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44.4949° N • 11.3426° E

Visit the oldest University in the world: Bologna’s Alma Mater Studiorum

Time travel, City tips

When you’re on holiday, you may not want to enter university buildings. We do understand the feeling, but you might want to make an exception for the Alma Mater!

The Alma Mater Studiorum University in Bologna opened its doors in 1088 (!). This makes it the oldest university in the world in continuous operation. And what’s most special about old universities? Their majestic buildings!

The library of the University of Bologna is a book lover’s dream come true. High painted ceilings, huge shelves made out of dark wood, elegant desks, massive wall paintings and a smell of history. Besides valuable old books, the library also hosts arounds 400 portraits. Some call it the most beautiful library in the world. It is open to the public, so pay it a visit, but… hush!

Also not to be missed: the Archiginnasio palace. It’s the University’s first ever building. Besides one more beautiful library, the palace hosts the anatomical theatre. In the past (and only during the night in winter months) dissections took place there. All the furniture and the walls are made out of a special wood that absorbs the bad smells. No need to pinch your nose, the smell is gone today. You’ll see one chair above all the others – that’s where an inquisitor attended every dissection to ensure those were made according to the dogma of the Church. Creepy, yes, but super interesting!

We’re still undecided about which university is more beautiful: the Alma Mater on the Mediterranean Route or the Coimbra on the Atlantic Route. Did you visit them both? Tell us which one’s your personal favourite!

Thinking about going for an Erasmus exchange in Bologna? Go for it! The university has always been open for exchange students such as Nicolaus Copernicus from Poland, Albrecht Dürer from Germany or Erasmus of Rotterdam from the Netherlands. Who knows, perhaps your name will become famous too!

Practical Information

The historical buildings of the University of Bologna are scattered around the city within walking distance. To visit the Biblioteca Universitaria (coordinates: 44°29′48.79″N 11°21′09.14″E) and the Archiginnasio (coordinates: 44°29′32″N 11°20′37″E) check the opening hours on their respective websites beforehand.

To learn more about the Erasmus+ possibilities at your university contact the international office or exchange coordinator. General information about the program can be found online.