Encyclopaedia Iranica Online

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relations with Iran. Overview of the entry. i. Introduction. ii. Diplomatic and commercial relations. iii. Cultural relations. iv. Travel accounts. v. Iranian Studies, pre-Islamic. vi. Excavations in Iran. vii. Iranian Studies, Islamic period. viii. Persian manuscripts. ix. Persian art collections. x. Lirica Persica. xi. Translations of Persian works into Italian. xii. Translations of Italian works into Persian. xiii. Iranians in Italy. xiv. Current centers of Iranian Studies in Italy. xv. IsMEO

A version of this article is available in print

Volume XIV, Fascicle 3, pp. 240-296

ITALY: relations with Iran. This entry is divided into the following sections:


Direct commercial and political relations between the Italian peninsula and the Iranian plateau date at least from the Parthian period when, after the fall of the Seleucids, the border between the Arsacids and the Roman Empire was set on the Euphrates, while Mesopotamia and Anatolia provided the setting for trade and commerce, contact and war. In the surviving sources a long silence follows the fall of the Sasanian Empire, though we may surmise the existence of commercial relations of the Papacy, and later the maritime republics (Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa, and Venice), with Iran. However, it is only in the thirteenth century, during the Il-khanid period, that we again have positive proof of the presence of Italian travelers in Iran. Through the late Middle Ages and the early modern era we know of a few travelers, mainly men of religion and merchants, who journeyed to Iran and Central Asia. Still later we have reliable information about trade between Safavid Iran and Venice and other Italian states. Both the Papacy and Venice tried to establish diplomatic relations with the Safavid court, which they viewed as a possible ally against the Ottomans. Later, in the nineteenth century, it was the turn of the Savoia, rulers of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, who sought to establish diplomatic relations with the Qajars. These efforts continued after the unification of the kingdom of Italy and led to a visit by NāsÂer-al-Din in 1873, during his first European tour. Earlier, in 1862, Marcello Cerruti had traveled to Iran to obtain the permission to export the renowned silk worms of Gilan (see below, ii. DIPLOMATIC AND COMMERCIAL RELATIONS and iv. TRAVELOGUES).

Not being a colonial power, Italy played a very minor role in the events of the Qajar period limited to the presence of a few Italians, such as General Enrico Andreini, who were active in training the army of the shahs. Italy’s economic involvement in Iran grew strong during the Pahlavi period, when Italian concerns obtained significant contracts in Iran and made considerable investments in the country. One example for all: the Italian petroleum company ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi), has had a presence in Iran since 1957, when, together with the National Iranian Petroleum Company (NIOC), it created the Société Irano-Italienne des Pétrols (SIRIP). Commerce between the two nations continued to flourish after the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran—although with fluctuations due to the international political context—to a degree that in 1999 the Camera di Commercio Italo-Iraniana (Italo-Iranian Chamber of Commerce) was created in Rome; and two years later the Iranian Bānk-e Markazi and the Arab Italian Bank signed an agreement aimed at increasing trade between the two countries. As a consequence commerce increased by nine percent during 2001-3, due mainly to the increased demand for products “Made in Italy.” At present Italy is one of the main commercial partners of Iran; it is the third-ranking source of Iran’s imports (six percent of the total) and second among importers from Iran, receiving 17.1 percent of total Iranian exports (Alessandro Marrone, “L’Italia in Iran tra affari (molti) e politica (poca),” at http://www. magna-carta.it/node/1372, 5 February 2007).

Italy has also been particularly active in the study of the cultural heritage of Iran, especially through the activities of the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (IsMEO, now Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, IsIAO). It opened its first archeological mission in Iran in 1957, thanks to the efforts of Giuseppe Tucci, and contributed significantly to the restoration and conservation of the monumental complex of Persepolis; it also conducted archeological excavations in Sistān and at the Masjed-e Jomʿa of Isfahan (the latter is ongoing; see below, xv. ISMEO INSTITUTE). Finally it should be mentioned that the oldest existing manuscript of Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma, unfortunately incomplete and dating to 1217 C.E., is today preserved in the Italian National Library of Florence (see below, viii. PERSIAN MANUSCRIPTS IN ITALY).


A privileged relationship between Iran and Italy dates back to the age of the ancient Roman and Persian Empires. Despite their ever-changing internal affairs, the two political centers of Europe and Asia, throughout the entire ancient time, experienced long lasting contacts that produced political and military rivalries as well as economic and cultural relations of mutual interest (see BYZANTINE-IRANIAN RELATIONS). In the Middle Ages, the powers in Italy with an international horizon belonged first to the Papacy and later to the maritime republics of Pisa, Amalfi, and particularly Genoa and Venice. Documentation of direct contact is lacking for a long time, although the exchange of material goods is always testified (see GENOA, VENICE). Evidence of renewed diplomatic and commercial contacts between the two regions date back to the period when Persia was under the Il-khanid (q.v.) dynasty, as a part of the great Trans-Asiatic Empire of the Mongols (see Spuler, pp. 86, 229, 235, 435, 436). The reasons inducing Italian states towards Persia were of three natures: religious, economic, and political, not to mention “those travelers who passed through (Persia) on their way to or from India or beyond” or “visited the country merely out of curiosity” (Lockhart, pp. 373-75). The first was missionary activity, urged on by the Papacy further east beyond the Holy Land, especially after the foundation of the Dominican (1216) and Franciscan (1223) Orders. The economic reason was the trade of exotic products, particularly silk, which had never completely stopped. The political incentive, which came into play at a later stage, was the continuous attempt to establish an alliance with Persian rulers against the common Ottoman enemy.

The will of Pietro Vioni, possibly a business agent, redacted in Tauris (Tabriz) in 1264, is the first document attesting Italian presence in Persia (Cecchetti). There are more substantial traces concerning the existence of a Genoese colony in Persia at the end of the 13th century. From this environment came the Genoese Buscarello di Ghisofili, a member of the royal guards (qurči), who was sent by the Il-khan Arḡun (r. 1284-91, q.v.) as ambassador to the pope and the king of France, bringing proposals for an alliance against the Mamluks of Egypt (Mostaert and Cleaves, eds., pp. 18, 29; Spuler, pp. 229-30). At that time Genoa and Venice had their own consulate in Tabriz. Because during the Mongol domination travel throughout Asia was relatively easy, many Italians passed through Persia with commercial aims. Some left accounts of their travels, such as the Venetian Marco Polo, author of the celebrated Il Milione. At the same time, through missionary activity, diplomatic relations between the Papacy and the Il-khanid sovereigns were developed. From 1289 one Dominican and two Franciscan convents were set up in Tabriz. Pope Nicholas IV (r. 1288-92) kept close contact with the Il-khan Arḡun, an allegedly pro-Christian king. Nicholas sent many missionaries to Asia, who often crossed Persia. Among the others were Guglielmo and Matteo from Chieti, and the Franciscan missionary Giovanni Montecorvino (1247-1333), who later became the first archbishop of China’s Catholic Church (1307) in Peking (Ḵānbāleḡ). In 1318 Pope John XXII (r. 1316-1334) issued a bull establishing Soltani (Solṭāniya) a metropolitan see with jurisdiction over the whole of Persia, and he nominated as its first archbishop the Dominican Francus of Perugia. His successors were all Dominicans. In the next decade, bishopries were set up in Tabriz and Marāḡa, all supervised by Dominicans (Spuler, pp. 233-34). In 1330 an important missionary expedition ordered by Pope John moved towards many oriental potentates, including Persia (Richard, pp. 180-83).

The fall of the Il-khanid dynasty towards the end of the 14th century reduced contacts between the two regions, and the age of Timur seriously damaged the traditional communication system, but Timur sent Johannes de Galonifontibus, the Archbishop of Solṭaniya to Venice, Genoa, Paris, and London with the news of his victory over the Ottomans in 1402 (Lockhart, p. 375). Travelers and merchants also appear in this difficult era, such as Nicolò de’ Conti (1395-1469), who visited the east in the 1420s and wrote some observations on Persia (Cusmai Belardinelli). A new and substantial leap was made in the Italian-Persian relationship in 1459 with the rise to power of the Āq Qoyunlu Uzun Ḥasan (r. 1457-78). The Papacy and the Republic of Venice tried independently or together to build a political and military alliance with him against the Ottomans. Many diplomatic missions were exchanged between 1463 and 1477 (see Berchet; Woods, pp. 18-19, 127-28, 271, n. 117). In December 1463, the Venetian senate opted to enter an alliance with Uzun Ḥasan and Lazzaro Quirini was sent to Persia, who remained there for seven years, returning in February 1471. In the same year, the Persian ambassador Ḥāji Moḥammad was sent to Rome for the inception of the pontificate of Sixtus IV (1471-84) and then to Venice, and Caterino Zeno was dispatched by the senate on a similar mission to Persia. Zeno, having married a niece of Uzun Ḥasan’s wife (Lockhart, Morozzo della Rocca, and Tiepolo, eds., p. 12; Caraci, p. 52), in a way counted as a member of his family and was very well liked at his court. Uzun Ḥasan later sent him as an envoy to European allies. Two Venetian envoys in Persia, Giosafat Barbaro and Ambrogio Contarini, left highly regarded accounts of the country, rich in detail and of high literary quality (see Gabriel, pp. 49-51). In Rome, Pope Sixtus IV, following the strategy introduced by his predecessor Calistus III (1455-58), was among the major supporters of establishing connections with Persia. He confirmed Rome’s confidence in Ludovico Severi of Bologna, a Franciscan who served as the Papal ambassador (nuncio) in Armenia, Persia, and elsewhere (1455-79), and sent to Persia some other nuncios charged with particular missions. Marino Saxo was appointed as ambassador to Uzun Ḥasan and then dispatched to the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444-76), in order to exhort him to participate in the forging of the alliance (Piemontese, 1998, pp. 93-94). In the exchange of embassies between Uzun Ḥasan and the Papacy, the Duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro also played an important role (Piemontese, 2004). The alliance between the Italian States and Persia was actually established, many times confirmed, and enforced with military supplies. Uzun Ḥasan was promised control of all Anatolia on the condition that he would not construct any fortresses on the coastline and would allow free passage for Venetian ships (Woods, p. 271; Inalcik, p. 28). Nevertheless, Uzun Ḥasan’s hesitations and rare success at war, in particular his total defeat at the battle of Baškent in August 1473, limited the results, and by the end of his reign, disillusionment had set in and he was out of the international arena. With his death in 1478, all hope of an alliance vanished. In that same year, Venice signed a peace treaty with the Ottomon Turks.

New hopes arose with the rise of Shah Esmāʿil I (q.v.) and the establishment of the Safavid dynasty. Their vehement Shiʿism was initially interpreted by the Italian side as a kind of Catholic religion in their own style, able to overthrow the Muslim religion as embodied by the power of the Sunni Ottoman Turks. Relations between Venice and Shah Esmāʿil can be followed in the fragmentary collection of documents of the Diarii by Marin Sanudo (1531-32). After the negative valuation of a possible alliance by the envoy Constantino Lascaris, the first initiative was taken by Esmāʿīl himself, who in 1508 sent a legation to Venice, proposing an agreement like that drawn up with Uzun Ḥasan. Venice was engaged in the struggle against the Cambrai League and was unable to take advantage of the opportunity. Friendship and an intention for an alliance was repeatedly reaffirmed, but nothing actually happened, neither with Esmāʿīl (r. 1501-24), nor with his successor Shah Ṭahmāsb (r. 1524-76). An important embassy was dispatched to the latter in 1539, led by the Venetian-Cypriote Michele Membré. This embassy is not recorded in Persian sources, but two magniloquent letters on the subject by the Shah survive in the State Archive of Venice (Scarcia, 1968; Le relazioni tra l’Italia e l’Iran, pp. 72-74) and, moreover, a detailed and objective account was left by Membré himself. Meanwhile, the Venetians and Ottomans started peace negotiations, which eventually led to the 1540 peace treaty. These contacts adversely influenced Membré’s mission and caused its failure. The indecisiveness of Ṭahmāsb’s character is depicted by numerous Venetian accounts, the last by Vincento degli Alessandri, the envoy extraordinary sent to Persia in 1570 in order to propose a joint military action, but he was not even received at court (see Berchet). In the second half of the 16th century the Papal States sent an envoy, Gian Battista Vecchietti, to examine the possibility of an Asian front against the Ottomans. This mission failed as well, but Vecchietti was able to collect a large number of precious literary texts. However, a friendly letter of Shah Moḥammad was brought to Pope Sixtus V by Vecchetti himself in 1586 (Piemontese, 2007a).

Increasingly, the idea of a political and military understanding waned, although strong commercial ties between Persia and many Italian states remained, especially during the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I the Great (r. 1587-1629, q.v.). An important embassy reached Venice in 1603, and the meeting between the Persian envoy and the Doge Marino Grimani is depicted in the Doge’s Palace (PLATE I; Berchet, pp. 44-47). In 1609 two other ambassadors of Shah ʿAbbās, ʿAliqoli Beg and Robert Sherley, were received by Pope Paulus V: the event is magnificently depicted in the Palace of Quirinale in Rome (See PLATE II and PLATE III; Piemontese, 2005 and 2006).

PLATE I. Shah ʿAbbās’s envoy to Venice in 1603 meets with the Doge Marino Grimani, depicted in the Doge’s Palace. After Berchet, pp. 44-47.PLATE I. Shah ʿAbbās’s envoy to Venice in 1603 meets with the Doge Marino Grimani, depicted in the Doge’s Palace. After Berchet, pp. 44-47.

PLATE II. Shah ʿAbbās’s ambassador, ʿAliqoli Beg, being received by Pope Paulus V in 1609, depicted in the Palace of Quirinale in Rome. After Piemontese, 2005.PLATE II. Shah ʿAbbās’s ambassador, ʿAliqoli Beg, being received by Pope Paulus V in 1609, depicted in the Palace of Quirinale in Rome. After Piemontese, 2005.

PLATE III. Shah ʿAbbās’s ambassador, Robert Sherley, being received by Pope Paulus V in 1609 (depicted in the Palace of Quirinale in Rome). After Piemontese, 2006.PLATE III. Shah ʿAbbās’s ambassador, Robert Sherley, being received by Pope Paulus V in 1609 (depicted in the Palace of Quirinale in Rome). After Piemontese, 2006.

It is said that during this period Venetians imported from Persia the secret of the glass coloring substance called “Venetian blue.” In turn, Persians imported from Venice, among other things, the blown glass mirrors. While the Armenian Kᵛāja Ṣafar served as Shah ʿAbbās’s ambassador in Venice, the missionary Giovanni Taddeo exerted influence at the king’s court. He was able to collect a number of Shah ʿAbbās’s personal letters, which are preserved in Naples. Shah ʿAbbās also maintained cordial relationships with the Dukes of Tuscany Ferdinand 1 (1587-1609) and Cosmo II (1609-21) (Pontecovro).

The second half of the 17th century witnessed the decline of both Venice’s intense diplomatic and commercial activity and the Safavid expansion. Persia entered a long period of decay, while Italy as a whole entered a time of troubled crisis that would result in its national unity. Sporadic missions continued during the 18th century, especially from Venice and the Papacy (see Chick; Vanzan). A semblance of contact between the two countries was resumed after the rise of a new strong Italian state whose political horizon touched Asian shores again, and at the same time the establishment of a new stable dynasty on the Persian throne. The kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, ruled by the Savoias, made some attempts to establish diplomatic contacts with Persia (ca. 1830-50), especially through the action of Romualdo Tecco, a diplomat and Orientalist settled in Istanbul (D’Erme). The first concrete result came after a Persian initiative encouraged by Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (r. 1848-96). In 1857, a Persian delegate led by Farroḵ Khan Amin-al-Dawla Ḡaffāri (q.v.) signed a friendship and business treaty in Paris with the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. A year later, Farroḵ Khan went to Turin where he met Prime Minister Cavour and King Vittorio Emanuele II. Then he went traveling through Italy, thus occasioning one of the first direct descriptions of Italy in Persian (Sarābi, pp. 387-401). A periodic exchange of letters began between Vittorio Emanuele II and Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah, who also kept friendly correspondence with Pope Pius IX and his successors (see Piemontese, 1969; idem, 2007b). In 1862, a large scale Italian mission, organized in three sections of diplomatic, military and scientific, and led by Marcello Cerruti, set out for a serious exploration of the possibilities offered by Persia. A new agreement signed in September followed faithfully that of 1857, but additionally conceded to Italy the right to export the valuable Gilān silkworms, a privilege that Persia had previously refused to France and Russia (Piemontese, 1968; idem, 1972). Yet the agreement was not actualized for many different reasons, and, besides, the Italian state had to first settle its internal situation resulting from the unification, which came in 1861, before undertaking intended international initiatives again. Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah visited Italy in 1873 on the occasion of his first European journey (Piemontese, 1970). In 1886 the first permanent Italian chargé d’affaires, A. de Rege di Donato, was sent to Tehran. The Persian chargé d’affaires, Narimān Khan, arrived in Rome in 1896. From 1899 to 1908, Malkom Khan was in Italy as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary. During this period, up to the first decades of the 20th century, Italian representatives stayed in Persia as neutral observers of the struggle of interests played by the two great powers, Russia and Great Britain.

Mention must also be made of the Italian army officers working as instructors of the Persian army. Besides Neapolitans Luigi Pesce, Antonio Giannuzzi, Michele Materazzo, and Benedetto Barbara, all of whom had left Italy after the fall of the Venetian Republic, arriving in Persia in 1852, a relevant role was played by Captain (later General) Enrico Andreini, from Lucca, who arrived in Persia in 1857. For many years, starting in 1872, Andreini was the chief instructor of the Persian army, and until 1886 he also served as the actual intermediary between the Italian and Persian governments, taking the singular initiative to write periodical reports on Persia to Italian ministers of foreign affairs (1871-86) (see Piemontese, 1969). Military relations entered a new phase between 1926-36, when the Italian royal army contributed to the creation of the first nucleus of modern Persian navy with providing supplies and by having young Persian cadets trained at the Naval Academy in Livorno. This practice lasted, with a break during the period 1941-55, until the late 1970s. From the rise to power of Reżā Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925), the two governments showed, in different ways, friendly intentions towards each other, the Persians in order to find European support away from the interferences of Great Britain, and the Italians aiming to gain a considerable role in the Persian Gulf (Pasqualini, 1992b).

The Second World War vicissitudes interrupted all projects, and in the aftermath, Italy was dedicated to its own reconstruction and eventually integrated into NATO for its foreign policy. Since the end of the 1950s, however, Italy has been able to make some autonomous choices, which have had a significant influence on relations between Persia and the West. In 1957, the ENI (Ente Nazionale Indocarburi), the Italian state oil agency, and the NIOC (National Iranian Oil Company) signed an agreement in which, for the first time, the so-called Fifty-Fifty rule was established, recognizing equal rights for the producing country and the concessionary firm (see Le relazioni tra l’Italia e l’Iran, pp. 175-76). Italian participation increased in many other Persian projects, such as the construction of the Dez hydroelectric power plant (completed in 1963). Also, after the revolution of 1978-79 and during the war with Iraq, the relations between the two countries continued, with Italian firms and skilled workers engaged in different sectors on Persian soil. In the last decade of the 20th century, relations between Italy and Persia seem to have taken a relatively friendly and independent course. After the crisis in European Union-Iran relations (1997), and its solution (1998), Italy was the first European country to send its Foreign Minister and its Prime Minister to Tehran. Moreover, with Mohammad Khatami’s visit in 1999, Italy was the first Western country to host a President of the Islamic Republic.


Guglielmo Berchet, La repubblica di Venezia e la Persia, Torino 1865.

Annibale Bugnini, La Chiesa in Iran, Rome 1981.

G. Caraci, “Viaggiatori italiani in Persia nel Medioevo,” in Le relazioni tra l’Italia e l’Iran, compendium issue of Il Veltro, 1970, pp. 39-60.

Bartolomeo Cecchetti, “Testamento di Pietro Vioni veneziano fatto a Tauris (Persia) MCCLXIV, X Dicembre,” Archivio Veneto 26, 1883, pp. 161-62.

Hubert Chick, A Chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia and the Papal Mission of the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, 2 vols., London, 1939.

