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.
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.
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 Cicero

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.

 4 Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas.
Famous As: Philosophers, Theologian
Birthdate: January 28, 1225
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Roccasecca
Died: March 7, 1274
Dominican friar and Catholic priest Thomas Aquinas was also a Doctor of the Church. He tried to mingle Aristotelian philosophy and Christianity. His works, including Summa Theologica and Disputed Questions on Truth, and his views on the Scriptures have been studied as prominent texts on theology, philosophy, and canon law.
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 5 St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi .
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.

 6 Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco.
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.
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 Girolamo Savonarola

Girolamo Savonarola.
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.

 9 Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei.
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.

 10 Julius Evola

Julius Evola.
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.

 11 Pope Gregory I

Pope Gregory I.
Famous As: Saint,Theologian
Birthdate: 0540 AD
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: March 12, 0604

Pope Gregory I served as the bishop of Rome from 590 until his death in 604. He is best remembered for sending the Gregorian Mission to Britain, which was successful in converting the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. He is also credited with developing the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts and is widely regarded as its de facto author.

 12 Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius.
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.  

 13 Lord Acton

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

 14 Zeno of Elea

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

 15 Cesare Lombroso

Cesare Lombroso.
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.

 16 Giorgio Agamben

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

 17 Leon Battista Alberti

Leon Battista Alberti.
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.

 18 Cesare Beccaria

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

 19 Suetonius

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.

 20 Elena Cornaro Piscopia

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

 21 Diodorus Siculus

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

 22 Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno.
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.

 23 Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

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

 24 Petrarch

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. 

 25 Giovanni Gentile

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

 26 Giacomo Leopardi

Giacomo Leopardi
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 Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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

 28 Romano Prodi

Romano Prodi
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.

 29 Francesco Redi

Francesco Redi
Famous As: Physician, Naturalist, Poet, Writer, Painter, Entomologist, Parasitologist
Birthdate: February 18, 1626
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pisa
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.   

 30 Michael Parenti

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

 31 Giambattista Vico

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

 32 Mario Draghi

Mario Draghi
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.

 33 Hippolytus of Rome

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

 34 Robert Bellarmine

Robert Bellarmine
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 Gabriele Amorth

Gabriele Amorth
Famous As: Catholic priest, Writer, Theologian
Birthdate: May 1, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Modena
Died: September 16, 2016

 36 Pierluigi Collina

Pierluigi Collina
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 Mariana Mazzucato

Mariana Mazzucato
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.

 38 Carlo Rovelli

Carlo Rovelli
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. 

 39 Marsilio Ficino

Marsilio Ficino
Famous As: Philosopher, Writer, Cleric, Astrologer, Poet
Birthdate: October 19, 1433
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Figline Valdarno
Died: October 1, 1499

 40 Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm of Canterbury.
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.

 41 Antonio Negri

Antonio Negri
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 Sallust

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

 43 Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi.
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 Benedetto Croce

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

 45 Lazzaro Spallanzani

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

 46 Carlo Azeglio Ciampi

Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
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.

 47 Giovanni Battista Belzoni

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

 48 Hippasus

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

 49 Bonaventure

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.

 50 Alphonsus Liguori

Alphonsus Liguori.
Famous As: Philisopher, Spiritual Writer, Theologian
Birthdate: September 27, 1696
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Marianella, Campania, Kingdom of Naples
Died: August 1, 1787