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Historical libraries are real cultural treasures that house ancient volumes, manuscripts, incunabula, and rare documents. In Italy, a country with ancient roots and so culturally rich, it isn’t surprising that there are numerous libraries of great importance.
In this article, we’ll explore four of Italy’s most historic libraries with a bit of history and how to visit them!
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence
Founded in 1714, the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze is one of the most important in all of Italy and in the world. It holds over 6 million volumes of texts spanning hundreds of years.
Of these, the Magliabechiano collection alone has over 6,000 rare manuscripts dating back to the 1600s. The Palatino collection contains 1,500 pieces, and the “Suppressed Convents” collection obtained during the Napoleonic suppression of religious orders contains over 2,000 manuscripts.
Throughout the year, the library holds numerous exhibitions and special events, including rare tours.
At this time, guided visits are held once a month. Visit the official website for details.
Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan
The Veneranda Library in Milan was founded in 1607 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo and is one of the most important libraries in the world because of its extensive collection of rare pieces. It holds 40,000 manuscripts; 12,000 sketches; and over 500,000 volumes of books. Most agree that some of its most important pieces are Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus; Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia (23-79 AD) among numerous others.
The Ambrosiana Museum Complex includes the Veneranda Library, the Pinacoteca, and the Accademia.
For complete details, visit the official website.
Christelle Molinié, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice
Founded in 1537, Venice‘s Marciana Library is one of the oldest and most important in Italy. It holds over 1.5 million volumes including manuscripts, rare texts, and a large collection of maps.
The Grimani Breviary which dates to the 5th century is one of the library’s most precious treasures. You can also find Fra Mauro’s map of the world and the first editions of Aldo Manuzio’s works.
Please visit the official website for details and visiting requirements.
Remi Mathis, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai in Bergamo
The Angelo Mai Civic Library in Bergamo Alta holds over 700,000 volumes dating from 1400 to the present day. Opened in 1768, today the library holds numerous collections including sheet music from Bergamo’s greatest composers. There is also a section dedicated to Torquato Tasso and the so-called Tasso studies.
In Italy, historic libraries bear witness to the country’s amazing heritage and, thanks to their vast collection of rare books and historical documents, they also represent an invaluable contribution to the world. Visiting these libraries means immersing yourself in a fascinating and wonderful world, where history, culture, and art merge to create an unforgettable experience.