Ambrogio Contarini and Josafa Barbaro, Travels to Tana and Persia by Josafa Barbaro and Ambrogio Contarini: A Narrative of Italian Travels in Persia in the 15th and 16th Centuries, tr. William Thomas and S. (Eugene) Armand Roy, ed. with an introd. by Lord Stanley of Alderley, Hakluyt Society 49, London, 1873, repr. New York, 1964; ed. Laurence Lockhart, Raimondo Morozzo della Rocca, and Maria Francesca Tiepolo as I Viaggi in Persia degli ambasciatori veneti Barbaro e Contarini, Rome, 1973.

Nicolò de Conti, in Mario Langhena, ed., Viaggi in Persia, India e Giava di Nicolò de’ Conti, Giralmo Adorno et Girolamo da Santo Stefano, Milan, 1929.

Renata Cusmai Belardinelli, “Discorso sopra il viaggio di Nicolò Di Conti Veneziano,” Accademie e Biblioteche d’Italia 13, 1985, pp. 155-70.

Giovanni D’Erme, “Romualdo Tecco (1802-1867) diplomatico sardo orientalista,” Annali della Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere di Ca’ Foscari 9/3, Serie Orientale 1, 1970, pp. 107-22.

Valeria Fiorani Piacentini, “Le relazioni tra Italia e Persia (1852-1862),” Rassegna Storica del Risorgimento 57/4, 1969, pp. 587-640.

P. Francesco da Vicenza, P. Felice Maria Severini da Sellano ambasciatore del Papa al Re di Persia, Venice, 1930.

Alfons Gabriel, Die Erforschung Persiens: Die Entwicklung der abendländischen Kenntnis der Geographie Persiens, Vienna 1952.

Maria Gabriella Pasqualini, L’Italia e le prime esperienze costituzionali in Persia (1905-1919), Naples, 1992a.

Idem, “La Marina italiana e la Persia (1925-1938),” Bolletino dell’Archivio dell’Ufficio Storico della Marina 6, 1992b, pp. 53-105.

Charles Grey, tr., A Narrative of Italian Travels in Persia, in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, London, 1873.

Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600, tr. Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber, New York, 1973.

Moḥammad-Ḥasan Kāvusi, Asnād-e rawābeṭ-e dawlat-e Ṣafawi bā ḥokumathā-ye Itāliā, Tehran, 2000.

Le relazioni tra l’Italia e l’Iran, compendium issue of Il Veltro, Rivista dealla civiltà italiana 14/1-2, 1970.

Laurence Lockhart, “European Contacts with Persia, 1350-1736,” in The Cambridge History of Iran VI: The Timurid and Safavid Period, ed. Peter Jackson, Cambridge, 1986, pp. 373-411.

Michele Membré, Relazione di Persia (1542), ed. Giorgio R. Cardona, with an introduction by Gianroberto Scarcia, Naples, 1969; tr. A. H. Morton as Mission to the Lord Sophy of Persia (1539-1542), London, 1993.

Vladimir Minorsky, “Uzun Ḥasan,” in EI1 IV, pp. 1065-69.

Antoine Mostaert and Francis W. Cleaves, eds., Les lettres des 1289 et 1305 des ilkhan Arγun et Ölǰeitü à Philippe le Bel, Cambridge, Mass., 1962.

Angelo M. Piemontese, “Le relazioni fra Italia e Persia nel XIX secolo: I trattati del 1857 e del 1862,” Oriente Moderno 48, 1968, pp. 537-66.

Idem, “Le relazioni fra Italia e Persia nel XIX secolo: La corrispondenza reale,” Oriente Moderno 49, 1969, pp. 1-20.

Idem, “An Italian Source for the History of Qāğār Persia: The Reports of General Enrico Andreini (1871-1886),” East and West, New Series 19/1-2, 1969, pp. 147-75; tr. Ḵosrow Fāniān as “Yak maḵzan-e tāriḵi dar bāra-ye tāriḵ-e Qājāriya: gozārešhā-ye Ženerāl Enrico Āndreʾini,” Barrasihā-ye tāriḵi 9/1, 1974, pp. 37-70.

Idem, “Per una biografia di Malkom Xan: Materiali e documenti,” Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, Nuova Serie 19, 1969, pp. 361-85.

Idem, “Descrizioni d’Italia in viaggiatori persiani del XIX secolo,” Annali della Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere di Ca’ Foscari, Venezia 9/3, Serie Orientale 1, 1970, pp. 63-106.

Idem, “The Photograph Album of the Italian Diplomatic Mission to Persia (Summer 1862),” East and West, New Series 22/3-4, 1972, pp. 249-311.

Idem, “Gli ufficiali italiani al servizio della Persia nel XIX secolo,” in Giogio Borsa and Paolo Beonio Brocchieri, eds., Garibaldi, Mazzini e il Risorgimento nel risveglio dell’Asia e dell’Africa, Milan, 1984, pp. 65-130.

Idem, “The Nuncios of Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) in Iran,” in Kambiz Eslami, ed., Iran and Iranian Studies: Essays in Honor of Iraj Afshar, Princeton, 1998, pp. 90-108.

Idem, “L’ambasciatore di Persia presso Federico da Montefeltro, il cardinale Bessarione e Ludovico Bononiense O.F.M.,” Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae XI, Città del Vaticano, 2004, pp. 539-65.

Idem, “I due Ambasciatori di Persia ricevuti da Papa Paolo V al Quirinale,” Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae XII, Città del Vaticano, 2005, pp. 357-425.

Idem, “Les célébrités du Janicule et les diplomates Safavides immigrés à Rome,” in Michele Bernardini, Masashi Haneda, and Maria Szuppe, eds., Liber amicorum: Études sur l’Iran médiéval et moderne offertes à Jean Calmard, Eurasian Studies 5/1-2, 2006, pp. 271-95.

Idem, “La diplomazia di Gregorio XIII e la lettera del Re di Persia a Sisto V,” Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae XIV, Città del Vaticano, 2007a, pp. 539-65.

Idem, “Amicitiae nexus. Lettere tra i Papi e i Re di Persia (1874-1922),” Dall’Archivio Segreto Vaticano: Miscellanea di testi, saggi e inventari II, Città del Vaticano, 2007b, pp. 385-462.

Virgilio Pontecorvo, “Relazioni tra lo Scià ʿAbbās e i Granduchi di Toscana Ferdinando I e Cosimo II,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Serie 8/4, 1949, pp. 157-82.

Jean Richard, La papauté et les missions d’orient au Moyen Age (XIIIe-XVe siècles), Rome, 1977.

Marin Sanuto, Diarii, ed. Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti as Šāh Ismāʿīl I nei “Diarii” di Marin Sanudo, Roma, 1979.

Ḥosayn b. ʿAbd-Allāh Sarābi, Safar-nāma-ye Farroḵ Ḵān Amin-al-Dawla: Maḵzan al-waqāyeʿ, ed. Karin Eṣfahāniān and Qotrat-Allāh Rowšani, Tehran, 1382.

Gianroberto Scarcia, “Un documento persiano del 946/1539 nell’Archivio di Stato di Venezia,” Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, N. S. 18, 1968, pp. 338-42.

Manučehr Sotuda and Iraj Afšār, eds., Asnād-e Pādriān-e Karmeli, bāzmānda az ʿaṣr-e Šāh ʿAbbās Ṣafawi, Tehran, 2004.

Berthold Spuler, Die Mongolen in Iran: Plitik, Verwaltung und Kultur der Ilchanzeit 1220-1350, 3rd ed., Berlin, 1968.

U. Tucci, “Una relazione di Giovan Battista Vecchietti sulla Persia e sul Regno di Hormuz (1587),” Oriente Moderno 34/4, 1955, pp. 149-60.

Anna Vanzan, “Commerci fra Venezia e la Persia nel Settecento,” Islàm Storia e Civiltà 18, 1987, pp. 31-38.

ʿAli-Akbar Welāyatī, Tārīḵ-e rawābeṭ-e ḵāreji-e Irān dar ʿahd-e Šāh Esmāʿīl Ṣafawī, Tehran, 1996.

Anthony Welch, “Safavi Iran as Seen Through Venetian Eyes,” in Andrew J. Newman, ed., Society and Culture in the Early Modern Middle East: Studies on Iran in the Safavid Period, Leiden and Boston, 2003, pp. 97-124.

John E. Woods, Aqquyunlu: Clan, Confederation, Empire, Minniapolis and Chicago, 1976.

Lewon B. Zekiyan, “Xoğa Safar ambasciatore di Shāh ʿAbbās a Venezia,” Oriente Moderno 58/7-8, 1978, pp. 357-67.

Caterino Zeno, Storia curiosa delle sue avventure in Persia, Venice, 1783.


Artistic influences. Italy and Persia have hardly ever had a direct and continuous cultural exchange. During the Middle Ages, when Italy and Persia were not clearly definable cultural entities, the translated works of significant Persian literature had a great influence on Italian and European culture. This, however, was part of the greater process by which Islamic heritage flowed into Christian and European culture mainly in Arabic and through Latin translation. Only approximate traces can be identified of a more direct relationship between Persian and Italian works until the introduction of Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi’s Hašt behešt, as the famous Peregrinaggio (1557) by Cristoforo Armeno, which had an enormous cultural influence throughout Europe. Its heritage in Italy is most noticeable in the work of Carlo Gozzi (the tragicomic theatrical fable Il Re Cervo, 1762; see Cerulli, 1975, pp. 335-58). A possible link between the Pahlavi account of the celestial journey of Ardā Wīrāz (q.v.) and the oriental material on which Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia was based has been the source of much discussion (see Blochet). This possibility, however, has been rejected by scholars who prefer to view the episode regarding Ardā Wīrāz as belonging to a type of tale which spread throughout the Indian world and filtered into primitive Christian and Islamic spheres. The Ketāb al-Meʿrāj, an Arab folk tale about the Prophet’s ascension to Heaven, which was translated into Castilian and then into Latin in the 12th century as the famous Libro della Scala, is more easily identifiable as the direct reference text for Dante’s work, even if to a lesser degree than was initially suggested (Cerulli, 1949). These conclusions are now almost unanimously accepted by scholars, who also disregard the question of a possible relationship between the Sayr al-ʿebād ela’l-maʿād, a mystic maṯnawi by the Persian poet Sanāʾi, and the Italian masterpiece (Bausani, 1979).

Analogously, it was certainly through the mediation of the Arabic language that a typical theme of the Persian cultural and literary tradition established itself as a semiotic map for ethical and intellectual literature in the West, and in particular in Humanist and Renaissance Italy. This was the symbol of the garden. The garden-paradise, an ancient symbol of Persian monarchic power, a framework and structural model for major works in Persian literature, arrived in medieval Italy via Arab architecture and literature. There, combined with the strong Greco-Roman tradition, it gave rise to an original symbolic literary model, which can be found in important works such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decamerone (1349-51), Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), and numerous other works (including the Peregrinaggio), as well as at the heart of Leon Battista Alberti’s (d. 1472) architectonical reflections (Tornesello, 2002). This consideration can be extended to much of the literary material in circulation between the ancient and medieval eras between the East and the West. Through many different kinds of linguistic and cultural mediation, various themes and motifs, probably of Persian origin, though not always perfectly identifiable, reached the Italian literary milieu. Italian texts made use of Eurasian expansive narrative cycles such as the Arabian Nights, the Book of Sinbad, the Book of Kalila and Demna (absorbed in the works of the prominent humanist and writer Anton Francesco Doni [d. 1574]), the Vis o Rāmin (a love story of Parthian origin) of Faḵr-al-Din Gorgāni (q.v.), which was perhaps reflected in the story of Tristan and Isotta, and which is also present in Italian literature (Minorsky; Piemontese, 1999).

As the effects of medieval literary circulation faded and the modern era dawned, direct influences appeared less frequently. Even the excellent divulgation of Ḥāfeẓ by Pietro Della Valle does not appear to have left any evident traces in Italian literature, although it is certainly at the origins of European masterpieces such as Johann Goethe’s West-Östlicher Divan (see GEOTHE). Della Valle himself composed a brief epigram inspired by a visit to his mausoleum in Shiraz (Bertotti, 1990). Perhaps the only writer to have an explicit effect on the Italian literary scene was Omar Khayyam (ʿOmar Ḵayyām), whose work reached Italy from England and mostly through the filter of French and German languages. The very personal interpretation of Khayyam by Edward Fitzgerald (q.v.) found an ideal fertile terrain in Italian decadentism, where Khayyam’s poetry earned critical attention and underwent several indirect translations. The themes and the character of Khayyam’s poetry were picked up again in poetic texts by esteemed writers such as Arturo Graf (d. 1913), Giovanni Pascoli (d. 1912), Vincenzo Cardarelli (d. 1959), as well as in specially written musical compositions (see Piemontese, 2002-2003). Besides the beginning of a work of translation of Persian literary works (see ITALY xi), other signs of the absorption of Persian literary influence can be found in the works produced within the rising academic circle of Iranian studies, for example in the novel Miro e Naida: romanzo orientale, by Italo Pizzi (Turin, 1901), and in the poetry of the authors who had had personal contact with Persia, such as Gina Labriola and Alessandro Coletti (1970-80).

Perhaps it was through a rather indirect historical approach that Persia and Persian culture made a mark on Italian artistic expression. From classical sources (Greek, Latin, and Biblical), the Italian Renaissance brought back the names of the ancient sovereigns, Cyrus, Darius I, Darius III (qq.v.; the adversary of Alexander; q.v.), Artabanus, Tiridates, Šāpur, and Ḵosrows (Chosroe), especially Ḵosrow II Parvēz (adversary of Heraclius, emperor of Byzantium; q.v.); the names of the ancient cities, Ekbatana (q.v.), Susa, Ctesiphon (q.v.); the names of emblematic figures such as the Sibilla Persica, who was the first among the sibyls scattered around the ancient world, according to Latin tradition. The figurative representation of these characters through bass-reliefs and frescoes in Italian art between the 15th and 18th centuries (the Persian Sybil was produced twice for Pope Julius II by Bernardino Pinturicchio in Santa Maria del Popolo and by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel) was accompanied by a flood of ancient Persian themes in the literature of the day, spanning all genres (chivalric legends, heroic, festive or jousting poems, baroque novels, comedies, tragedies, dramas for music, oratorios) with thousands of works. The systematic diffusion of this literary and figurative usage appears as an implicit proto-nationalistic awareness of Persia as the paramount counterpart to the ancient glory of Imperial Rome. The particular influence of this thematic category on the formation of drama for music can be seen in more than 270 works of the genre produced in Italy, or by Italians, in the 17th and 18th centuries, and particularly in the theaters of Venice. In-depth research on this important matter has yet to be completed, however (Piemontese, 1982, pp. 803-60; idem, 1993; idem, 2003, pp. 29-30).

Alongside this ancient evocation, there also was the representation of current affairs. On 2 March 1473, Rome witnessed the performance of a play based on the victory of Uzun Ḥasan, the ideal ally of Pope Sixtus IV, against the common Ottoman enemy (Piemontese, 1991). In the same period, a milestone of relations between Italy and Persia, envoys and presents of the Persian king are portrayed in outstanding works of art (paintings, miniatures) dedicated to the Duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro, one of the main weavers of the anti-Ottoman alliance (Piemontese, 2004). Following this, the term Sofì (the distorted name of the Safavid king, whose application was later extended), the king of Persia, became a common figure in both scholarly and folk Italian literature, and was immortalized in the 19th century in a sonnet by the Romanesque poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (d. 1863), Er re de nov’idea (The king of the New Idea, 1834), written upon the news of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah Qājār’s death. As the political situation grew more distant, this exotic taste gradually wore out and the 20th century, which began with the institutionalization of Iranian Studies in Italy, has not yet witnessed the foundation of a relationship of direct literary or artistic influence.

In the other direction, sporadic examples of the influence of Italian literature on Persian works can be identified only from the 20th century onwards, with the first translations of Italian works (see ITALY xii. TRANSLATIONS), and within a relatively limited range. While the introduction of Giovanni Boccaccio and Nicolo Machiavelli to Persia had some effect on the development of sociological and political thinking in that country, the main example of a piece of Persian literature inspired by the Divina Commedia, the Jāvid-nāma by Indo-Persian philosopher and poet Moḥammad Eqbāl (which came two decades earlier than the translation of Dante’s work into Persian) derived from the long standing worldwide fame of the Italian poem, known through translations into many other languages (Bausani, 1952). As occurred in the rest of the world, the introduction of Carlo Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio certainly appears to have played a significant role, especially in a phase of re-foundation of literature for children in Persia, following the earlier progressive pedagogical ideas. This role was brought to the readers’ attention in the preface of the book by the first translator, Ṣādeq Čubak (tr. as Ādamak-e čubi, Tehran, 1955; see also Casari). Only a careful study, which has yet to be carried out, will determine the influence of 20th-century Italian literary works (imported since the end of the Second World War) on recent Persian literature, whereas it is unanimously acknowledged that an important contribution was made on its development by the acquisition of English and French literary models for story-telling and novels.

A field in which it is perhaps possible to identify a more direct relationship between the two countries is that of dramaturgy in its wider sense. There are similarities between the Italian and Persian traditions of the so-called Commedia dell’ Arte and folk theater (including puppet shows), which could provide important parallels between distant characters such as Pahlavān(-e) kačal and the Florentine mask of Stenterello. Nevertheless the various attempts, which have been made to mark out direct routes, have not yet borne any fruit. The trend is to be satisfied with imagining a common origin (perhaps Greek?) and parallel developments. It does, however, appear certain that modern Italian theatre (from Machiavelli’s Mandragola to Carlo Goldoni, from Pirandello to Dario Fo) did fascinate Persian intellectuals of the post-Second World War. They imported texts, plays, and radio play-readings, using them as a model and a support for the rising Persian theater and for modern literature in general (Piemontese, 2003 pp. 69-71). In an important performance of Pirandello’s Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore in Tehran in 1964, the role of the protagonist was played by the already established poet Foruḡ Farroḵzād (q.v.; see Ṣāberi). During the 1970s, the number of performances of Italian musical operas multiplied, but this approach, which was interrupted by the advent of the Islamic Republic, does not seem to have interacted either with the deep rooted tradition of Persian music, nor with the dramaturgical forms which were developing.

Italian neo-realist and auteurial cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, famous all over the world, had a definite influence on the Persian movie industry. From the beginning of the 1960s onwards, the importation of the masterpieces of Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio de Sica, Federico Fellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni, dubbed into Persian, were accompanied by the publication of screenplays, interviews, and critical literature, establishing itself as a structural and ideological model for the so-called nouvelle vogue of directors such as Dāriuš Mehrjuʾi and Masʿud Kimiāʾi, and later as an inspiration for the post-revolutionary cinema of the likes of Amir Nāderi, Moḥsen Maḵmal-bāf, ʿAbbās Kiārostami, Jaʿfar Panāhi, whose international recognition has often been associated with reference to the great Italian masters, requested by the Iranian directors themselves (Piemontese, 2003, p. 76; Tornesello, 2003). In 1975 the citadel of Bam in southeastern Persia was the set for the Italian-French movie production, Il deserto dei Tartari, directed by Valerio Zurlini and based on the celebrated novel of Dino Buzzati.

Institutional relations. While this complex web of reciprocal influences often spread through the abstract and indirect routes of art, concrete, internationally recognized cultural relations only began to take shape around the middle of the 19th century, when the Persian government hired Italian instructors to serve at state institutions and a number of Persians studied at Italian universities. Initially, this took place in a sporadic and casual manner, but subsequently became increasingly organized and structured. Besides those serving as instructors of the Persian army (see ITALY ii. DIPLOMATIC AND COMMERCIAL RELATIONS), there were several Italian teachers at Dār al-fonun (q.v.), a modern school founded in Tehran in 1851 by Mirzā Taqi Khan Amir(-e) Kabir. Included among them were Captain Zatti, engineering lecturer (who died suddenly in 1852) and Focchetti, instructor of Physics and Chemistry at the Dār al-fonun from its foundation until 1862. Focchetti also accompanied Farroḵ Khan Ḡaffāri on his mission to Italy in 1858. Also some of the Italian military instructors, such as Michele and Francesco Materazzo, Luigi Pesce, Enrico Andreini, occasionally taught at the Dār al-fonun. An institutional agreement signed in 1927 established the despatch of Persian cadets to the Naval Academy in Livorno, where they were mainly taught (up to diploma level) scientific subjects with the aim of serving in the new Persian Royal Navy. This agreement remained in effect, with a few interruptions, until the end of the 1970s. However, the first official confirmation of cultural relations between Italy and Persia was the Cultural Agreement signed in Rome on 29 November 1958 by the two ministers of foreign affairs, A. Fanfani and ʿAli-Aṣḡar Ḥekmat. This agreement encouraged the exchange of cultural material between the two countries (books, publications, radio programs, scientific or educational films, works of art for exhibitions, etc.) as well as exchange trips combined with various forms of financial aid and grants for the students, researchers, and cultural personalities of the two countries (see Accordi culturali, pp. 326-32).

