Famous Italian Intellectuals & Academics

If you thought Italy was all about Venice’s heavenly scenery, Milan’s state-of-art fashion, Florence’s Renaissance treasure or Rome’s historic landmark and art, think more. For those who have figured out, good, but for the rest, here we spill the beans – Italy is home to some of the world’s greatest intellectuals and academicians who, through their body of work, have greatly influenced the life of many across the globe. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Dante Alighieri, Petrarca, Galileo Galilee, Saint Francesco of Assisi and Marco Polo are some of the most renowned Italian names while talking about intellectuals and academicians. Italian intellectuals and academicians have made important contribution to mankind, most notably in the field of literature, architecture, science, technology, philosophy, engineering, politics, medicine, mathematics, visual art and music. Through their exemplary work, they have created a niche for Italy and helped it stand-out from other European nations. Also, they have played a critical role in the development of their country and the world. Read this section and absorb some quick facts about the life and works of famous Italian intellectuals and academics.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius
6
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 26, 0121
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: March 17, 0180

Marcus Aurelius played an important role in the Roman Empire. A Stoic philosopher, Marcus was part of the Five Good Emperors and the last emperor of the Pax Romana—a 200-year-long period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. Also a writer, his work Meditations is regarded by many as one of the greatest works of philosophy.

 2 Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli
17
Famous As: Political Philosopher
Birthdate: May 3, 1469
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: June 21, 1527
Italian Renaissance philosopher, diplomat, and author Niccolò Machiavelli is remembered for his work The Prince. He believed that the end or the intention behind any action justifies the action. He gave rise to the term Machiavellianism, which signifies the use of deceit and treachery to achieve one’s goals. 
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 3 St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi
5
Famous As: Founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
Birthdate: November 26, 1182
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Assisi, Duchy of Spoleto, Holy Roman Empire
Died: October 3, 1226

An Italian Catholic friar, deacon, mystic, and preacher, St Francis of Assisi was the founder of the men's Order of Friars Minor and the women's Order of Saint Clare. He arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene in 1223. Also known as Francesco, he is one of the most venerated religious figures in Christianity.

 4 Cicero

Cicero
8
Famous As: Philosopher, Political Theorist
Birthdate: January 3, 0106
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Arpinum, Roman Republic, modern Arpino, Lazio, Italy
Died: December 7, 0043
Roman statesman, lawyer, and scholar Cicero was one of the greatest 1st-century BC prose writers and orators. He influenced Latin literature immensely and introduced Greek philosophy to the Romans. He was declared an enemy of the state, following his opposition to Mark Antony after Julius Caesar’s death, and was executed.
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 5 Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1265 AD
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: September 14, 1321

Dante Alighieri was an Italian writer, poet, and philosopher. His work Divine Comedy is widely regarded as the greatest literary work ever produced in the Italian language and the most prominent poem of the Middle Ages. Often referred to as the father of the Italian language, Dante Alighieri played a crucial role in establishing the Italian literature.

 6 Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco
6
Famous As: Italian Semiotician, Philosopher
Birthdate: January 5, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Alessandria, Italy
Died: February 19, 2016

Italian novelist Umberto Eco is best remembered for his novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. He also taught at the University of Bologna and had released quite a few children’s books and translations. He was also known for his work on semiotics and medieval studies.

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 7 Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci
6
Famous As: Politician, Philosopher
Birthdate: January 22, 1891
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ales, Italy
Died: April 27, 1937

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian politician, journalist, philosopher, linguist, and writer. A founding member of the Communist Party of Italy, Gramsci went on to serve as the leader of the party before he was arrested by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. Since his death, Antonio Gramsci has been the subject of several plays and films.

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 8 Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
4
Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian, Statesman
Birthdate: 0480 AD
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: 0524 AD

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was a Roman senator, consul, and philosopher of the early 6th century. He worked under the Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great, who later imprisoned and killed him. In jail, Boethius wrote his Consolation of Philosophy, which is considered a seminal treatise on death, fortune, and other issues. He also translated the works of Plato and Aristotle.  

 9 Girolamo Savonarola

Girolamo Savonarola
4
Famous As: Monk
Birthdate: September 21, 1452
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ferrara, Italy
Died: May 23, 1498
Distingusihed for his clash against corrupt clergy and with tyrranical rulers, Girolamo Savonarola became a moral dictator of the city of Florence. He earned a reputation for austerity and detested every form of pleasure that earned him powerful enemies.

 10 Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1548 AD
Birthplace: Nola, Italy
Died: February 17, 1600

Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, friar, mathematician, cosmological theorist, poet, and Hermetic occultist. Best remembered for his cosmological theories, Bruno insisted that the universe could have no center as it is infinite. In 2004, Herbert Steffen founded the Giordano Bruno Foundation in Bruno's honor.

