Piccolomini Library , Siena

Ten beautiful libraries in Italy


Libraries are a font of knowledge, a route to another world and utterly beautiful to anyone who loves books. Then there are the superlative libraries: architecturally, emotionally and design-wise. We take a look at ten of the most beautiful libraries in Italy.

Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Milan

Milan library

In 1770, Maria Theresa, considered Milan needed “an open library for the common use of anyone who wants to cultivate his mind, and acquire new knowledge”. She felt the Ambrosian library was not sufficient, because it was “rich in manuscripts”, but not in “printed books”. Therefore, she decided to assign the library of Pertusati to the public use. It opened in 1786.

Archiginnasio Municpal Library, Bologna

One of Bologna’s cultural attractions is the Archiginnasio Municipal Library; located since 1838 in the 16th-century building of the same name. The library collects the book heritage of religious congregations dissolved by the Napoleonic age (1797-1798) and by the Kingdom of Italy (1866).

Riccardian Biblioteca, Florence

Florence library

Founded in 1600 and open to the public since 1715. Among the treasures kept in its collection at Palazzo Medici Ricciardi: a 10th-century manuscript with works by Pliny the Younger, and Machiavelli’s autograph manuscript of “Florentine Histories”.

Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome

The original nucleus of books belonged to Saint Phillip Neri, founder of the Congregation of the Oratory. The religious institution entrusted the great architect Francesco Borromini with building the Oratory of Saint Phillip Neri, where the library is now on the second floor.

Biblioteca dei Girolamini, Naples

Girolamini library

Inaugurated in 1586 and the oldest library in the city. Currently located inside a building that belongs to the late-17th-century complex of the Church and Convent of the Girolamini.

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City

Vatican library

Formally established in 1475, the library of the Holy See is much older. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains a significant collection of historical texts.

Biblioteca Piccolomini, Siena

Piccolomini library

To honour the memory of his maternal uncle Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) and to preserve his rich collection of books and manuscripts, Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, archbishop of Siena commissioned the construction of a library in circa 1492.

Biblioteca di Fermo, Le Marche

Fermo library

Founded in 1688, Fermo’s civic library was named after the local doctor, Romolo Speziali, who worked in Rome in the court of the Swedish queen Christina.  The Spezioli collection is the main historical part of the Fermo Civic Library. Due to its quality and quantity, it makes it one of the 20 top libraries in Italy and one of the country’s most important institutions.

Royal Library of Turin

Turin Royal Library

Located within the ground floor of the Royal Palace of Turin. The library contains approximately 200,000 print volumes, 4,500 manuscripts, and other pictures and documents.

Biblioteca Marciana, Venice

Venice library

Next to Saint Mark’s Campanile is the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana built between 1537 and 1588. Founded in 1468 when the humanist scholar Cardinal Bessarion, donated his collection of Greek and Latin manuscripts to the Republic of Venice. He added the stipulation that a public library be established.

Leave a Reply