The agreement was also designed to spread the historical, linguistic, and cultural knowledge of each country with the institution and the development of teaching and readership positions in the relative subjects. This agreement laid the basis for the foundation of respective cultural institutes in each country. The Italian Cultural Institute was founded in 1962 through the collaboration between the Italian Foreign Ministry and IsMEO (Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente), transforming the Italian Cultural Center, which had been founded in 1960 by Giuseppe Tucci. The IsMEO has worked for many years with the Institute, setting up both excavation and restoration projects. The Institute had organised various cultural initiatives, in particular to stimulate the study of Italian culture and language, even in Persian university systems. These initiatives led to various types of scientific collaboration, in particular in the field of architecture, exhibitions, concerts, plays, cinema festivals, and numerous publications regarding Italian and Iranian cultures. In 1986, however, the Cultural Institute was closed to the public, following a dispute between the Persian authorities and the Italian state-run television. The institute was shut down definitively in 1994, leaving the embassy’s cultural attaché as the only figure of its kind (Ministerial Decree 2518 of 17 January 1994; see also Piemontese 2003, p. 10).

Also during the 1960s, on the basis of the above-mentioned Cultural Agreement, the Iranian Cultural Institute was founded in Rome, first located in the building of the embassy. In 1991 the Institute moved to an autonomous residence in Monte Mario, where it is still situated. An Iranian school, called “Šahid Bāhonar,” with official Persian curriculum, was established in Rome in 1995, and is mainly attended by children of Persian diplomatic staff.

The agreement of 1958, which was renewed and enlarged by a subsequent agreement in 1970, is designed to promote technical and scientific cooperation in Persia and is to this day the cornerstone of cultural cooperation between the two countries. This cooperation was confirmed in 1996 and again in 2000 with an executive program presenting a detailed extension into numerous fields and sectors, including universities and related study grants, music, theatre, cinema, exhibitions, archives, libraries, publications, measures for the conservation of cultural heritage, as well as scientific and technological cooperation. The theoretical basis of this new long-term project is the concept of historical and cultural affinity and links between the two countries, established between 1999 and 2001 by a series of parliamentary dialogues on ancient Mediterranean civilizations (Egypt, Greece, Italy, Persia) held in each of the countries. In the context of the above mentioned executive programme of 2000, and in order to support a cultural policy of exchange and integration, Persian authorities recently (2004) decided to include Italian as an elective subject in the curriculum of certain schools at the same levels that English and French are offered, while Italian authorities introduced Persian as one of the optional languages valid for the open competition finalized to diplomatic career.

Persian students. Despite the lower degree of familiarity concerning recent history and politics, compared to other European countries such as France, Great Britain, or Germany, Persians have always felt and demonstrated an instinctive sense of closeness to the Italian cultural and artistic spheres, perceived in many ways as having a high degree of affinity to their own. It is mainly for this reason that, from the middle of the 19th century, a small but constant number of Persian students chose Italy as the country for their university education, particularly in the field of fine arts. After the Second World War, this flow of Persian students to Italy increased notably, mainly towards the arts faculties (fine arts, architecture, music) and some specific fields of science (engineering, medicine, agronomy). Since the signing of the Cultural Agreement in 1958, these students in Italy have been eligible for study grants, though the distribution of the grants was never constant and was suspended many times.

The number of Persian students in Italy at any one time appears to have never risen above 10,000 and at the present time (2004) is lower than 5,000. Of the Persian students who have finished their studies in Italy, many have chosen to remain in the country, joining one of many Italian institutions, including newspapers, publishing firms, art galleries, and theaters, as well as becoming engaged in movie production. Among those who returned to Persia, there are some, almost all with an artistic or literary education, whose translations of Italian works contributed to widening the horizon of Italian literature in Persia (see ITALY xii. TRANSLATIONS; Piemontese, 2003, pp. 126-44).

Italian schools. The formation of Italian educational nucleuses can be attributed to the Salesian missionaries, who have been present and active in Persia since 1936. Most of these schools have remained affiliated to the church, and their size is proportionate to the small parish communities of each locality. The history of the Salesian school of Tehran is, however, more complex. It was founded as soon as the missionaries arrived in the capital, initially as part of the parish of the Consolata. The school, which had been closed during the Second World War, was reopened in 1944 and then moved to a series of different locations, until it found a permanent home in a building that had been erected to house it in 1958 on the Andiša hill in Tehran. The school came to be known as the Don Bosco College. The number of pupils attending the nursery, elementary, middle and high schools grew to around 1,700 by the middle of the 1970s. From an administrative point of view, the school had a private statute and was attended not only by the children of Italian workers and diplomats living in Persia, but also by many young Persians as well as those of other nationalities. At a certain point, a managing committee, established by the Italian companies present in the country, took on the administration of the school. Around the 1970s, the increase in the school’s prestige, and in the number of students attending, made it necessary to open a new building, specially commissioned by this committee, at Farmāniya in a space allocated by the Italian embassy in Tehran. At the same time, in 1976, the school was officially recognized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1980 the Persian authorities banned all Catholic schools and consequently the Italian school, still a Salesian institution, closed down only to re-open immediately as the official school of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nevertheless, the ban on attending foreign schools for children with Persian fathers, enacted by the Persian authorities of the Islamic Republic, meant that the school was attended almost exclusively by Italians. It included a nursery school, elementary school, middle school, and a science high school. In December 1995, the school was renamed “Pietro Della Valle” as a tribute to the famous Roman traveler. Many schools teaching in Italian on a smaller scale and with a precarious statute have opened in areas where Italian companies operate, but they have almost always been used by the children of the employees of these companies.


Some of the official documents concerning schools and institutional relations are kept in various archives, including the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome.

Accordi culturali e di cooperazione scientifica e tecnica fra l’Italia e altri Stati, Rome, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1972.

Alessandro Bausani, “Dante and Iqbâl,” East and West, N.S. 2, 1952, pp. 77-81; repr. in Crescent and Green: A Miscellany of Writings on Pakistan, London, 1955, pp. 62-70.

Idem, “Sanāʾī precursore di Dante? Osservazioni sul Seir al-ʿIbād,” in Colloquio italo-iraniano sul poeta mistico Sanāʾī (Roma, 29-30 marzo 1978), Accademia nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, 1979, pp. 5-22.

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, I soneti, ed. Maria Teresa Lanza, 4 vols., Milan, 1965, III, p. 1468.

Filippo Bertotti, “Un viaggiatore romano e un poeta persiano: Pietro Della Valle estimatore e divulgatore di Ḥāfïz,” Islàm: Storia e Civiltà 9/2, 1990, pp. 121-27.

Edgar Blochet, Les sources orientales de la Divine Comédie, Paris, 1901. Annibale Bugnini, La Chiesa in Iran, Rome, 1981.

Mario Casari, “Pinocchio persiano,” Oriente Moderno, N.S. 22, 83/1, 2003, pp. 57-91.

Enrico Cerulli, ed., Il “Libro della Scala” e la questione delle fonti arabo-spagnuole della Divina Commedia, Studi et testi 150, Città del Vaticano, 1949; repr., 1970 (Tr. of Ketāb al-meʿrāj in Latin and French).

Idem, “Una raccolta persiana di novelle tradotte a Venezia nel 1557,” Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei: Memorie della Classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, 8th series 18/4, 1975, pp. 247-365.

Le relazioni tra l’Italia e l’Iran, compendium issue of Il Veltro. Rivista della civiltà italiana 14/1-2, 1970.

Vladimir Minorsky, “Vis u Ramin: A Parthian Romance,” BSO(A)S 11, 1946, pp. 741-63; 12, 1947, pp. 20-35; 16, 1954, pp. 91-92.

Angelo Michele Piemontese, “‘Omar Khayyām in Italia,” Oriente Moderno 54, 1974, pp. 275-97.

Idem, Bibliografia italiana dell’Iran (1462-1982), 2 vols., Naples, 1982.

Idem, The Italian Embassy in Tehran, Tehran 1990.

Idem, “La représentation de Uzun Hasan sur scène à Rome (2 mars 1473),” Turcica. Revue d’études turques 21-23, 1991, pp. 191-203.

Idem, “Persia e Persiani nel dramma per musica veneziano,” Opera e Libretto 2, Firenze, 1993, pp. 1-34.

Idem, Gli otto paradisi di Amir Khusrau da Delhi: una lezione persiana del Libro di Sindbad fonte del Peregrinaggio di Cristoforo Armeno, Rome, 1995.

Idem, “Narrativa medioevale persiana e percorsi librari internazionali,” in Antonio Pioletti and Francesca Rizzo Nervo, eds., Medioevo romanzo e orientale: Il viaggio dei testi. Colloquio internazionale, Venezia, 10-13 ottobre 1996, Soveria Mannelli (Catanzaro), 1999, pp. 1-17.

Idem, “Poèmes lyriques italiens consacrés à Omar Khayyam,” in Mélanges in memoriam Javād Ḥadidi, Loqmān: Annales des Presses Universitaires d’Iran 19/1, 2002-2003, pp. 127-39.

Idem, “L’antica Persia veduta in Roma,” in Laura Biancini et al., eds., Roma memoria e oblio, Rome 2001, pp. 71-81.

Idem, La letteratura italiana in Persia, Atti della accademia nazionale dei Lincei, classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Memorie, 9th series 17/1, Roma, 2003.

Idem, “L’Ambasciatore di Persia presso Federico da Montefeltro, il cardinale Bessarione e Ludovico Bononiense O.F.M.,” in Miscellanea Bibliothecae Vaticanae 11, 2004, pp. 539-65.

Italo Pizzi, “L’origine persiana del romanzo di Tristano e Isotta,” Rivista d’Italia 14, 1911, pp. 5-21.

Ettore Rossi, “Poesie inedite in persiano di Pietro Della Valle,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 28, 1953, pp. 108-17.

Pari Ṣāberi, “Pirāndello wa Foruḡ: do gostāḵ-e nowpardāz ba donbāl-e wāqeʿiyat,” Gardun, no. 44-45, Bahman-Esfand 1373/February-March 1995, pp. 42-47.

Natalia L. Tornesello, “Una mappa semiotica iranica nella letteratura del Rinascimento: il giardino,” in Michele Bernardini, et al., eds., Europa e Islam tra i secoli XIV e XVI, 2 vols., Naples 2002, I, pp. 203-34.

Idem, Il cinema persiano, Roma, 2003.

Idem, ed., La letteratura persiana contemporanea tra novazione e tradizione, Naples, 2003.


(1) A General Survey

Italian travel accounts represent a major source for the history of Iran, especially that of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Collections of Italian travel accounts, together with biographical and bibliographical details, have been published from the Renaissance up to the present day.

The first attempt to assemble this kind of material was made by the Venetian humanist, historian, and geographer Giovan Battista Ramusio (1485-1557), who in 1520 began to bring together the main Italian travel accounts in his Navigationi et viaggi (3 vols., Venice, 1550, 1556, 1559). Ramusio’s work was published in expanded editions between 1566 and 1606, and during the 20th century the entire corpus was re-edited (M. Milanesi, ed., Navigazioni e viaggi, 6 vols., Turin, 1978-88; English ed., Navigationi et viaggi, Venice 1563-1606, ed. by G. B. Parks and R. A. Skelton, Amsterdam, 1970-71). Rightly considered one of the main collections of medieval and Renaissance travel literature on the East (Del Piero, 1902; Parks, 1955), Ramusio’s work represented a model for other collections of European travel literature, such as those of Richard Hakluyt and Samuel Purchas in England, Théodore de Bry and his sons in France, and Levinus Hulsius and Jan Huygen van Lischoten in Holland. A new, systematic attempt to list such material was made during the 19th century by the geographer and cartographer Pietro Amat di S. Filippo (1822-95), author of several works dedicated to Italian travelers from the Middle Ages to the 19th century (Amat di S. Filippo, 1882, 1895). Angelo Michele Piemontese’s Bibliografia Italiana dell’Iran includes a chapter on travelers that is the most accurate bibliographical list of such sources, containing all the printed material from the 15th to the 20th century (Piemontese, 1985, I, “Viaggi e viaggiatori,” pp. 131-77). Other, more specialized collections exist, such as the Venetian reports from Persia during the Safavid period, which are collected together in the works of Alberi (1840-55) and Berchet (1865). An extensive list of missions to the East during the Middle Ages was made by G. Golubovich, who produced a rich compendium of Franciscan sources (Golubovich, 1906-28). Certain encyclopedias are also useful, especially for research on the biographies of the travelers. Of such encyclopedias, the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani is the most complete for Italian authors (57 vols., Rome, 1960-).

Italian travel accounts can be broadly divided into five periods, and the volume of production is different for each. The first period, that of Mongol and Timurid rule in Iran and Central Asia, which takes in works such as merchants’ reports and descriptions by religious missionaries, can be considered, together with the second period, as a kind of Golden Age of Italian travel literature on Persia. The second period coincides with the Renaissance and begins with the special relations between Italy and the ĀÚq Qoyunlu ruler Uzun Ḥasan. It gives way to the third with the successors of Shah ‘Abbās I, in whose reigns the Italian presence in Iran began to change. There was a substantial revival of religious missions, in which the Carmelites played a particular role, although there were also independent travelers at this time. A fourth period, in which there is evidence of a new Italian diplomatic presence at the Qajar court, coincides with the unity of Italy and with a new attitude, which included the beginning of a scientific interest (in the modern sense) in the subject of Iran. This attitude continues in the last phase of the history of Italian travelers and runs from about the beginning of the 20th century until the present day.

The Mongol and Timurid period. The first Italian travelers to Iran and Central Asia during the Middle Ages were religious missionaries sent by the popes to spread the Christian faith in Mongol lands. We have some traces of the journey made during this period by the Lombard Ascelino, who was sent to the East by Pope Innocent IV. Together with André de Longjumeau and other friars, Ascelino met Baiju, the commander of Mongol forces in western Asia, in 1247 near Tiflis, after a journey to Aleppo, Mosul, and Tabriz. The report of this mission, probably the Historia Tartarorum of Simon of Saint-Quentin, is now lost, but references to it are found in chapters of Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum historiae (Pelliot, 1924, p. 277; Petech, 1962; Richard, 1977, pp. 373-74). In 1246-47 the same pope sent Giovanni da Pian del Carpine [John of Plano Carpini] to the court of Ögödey, and he reached Karakorum when Güyük was in power (Golubovich, 1906, I, pp. 190-213; P. Daffinà et al., eds., Storia dei Mongoli, Spoleto, 1989).

Italian merchants were established in Tabriz from the early Il-khanid period (Petech, 1962, pp. 550-51; Paviot, 1997, pp. 74-75). Marco Polo’s presence in Persia is attested after the years 1271-72, even if the description of the country is dated 1298, when he described Persia as he remembered it while on his journey to the court of Qubilay in China (Franchi, 1941; Gabriel, 1963). Polo followed the journey of his father Niccolò and his uncle Matteo (1261-69), who were in Persia and Bukhara; and he left again with them for Cathay. His journey started from Ayas (Lajazzo) in 1271, and he returned to Venice in 1295. Although the difficult question of the various versions of the Milione cannot be addressed here, it is important to note it provided a model for later travelers; because it included historical, geographical, and anthropological aspects of the journey (see POLO). During the pontificate of John XXI, Friar Gherardo of Prato was sent to the court of Abaqa (1278), who was considered to be inclined favorably towards the Christians. We have traces of this embassy from letters written by the pope (Golubovich 1913, II, pp. 426-28). Franciscan missions in Persia also played an important role in the embassy to Rome in 1288 of the Nestorian monk Rabban Sauma (Borbone, 2000), who carried several letters for the pope from the Franciscans of Tabriz (Golubovich, 1913, II, pp. 437-40). Unfortunately the important role played by Genoese travelers, such as Buscarello de Gizolfi (q.v., ambassador during the reigns of Arḡun, Gayḵatu, and Ghazan), Benedetto Vivaldi, who traveled in Persia and Afghanistan in 1315, and Tommasino Gentile, who tried to reach China but was forced by illness to abandon his journey in Hormuz in 1344 (Lopez, 1952, pp. 92-93), is attested only in passing in sources such as letters, diplomatic notes, and notarial deeds (Petech, 1962, pp. 562-65; Paviot, 1991; Borbone, 2000, p. 256).

Probably the most important description of Baghdad in this period was that written by the Dominican Ricoldo da Montecroce (d. 1320; q.v.), who began his long journey in 1288, traveling through Palestine, Syria, northern Mesopotamia, Sivas, Erzurum, and on to Persia, visiting Tabriz. From there he traveled to Baghdad, where he remained for six months during the reign of Arḡun (Ricoldo da Montecroce, Itinerario ai paesi orientali di Fra Ricoldo da Monte Croce domenicano. Scritto del XIII secolo dato ora in luce da Fra Vincenzo Fineschi sacerdote dello stesso ordine, Florence, 1793; U. Monneret de Villard, “La vita le opere e i viaggi di frate Ricoldo da Montecroce O.P.,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 10, 1944, pp. 227-74; idem, Il libro della peregrinazione nelle parti dell’Oriente di Frate Ricoldo da Montecroce, Rome, 1948). The embassy of the friar Giovanni da Montecorvino (1247-1330), sent to Arḡun by Pope Nicholas IV to evangelize among the Mongols (1279-89), is not attested in any travel account; but Giovanni himself later wrote two letters describing his second journey to China (1289): he went from Ayas (Lajazzo) to Sis and Tabriz, where he met Arḡun in 1290-91, and then to Hormuz. From there he sailed for China, where he became the first Catholic archbishop of Peking (Amat di S. Filippo, 1882, pp. 79-80; Golubovich, III, 1919, pp. 86-96; R. Almagià, “Giovanni da Montecorvino,” Rivista Geografica Italiana 33/1-2, 1926, pp. 61-65; A. van der Wyngaert, Jean de Mont Corvin O.F.M. premier évêque de Khanbaliq [Peking], 1247-1328, Lille, 1924). There are few references to the journey of the Franciscans Guglielmo of Chieri and Matteo of Chieti, who visited Tabriz around 1291 (Golubovich, 1906, I, pp. 354-55, 472-77).

Another Franciscan, Odorico da Pordenone (q.v.), who visited Armenia, Tabriz, Solṭāniye, Kāšān, Yazd, Mesopotamia, and Hormuz (1314-30), is one of the more interesting sources on Persia during the Il-khanid period. This journey must be connected with the foundation of the archbishopric of Solṭāniye in 1318 by Pope John XXII and subsequently that of the archbishoprics of Marāḡe (1328) and Tabriz (1329). Archbishops such as Bartolomeo of Poggio (better known as Bartolomeo of Bologna), archbishop of Marāḡe (1328-33), played an important role in the spread of knowledge about the Persian language in Western countries through translations of the Gospels into Persian and the production of the Codex cumanicus (“Viaggio del B. Odorico da Udine, dell’Ordine de’ Frati Minori, Delle usanze, costumi, & nature, di diverse nationi, & genti del Mondo, et del martirio di quattro frati dell’Ordine predetto, quali partirono tra gl’Infedeli,” in Ramusio, Navigazioni et viaggi, Venice, 1583, II, foll. 245b-253a; Golubovich, 1919, III, pp. 205-7, 374-93; Piemontese, 2001, pp. 322-23). The friar Tomaso da Tolentino traveled in Persia between 1305 and 1307 with letters written by Giovanni da Montecorvino (Golubovich, 1919, III, pp. 219-21). From Francesco Petrarca’s Epistles we know also of the travels of Giovanni Colonna (ca. 1298-1332), who traveled in Persia presumably between 1324 and 1332 (Ciampi, 1874, pp. 870-79; Surdich, 1982). The itineraries traced by the Florentine Francesco Balducci Pegolotti (q.v.) in his Pratica della Mercatura form one of the most important sources on Persian and Central Asian commercial routes during the last part of the Il-khanid period (around 1335 and 1340). Pegolotti never visited the countries he describes, relying instead on the accounts of merchants who had been in the East (Pegolotti, La pratica della mercatura, ed. by A. Evans, Cambridge, Mass., 1936). Some years later, in 1339-53, Giovanni de’ Marignolli (see MARIGNOLLI) passed through Hormuz and Mesopotamia before returning to Avignon in 1353. During the last years of the Il-khanid Empire, there was a revival of Christian missions by Dominicans and Franciscans together with a strengthening of the bishopric in Persia. The bishop of Tabriz, Guglielmo Zigio, reached Persia during the last part of Abu Saʿid’s reign and there assisted in the appointment of Giovanni da Cori as bishop of Solṭāniye. About the same time, Tommaso Mancasole became the first bishop of Samarkand (Golubovich, 1919, III, pp. 350-59; on this period see also pp. 424-541).