 11 Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei
0
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: February 15, 1564
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pisa, Italy
Died: January 8, 1642

An Italian astronomer, engineer, and physicist, Galileo Galilei is widely regarded as the father of observational astronomy, the father of the scientific method, the father of modern physics, and the father of modern science. He is credited with popularizing the telescope, which changed the course of history.

 12 Petrarch

Petrarch
9
Famous As: Poet & Philosopher
Birthdate: July 20, 1304
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arezzo
Died: July 19, 1374
Legendary Renaissance poet and the father of humanism Petrarch is remembered for his poems addressed to a certain Laura. While his lawyer father pushed him into studying law, Petrarch’s love for literature made him quit the domain after 7 years, following which he focused on writing. 

 13 Suetonius

Suetonius
4
Famous As: Secretary, historian
Birthdate: 0069 AD
Birthplace: Rome
Died: 0122 AD

Suetonius was a Roman historian who lived and worked during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. Many of his works have been lost, and the most important of his surviving works is a set of biographies of 12 successive Roman rulers, from Julius Caesar to Domitian. He was a close friend of senator Pliny the Younger.

 14 Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm of Canterbury
6
Famous As: Saint, Philosopher
Birthdate: 1033 AD
Birthplace: Aosta, Italy
Died: April 21, 1109

Owing to his quality classical education, Anselm of Canterbury became one of the finest Latinists of his time. As Archbishop of Canterbury, he resisted the English kings and was exiled. He is now remembered as a significant figure in the Investiture Controversy, which pitted the king against the pope.

 15 Julius Evola

Julius Evola
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 19, 1898
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: June 11, 1974

Julius Evola was an Italian poet, philosopher, painter, esotericist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, and occultist. Evola is extremely popular in fringe circles due to his supernatural, magical, and metaphysical beliefs. Due to his traditionalist views on gender, which advocated a purely patriarchal society, Evola is regarded as one of Italy’s most influential fascist racists of all time.

 16 Diodorus Siculus

Diodorus Siculus
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 0090 BC
Birthplace: Agira
Died: 0030 BC

Diodorus Siculus was an ancient Greek historian known for writing the monumental universal history, Bibliotheca Historica. The original series consisted of 40 books, out of which 15 survive intact. In his own work, it is mentioned that he was born in Agyrium in Sicily. Exact details about his personal life are not available.  

 17 Giorgio Agamben

Giorgio Agamben
7
Famous As: Philosopher, Writer, University teacher, Poet lawyer
Birthdate: April 22, 1942
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rome

 18 Zeno of Elea

Zeno of Elea
4
Famous As: Greek philosopher
Birthdate: 0490 BC
Birthplace: Velia
Died: 0425 BC

 19 Leon Battista Alberti

Leon Battista Alberti
4
Famous As: Architect, Linguist
Birthdate: February 18, 1404
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Genoa
Died: April 20, 1472
Born into an affluent banker family of Florence, Leon Battista Alberti was rumored to be an illegitimate son of his father and a Bolognese widow. The ideal Renaissance man, he later applied mathematical precision to his paintings and architectural work. His written work on art remains invaluable.

 20 Cesare Beccaria

Cesare Beccaria
4
Famous As: Jurist
Birthdate: March 15, 1738
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Milan
Died: November 28, 1794

Cesare Beccaria was an 18th-century Italian criminologist, philosopher, jurist, and politician. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. He is still remembered for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), a pioneering work in the field of penology. He is considered the father of modern criminal law. 

 21 Sallust

Sallust
3
Famous As: Historian, Politician
Birthdate: 0086 BC
Birthplace: Amiternum, Italy
Died: 0035 BC

Sallust was a Roman historian and politician who hailed from an Italian plebeian family.  He was a popularis and a vehement opponent of the old Roman aristocracy. Later in his career, he became a partisan of Julius Caesar. He is considered the earliest known Latin-language Roman historian with surviving works to his name. 

 22 Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 24, 1463
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Mirandola, Italy
Died: November 17, 1494

 23 Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
3
Famous As: Archaeologist
Birthdate: October 4, 1720
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Died: November 9, 1778

 24 Giovanni Gentile

Giovanni Gentile
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 30, 1875
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Castelvetrano, Italy
Died: April 15, 1944

 25 Mario Monti

Mario Monti
3
Famous As: Economist, Politician, University teacher
Birthdate: March 19, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Varese

Born to a banker, it was no surprise that Mario Monti would choose economics and management as his university majors. The Yale alumnus later gained fame as an academic and an economist and also became the prime minister of Italy, leading his nation through the Italian debt crisis.

