectangular plan, rises for seven main floors with variable height of the floors and dates back to the oldest part of the second half of the XII century (recognizable for the ashlars up to the fifth floor in light gray verrucana stone ), while the upper part the top floors (brick red brick) dates back to the 14th century. In the highest part there is a decoration made with the various arrangement of the bricks to form decorated bands.
Towards the middle, on the west side, you can still see the silhouette of a long discharge arch with a low pointed design. The openings are of different shape and workmanship: the smallest and oldest rectangular, then single- lancet windows with arches and on the penultimate floor, also a mullioned window with a masonry column with capital.
The university library of Pisa dates back to 1742 and is housed in the premises of the Palazzo della Sapienza. The university library system is made up of other libraries, divided between six thematic poles, located in the various departments.
The University of Pisa offers a wide range of collections, which over time have been enriched and organized in independent museums coordinated by the university museum system (SMA). The museums managed by the university are:
Ancient art plaster cast
Pathological Anatomy Museum
Museum of human anatomy
Anatomical veterinary museum
Museum of graphics
Museum of calculating tools
Museum of physics instruments
Natural History Museum
Vegetable garden and botanical museum
In 2012 the university set up its own publishing house called Pisa University Press.