After the fall of the Il-khanid Empire and the troubles of 1340, there followed a period of obscurity in relations between Italy and Persia, until the Italian presence there revived during the reign of Timur—in particular at the end of the fourteenth century, after the first encounters between the Central Asian sovereign and the Italians. Italians, however, did not entirely stop visiting Persia in the interim period. The Venetian ambassadors Giovanni Querini and Giuffredo Morosini traveled to various courts in Persia between 1345 and 1346 (Donazzolo, 1929, p. 19).

The first meeting between Italians and Timur occurred in 1395 near Azaq and is referred to in the Cronaca di Treviso of Andrea de Redusiis (“Chronicum tarvisinum ab anno MCCCLXVIII usque annum MCCCCXVII,” in Rerum Italicarum Scriptores XIX, Milan, 1731, cols. 802-4; Bernardini, 2002, pp. 395-98). The Sienese merchant Beltramo Mignanelli (q.v.; Fischel, 1956. Piemontese, 1996) wrote a Vita Tamerlani, in which he included his impressions of the military events of the years 1401-2. Although Timur was the object of special interest in Italian courts (Knobler 1995), the meeting between him and the Italians did not lead to any further developments in Italian relations with the Timurids after Timur’s death in 1405. Nevertheless Italians continued to cross Persia, following the southern routes (on land or by sea). in particular as Niccolò de’ Conti (see CONTI) did when on his way to India through Birecik (Turkey), Mosul, Bandar ‘Abbās, and Hormuz at the beginning of the 15th century (“Viaggio di Nicolo di Conti Venetiano scritto per Messer Poggio Fiorentino,” in Ramusio, Navigationi et Viaggi, Venice, 1550, I, foll. 365a-371b; V. Bellemo, I viaggi di Nicolò de’ Conti riscontrati ed illustrati con proemio storico, documenti originali e carte geografiche, Milan, 1883; idem, La cosmografia e le scoperte geografiche del secolo XV e i viaggi di Nicolò de’ Conti, Padua, 1908; G. Caraci, “Il Quattrocento e Nicolò de’ Conti,” in Nuove questioni di storia medievale, Milan, 1969, pp. 448-51; idem, “Viaggiatori italiani in Persia nel Medioevo,” Il Veltro 14, 1970, pp. 39-60).

From Uzun Ḥasan to Shah ‘Abbās I. The appearance of Uzun Ḥasan on the scene in the 15th century was heralded by Western, and in particular Italian, powers as a great opportunity for their anti-Ottoman policy (Woods 1999, pp. 87-123). The travel account of the Venetian diplomat Josapha Barbaro (1473-78; q.v.; L. Lockhart, R. Morozzo della Rocca, and M. F. Tiepolo, I viaggi degli ambasciatori veneti Barbaro e Contarini, Rome, 1973) was one of the first pieces of evidence in the West of the power of the ĀÚÚq Qoyunlu in this period. To this work we should add the account of Ambrogio Contarini (1474-75; q.v.), which was first published in Venice in 1487 and subsequently included, together with Barbaro’s account, in Ramusio’s Navigationi et Viaggi (see also N. Di Lenna, Ambrogio Contarini politico e viaggiatore del secolo XV, Padua, 1921). Later Venetian material should also be mentioned, such as the report by Lazaro Quirini (1471; Berchet, 1865, pp. 1-6; Donazzolo, 1929, p. 47) and that of Giovanni Dario, who gave information on the state of Persia at the end of the 15th century in his dispatches sent to the Venetian Senate (Berchet, 1965, pp. 150-53; F. Babinger, Johannes Darius [1414-1494]: Sachwalter Venedigs im Morgenland, und sein griechischer Umkreis, Munich, 1961). Another writer who was at the court of Uzun Ḥasan, Giovanni Maria Angiolello (ca. 1451-1524; q.v.), who was in the entourage of Meḥmed II as defterdār, probably went to the Āq Qoyunlu court (Babinger, 1961) during the reign of Bayezid II. Even though the work of Angiolello is considered more important for the history of the Ottoman Empire, his Vita e fatti del signor Usuncassano (in “Breve narrazione della vita et fatti del Signor Ussuncassano fatta per Giovan’ Maria Angiolello” in Ramusio, Navigazioni et Viaggi, Venice, 1559, II, foll. 66a-78a; Navigazioni e viaggi, ed. by M. Milanesi, III, 1980, pp. 359-420) offers important data on events relating to the Āq Qoyunlu, such the battle of Baškent (1473). Barbaro, Angiolello, and Domenico Romano were later included in the Historia turchesca of Donato da Lezze (Historia turchesca [1300-1514], ed. by I. Ursu, Bucharest, 1909). To these accounts must be added that of the Venetian ambassador in Persia, Caterino Zeno, who was in the court of Uzun Ḥasan between 1471 and 1473 (Berchet, 1865, pp. 6-8, 130-35; De i Comentari del Viaggio in Persia di M. Caterino Zeno il K. & delle guerre fatte nell’Imperio Persiano, dal tempo di Ussuncassano in quà, Venice, 1558; V. Formaleoni, Caterin Zeno. Storia curiosa delle sue avventure in Persia tratta da un antico originale manoscritto ed ora per la prima volta pubblicata, Venice, 1873). During the last years of the 15th century, the Genoese merchant Geronimo da S. Stefano wrote a letter from Tripoli in Syria in which he recounts his travels from Hormuz through Persia with Armenian and Azami (Persian) merchants. He passed through Shiraz, Kāšān, Solṭāniye, and Tabriz before reaching Aleppo (“Viaggio di Hieronimo da Santo Stephano Genouese dirizzato à Messer Giouan Iacobo Mainer, di lingua portoghese tradotto nell’Italiana,” in Ramusio, Navigationi et Viaggi, Venice, 1563, I, foll. 345-46; P. Peregallo, “Viaggio di Geronimo da Santo Stefano e di Geronimo Adorno in India nel 1494-99,” Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana 38, 1901, pp. 24-40; M. Longhena, “Il testo originale del viaggio di Geronimo Adorno e Geronimo da S. Stefano,” in Studi Italiani di Filologia Indo-Iranica diretti da Francesco Pullè 5, 1905, appendici, pp. 1-56; Viaggi in Persia India e Giava di Nicolò de’ Conti. Girolamo Adorno e Girolamo da Santo Stefano, ed. by M. Longhena, Milan, 1929).

A significant source for the beginnings of the Safavid period was written by a Venetian, known formerly as the “Anonimo Mercante” (for example, by Ramusio who published his travel account, “Viaggio di un mercante che fu nella Persia,” Navigationi et viaggi, II, Venice, 1583, foll. 78a-91a; “The Travels of a Merchant in Persia,” in A Narrative of Italian Travels in Persia, transl. by C. Grey, London, 1873, pp. 141-207); he has been identified by Jean Aubin (1988, p. 129; 1995, p. 258) as Domenico Romano (q.v.). This merchant was in Persia from 1507 to 1510. He describes several places, mainly in Azerbaijan, and gives important information on Uzun Ḥasan, Šayḵ Ḥaydar, and Šāh Esmāʿil I. Although Domenico Romano can be considered the more important traveler of the period of Shah Esmāʿil I, one must also mention the Itinerario of Ludovico Varthema (or Bathema, as Ramusio calls him; see VARTHEMA). His account of a journey to India and Southeast Asia between 1502 and 1508 (the years when he passed through Hormuz) includes descriptions of Ḵorāsān (Herat) and Transoxania (Samarkand) which do not seem to reflect actual visits there (“Itinerario,” in Ramusio, Navigationi et Viaggi, Venice, 1550, I, foll. 159a-188b; Varthema, Itinerario dallo Egypto alla India, ed. by E. Musacchio, Bologna, 1991). Some years later, the Florentine astronomer and geographer Andrea Corsali traveled through Persia on his long journey to India. His descriptions of Hormuz and the Shiʿites reflect a rationalistic approach (A. Corsali, “Lettera d’Andrea Corsali Fiorentino allo illustrissimo Signor Duca Giuliano de Medici scritta in Cochin terra dell’India, nell’anno MDXV alli VI di Gennaio. Della Navigazione del Mar Rosso & sino persico fino a Cochin città nella India, scritta alli XVII di Settembre MDXVII,” in Ramusio, Navigationi et Viaggi, Venice, 1550, I, pp. 192a-203b). Other Italian reports are mentioned in the Diarii of Marin Sanudo the Younger (d. 1536; q.v.), in which there is much information for the reign Shah Ismāʾil (Šāh Ismāʾil I nei “Diarii” di Marin Sanudo, ed. by B. Scarcia Amoretti, Rome, 1979; see also: Marin Sanuto il Giovane, I Diarii, ed. by R. Fulin, F. Stefani, N. Borozzi, et al., 58 vols., Venice, 1578-1903; F. Babinger, “Marino Sanuto’s Tagebucher als Quellen zur Geschichte der Safawiyya,” in T. W. Arnold, R. A. Nicholson, eds., A Volume of Oriental Studies Presented to Edward G. Browne, Cambridge, 1922, pp. 28-50).

Several Italian travelers were in Iran during the reign of Ṭahmāsp I (1524-76). Alberi and Berchet have not included the Relazione of Michele Membré (q.v.), written in 1542 (Relazione di Persia [1542]. Ms. inedito dell’Archivio di Stato di Venezia, ed. by F. Castro, G. R. Cardona, and A. M. Piemontese, Naples, 1969; English transl. by A. H. Morton, Mission to the Lord Sophy of Persia [1539-1542], London, 1993). This Relazione is an important report on the first period of the reign of Ṭahmāsp I. The edition of 1969 also contains other important evidence, such as the Viaggio di Colocut of the Venetian Giovanni Veneziano (pp. 105-114), which was first published in 1543 (L. Runcinotto, “Viaggio di Colocut descritto per messer Aloigi di Messer Giovanni Venetiano, nel quale si narra le mirabil forze, provincie, terre, & città del gran Signore Sophi et come passò infiniti Spagnoli in soccorso di esso signore contra Turchi: & etiam narra le meravigliose isole che producono Oro & pietre preciose: cosa invero molto curiosa da intendere,” in Viaggi fatti, da Vinetia, alla Tana, in Persia, in India, et in Costantinopoli: con la descrittione particolare di città, luoghi, siti, costumi, et della Porta del Gran Turco: et di tutte le intrate, spese et modo di governo suo, et della ultima impresa contra portoghesi, Venice, 1543, foll. 108a-120a). Other information useful for the reign of Ṭahmāsp I are found in the Vita di Ismael e Thomas Sofì of Theodore Spandugino (Spandugino, “La vita di Sach Ismael et Tamas re di Persia chiamati Soffi, nella quale si vede la cagione della controversia ch’è tra il Turco e il Soffi,” in F. Sansovino, Dell’Historia Universale dell’origine et Imperio de Turchi. Parte Prima, Venice, 1560, foll. 125-34; also in Membré, 1969, pp. 143-75) and in the report of Vincenzo degli Alessandri (q.v.), who was sent to Persia in 1570 by the Venetian Senate on the unsuccessful diplomatic mission which gave rise to his polemic remarks about the Safavids (V. Alessandri, “Relazione presentata al Consiglio dei Dieci il 24 settembre 1572 e letta l’11 ottobre da Vincenzo Alessandri veneto legado a Tahmasp re di Persia,” in E. Alberi, Relazioni degli Ambasciatori veneti, ser. III, II, Florence, 1844, pp. 103-27; “Narrative of the most noble Vincentio Alessandri, ambassador to the King of Persia from the most illustrious Republic of Venice,” in Narrative of Italian Travels in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, ed. by C. Gray, London, 1873; Berchet, 1865, pp. 29-38; Berengo, 1960). The adventurous travels of the merchant Cesare Federici (or de’ Federici), originally from Val Camonica near Brescia, who was in Persia between 1563 and 1581 and who journeyed through Birecik, Aleppo, Baghdad, and then Hormuz on his way to India, merits special mention for his rational objectivity. Particularly interesting is his description of the coronation of the King of Hormuz (Viaggio di M. Cesare dei Federici nell’Indie Orientali et oltra l’India, Venice, 1587; C. de’ Federici, “Viaggio di M. Cesare de i Federici nell’India Orientale et oltra l’India per via di Soria,” in Ramusio, Navigazioni e viaggi, Venice, 1605, III, foll. 386b-398b; “The voyage and travel of M. Caesar Fredericke into the East India and beyond the Indies,” in R. Hakluyt, The second volume of the Principal Navigations, Voyages, traffiques and discoveries of the English Nation made by Sea or over Land, in the South and South-east part of the World, London, 1599, pp. 213-44). Later, Gasparo Balbi, a Venetian merchant and jeweler, traveled in Persia (1579-88) on his way to India. His description of Hormuz, which he passed through in 1580, offers a considerable amount of information about navigation and pearl production in the area, together with various somewhat fantastic details (Viaggio dell’Indie Orientali, di Gasparo Balbi, Gioielliero Venetiano. Nel qual si contiene quanto egli in detto viaggio hà veduto per lo spatio di 9 anni consumati in esso dal 1579 al 1588, Venice, 1590; O. Pinto, “Il veneziano Gasparo Balbi ed il suo viaggio in Mesopotamia,” Rendiconti dell’Accademia dei Lincei, classe Scienze morali etc., ser. VI, vol. 8, 1932, pp. 665-734; idem, “Viaggi di Cesare Federici e Gaspare Balbi in Oriente nel secolo XVI,” Bolletino della Reale Società Geografica Italiana 83, 1946, pp. 1-5; idem, ed., Viaggi di C. Federici e G. Balbi alle Indie Orientali, Rome, 1962). For the reigns of Shah Ismāʾil II (1576-77) and Muḥammad Ḵudābanda (1578-87), mention can be made of the important report of Giovanni Minadoi (q.v.), who refers to the war between Murad III and Muḥammad Ḵudābanda in his Historia. This text also offers extensive information on the Safavid Empire (G. T. Minadoi, Historia della guerra fra Turchi, et Persiani, descritta in quattro libri da Gio. Tomaso Minadoi; cominciando dall’anno MDLXXVII nel quale furo li primi mouimenti di lei, seguendo per tutto l’anno MDLXXXV, Rome, 1587; idem, The History of the wares betweene the Tyrkes and the Persians, trans. by A. Hartwell, London, 1595).

A revival of political and diplomatic relations between the Italian courts and Persia occurred during the reign of ʿAbbās I (1587-1629), when three travelers in particular played a noteworthy role in the spread of knowledge of Persia. Two brothers from Cosenza, Giovan Battista (1552-1619) and Girolamo Vecchietti (1557-1640; qq.v.), left a collection of material that demonstrates their deep knowledge of Persia and the Persian language, together with their special diplomatic ability. Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici, the future Grand duke of Tuscany, following a commission of Pope Gregory XIII, sent Giovan Battista to the Safavid kingdom with the aim of forming an alliance against the Turks. He reached Tabriz in 1586. In 1590, he again traveled through Persia on his way to India, where he was joined by his brother Girolamo. They returned separately to Italy, Girolamo in 1608 and Giovan Battista, who had been a prisoner of the Turks in Tunis, in 1618. Their detailed report on Persia and the kingdom of Hormuz represents a very important source for the last period of Muḥammad Ḵudābanda and the beginnings of the reign of ʿAbbās I (H. F. Brown, “A report on the condition of Persia in the year 1586,” The English Historical Review 7, 1892, pp. 314-21; U. Tucci, “Una relazione di Giovan Battista. Vecchietti sulla Persia e sul Regno di Hormuz, 1587,” Oriente Moderno 35/4, 1955, pp. 149-60. R. Almagià, “Giovanni Battista e Girolamo Vecchietti viaggiatori in Oriente,” Rendiconti dell’Accadermia Nazionale dei Lincei, ser. VIII, 11, 1956, pp. 313-50; P. Donazzolo, “Gerolamo Vecchietti e la sua ‘Peregrinazione d’Oriente’,” Rivista di Geografia 12, 1932, pp. 391-97). The period of Shah ʿAbbās I is also described in the accounts of travels in Persia by the Roman noble Pietro Della Valle (q.v.), who left Italy for a 12-year journey in the East in 1614. His descriptions of Baghdad (1616), Isfahan (1617), where he met Shah ‘Abbās I, Persepolis, and Shiraz are certainly unique for their objectivity and acuteness. The important information given by this traveler has been published only in part. While his Viaggi, travels, have been variously edited, his Diari needs further extensive research (see Piemontese, 1982, vol. I, nos. 831-85; see also P. Della Valle, In viaggio per l’Oriente: Le mummie, Babilonia, Persepoli, ed. by A. Invernizzi, E. Lesopo, and F. Pennacchietti, Alessandria, 2001). For this period one must also mention the Relatione of Gian Francesco Sagredo, Venetian consul in Syria from 1608 to 1611, who gives an account of the Safavid Empire (Donazzolo, 1929, pp. 78-79).

The late Safavid period. During the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I, Pope Clement VIII sent the first Carmelite mission to Persia (1604); this order would be followed later by the Augustinians, Capuchins, Dominicans, and Jesuits (see CARMELITES and P. Ambrosius a S. Teresia, Bio-bibliographia ordinis carmelitarum discalceatorum, Rome, 1941; H. Chick, A Chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia and the Papal Missions of the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, 2 vols., London, 1939; see also Richard, 1993). A discalced Carmelite, Phillipe de la Sainte Trinité, was dispatched to a mission in Persia. He left Italy in 1629 and traveled through Persia to India, where he arrived in 1631. His long travel account was translated into Italian from the original Latin and contains several chapters on the Persian Empire, the role played by the Portuguese, and the customs and manners of the Persians (Viaggi orientali del Reverendissimo P. Filippo della SS. Trinità Generale de’ Carmelitani Scalzi Da lui composti nella lingua latina e nuouamente tradotti nell’Italiana da un Padre del medesimo Ordine, Rome, 1666). The Carmelites played an important role in the spread of knowledge of Persia in this period. Other travel accounts include those of Father Giuseppe di S. Maria (1620-89) from Caprarola (Prima spedizione alle Indie Orientali del P.F. Giuseppe di Santa Maria Carmelitano Scalzo, delegato apostolico ne’ regni de’ Malavari Ordinata da Nostro Signore Alessandro VII, Rome, 1666; Seconda spedizione all’Indie Orientali di Monsignor Sebastiani Fr. Giuseppe di S. Maria dell’Ordine de’ Carmelitani Scalzi Ordinata da Alessandro VII di gloriosa memoria, Rome, 1672) and the report written by Vincenzo Maria di S. Caterina (d. 1680; Il viaggio alle Indie Orientali del P.F. Vincenzo Maria di S. Caterina da Siena Procuratore Generale de’ Carmelitani Scalzi, Rome, 1672; see also V. Prinzivalli, Viaggiatori e missionari nell’Asia a tutto il secolo XVII. Appunti di storia della geografia pubblicati nel IV centenario della scoperta d’America, Rome, 1892).