 26 Giacomo Leopardi

Giacomo Leopardi
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 29, 1798
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Recanati, Italy
Died: June 14, 1837

Giacomo Leopardi was one of the greatest lyric poets of the 19th century. Born into a noble family, he mastered several languages and wrote many works by 16, in spite of suffering from a cerebrospinal ailment. Remembered for his iconic works such as A Silvia, he died during a cholera epidemic.

 27 Michael Parenti

Michael Parenti
3
Famous As: political scientist, historian, journalist
Birthdate: 1933 AD
Birthplace: New York City

Political scientist, historian, and critic Michael Parenti is best known for being a staunch critic of capitalism and America’s foreign policy. The Yale alumnus taught political and social science at various institutes, before becoming a full-time writer and speaker. He is the father of journalist Christian Parenti.

 28 Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena
4
Famous As: Mystic, Author
Birthdate: March 25, 1347
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Siena, Italy
Died: April 29, 1380

Catherine of Siena was a mystic, author, and activist. Thanks to her influence over Pope Gregory XI, Catherine is widely regarded as a prominent figure of medieval Catholicism. She also had a strong influence on the Catholic Church and Italian literature. Canonized in 1461, Catherine of Siena was declared the patron saint of Italy in 1939.

 29 Romano Prodi

Romano Prodi
3
Famous As: Economist, Politician, University teacher
Birthdate: August 9, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Scandiano

Former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi is also known as “The Professor,” having served as an economics professor at the University of Bologna. The Olive Tree Coalition leader has also previously worked with Goldman Sachs. He has also led the European Commission of the EU.

 30 Giambattista Vico

Giambattista Vico
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 23, 1668
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Naples, Italy
Died: January 23, 1744

Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico is regarded as a pioneer of what is now known as cultural anthropology, or ethnology. He brought together history and the social sciences in his work Scienza nuova. A poor bookseller’s son, he studied by candlelight but grew up to be a major Counter-Enlightenment figure.

 31 Francesco Redi

Francesco Redi
4
Famous As: Physician, Naturalist, Poet, Writer, Painter, Entomologist, Parasitologist
Birthdate: February 18, 1626
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Arezzo, Italy
Died: April 22, 1698

Called the founder of experimental biology and father of modern parasitology, Italian physician, biologist, naturalist and poet Francesco Redi did the first major experiment to challenge spontaneous generation. His book Esperienze intorno alla generazione degl'insetti includes most of his famous experiments, while his poem book Bacco in Toscana is counted among the finest works of 17th-century Italian poetry.   

 32 Bonaventure

Bonaventure
3
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: 1221 AD
Birthplace: Bagnoregio, Italy
Died: July 15, 1274

Bonaventure was an Italian philosopher, scholastic theologian, and Franciscan. A prominent philosopher, Bonaventure wrote on various subjects and his writings are considered substantial. Bonaventure, who served as the Cardinal Bishop of Albano, was canonized by Pope Sixtus IV on 14 April 1482.

 33 Hippolytus of Rome

Hippolytus of Rome
3
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: 0170 AD
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: 0235 AD

Remembered as the first antipope, Hippolytus of Rome is believed to have gone against the Roman popes and led a group against the bishop of Rome. Before dying as a martyr, though, he reconciled with Pontian and called out to his supporters to reunite with Rome.

 34 Robert Bellarmine

Robert Bellarmine
3
Famous As: Theologian, Writer, Librarian, University teacher, Catholic priest
Birthdate: October 4, 1542
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montepulciano
Died: September 17, 1621

Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal of the Catholic Church. One of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation, he has been named a Doctor of the Church. He has also been canonized as a saint. He was a  professor of theology at the Roman College and later became its rector. He became Archbishop of Capua in 1602. 

 35 Mario Draghi

Mario Draghi
6
Famous As: Economist, Banker, University teacher
Birthdate: September 3, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome

The son of a banker father, Italian economist Mario Draghi initially served as the president of the European Central Bank and the Bank of Italy governor, and is the current prime minister of Italy. The media named him Super Mario for efficiently handling the Eurozone debt crisis.

 36 Pierluigi Collina

Pierluigi Collina
4
Famous As: Association football referee, Writer, Economist
Birthdate: February 13, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bologna

Named "Best Referee of the Year" by FIFA for six consecutive times, Pierluigi Collina has a degree in economics from University of Bologne. His aptitude for the job was discovered when at seventeen he took up a course in refereeing and shortly began officiating in numerous high profile matches. Although retired, he is still involved with football in various capacities.