The 17th century closes with some travel accounts of special importance because of their interest in archeology. The first is that written by Angelo Legrenzi, a physician from Venice, who joined a caravan in Syria and traveled through Tabriz, Solṭāniye, Qazvin, Isfahan, and Persepolis. In 1678 he left Persia via Hormuz for India. He returned to Venice in 1694 (Legrenzi, Il pellegrinaggio nell’Asia cioè viaggi del Dottor Angelo Legrenzi Fisico, e Chirurgo, Cittadino Veneto. Con i ragguagli dello Stato dell’Imperio Ottomano, dei Rè di Persia, de Mogori, e Gentili loro leggi, vite e costumi, II, Venice, 1705). A similar journey was undertaken by the Calabrian Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri (1648-1724). This magistrate of the kingdom of Naples returned in 1700 after a long journey, in which he also visited India and China. Gemelli Careri reached Isfahan in 1694 and, as a member of the Polish delegation, witnessed the coronation of Sultan Ḥosayn. He visited Persepolis and traveled along the southern coast of Iran before his departure for India in 1695. His travel account achieved particular success during the 18th century (G. F. Gemelli Carreri, Giro del mondo del Dottor D. Gio. Francesco Gemelli Carreri. Parte seconda contenente le cose più ragguardevoli vedute nella Persia, 2nd ed., Naples, 1708 [1st ed., 1699-1700]; P. Doria, “Gemelli Carreri, Giovanni Francesco,” in Dizinario Biografico degli Italiani LIII, Roma, 1999, pp. 42-45). Another non-religious traveler was the Venetian noble Ambrogio Bembo (1652-1705), who was in Persia in 1674 and remained there for four months. Modeled on Polo’s Milione, Bembo’s travel account gives important information on Persia, paying particular attention to the monuments of Persepolis, Naqš-e Rostam, Kermānšāh, and Kordestān. In Isfahan Bembo met Chardin and the illustrator G.-J. Grelot (J. Morelli, Dissertazione attorno ad alcuni viaggiatori eruditi veneziani poco noti, Venice, 1803; A. Welch, “Safavi Iran through Venetian eyes,” in Society and Culture in the Early Modern Middle East. Studies on Iran in the Safavid Period, ed. by A. J. Newman, Leiden, 2003, pp. 97-121; Tucci, 1966). In 1693 the Lombard Carmelite Francesco Maria di S. Siro (Antonio Gorla di Portalbera) visited Tabriz, Solṭāniye, and Qom, where he witnessed the celebration of Āšura, and Isfahan where he assisted in the expulsion of the Carmelites from Julfa (P. Donazzolo, “Viaggi in Oriente ed in Occidente [sec. XVII e XVIII] del fratello Francesco Maria di S. Siro, [Carmelitano Scalzo], al secolo Antonio Gorla di Portabbera [Pavia],” Rivista Geografica Italiana 19, 1912, pp. 337-54, 423, 436, 530-37, 584-605). At the end of the 17th century, the Carmelite Fulgenzio di S. Giuseppe (1696-1703) visited Persepolis and wrote about the coronation of Sultan Ḥosayn (Alberto Dallolio, “Un viaggiatore in Oriente alla fine del secolo XVII,” L’Archiginnasio 2, 1907, pp. 73-106). During the first half of the 18th century, Florio Beneveni was sent by Tsar Peter I to Bukhara; from there he sent several letters published in 1986 in a Russian translation (Poslannik Petra I na Vostoke. Posol’stvo Florio Beneveni v Persiyu i Bukharu v 1718-1725, ed. by V. G. Volovnikova, Moscow, 1986; see C. Poujol, “L’ambassade à Boxârâ de Florio Beneveni. ou comment contourner en vain la Mer Caspienne: Chronique,” in J. Calmard, ed., Études Safavides, Paris and Tehran, 1993, pp. 247-49).

In the 18th century another Carmelite, Leandro di S. Cecilia (Giovanni Augusto Cottalorda), left a series of travel writings. He was in Persia between 1736 and 1738 and traveled in Kermanšāh, where he visited Ṭāq-e Bostān. He also visited Bisotun, Hamadān, and Baghdad (Persia ovvero Secondo Viaggio di F. Leandro di Santa Cecilia Carmelitano Scalzo in Oriente scritto dal medesimo, e dedicato a Sua Altezza Serenissima il Principe Arciduca d’Austria, Rome, 1757 [which reproduced his drawing of Ṭāq-e Bostān]; Mesopotamia ovvero Terzo Viaggio di F. Leandro di Santa Cecilia Carmelitano Scalzo in Oriente scritto da lui medesimo, e dedicato a Sua Altezza Serenissima il Principe Leopoldo Arciduca d’Austria, Rome, 1757; B. Genito, “Un Carmelitano Scalzo del XVIII secolo: tra ideologia medievale e coscienza moderna del reale in alcune interpretazioni e disegni di resti archeologici,” La conoscenza dell’Asia e dell’Africa in Italia nei secoli XVIII e XIX, ed. by U. Marazzi and A. Gallotta, I/1, Naples, 1984, pp. 489-501; P. Orsatti, “Il Carmelitano Leandro di S. Cecilia, viaggiatore in Oriente (1731-1751),” in La conoscenza dell’Asia e dell’Africa in Italia nei secoli XVIII e XIX, ed. by U. Marazzi and A. Gallotta, II/2, Naples, 1985, pp. 509-31”).

The Qajar period. At the beginning of the 18th century Italian men of letters began to show a certain interest in Persia. Antonio Ranieri Biscia (1780-1839), a native of Forlì, traveled in Iran and translated several Persian works, although he apparently left no account of his long journey in Persia from 1804-14 (M. Nallino, “Un orientalista dei primordi del sec. XIX: Antonio Ranieri Biscia (1780-1839),” in A Francesco Gabrieli. Studi Orientalistici offerti nel suo sessantesimo compleanno, Rome, 1964, pp. 175-88). An important travel account was written by the professional traveler Gaetano Osculati (1808-84), who was with Felice De Vecchi in Iran in 1841. During his travels he visited Tabriz, Solṭāniye, Tehran, Shiraz, Bušehr, and Hormuz (De Vecchi, Giornale di carovana o Viaggio dell’Armenia, Persia ed Arabia fatto negli anni 1841-42 da Felice De Vecchi e G. Osculati, Milan, 1847. Bandini, Pietro, Un viaggio nella Persia e nelle Indie Orientali intrapreso dal chiarissimo signore Gaetano Osculati negli anni 1841 e 1842, Udine, 1845).

The new political conditions under the reign of Nāṣer al-Din Shah (1848-96) brought about a change in the Italian approach towards Iran, and renewed attention was given to the diplomacy which had been interrupted at the beginning of the 18th century. The first attempt to conclude a treaty was made in 1848 by Romualdo Tecco, a Sardinian minister in Constantinople, who had a good knowledge of Persian and was clearly interested in Persian matters (G. D’Erme, “Romualdo Tecco (1802-1867). Diplomatico sardo «Orientalista»,” Annali di Ca’Foscari 9/3, 1970, pp. 107-22). Diplomatic relations flourished particularly in the second half of the century, especially after the Persian embassy to Europe in 1856 of Farroḵ Khan Amin al-Molk. This ambassador met the plenipotentiary minister of the kingdom of Sardinia, S. Villamarina, in Paris and in 1857 signed an important treaty; this was followed in 1862 by an embassy to the court of Nāṣer al-Din Shah headed by Marcello Cerruti. The details of this diplomatic mission were recorded by the naturalist Filippo De Filippi (1814-67), who took part in it together with other scientists (Michele Lessona, Giacomo Doria, Camillo Ferrati). An important album of photographs also records this embassy (F. De Filippi, “Note di un viaggio in Persia nel 1862,” Il Politecnico 20, 1864, pp. 28-63, 168-222; 22, 1864, pp. 5-37, 233-54; 23, 1864, 233-45; 25, 1865, pp. 5-32, 154-94; 26, 1865, pp. 5-32, 261-76; idem, Note di un viaggio in Persia, Milan, 1865; A. M. Piemontese, “Le relazioni tra Italia e Persia nel XIX secolo. I trattati del 1857 e del 1862,” Oriente Moderno 48, 1968, pp. 537-66; idem, “Le relazioni fra Italia e Persia nel XIX secolo. La corrispondenza reale,” Oriente Moderno 49, 1969, pp. 1-20; idem, “Profilo delle relazioni italo-persiane del XIX secolo,” Il Veltro 14/1-2, 1970, pp. 1-20; idem, “The Photograph Album of the Diplomatic Mission to Persia (Summer 1862),” East and West 22, 3-4, 1972, pp. 249-311; G. Branca, “I viaggiatori italiani del nostro secolo. C) Viaggi in diverse parti dell’Asia: Brocchi nella Siria e nell’Egitto, Osculati e De Vecchi in Persia, Dandolo in Palestina e nel Sudan, De Bianchi nel Curdistan, Botta nelle rovine di Ninive, la Missione italiana in Persia nel 1862, Gavazzi a Bucara, Guzmani nell’Arabia, gli Italiani in Palestina. Conclusione,” Bollettino della Reale Società Geografica Italiana 3, 1869, pp. 345-409). In 1863 the Lombard patriot Modesto Gavazzi (1828-68), together with P. Litta and F. Meazza, undertook an adventurous journey to Bukhara in search of silkworms. Gavazzi was taken prisoner by the local khan and left a vivid account of his year in detention there (Gavazzi, I prigionieri italiani a Bocara. Lettera di Modesto Gavazzi al comm. Cristoforo Negri, Turin, 1864; idem, Alcune notizie raccolte in un viaggio a Bucara, Milan, 1865). During the same period, A. de Bianchi traveled in Armenia and Kurdistan and wrote a travel account, Viaggi in Armenia, Kurdistàn e Lazistàn (Milan, 1863), while Giuseppe Anaclerio recorded his journey in his work, La Persia descritta. Relazione di un viaggio (Naples, 1868).

In 1857 Captain Enrico Andreini from Lucca went to Persia, where he worked as an instructor in the Qajar army in which he served until 1886. Andreini wrote a series of reports to the Italian Foreign Ministery that were rightly considered an invaluable source on Qajar history. There are 437 reports, about 100 having been lost, which give details not only on the army but also on the economy, commerce, and administrative structure of the Iranian state in this period (A. M. Piemontese, “An Italian Source for the History of Qajar Persia: the Reports of General Enrico Andreini (1871-1886),” East and West 19/1-2, 1969, pp. 147-75; idem, “L’esercito persiano nel 1874-75 organizzazione e riforma secondo E. Andreini,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 49/1-2, 1975, pp. 71-117). Another Italian instructor of the Qajar Army was Antenore Perini (1855-1934), who was sent by the Austrians on a diplomatic and military mission to Persia from 1882 to 1884. He left a rich collection of his travels with some photos (Un trentino alla corte dello Scià di Persia. Le memorie di Antenore Perini 1882-1884, ed. by Mir Gialal Hashemi, Trento, 1997).

The 20th century. The end of the Qajar period and the constitutional period produced a certain interest in Italy and occasioned further travels by Italians to Persia. Such interest is shown by the reports of the various ambassadors, especially between 1907 and 1914, including those of Camillo Romano Avezzana (ambassador from 1907 to 1910), Giulio Cesare Montagna (1910-14) and Carlo Arrivabene Valenti (1914-18). These reports offer important data on the changes in Iran during this period (Maria Gabriella Pasqualini, L’Italia e le prime esperienze costituzionali in Persia (1905-1919), Naples, 1992; see also A. Rizzini, “Un paese in agonia: la Persia,” La Lettura 12, 1912, pp. 150-58).

During the period of Reżā Shah, Italian interest was frequently scientific. Ardito Desio, for example, explored the region and prepared an important report on the mountains of the Zarda Kuh in the Zagros and on Mount Damāvand (Desio, “Una spedizione italiana ai monti della Persia,” Nuova Antologia 49, August 1934, pp. 338-51; idem, “Appunti geografici e geologici sulla catena dello Sardeh Kuh in Persia,” Memorie Geologiche e Geografiche di Giotto Danielli 4, 1933-34, pp. 139-67; G. Polvara, P. Righini, “La spedizione alpinistica italiana in Persia,” L’Illustrazione Italiana 60, 1933, II, pp. 562-63, 700-701; G. Polvara, A. Desio, A. Prosperi, L. Bonzi, “La spedizione italiana ai Monti della Persia 1933,” Bollettino del Club Alpino Italiano 43/76, 1936, pp. 39-78). Father Giuseppe Messina investigated the ancient religious background of Iran during his travels (Messina, “Viaggio in Iran. I. Impressioni e riflessioni. II. Iran antico. Iran moderno,” La Civiltà Cattolica 88, 1937, I, pp. 227-42, 319-31). The participation of a large group of Italians in the construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway (1939) resulted in various Italian reports, such as that written by P. M. Bardi (“La ferrovia transiriana [sic, for transiraniana],” L’Ingegnere 1935, pp. 905-17). This new approach to Iran required a certain regional knowledge of the country, exhibited, for example, by Giuseppe Capra, who wrote an account about Mashad and the Persian Gulf (Capra, “Mashhed la città santa sciita [Persia],” Le Vie d’Italia e del Mondo 2, 1934, pp. 223-37; idem, “Una via maestra tra occidente e oriente. Il Golfo persico,” Le Vie d’Italia e del Mondo I, 1933, pp. 1057-84; idem, “Il Golfo persico e gli interessi italiani,” Rassegna Italiana 17, 1934, pp. 561-75 and 649-70; see also V. Pozzi, “Vagabondo nel Tagikistan,” L’Illustrazione italiana 60, 1933, I, pp. 808-9). Such writings were paralleled by a new political and cultural stance taken during the period of fascism. This involved also a revival of the classical and medieval glories of the East. Capra, for example, retraced the old Italian merchant journeys in Persia (“La ‘strada dei Genovesi’ nell’Asia Minore,” Le Vie del Mondo 1, 1933, pp. 939-70; see also A. Cipolla, Sulle orme di Alessandro Magno [dal Granico al Caspio], Verona, 1933). This kind of revivalism appeared again after World War II and obviously involved the rediscovery of Marco Polo (A. Gaudio, “Sulle tracce di Marco Polo. II. Dall’Anatolia Orientale all’Iran. III. Iran Meridionale e Belucistan. VI. La via del ritorno,” L’Universo 35, 1955, pp. 250-56, 369-82, 892-904). During this period the more traditional travelers also continued to travel to Iran. Gastone Tanzi traveled in Afghanistan during the reign of Amān Allāh and left a very vivid account of his journey (G. Tanzi, Viaggi in Afghanistan, Milan, 1929; for Afghanistan in this period, see also C. M. Pecorella, Fardà. Tavolozza di Afghanistan sotto l’Emiro Amanullah, Palermo, 1930). Other travelers were influenced by the strong ideological background of the time (A. Cipolla, Asia Centrale Sovietica contro India. Viaggio in Turchestan ed Afghanistan, Milan, 1935; see also idem, Sino al limite segreto del mondo. Per terra e per aria dall’Oriente all’India, Viaggi terrestri ed aerei nel Vicino Oriente. Iran, Afghanistan, India, Florence, 1937; idem, Sugli altipiani dell’Iran, Milan, 1926).

Some journals, like Le Vie d’Italia e del Mondo, became an important means of publishing travel accounts and descriptions of Iran in Italy, even after World War II (see e.g., O. Maier, “Attraverso la Persia settentrionale,” Le Vie del Mondo 13, 1951, pp. 801-18; idem, “Teheran capitale dell’Iran,” Le Vie del Mondo 13, 1951, pp. 1279-92; idem, “Attraverso la Persia meridionale,” Le Vie del Mondo 14, 1952, pp. 987-1002). After World War II authors were struck by the social and economic conditions in Persia. Vincenzo Bianchini, for example, left an impressive account of the rural society of Iran during the reign of Moḥammad Reżā Shah which has been compared with the work of Jamālzādeh for its realism (V. Bianchini, L’Acqua del Diavolo, Bari, 1962; N. L. Tornesello, Šurābād e il “realismo” di Seyyed Moḥammad ‘Ali Jamālzāde. Funzione letteraria e veridicità storica, Rome, 2000). This interest was paralleled by the anthropological approach to Persia of travelers such as G. C. Castelli Gattinara (L’Islam dei nomadi afghani. Note di viaggio, Rome, 1967 and I nomadi Kuci dell’Afghanistan, Rome, 1970). The revolution of 1979 and the emergence in Iran of the new Islamic Republic resulted in a particular interest in the country on the part of journalists. Filippo Bertotti, using the nickname Filippo Rumi, has written several articles in the newspaper Il Manifesto. His “Sciismo e politica nell’Iran contemporaneo” (in L’Iran e i suoi schermi, Venice, 1990, pp. 29-39) contains a memoir that represents a synthesis of his experiences in that country. More recently, the role of several Italians involved in Afghanistan as volunteers was evidenced by books in which they described their experiences. A representative example is the Storie da Kabul, (Turin, 2003) by Alberto Cairo, who worked as a physical therapist in the orthopedic centers of the Red Cross in Afghanistan.

(2) Qajar Period

There is ample evidence of an Italian presence in Persia throughout the Qajar period, when many Italians went to work there as physicians, military advisors, or merchants. They left little written testimony of their Persian experience until the second half of the 19th century, when the number of Italians who went to Persia increased, and with them the bulk of recorded data. The most salient aspect of the accounts written by Italians who lived in Persia between 1850 and the turn of the century is that almost all of them had official assignments. In fact, most of the Italian material published are the reports of military officials who were in Persia to train the Persian army, of natural scientists researching the zoological world, or of financial advisors to the Persian government.

The first Italian travelers who left significant accounts of their visits to Qajar Persia were the members of the 1862 mission, which included diplomats, scientists and military officers. The greatest contributions in terms of scientific articles and general information about Persia were brought by Filippo de Filippi (q.v.) and the physician Michele Lessona (1823-1894). Lessona was particularly interested in zoology and his essays are basically devoted to natural life in Persia, such as its landscapes and “magnificent nature [that is] so great and excellent that I cannot describe it properly” (letter written in 1865, in Camerano, pp. 25-26). He also became very interested in the Bahai religion, so much so that he wrote a book on it (I Babi).

In the second half of the 19th century, Qajar governors employed Italian officers both as teachers at the Dār al-Fonun (q.v.) in Tehran and as advisors within the ranks of the military. The first Italian officer who left a written account of Persia was Count Luigi Serristori (1793-1857), in whose brief account one finds information on Persian geographical and economic conditions, on the trade and commerce, as well as many comments on Persian people with whom the author sympathized, because they were “repressed by the monarch’s endless tyranny” (p. 211), but whom he also accused of barbarous customs and of falsehood and vanity, although they were also “intelligent, quick learning, cordial, and merry tempered” (p. 214).

More substantial and responsible are the accounts by two other officers, Alessandro de Bianchi and Enrico Andreini. De Bianchi was a captain of the Italian army, who served in the Ottoman armed forces in the 1850s and came into contact with the Persians who lived on the borders between the Ottoman and the Qajar domains. Most of de Bianchi’s observations concerned the Kurds, whose way of life he described in detail, especially their bellicose recreations.

De Bianchi presented himself as an expert on Muslim manners and languages (p. 38) and enriched his narrative with historical notes, legends, anecdotes and linguistic annotations. Muslim women were another interesting topic for de Bianchi, who reflected on their ways and manners among the Turks, Armenians, Kurds and Persians. He scorned the overall confusion made by books on the Middle Eastern people, and he was particularly critical of the Christian missionaries (such as the Italian Father Maurizio Garzoni, author of the first vocabulary of the Kurdish language, who would antagonize everyone who professed a non-Christian religion; de Bianchi, p. 225). He also labeled the Christians who resided in the Levant as “ignorant, full of prejudices, fanatically attached to their religion and therefore hostile to other religions’ believers” (p. 226).

The Captain Enrico Andreini, who lived in Persia from 1857 until his death in 1895, was an instructor of the Persian army and also taught at the Dār al-Fonun. He was appointed general in 1872, soon after his proposal to the Italian governor to become the Italian correspondent for Persian affairs. His 437 reports are a very complete account of the most important Persian events in those crucial years. Andreini’s main concern was the reform of the Persian armed forces, and in 1864 he translated into Persian a French manual on infantry maneuvers (Ḥarakāt-e afwāj; see Piemontese, 1969, p. 156, and n. 14), one of the first works of this genre to be published in Persia. In May 1875 he also wrote in French a project of reform of the Persian army, which he addressed to Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, whom he highly esteemed. Andreini also had a great interest for the Central Asia question and devoted many dispatches to the analysis of the various components involved in the Great Game (q.v.), in which he showed his political and diplomatic acumen (see Piemontese, 1972).

Very little is known abut Giuseppe Anaclerio, who spent three years (1862-65) in Persia working in the army. His account, La Persia descritta, although much influenced by his prejudices and preconceptions about Persian civilization, nonetheless gives interesting descriptions of life in Persia. Particularly remarkable is his description of Tehran prisons, which he had the chance to visit.

Some 19th-century travelers to Persia went to investigate the Persian methods of silk-worm cultivation for the Italian government, such as Giulio Adamoli (1840-1926), an engineer and mathematician, who was extremely knowledgeable about Middle Eastern countries and who lived in Ḵoqand for about one year (1870). He only wrote some articles in which he described the Ḵoqand Khanate in great detail: its mosques and sanctuaries, the bazaar, the Khan’s residence and private dwellings, the administrative system, the local customs and celebrations, including the ceremony for the circumcision of a dignitary’s son and some ruhawzi performances. He was very critical of the conditions of women and ascribed all the faults of Ḵoqand’s society to the “most fanatic and stubborn ignorance” (“Un’escursione,” p. 442) and to the superstition that abided among every social group.

More ponderous is the account written by Eteocle Lorini (1805-1919), a professor of Financial Sciences at the University of Pavia who spent the years 1897-98 in Persia. His extensive monograph, La Persia, covers a variety of topics, ranging from religion to political institutions, from the world of work and business to that of art and literature, from the public realm to the private. It is an interesting, readable guidebook, in which Lorini showed his familiarity with, and knowledge of, both past and present Persia. His chapters on Persian administrative hierarchy is a model of clarity and accuracy, as are his economic and financial observations, which reveal both his wit and capacity for perceiving and analyzing the complex Persian situation. Another outstanding aspect of Lorini’s study is a collection of authoritative assertions aimed at correcting and eliminating many prejudices about Persia and her people. He contradicted the common Western bad opinion about Muslim education (p. 103). He also had a series of provocative assertions on Persian women, whom he described as the sovereigns of Persia, happy with their position in the harem, and protected by Muslim law (pp. 107-9). He is also the author of reports on Persian commerce (Lorini, 1887, 1888, 1983).

More extensive was the Persian experience of Carlo Chiari, who had previously studied Persian and other Asian and African languages at the Institute of Oriental Languages in Paris. At the turn of the century he went to Persia and entered the Persian financial services under the directorship of the Belgian Josef Naus. In 1910 he was appointed director of customs of Persian Kurdistan, where he lived for about thirty years. His autobiography, Notti persiane, describes at length the Kurdish way of life and the manners of Christian populations dwelling on the fringes of the Qajar realm; but it is also rich in episodes regarding the eventful period of civil war in western Persia in the first decades of the 19th century.

The writings of Italian travelers in Qajar Persia reveal some common characteristics: the majority of the writers showed a sympathetic attitude towards the country they visited and its people. Though they were critical of certain events and situations, they were usually not affected by the prejudices and preconceptions of the time; moreover, they were eager to make a good impression in the foreign country. This attitude and the way it is expressed in these accounts is important as these writings fostered other Italian interests towards Persia and Persian studies. They offered information about Persian matters which were virtually unknown in Europe, such as the richness of Persian zoological and botanical life, the organization of the Persian army, and the life of the people who lived on the periphery of the Persian world.

Moreover, the material provided about Persian politics benefited from the authorship of politically impartial observers; Italy had no immediate or direct interest in the rivalry among European powers, for it was too small and too weak a state to entertain such ambitions.


E. Alberi, Relazioni degli ambasciatori veneti al Senato durante il sec. XVI, Serie III, Relazioni di Costantinopoli, 3 vols, Florence, 1840, 1844, 1855.

P. Amat di S. Filippo, Studi biografici e bibliografici sulla storia della geografia in Italia pubblicati in occasione del III° Congresso Geografico Internazionale, vol. I, Biografia dei viaggiatori colla bibliografia delle loro opere, Rome, 1882; Appendice, Rome 1884.

Idem, Gli illustri viaggiatori italiani con una antologia dei loro scritti, Rome, 1885.

J. Aubin, “L’avènement des Safavides reconsidéré (Études Safavides III),” Moyen Orient et Océan Indien 5, 1988, pp. 247-59.

Idem, “Chroniques persanes et relations italiennes: notes sur les sources narratives du regne de Šâh Esmâʿil Ier,” Studia Iranica 24/2, 1995, pp. 247-59.

F. Babinger, “Angiolello, Giovanni Maria,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Rome, 1961, III, pp. 275-78.

R.-H. Bautier, “Les relations économiques des occidentaux avec les Pays d’Orient au Moyen ŕge. Point de vue et documents,” in M. Mollat, ed., Sociétés et compagnies de commerce en Orient et dans l’Océan Indien, Paris, 1970, pp. 263-351.

G. Berchet, La repubblica di Venezia e la Persia, Turin, 1865. M. Bernardini, “Tamerlano, i Genovesi e il favoloso Axalla,” in Europa e Islam tra i secoli XIV e XVI, Europe and Islam between the 14th and 16th centuries, ed. by M. Bernardini et al., Naples, 2002, I, pp. 391-426.

P. G. Borbone, Storia di Mar Yahballaha e di Rabban Sauma. Un orientale in Occidente ai tempi di Marco Polo, Turin, 2000.

N. Broc, La géographie de la Renaissance. 1420-1620, Paris, 1986.

I. Ciampi, “Viaggiatori italiani men noti,” Nuova Antologia di lettere, arti e scienze 26, 1874, pp. 863-66, 870-79; 27, 1874, pp. 74-83.

A. Del Piero, Della vita e degli studi di Giovanni Ramusio, Venice, 1902.

P. Donazzolo, I viaggiatori veneti minori. Studio bio-bibliografico, Rome [1929].

J. W. J. Fischel, “A new Latin source on Tamerlane’s conquest of Damascus, 1400-1401: B. de Mignanelli’s ’Vita Tamerlani’ 1416.

Translated into English with an Introduction and a Commentary,” Oriens, 9, 1956, pp. 201-32.

S. Franchi, L’itinerario di Marco Polo in Persia, Turin, 1941.

A. Gabriel, Marco Polo in Persien, Vienna, 1963. G. Golubovich, “Fr. Giovanni Colonna di San Vito viaggiatore in Oriente (c. 1260-1343-44),” Archivum franciscanum historicum 11, 1918, pp. 32-46.

Idem, Biblioteca bio-bibliografica della Terra Santa e dell’Ordine Francescano, Quaracchi, 1906-28.

A. Knobler, “The Rise of Tīmūr and Western Diplomatic Response (1390-1405),” JRAS, 1995, pp. 341-49.

R. S. Lopez, “Nuove luci sugli italiani in Estremo Oriente prima di Colombo,” Studi colombiani nel V centenario della nascita III, Genoa, 1952, pp. 337-98.

G. Masturzi, Dal Mar Rosso al Caspio, Bologna, 1928.

G. A. Menavino, I costumi et la vita de Turchi di Gio: Antonio Menavino Genovese da Vultri, Florence, 1551.

Mostra dei navigatori veneti del Quattrocento e del Cinquecento. Catalogo a cura della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana e dell’Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Venice, 1957.

L. Olschki, Storia letteraria delle scoperte geografiche, Florence, 1937.

G. B. Parks, The Contents and sources of Ramusio’s Navigationi, New York, 1955.

J. Paviot, “Buscarello de Ghisolfi, marchand génois intermédiaire entre la Perse Mongole et la Chrétienté latine (fin du XIIIe début du XIVe s.), in La storia dei Genovesi, Genoa, 1991, pp. 107-17.

Idem, “Les marchands italiens dans l’Iran Mongol,” in D. Aigle, ed., L’Iran face à la domination mongole, Tehran, 1997, pp. 71-86.

P. Pelliot, “Les mongoles et la papauté II, I, Ascelin,” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 24, 1924, pp. 335-62.

L. Petech, “Les marchands italiens dans l’empire Mongol,” JA 250, 1960, pp. 549-74.

Idem, “Ascelino,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani IV, Rome, 1962, pp. 373-74.

A. M. Piemontese, Bibliografia italiana dell’Iran, 2 vols., Naples, 1982.

Idem, “Beltramo Mignanelli senese biografo di Tamerlano,” in M. Bernardini, ed., La civiltà Timuride come fenomeno internazionale (Oriente Moderno 15 [77]/2), Rome, 1996, I, pp. 213-26.

Idem, “Le glosse sul Vangelo persiano del 1338 e il Codex Cumanicus,” Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae 8, 2001, pp. 313-49.

O. Pinto, “Viaggiatori veneti in Oriente dal secolo XIII al XVI,” in A. Pertusi, ed., Venezia e l’Oriente fra tardo Medioevo e Rinascimento, Venice, 1966, pp. 389-401.

M. Polo, Milione, ed. by V. Bertolucci Pizzorusso and G. R. Cardona, Milan, 1975.

J. Reinhard, Angiolello historien des Ottomans et des Persans, Buenos Aires and Besançon, 1913.

F. Richard, “L’Apport des missionaires europeens à la connaissance de l’Iran en Europe et de l’Europe en Iran,” in J. Calmard, ed., Études Safavides, Paris and Tehran, 1993, pp. 247-49.

J. Richard, La papauté et les missions d’Orient au Moyen ŕge (XIIIe-XIVe siècles), Rome, 1977, pp. 157-63.

C. Serena, Hommes et choses en Perse, Paris, 1883.

F. Surdich, “Colonna, Giovanni,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani XXVII, Rome, 1982, pp. 337-38.

G. Tanzi, Viaggi in Afghanistan, Milan, 1929.

[Gir. Vecchietti,] “Della sua peregrinazione d’Oriente,” Ms. Athens, Gennadios Library, no. 73, foll. 48-160.

U. Tucci, “Bembo Ambrogio,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani VIII, Rome, 1966, pp. 101-2.

Idem, “Mercanti veneziani in Asia lungo l’itinerario poliano,” in Venezia e l’Oriente, ed. by L. Lanciotti, Venice, 1987, pp. 307-21.

J. E. Woods, The Aqquyunlu. Clan, Confederation, Empire, revised and expanded, Salt Lake City, 1999.

S. Yerasimos, Les voyageurs dans l’Empire ottoman (XIVe-XVIe siècle), Ankara, 1991.

P. Zurla, Di Marco Polo e degli altri viaggiatori più illustri. Dissertazioni del P. Ab. D. Placido Zurla con appendice sulle antiche mappe idrografiche lavorate in Venezia, Venice, 1818-19.

Giulio Adamoli, “Un’escursione nel Kokan [sic], Aprile-Maggio 1870,” Nuova Antologia di lettere, arti e scienze 22, 1873, pp. 411-48.

Idem, “Una spedizione militare in Asia Centrale, Agosto-Settembre 1890,” ibid., pp. 917-53.

Giuseppe Anaclerio, La Persia descritta: relazione di un viaggio, Naples, 1868.

Enrico Andreini, “Relazione sull’industria ed il commercio della Persia del Generale Andreini,” Bollettino consolare 2, 1884, pp. 493-536.

Alessandro de Bianchi, Viaggio in Armenia, Kurdistàn, Lazistàn, Milan, 1863.

Lorenzo Camerano, “Michele Lessona, notizie biografiche e bibliografiche,” Bolettino dei Musei di Zoologia e di Anatomia Comparata della R. Università di Torino 9, no. 188, 1894.

Carlo Chiari, Notti persiane: Mezzo secolo di vita sugli altipiani dell’Iran, Rome, 1946. Maurizio Garzoni, Grammatica e vocabolaria della kurda … , Rome, 1787.

Michele Lessona, I Babi, Conferenza tenuta alla Societa Filotecnica di Torino addi 5 e 12 dicembre 1880, Torino, 1881.

Eteocle Lorini, “Commercio in Persia,” L’Esplorazione commerciale 2, 1887, p. 374.

Idem, “La produzione della seta in Persia,” ibid., 3, 1888, pp. 151-52.

Idem, La Persia economica contemporanea e la sua questione monetaria: Monografia fatta per incarico del Ministero del tesoro (1897-1898), Rome, 1900; repr., Pahlavi commemorative reprint series, Tehran, 1976.

Idem, “Da Roma a Teheran: Note di un viaggio in Persia,” Nuova Antologia di letter, arti e scienze, no. 84, 1899, pp. 327-47.

Idem, “La Persia all’esposizione mondiale,” Minerva 5, 1983, pp. 461-62.

Idem, “Economia e finanza e commercio della Persia” ibid., pp. 468-69.

Angelo M. Piemontese “An Italian Source for the History of Qāğār Persia: The Reports of General Enrico Andreini (1871-1886),” East and West 19, 1969, pp. 45-79; tr. Ḵosrow Fāniān as “Yak maʾḵaḏ-e tāriḵi dar bāra-ye Qājāriya: gozārešhā-ye Ženeral Enriko Āndreʾini,” Barrasihā-ye tāriḵi 9, 1974, pp. 37-70.

Idem, “La questione centroasiatica in E. Andreini (1872-’86),” Il Veltro 16, 1972, pp. 475-530.

Idem, “L’esercito persiano nel 1874-75: organizzazione e riforma secondo E. Andreini,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 49, 1975, pp. 71-117.

Luigi Serristori, “Notizie geografiche e statistiche della Persia: Memoria del colonnello conte L. Serristori,” Annali Universali di Statistica 65, 1840, pp. 207-15.


The only comprehensive bibliographical repertory of studies on Iranian subjects, both pre-Islamic and Islamic, published in Italy is the Bibliografia Italiana dell’Iran by Angelo Michele Piemontese (1982). Though providing a very informative guide to the subject, it cannot be regarded as complete due to the vast time span (1462-1982) that it covers. Some information on Iranian studies in the 19th century can be found in a little-known article by Italo Pizzi (1897a), which outlines the course of Iranian studies in his time. The half-century 1861-1911 was not particularly fruitful for Iranian studies, so much so that in 1913 L. Bonelli could summarize the results in a series of brief notes. In 1935 Giuseppe Gabrieli published a bibliographical study of Oriental studies, which included Iranian studies. Subsequently Francesco Gabrieli (1950) briefly discussed Iranian studies in his “Cinquant’anni di studi orientali in Italia,” while Alessandro Bausani devoted an article to the studies that had appeared between 1940 and 1950 (Bausani, 1950) and provided the chapter on Iran in a volume detailing the Italian contribution to Oriental studies (Bausani 1962). Two informative surveys of a more general scope were the article by Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin (1962) on ancient Iranian studies and the book by Adriano Valerio Rossi (1975) discussing the bibliography of Middle Persian linguistics between 1966 and 1973. Iranian studies, both pre-Islamic and Islamic, were the subject of works by Giorgio Raimondo Cardona (1970) and Angelo Michele Piemontese (1982, 1988); these are rich in citations of earlier bibliographies. For more recent contributions of Italian scholars, one may consult, among others, the important bibliographies by Ursula Weber and Josef Wiesehöfer (1996), focused on the Achaemenid period and by Gunner B. Mikkelsen (1996) on Manicheism. Classical studies and other related fields are not considered here. On Zoroaster’s character as represented by authors who flourished during the Renaissance and early modern period, one may profitably consult the first volume of the work by Michael Stausberg (1998).

Although Italian contacts with Iran date from ancient times, scientific interest in pre-Islamic Iran cannot be traced earlier than the second half of the eighteenth century. Early works which touched on the Avestan (“Zend”) language were published by Lorenzo Hervás (1735-1809; e.g., Hervás, 1767). Also, the discoveries of Anquetil Duperron (q.v.) found an echo in the journal Novelle letterarie pubblicate in Firenze as early as 1762. But these were isolated cases. The first Italian scholar to study Iranian languages in depth was the philologist Giacomo Lignana (1827-91), who took part in the embassy, which the newly unitified Kingdom of Italy sent in 1862 to the Qajar court. Lignana was both a scholar and politician (he served as counselor to one of the main builders of the modern Italian state, Camillo Benso Count of Cavour), and had studied Indian languages under Christian Lassen and Iranian languages under Friederich von Spiegel. Professor of historical linguistics (“Lingue e letterature comparate”), first in Naples (1861-71), and then in Rome (from 1871), he was to open the way not only to the teaching of Persian language and literature but also to the philological and linguistic study of other Iranian languages. Despite his friendship with Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, a man considered the founder of Italian linguistic studies, Lignana opposed his idea of separating the teaching of linguistics from literary studies, and succeeded in maintaining his Roman chair as the only one where both subjects could be taught. His unpublished papers on Iranian subjects are now preserved in the Fondo Pullé of the Italian National Library in Florence (Dovetto, 1989 and 1991). Ascoli himself wrote a number of contributions on Old Persian, as well as on other aspects of Iranian languages, although Iranian was far from being his main interest. Almost a generation later Leone Caetani (1869-1935), well known as a scholar of Islam and author of the monumental work Annali dell’ Islam, took an interest in pre-Islamic Iran, although it was limited to the fate of Christianity in that region (Caetani, 1906).

The first Italian scholar to entirely devote himself to Iranian studies was Italo Pizzi (1849-1920). From 1885 onwards he taught Iranian subjects at the University of Turin, first as Chair of Persian language and literature, then teaching Iranian philology as well. He was more a man of letters than a scholar in the modern sense of the word, not being influenced in the least by the great achievements attained by European philology and historical linguistics in that century. He did, however, write a grammar of the two known Old Iranian languages (1897), and translated passages from the Avesta (1914) and occasional excerpts from Pahlavi literature. A less known scholar, also active between the 19th and 20th century was Francesco (Franz) Cannizzaro (1867-1914; q.v.) who met an untimely death at the age of forty-six. He published a translation of the third chapter of the Vidēvdād (1913), but his main contribution to Iranian studies, the complete translation of this same book, was put together from his handwritten notes by his father, Tommaso, and I. Pizzi, and appeared in 1916.

Two linguists born at the end of the 19th century were bound to play a very active role in establishing Iranian languages as an independent field of study in Italy: Vittore Pisani (1899-1991) and more importantly, Antonino Pagliaro (1898-1973). Pisani’s interest in Iranian studies was only secondary, a small component of his broader interests which focused mainly on Indo-European linguistics and Indian languages. Conversely, one of Pagliaro’s main fields of interest was Iranian studies, to which he contributed widely. He had studied ancient and Middle Iranian languages under the renowned German scholar Christian Bartholomae (q.v.) in Münster. After returning to Rome, he taught Filologia Iranica (Iranian philology) for many years while officially in charge of the chair called Glottologia (general linguistics) at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” In the field of Iranian studies, Pagliaro’s main interest was the Book of Pahlavi, though he also contributed a number of important articles on Old Iranian languages, on the Zoroastrian religion, and on the so-called irano-graeca, that is, Iranian loanwords in the works of Greek authors (see Belardi, 1992, pp. 75-78). Particularly interesting are his articles in the field of Middle Iranian (such as the contributions to the study of the Middle Persian juridical vocabulary) and his in-depth study of the history of the game of chess. Very early in his life, Pagliaro began the study of the Book of Pahlavi, a field in which he was to become one of the main experts of his age. At the age of 26, he prepared an edition of the Ayādgār ī Zarērān (1925), Two years later he published a translation of the same text as well as of the Kārnāmag ī Ardaxšīr ī Pābagān in a series meant for a wider literary public. Later in his life he edited the Wizārišn ī čatrang (1951), a text which in 1936 had been the subject of a dissertation by his pupil and subsequently teaching assistant, Mario Lucidi. The same text has recently been the subject of a detailed study by Antonio Panaino (1999). Though mainly interested in the non-religious Pahlavi texts, Pagliaro also wrote an important synthesis of pre-Islamic Iranian literature for a volume improperly named La letteratura persiana (“Persian literature”), which he wrote together with Alessandro Bausani, who was responsible for the Islamic section (cf. Belardi, 1992).