 37 Carlo Rovelli

Carlo Rovelli
3
Famous As: Physicist, Writer
Birthdate: May 3, 1956
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Verona

Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist and writer. He is active mainly in the field of quantum gravity and is a founder of loop quantum gravity theory. He also has experience working in the history and philosophy of science. His popular science book, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, has sold over a million copies worldwide. 

 38 Mariana Mazzucato

Mariana Mazzucato
3
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rome, Italy

Award-winning economist and University College London professor Mariana Mazzucato was born to a physicist father in Italy. She has also held academic posts at institutes such as the University of Sussex. She is best known for her research on economic innovation and has penned books such as The Entrepreneurial State.

 39 Lord Acton

Lord Acton
4
Birthdate: January 10, 1834
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Naples
Died: June 19, 1902

Lord Acton was an English Catholic historian, writer, and politician. Born to a prominent family in Naples, he was the son of a British baronet. He studied at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he developed a deep love of historical research. After building a career as a historian and writer, he ventured into politics as well. 

 40 Cesare Lombroso

Cesare Lombroso
4
Famous As: Criminologist
Birthdate: November 6, 1835
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Verona, Italy
Died: October 19, 1909

Cesare Lombroso was an Italian criminologist, phrenologist, and physician. He founded the Italian School of Positivist Criminology at the end of the 19th century. Initially an army surgeon, he later became a professor of forensic medicine and hygiene. His works drew from the concepts of physiognomy, degeneration theory, and psychiatry. Later in life, be became interested in spirituality.

 41 Antonio Negri

Antonio Negri
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Politician, Professor, Economist
Birthdate: August 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Padua

Italian philosopher Antonio Negri has donned many hats, from teaching law at the University of Padua to being part of the Italian parliament. An Autonomism leader, he was accused of being part of the left-wing militant organization Red Brigades and later fled to Paris. Empire is one of his best works.

 42 Benedetto Croce

Benedetto Croce
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Politician, Art historian, Writer, Literary critic
Birthdate: February 25, 1866
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pescasseroli
Died: November 20, 1952

 43 Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher, Theologian
Birthdate: May 16, 1718
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Milan
Died: January 9, 1799

Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, daughter of an affluent silk trader, was well-versed in a number of languages as a child. Most of her work was regarding algebra, calculus, and the Witch of Agnesi. She was also the first female academic to write a math book and to teach math.

 44 Elena Cornaro Piscopia

Elena Cornaro Piscopia
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 5, 1646
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Died: July 26, 1684

 45 Lazzaro Spallanzani

Lazzaro Spallanzani
3
Famous As: Biologist, Zoologist, Scientist, Naturalist, University teacher, Entomologist
Birthdate: January 10, 1729
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Scandiano
Died: February 12, 1799

 46 Giovanni Battista Belzoni

Giovanni Battista Belzoni
3
Famous As: Explorer, Antiquarian, Egyptologist, Archaeologist, Novelist, Travel writer
Birthdate: November 5, 1778
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Padua
Died: December 3, 1823

Giovanni Battista Belzoni was an Italian explorer and archaeologist of Egyptian antiquities. A pioneer in the field of Egyptian archaeology, Belzoni was the first person to enter the famous Pyramid of Khafre. Belzoni is also credited with unblocking the entrance of the temple at Abu Simbel and discovering the tomb of Seti I, which is referred to as Belzoni's Tomb. 

 47 Alphonsus Liguori

Alphonsus Liguori
3
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: September 27, 1696
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Marianella, Naples, Italy
Died: August 1, 1787

Catholic bishop Alphonsus Liguori was the man behind the formation of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as the Redemptorists. He stepped into his spiritual life after an 8-year stint as a lawyer. He is also remembered for his works on moral theology and equiprobabilism.

 48 Carlo Azeglio Ciampi

Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
3
Famous As: Economist, Politician, Banker
Birthdate: December 9, 1920
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Livorno
Died: September 16, 2016

Former Italian president and prime minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi had a major role in introducing Italy to the euro. He had been the governor of the Bank of Italy for 14 years and had held several portfolios, including the ministry of treasury. He was also a World War II veteran.

 49 Franco Modigliani

Franco Modigliani
3
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 10, 1918
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rome
Died: September 25, 2003

Best known for co-developing the Modigliani–Miller theorem, Nobel Prize-winning economist Franco Modigliani initially studied law. Son of a Jewish physician in Italy, he fled the fascist rule of his country and moved to the U.S., and later served MIT as a professor. He also laid down the life-cycle hypothesis.

 50 Hippasus

Hippasus
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0500 BC
Birthplace: Metapontum, Italy
Died: 0450 BC