Among Pagliaro’s students, it was Walter Belardi who took up the task of continuing Iranian studies in Rome. A specialist in historical and general linguistics, like his teacher, Belardi always considered Iranian, and more particularly Middle Iranian, as one of his favorite fields of research. Among his main contributions to the study of the Pahlavi texts we may instance his significant edition of the first two chapters of the Ardā Wīrāz nāmag (1979). Two years earlier he had published the important, but not sufficiently well-known volume which goes under the title of Studi mithraici e mazdei, in which he discussed problems related to the figure of Mithra, theology and astronomy in the Zoroastrian calendar, the corpus of the Avestan Yašts, and the manuscript tradition of the Bundahišn. Not least among his merits was his ability to transmit his passion for Iranian studies to a number of his former students. Walter Belardi shares with Giancarlo Bolognesi, a pupil of Vittore Pisani, an enthusiasm for the Armenian language. Both have published important articles on Iranian loanwords in Armenian, but Bolognesi’s book on the dialectology of Iranian loans in Armenian (1960) is especially significant for this field. Among the earlier studies on pre-Islamic Iran, the contribution by the Arabist Carlo Alfonso Nallino (1872-1938) is particularly stimulating. He profoundly studied the translation movement in the caliphate period and the character of Ebn al-Moqaffaʿ (q.v.), and while engaged in this he wrote a seminal work on the role played by Middle Persian in transmitting a number of Greek texts to the Arabs (1922).

Father Giuseppe Messina (1893-1951) belonged to the same generation as Pagliaro. He studied under Josef Markwart (Marquart) and edited posthumously a few of his mentor’s works (inter alia Markwart, 1930, 1931). Active at the Pontificio Istituto Biblico in Rome, he bestowed his private library—containing many of Markwart’s books—on the Institute, where they are still preserved. In the field of pre-Islamic Iran he dedicated many efforts to the understanding of Zoroastrian eschatology, publishing an important essay on the Saošiānt- (1932) and editing the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg, thus naming the text which he had obtained by collating a number of Middle Persian, New Persian and Pāzand texts belonging to the Jāmāspi tradition previously studied by Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, among others. He also studied with useful results the tradition relative to the Zoroastrian Magi and their connection with the Christian tradition (1930, 1933). In his later years Father Messina devoted himself to the study of a New Persian Diatesseron and was able to prove that this Harmony of the Gospels was translated from a Syriac original.

Though principally an Assyriologist, Giuseppe Furlani (1885-1963) also wrote extensively on the Elamite and Parthian civilizations, as well as on the Mandean religion and the modern Yazidis, the latter a subject also touched upon by the Islamist Michelangelo Guidi (1886-1946; cf. Piemontese, 1982, pp. 792-804 and passim). Another scholar of Islamic studies, Mario Grignaschi, has discovered and accurately described Arabic translations of important Sasanian-based texts such as the Kār-nāmag of Anōširavān and the Testament of Ardašir (1966). Moreover, he has studied the administrative reform of Ḵosrow I and the influence of Sasanian statecraft on Islamic practice (1970, 1976).

More at home in the field of art history, the orientalist Ugo Monneret de Villard (1881-1954) shared Messina’s interest in the Magi and keenly studied the various Oriental legends which contributed to the art of the establishing of the traditional image of the gospel Magi (1952). He also devoted his time to Manichean art, particularly to that religion in eastern areas. Though capable of making innovative contributions to the topics he tackled, his main field of interest remained art, and he wrote an interesting introduction to history of Iranian art of both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods (1954). Another art historian deeply interested in history was Mario Bussagli (1917-88), who worked at the school of Oriental studies of the University of Rome, specializing in Indian and Central Asian art and culture (1963, 1970). Though Italian scholars have not actively participated in the systematic investigation of Iranian numismatics, Alberto M. Simonetta and Bono Simonetta have produced a number of interesting studies mainly focused on the Parthian period.

The contribution of the school of religious studies of the University of Rome was also particularly important, both in volume and quality. Among the various scholars who wrote on Iranian and related subjects, several are particularly noteworthy. The first to take an active interest in Iranian religions was Uberto Pestalozza (1872-1966), who wrote mainly on Manicheism (1964), soon followed by Raffaele Pettazzoni (1883-1963), who was to analyze both Zoroastrianism and the Mithraic cult, publishing an informed and innovative volume on Zoroaster’s religion (1920). He was followed by Ugo Bianchi (1922-95), who studied Gnosticism and dualism with particular attention to the Iranian world (1958a, 1978). Mithraism, both in the Roman and in the Eastern world, was likewise central to his interests (1979). He also contributed greatly to our understanding of the question of Zurwanism. In fact, he devoted many articles and a thought-provoking volume to the question of Time in Iranian religion (1958b).

Alessandro Bausani (1921-88) is no doubt the most important Italian scholar of Islamic Iran. From 1957 he taught at the Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples from where he moved to the University “La Sapienza” of Rome in 1971. It is fair to state that every Italian Iranist has been his student, either directly or indirectly. Less well known is his contribution to the understanding of pre-Islamic Iran. His most important contribution to Iranian studies is the volume Persia Religiosa (1959) recently translated into English (2000), a seminal work in which he sets out to prove the trends of continuity in the discontinuity that characterize the Iranian religious world of both pre-Islamic and Islamic periods without surrendering to the then current nationalistic interpretation of religious history. He further underlined the contribution of Mesopotamian and Near Eastern thought to Iranian religion, a contribution which he understood as complementary to the Indo-European heritage. In the field of pre-Islamic Iran he also published an interesting booklet containing a complete translation of the Dādestān ī Mēnōg ī xrad (q.v.) and Čēdag andarz ī pōryōtkēšān (see ANDARZ) and excerpts from the Bundahišn and Dēnkard (qq.v.).

One of Italy’s more prominent orientalists, Giuseppe Tucci (1894-84) began his scholarly career with pre-Islamic Iran. His earliest publications concerned the second fargard of the Vidēvdād (1913-14) and the funerary customs of the ancient Persians (1914). Later he pursued interests in other fields of Oriental studies, but as President of IsMEO (now IsIAO), the Institute he led from 1947 to 1978, he returned to the Iranian world and launched major archeological and restoration programs in Iran. The IsMEO first sent an archeological mission to Ghazni in 1957, and then carried out substantial investigations and conservation works in Sistān (1959), at Persepolis and Isfahan (1964). (See below, vii and viii.)

Prof. Gherardo Gnoli (1937-), President of IsIAO, who at present holds a chair of Iranian Studies at the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” is the undisputed founder of contemporary pre-Islamic studies in Italy; he sponsored this field first as professor and rector of the Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples and subsequently in his present responsibilities.


Alessandro Bausani, “Les études d’iran-istique et turcologie en italie depuis 1941,” Archiv Orientální 19, 1951, pp. 85-93.

Idem, Testi religiosi zoroastriani, Rome, 1957.

Idem, La Persia religiosa. Da Zaratustra a Bahá’u’lláh, Milan, 1959; tr., Religion in Iran. From Zoroaster to Bahaδu’llah, New York, 2000.

Idem, “Iran,” in Contributo italiano alla conoscenza dell’Oriente. Repertorio bibliografico dal 1935 al 1958, Florence, 1962, pp. 195-202.

Alessandro Bausani and Antonino Pagliaro, La letteratura persiana, Milan, 1960. Walter Belardi, Studi mithraici e mazdei, Rome, 1977.

Idem, The Pahlavi Book of the Righteous Viraz I, Chapters I-II, Rome, 1979.

Idem, Antonino Pagliaro nel pensiero critico del novecento, Rome, 1992.

Ugo Bianchi, Il dualismo religioso. Saggio storico ed etnologico, Rome, 1958a.

Idem, Zamān-i Ōhrmazd. Lo zoroastrismo nelle sue origini e nella sua essenza, Turin, 1958b.

Idem, Selected Essays on Gnosticism, Dualism and Mysteriosophy, Leiden, 1978.

Idem, ed., Mysteria Mithrae: atti del Seminario internazionale su ‘La specificità storico-religiosa dei Misteri di Mithra, con particolare riferimento alle fonti documentarie di Roma e Ostia,’ Rome, 1979.

Luigi Bonelli, “Gli studi orientali in Italia durante il cinquantenario 1861-1911.

V. Persiano,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 5, 1913-27, pp. 215-18, 362, 372-73, 382-84, 386.

Giancarlo Bolognesi, Le fonti dialettali degli imprestiti iranici in armeno, Milan, 1960.

Mario Bussagli, La peinture de l’Asie centrale, Genoa, 1963.

Idem, Culture e civiltà dell’Asia Centrale, Turin, 1970.

Leone Caetani, “I popoli cristiani sottomessi ai Sassanidi,” Bessarione 11, 1906, pp. 232-54.

Francesco Cannizzaro, Il capitolo georgico dell’Avesta. Vendidad III, Messina, 1913.

Idem, Il Vendidad reso italiano sul testo zendico di C.F. Geldner … , Messina, 1916; 2nd ed., Milan, 1990.

Giorgio R. Cardona, “Studi di iranistica in Italia dal 1880 ad oggi,” Il Veltro. Rivista di civiltà italiana 14/1-2, 1970, pp. 99-107; repr. in Acta Iranica I, Leiden, 1974, pp. 348-59.

Francesca M. Dovetto, “Gli inediti di Giacomo Lignana,” Atti dell’Accademia Pontaniana, N.S. 38, 1989, pp. 51-62.

Idem, “Giacomo Lignana: studioso e uomo politico,” in Giacomo Lignana, Atti del Convegno Tronzano V. se 17 febbraio 1991, Tronzano Vercellese, s.d. [1992] pp. 7-19.

Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, “L’étude de l’iranien ancien au vingtième siècle,” Kratylos 7 1962, pp. 1-44.

Giuseppe Gabrieli, Bibliografia degli studi orientalistici in Italia dal 1912 al 1934, Rome, 1935.

Idem, “Cinquant’anni di studi orientali in Italia,” in C. Antoni and R. Mattioli, eds., Cinquant’anni di vita intellettuale italiana, Naples, 1951, II, pp. 89-111; repr. in F. Gabrieli, Dal mondo dell’Islàm, Milan and Naples, 1954, pp. 228-55.

Gherardo Gnoli, Ricerche storiche sul Sīstān antico, Rome, 1967.

Idem, The Idea of Iran: An Essay on its Origin, Rome, 1989.

Idem, Zoroaster in History, New York, 2000.

Mario Grignaschi, “Quelques spécimens de la littérature sassanide conservés dans le bibliothéques d’Istambul,” JA 214, 1966, pp. 1-142.

Idem, “La riforma tributaria di Ḫosro I e il feudalesimo sassanide,” in La Persia nel Medioevo, Rome, 1970, pp. 87-147.

Idem, “La ‘Siyāsatu-l-ʿāmmiya’ et l’influence iranienne sur la pensée politique islamique,” in Monumentum H.S. Nyberg III, Acta Iranica 6, Leiden, 1976, pp. 33-287.

Lorenzo Hervás, Vocabolario poliglotta con prolegomeni su più classi di lingue, Cesena, 1787.

Josef Markwart (Marquart), Das erste Kapitel der Gāthā uštavati (Jasna 43). Nach dem Tode der Verfassers herausgegeben von Ios. Messina S.I., Rome, 1930.

Idem, A Catalogue of the Provincial Capitals of Ērānshahr (Pahlavi Text, Version and Commentary), ed. G. Messina, Rome, 1931.

Giuseppe Messina, Der Ursprung der Magier und die zarathuštrische Religion, Rome, 1930.

Idem, “Il Saušyant nella tradizione iranica e la sua attesa,” Orientalia 1, 1932, pp. 149-76.

Idem, I Magi a Betlemme ed una predizione di Zoroastro, Rome, 1933.

Idem, Libro apocalittico persiano Ayātkār ī Žāmāspīk, Rome, 1939.

Idem, Diatesseron persiano, Rome, 1951.

Gunner B. Mikkelsen, Bibliographia Manichaica. A Comprehensive Bibliography of Manichaeism through 1996, Turnhout, 1997.

Ugo Monneret de Villard, Le leggende orientali sui Magi evangelici, Città del Vaticano, 1952.

Idem, L’arte iranica, Verona, 1954.

Carlo A. Nallino, “Tracce di opere greche giunte agli Arabi per trafila pehlevica,” in A Volume of Oriental Studies presented to Professor Edward G. Browne, Cambridge, 1922, pp. 345-63.

Antonino Pagliaro, “Il testo pahlavico Ayātkār-ī Zarērān,” Rendiconti della R. Accademia dei lincei, Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Serie sesta, 1, 1925, pp. 550-604.

Idem, Epica e romanzo nel Medioevo persiano, Florence, 1927.

Idem, “Il testo pahlavico del giuoco degli scacchi,” in Miscellanea G. Galbiati III, Milan, 1951, pp. 97-100.

Raffaele Pettazzoni, La religione di Zarathustra nella storia religiosa, Bologna, 1920.

Angelo M. Piemontese, Bibliografia italiana dell’Iran (1462-1982), Naples, 1982.

Idem, “Italian Scholarship in Iran (An Outline, 1557-1987),” Iranian Studies 20/3-4, 1988, pp. 99-130.

Italo Pizzi, Grammatica elementare dell’antico iranico (zendo e persiano antico) con antologia e vocabolario, Turin, 1897a.

Idem, “Gli studi iranici in Italia,” Studi italiani di filologia indo-iranica 1, 1897b, pp. 58-72.

Idem, Zarathustra. L’Avesta tradotto, premessa una introduzione storica, Milan, 1914.

Adriano Valerio Rossi, Linguistica mediopersiana 1966-1973, Naples, 1975.

Michael Stausberg, Faszination Zarathushtra. Zoroaster und die Europäische Religionsgeschichte der Frühen Neuzeit, Berlin and New York, 1998.

Giuseppe Tucci, “Osservazioni sul Fargard II del Vendīdād,” Giornale della Società Asiatica Italiana 26, 1913-14, pp. 243-51.

Idem, “Nota sul rito di seppellimento degli antichi persiani,” Rivista di Antropologia 19, 1914, pp. 315-19.

Ursula Weber and Josef Wiesehöfer, Das Reich der Achaimeniden eine Bibliographie, AMI, Erganzungsband 15, Berlin, 1996.


(1) General Survey

From the early 20th century on, Italians participated in the scholarly investigation of ancient Iranian history and culture, most notably Ugo Monneret de Villard, but Italy’s direct involvement in field archeology in Iran dates from relatively recent times. The first agreement between the Iranian Archeological Services and the Institute for the Middle and Far East (Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, IsMEO, q.v.) was reached only in 1959. Under its learned and dynamic director, Giuseppe Tucci (q.v.), IsMEO had already started archeological research in Pakistan (1956) and Afghanistan (1957).

Tucci played a leading role in Italian archeological investigations in Asia. He was primarily a scholar of the history and culture of Tibet and the religions of the Indian subcontinent and Eastern Asia, but he was also interested in Iranian cultures of the proto-historic, pre-Islamic, and Islamic periods (Scerrato, 1995, pp. 99-105). While not an archeologist, he keenly recognized that the discipline offered new sources of information for solving important cultural problems, especially in relation to the history of Buddhism. Through the combination of IsMEO’s organizational flexibility and his own ability to promote large-scale enterprises, Tucci succeeded in organizing a Center for Archeological Excavation and Research in Asia (Centro Scavi e Ricerche Archeologiche in Asia). From that point, diverse projects began to be initiated abroad. These were noted for thorough, up-to-date research methodologies in all aspects—stratigraphic methods of excavation, careful attention to the conservation of buildings and artifacts, and study of all of the archeological evidence, both material culture and paleozoological and paleobotanical remains; together, these approaches provided a holistic perspective that for its time was truly revolutionary. The publication of the results obtained were always timely, rich in descriptive details, and lavishly illustrated with plates of superb quality. They opened a new phase in the proper dissemination of archeological research.

In its early phases the Center received some support from the cultural organizations of the city of Turin, but from 1962 IsMEO became the sole support of its archeological work. In 1962 also, IsMEO made a commitment to architectural restoration, setting up a new Center for Conservation and Restoration (Centro per la Conservazione ed il Restauro) under the directorship of G. Zander.

Since 1960 the Center for Archeological Excavation has organized large-scale excavations in the region of Sistān (discussed separately; see SISTĀÚÚN ii.); the Center for Conservation carried out especially significant research at Persepolis and Isfahan.

Conservation and restoration work at Persepolis began in 1964. In 1965 it came under the guidance of the conservation expert Giuseppe Tilia, who worked with his wife, A. B. Pettersson-Tilia, on all aspects of preliminary site research, as well as on restoration (Tilia, 1972, 1978). Collaborating in the effort to lay down a comprehensive methodological framework were the two Center directors, G. Zander and D. Faccenna (of the Center for Archeological Excavation), and, from 1973, A. Shapur Shahbazi, who had founded The Institute of Achaemenid Research at Persepolis. This work of IsMEO’s Italian expedition has come to be recognized as a fundamental contribution to clarification and verification, following the American and Iranian excavations. The following achievements of the Tilias are especially noteworthy: (1) complete investigation of the Terrace Wall (Tilia, 1978, p. 1 ff.); (2) discovery that the two orthostats bearing audience scenes, which were found in the Treasury (one is now in the National Museum of Iran, Tehran), originally decorated the central facades of the Apadāna staircases (Tilia, 1972, pp. 173 ff.); (3) understanding of the construction techniques of the foundation level of the complex (Tilia, 1968; 1972, pp. 125 ff.); (4) ascertaining of the main plan of the staircase of Palace H (Tilia, 1972, pp. 241 ff.); (5) reconstruction of the parapet along the southwest corner of the terrace’s retaining wall, characterized by a coping with horn-like elements which were uncovered just in front of the wall; (6) identification of the techniques of construction and decoration for various buildings in which the color scheme played an important role both for the plaster elements and for the carved stone surfaces (Tilia, 1978, pp. 29 ff.; Tilia, 1995); (7) restoration from fragments of three columns in the Gate of All Lands, east Apadāna portico, and north portico of the Hundred Column Hall; (8) discovery of the original entrance to Persepolis (from the south). Additionally, some work was done on the Achaemenid bridge at Dorudzan and at Pasargadae (q.v.): (9) cleaning and restoration of the Tomb of Cyrus the Great; (10) reassembling of a number of columns in Cyrus’s palaces there. Also important was G. Tilia’s training of a number of Iranian artisans in restoration and conservation techniques, which made it possible to continue his plans even after he left the site in 1978.

As with Persepolis, the conservation activity at Isfahan, led by E. Galdieri and begun in 1970 in the Friday Mosque (Masjed-e Jomʿa), was based on a stratigraphic analysis of the architectural structures and on soundings conducted underneath the main floor. These contributed to reveal some architectural elements from the pre-Islamic period, to determine the original hypostyle structure as a 9th-century Abbasid mosque in the “Arab” style, and to document architectural activity from the Buyid (10th-11th centuries) and Saljuqid (11th-12th centuries) periods (Galdieri, 1972-84). The need for a more thorough understanding of the most ancient phases led to the start of a series of investigative stratigraphic excavations, conducted during 1972-78 by U. Scerrato, that threw light on basic characteristics of the building (Scerrato, 1973-78; 2001). They also clarified the Sasanian-period phase of Yahudiya, one of the predecessor towns of the city of Isfahan. (The other was Jay: see GABAE.) “Yahudiya” sometimes was synonymous with Isfahan; see Moqaddasi, p. 388, where he also describes the Friday Mosque. (See also ISFAHAN.) According to the sources, the Friday Mosque of Isfahan was constructed on the site of a Nestorian church, which might correspond to the monumental building discovered below the north section of the mosque along the south side of a broad, open space. (The space was also lined with other monumental buildings prior to the mosque and did not function as the courtyard for the Friday Mosque.) Above this pre-Islamic building, remains were found of an 8th-century mosque, which appears to be the first one, founded in 772. The mosque’s qeble wall (i.e., that oriented towards Mecca) has a particular importance in that its luxuriant foliage decorations in carved and painted stucco constitute a primary source of evidence for pre-Samarra Iranian art. The excavations also produced evidence for the Saljuq period indicating that, under the domed room of Neẓām al-Molk, an earlier project had been begun and later was abandoned.

Another IsMEO project was the survey of the proto-historic site of Shahdad (Šahdād: Salvatori, 1978; Salvatori and Vidale, 1982), the cemetery of which had already been excavated by ʿAli Ḥākemi (Hakemi, 1997) of the Iranian Center for Archeological Research. The survey was conducted in 1977, thanks to the availability of Ḥākemi, who was then directing an archeological expedition at Lut. Time limitation prevented use of the most advanced techniques and strategies in the survey. Nevertheless, more than half of the site was systematically explored, and 37 areas containing large concentrations of material culture were identified. The results were important for chronology, because they confirmed that the site definitely was occupied by the beginning of the 4th millennium B.C.E., without excluding the possibility of an even earlier settlement similar to that of Tepe Yaḥyā, dating to the end of the 5th millennium B.C.E. In terms of topography, it was found that the nucleus of the settlement moved from east to west during the 4th millennium, and again in the 3rd millennium B.C.E., when it appears to have also moved from south to north. From the results of the archeological excavation it was possible to define areas used for artisanal production, with the important further recognition of areas for the production of ceramics, metals, and semiprecious stones.

Italian archeology in Iran is not limited to IsMEO, for from the mid-1970s other Italian institutions also established field research projects in various regions of Iran. In 1976 the University of Turin participated in a joint program with the University Museum of Pennsylvania and the Iranian Center for Archeological Research, known as the Hesar Restudy Project (Dyson and Howard, 1989); it was undertaken out of a need to study this fundamental site, uncovered in the region of Dāmḡān during the 1930s, more thoroughly (Dyson and Howard, 1989). After various visits to the site by scholars in the 1950s, G. M. Bulgarelli had conducted a limited surface survey in 1972 (Bulgarelli, 1974), followed by a re-examination of the pottery by J. Deshayes. Unlike the earlier studies, the Hesar Restudy Project was a structured program of architectural and stratigraphic investigations, intended to analyze the site in terms of its environment and economics, to highlight the changes in the settlement pattern, to identify different production areas through the analyses of slag, to collect carbon samples for the creation of an absolute chronology, and to study in a more complete manner the architectural remains and the ceramic artifacts. As part of the activities of the University of Turin, R. Biscione conducted a stratigraphic study of the westernmost mound of the “Twins”; M. Tosi with G. M. Bulgarelli and I. Reindell completed an architectural and stratigraphic study of the South Hill; M. G. Bulgarelli studied the lithics and lapis lazuli; and M. Tosi was responsible for the collection of the paleobotanical and zoological research materials.

The University of Turin Expedition also undertook a study of the upper valley of the Atrek in northern Khorasan, directed by R. Venco Ricciardi. From 1976 to 1978 a complete survey was performed of the valley bottom, to an elevation of 1500 m above sea level; there followed two stratigraphic soundings at Tepe Yam and Tepe Ḵorramābād, made possible through financial aid from the Iranian Center for Archeological Research (Venco Ricciardi, 1980; Biscione, 1981). A total of 180 mounds were identified, indicating an almost uninterrupted occupation from the Chalcolithic Period to recent times. The lack of identifiable materials from the Neolithic Period may be due to the limited topography covered during the survey, and the same reason may be given in the case of the materials from the Late Bronze Age, which were discovered only in the soundings of Tepe Yam. From the first archeological evidences, it was apparent that this area had a strong connection with southern Turkmenistan and the Central Asian world, rather than with other regions of the Iranian Plateau. A detailed analysis was made of the ceramic materials at the main sites in comparison with those of the region and of areas beyond; thus the settlement patterns of the various proto-historic and historic periods were outlined with sufficient clarity. This was also done for the Parthian and Sasanian periods, which previous surveys had not been able to fully clarify.

From 1976 to 1978 Italian researchers from the Institute of Mycenaean and Aegean-Anatolian Studies (a branch of the National Research Council [Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche]) conducted surface surveys, directed by P. E. Pecorella and M. Salvini, in the Urmia and Ušnaviye plains, as well as in the area between Lake Urmia and the Zagros Mountains in Iranian Azerbaijan (Pecorella, 1984). The field research was comprehensive in approach, leading to the documentation of every trace of human occupation from the prehistoric to the present, but with a specific concern for the Urartian culture. The complexity of the initial data, which is very rich for the pre- and proto-historic periods and extremely poor for Parthian and Sasanian times, made a continuous “story” impossible, and as a result the majority of studies have concentrated on the period between the 4th and the 1st millennia B.C.E. and on the Islamic period. Thus the material culture of the pre- and proto-historic phases has been clearly defined (Neolithic, Chalcolithic, IV millennium, III millennium, II millennium B.C.E., Iron Age I, Iron Age II, Iron Age III); those for the phases later than Iron Age III and prior to Islam were classified under a generic definition of “Late Period” pottery. The paucity of material obtained from the archeological survey prompted further investigations. Two soundings were carried out, supervised by M. R. Belgiorno, R. Biscione, and P. E. Pecorella, at the Uratian fortress of Qālʿa-ye Esmāʾil Āqā in 1977, and at the site of Tepe Gijlar in the Urmia plain in 1978. The paleo-botanical remains and the obsidian artifacts found at these two sites were investigated in detail (see, respectively, Costantini and Biasini, in Pecorella and Salvini, 1984, pp. 397-402; Capannesi and Palmieri, in ibid., pp. 385-95).

An important highlight of Italian archeological work in Iran lies in the area of paleobotanical research, which formed part of the studies in Sistān and later at Tepe Yaḥyā, Tepe Ḥesār, Qālʿa-ye Esmāʿil Āqā, and Tepe Gijlar. For L. Costantini, Director of the Laboratory of Bioarcheology of the Museum of Oriental Art and of IsMEO/IsIAO (Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente), this work was an opportunity to collect a considerable amount of information on the arboreal population and general paleoenvironment of various regions of Iran, as well as on proto-historical agriculture (Costantini, 1975; Costantini and Dyson, 1990).

(2) Excavations in Sistān

The Italian archeological activity of IsMEO (Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente), Rome (now Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, IsIAO), in Iran began in 1959 when Prof. U. Tucci opened a long and rich series of activities that ended only in 1978. Three geographical areas constituted IsMEO’s main interest in Iran: Sistān, Fārs, and Isfahan. In Sistān, G. Gullini and U. Scerrato started surveying the whole territory, one of the most important regions for Iranian history. The starting point was the work of Tate in 1906, who had identified many archeological sites in the area that were later also investigated by Sir Aurel Stein and E. Herzfeld (q.v.). The Italian activities from 1959 to 1978 were mainly at the following sites: Šahr-e Suḵta (Bronze Age), Dahan-e Ḡolāmān (q.v., Achaemenid period), Kuh-e Ḵᵛāja (Parthian), Qalʿa-ye Sām (Parthian), Qalṟʿa-ye Tappe (Sasanian and Islamic), Tappe Šahrestān (Parthian), and Bibi Dust (Islamic). In order to understand the regional history of Sistān, the Italian fieldwork and studies were at first devoted to the historical and geographical context of ancient Drangiana (q.v.). The name of the territory, first attested in Old Persian in the great Bisotun (q.v.) inscription of Darius I as “Zranka,” is reflected in the Elamite, Akkadian, and Egyptian versions of the Achaemenid royal inscriptions, as well as in Greek and Latin sources. The Drangians were listed among the peoples ruled by the legendary King Ninus, before the Achaemenids, but there is no evidence for the situation of the country during the Median period; it may well have belonged to the Median Empire, or it may instead have been part of an eastern Iranian proto-state centered on Mary (Marv) and Herat (q.v.). In the Achaemenid royal inscriptions, Drangiana is listed as a separate province, but its position varies. The land was historically characterized as rich in tin, a crucial element for the manufacture of bronze weapons.

First in the chronological sequence of Italian activities was the work on a basaltic island in the Hāmun-e Helmand (see HĀMUN, DARYĀČE-YE), the location of a majestic palace/sanctuary, Kuh-e Ḵᵛāja, first dateable to the Achaemenid period. Successive trenches on the site revealed, on the basis of the pottery found there, a dating to the Hellenistic-Parthian period. Particularly significant was the removal and restoration in 1975-76 of a small fresco from the Kuh-e Ḵᵛāja palace. In 1963 an excavation was carried out at the fortified center of Qalʿa-ye Sām, whose encircling wall has approximately the same shape as that at Parthian Nisa. Besides the characteristic painted pottery (termed dipinta storica sistana) which is useful for dating the deepest layers of Kuh-e Ḵᵛāja, other pottery evidently related to Hellenistic ware and a number of ostraca with Greek epigraphy were brought to light. These inscriptions reveal that the citadel dates to the 3rd-2nd century B.C.E. Particularly interesting were the activities at Qalʿa-ye Tappe, where a long chronological sequence from the 3rd century B.C.E. to the 11th-12th century C.E. was recognized.

The Islamic period was the subject of the field survey at the site of Bibi Dust. The site takes its name from the grave of a saintly woman located under a large, miraculous tree. The pottery collected there, which is dateable from the ʿAbbāsid period to the 15th-16th century, indicates that the Timurid invasion, contrary to what had been believed up to then, was not the main reason for the abandonment of Sistān.

Amongst the most important sites investigated and extensively excavated by the Italians in Sistān are Šahr-e Suḵta and Dahan-e Ḡolāmān.

The excavation of the protohistoric center of Šahr-e Suḵta, identified earlier by Stein, began in 1967. A well-established set of cultural relations with various, and distant, geographical and cultural areas is documented from its foundation at the end of the 4th millennium B.C.E.; thus the city is one of the key sites for the study and analysis of the formative cultural processes of Central Asian civilization between the end of the 4th and the 3rd millennium B.C.E. and for the study of the recent prehistory of Central Asia. From Period I, the material culture is known either from settlements or from an extensive cemetery, which shows close connections with the late Chalcolithic centers of southern Turkmenistan, the Kandahar (Qandahār) region in Afghanistan, the Quetta valley in southern Baluchistan, the Bampur valley in southeastern Iran, and the Proto-Elamite cities of Ḵuzestān and Fārs. During Period II, the city kept in contact with the pre-Harappan centers of the Indus valley, the cities of southern Turkmenistan, and the Bampur valley. It seems highly likely that relations with Mundigak in Afghanistan were close, and it was probably from here that lapis lazuli came during this period, reaching Šahr-e Suḵta from the distant mines of Badaḵšan. For that reason, scholars began to speak of a “Helmand Civilization.”

Period III (phases 4, 3, and 2) is marked by great change in the archeological sequence. The city changes its architectural form completely with the construction of large buildings enclosed by massive encircling walls. The pottery production becomes standardized and loses the characteristic painted ornamentation of the previous period; in the burials one can note a widening socio-economic gap between the various sectors of the population. At the end of Phase 4, the materials imported from Mesopotamia and western Iran disappear, and this suggests an interruption in the relationships with those regions, while the communication and trade routes with Mundigak, Bampur, and the Indus valley cities remain open. In Period IV, up to now known only through the excavation of the so-called “Burnt Palace” and of the pottery kilns of Tappe Rud-e Biābān 2 in the southern delta of the Helmand, Šahr-e Suḵta maintained contacts with only the Bampur valley (as shown by numerous close relationships with typical Bampur V-VI pottery) and the Kandahar area. A group of lapis lazuli processing sites was discovered in 1972 in the western quarters of the city. On the surface, a consistent concentration of flint, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and other types of stone fragments was observed. These workshops still remain unique in the whole Near and Middle East with regard to the level of conservation thirty years after their discovery. The excavations at Šahr-e Suḵta yielded other important evidence about the role played by the process of working semiprecious stones. In some graves, instruments and half-finished products were buried along with the corpse; the chalcedony and lapis lazuli cutters thus exercised their profession for the “other world” as well as for this one.

About 2500 B.C.E., the area of the old settlement and many other city quarters were occupied again by a large building, of which, unfortunately, only the massive foundation walls remain. In traditional societies, both European and Oriental, craft specialization was an economic activity of a familiar type, organized within precise urban spaces around courtyards, and it involved adults and children, both male and female. Probably, with the birth of the State at the end of the 4th millennium B.C.E., the most specialized manufacture was placed under the control of the elite, and workshops started to develop around the palace and temple areas. The study of the wooden remains collected during the excavation of the eastern, residential area should provide evidence of the industrial activities within family units. Up to now, we have known of no other proto-urban settlement anywhere in the Middle East that has preserved hundreds of wooden finds in residential deposits.

Around 2700 B.C.E., the major part of the city was destroyed by a fire, which marked the end of Phase 7. Rooms with burnt plaster, filled with ash and burnt remains of roof beams have been excavated in the eastern residential quarter and in the central quarter. The reasons for the disaster are unknown, but there is no evidence that the fire was due to an enemy attack. The old cities were easy prey to fires, and Šahr-e Suḵta was probably not an exception. During phase 6, the city was soon reconstructed, although some destroyed houses were left abandoned for more than a century, until the time of the great expansion of the site during phases 5 and 4.

In 1962, the discovery of Dahan-e Ḡolāmān, ca. 40 km northeast of Šahr-e Suḵta, revealed macroscopic remains of a city that was considered to be the old Zranka of the Achaemenid inscriptions, Zarin of the classical sources (see DAHAN-E ḠOLĀMĀN), the capital of the satrapy of Drangiana. The presence of roads, private houses, and public buildings testifies to the urban character of the remains, something unusual for the Achaemenid period in Iran. A religious building (no. 3) relates the town to a possible fire cult in the area, later related to Zoroastrianism. The location of Dahan-e Ḡolāmān in a peripheral area, far from the center of the empire, allows one to consider it from a very different perspective from the one usually applied to Achaemenid culture. A new conception of the first half of the 1st millennium B.C.E. in Iran emerges, of which the main aspects can be summed up as follows: (1) an urban core with groups of buildings around it; (2) frequent use (though not very well attested) of water supply channels; (3) precise distinction between public and private spaces.

The presence of a zone close to the urban center where numerous remains of pottery production (Namaki) have been identified, and of a square precinct, suggest in the first case a craftsmen’s quarter, and in the second, a military garrison. The city would have had a complex system of functions, amongst which one would be ceremonial-religious (no. 3), one ceremonial-civil (no. 2), one economic (Namaki), and finally, one military-administrative. The basic idea underlying the foundation of Dahan-e Ḡolāmān was clearly related to the history of an Oriental satrapy progressively and slowly absorbed into the political and administrative system. The palatial architecture of Dahan-e Ḡolāmān represents a sort of meeting point of different building traditions and experiences from widely separated geographical areas, that is, those of the palaces of Bactria and Chorasmia, of northwestern Iran, of Fārs, and of Susiana. All of these seem to be reflected in a perfect synthesis at Dahan-e Ḡolāmān. The particular nature of building no. 3, with the presence of different fire installations, leads one to think of a building in some manner related to a fire-oriented cult.

In the last few years, new excavations at Šahr-e Suḵta and some trenches at Dahan-e Ḡolāmān have been carried out by the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization. The first results seem to confirm the extraordinary importance of the sites, adding significant new aspects to our knowledge of the material culture.


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L. Costantini and R. H. Dyson, Jr., “The ancient agriculture of the Damghan Valley,” in N. F. Miller, ed., Economy and Settlement in the Near East: Analyses of Ancient Sites and Materials (MASCA Research Papers in Science and Archeology, Suppl. V.7), Philadelphia, 1990, pp. 46-68.

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P. Amiet, “Les sceaux de Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1975, ed. J. E. van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, Leiden, 1979, pp. 3-6.

Piero Basaglia, La Città Bruciata nel Deserto Salato. Archeologi e naturalisti italiani alla riscoperta di una civiltà protourbana nel Sistan iraniano: dieci anni di ricerche archeologiche, presentazione di G. Tucci, Venice, 1977.

I. Behnam, “Šahr-e Suḵta,” Honar wa mardom 126, 1974, pp. 2-6.

P. Bernard, “Les traditions orientales dans l’architecture gréco-bactrienne,” JA 264, 1976, pp. 246-75.

R. Biscione, “Dynamics of an Early South Asian Urbanization: the First Period at Shahr-i Sokhta and its Connections with Southern Turkmenia,” in South Asian Archaeology, ed. N. Hammond, London, 1973, pp. 105-18.

Idem, “The Burnt Building of Period IV at Shahr-i Sokhta IV. An Attempt of Functional Analysis from the Distribution of Pottery Types,” in Iranica, ed. G. Gnoli and A. V. Rossi, Naples, 1979, pp. 291-306.

Idem, “Baluchistan Presence in the Ceramic Assemblage of Period I at Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1981, ed. B. Allchin, Cambridge, 1984, pp. 118-23.

Idem, “The Elusive Phase II at Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1987, ed. M. Taddei and P. Callieri, Rome, 1990, pp. 391-409.

Idem, G. M. Bulgarelli, L. Costantini, M. Piperno, and M. Tosi, “Archaeological Discoveries and Methodological Problems in the Excavations of Shahr-i Sokhta, Sistan,” in South Asian Archaeology 1973, ed. J. E. van Lohuizen-De Leeuw and J. J. M. Ubaghs, Leiden, 1974, pp. 12-52.

R. Biscione, G. M. Bulgarelli, M. Piperno, and M. Tosi, “Shahr-i Sokhta,” Iran 11, 1973, pp. 203-5.

S. Bökönyi, and L. Bartosiewicz, “A Review of Animal Remains from Shahr-i Sokhta (Eastern Iran),” in Archaeozoology of the Near East IV B. Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on the Archaeozoology of Southern Asia and Adiacent Areas. ARC-P.32, ed. M. Mashkour et al., Groningen, 2000, pp. 116-52.

S. Bökönyi, “Preliminary Results of a Thorough Evaluation of the Mammal Bone Material from Shahr-i Sokhta. IsMEO Activities,” East and West 35, 1985, pp. 426-29.

L. Bondioli, and A. Lazzari, “Some Aspects of Data Treatment of the Shahr-i Sokhta and Related Records, in South Asian Archaeology 1987, ed. M. Taddei, Rome, 1990, pp. 377-90.

G. L. Bonora, C. Domanin, S. Salvatori, and A. Soldini, “The Oldest Graves of the Shahr-i Sokhta Graveyard,” in South Asian Archaeology 1997, ed. M. Taddei and G. De Marco, Rome, 2000, pp. 495-520.

C. E. Bosworth, Sistan under the Arabs, from the Islamic Conquest to the Rise of the Saffarids (30-250/651-864), Rome, 1968.

C. Bovington, A. Mahdavi, R. Masoumi, “Tehran University Nuclear Center Radiocarbon Dates II: Shahr-i Sokhta Series,” Radiocarbon 15/3, 1973, pp. 593-94.

G. M. Bulgarelli, “La lavorazione delle perle in pietre dure nel III millennio a.C.: testimonianze da Shahr-i Sokhta (Sistan, Iran),” in G. Lombardo, Perle orientali. Tradizione antica e artigianato moderno nella lavorazione delle pietre semipreziose in Medio Oriente, Rome, 1998, pp. 57-70.

S. Buson, and M. Vidale, “The Pear-Shaped Beakers of Shahr-i Sokhta: Analysis of the Relationships Between Technological and Morphological Evolution through Experimental Simulation,” East and West 33, pp. 31-51.

L. Caloi, “The Bone Remains of Small Carnivores from Shahr-i Sohkta,” in Meadow and Zeder, eds., 1978, pp. 129-32.

Idem, and B. Compagnoni, “Preliminary Remarks on the Bovine Remains at the Archaeological Site of Shahr-i Sokhta (Iranian Sistan) (3200-1800 B.C.),” in South Asian Archaeology 1979, ed. H. Härtel, Berlin, 1981, pp. 182-90.

G. Cattini, “Administrative Indicators in the Shahr-i Sokhta Eastern Residential Area of Period II (2800-2600 BC),” in South Asian Archaeology 1997, ed. M. Taddei and G. De Marco, Rome, 2000, pp. 485-94.

J. Chaline, and D. Heimer, “Les rongeurs de la cité antique de Shahr-i Sokhta (Iran) et leur signification paleoethnologique,” Studi di Paletnologia, Paleoantropologia, Paleontologia e Geologia del Quaternario 2, 1974, pp. 261-78.

R. Ciarla, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Manufacture of Alabaster Vessels at Shahr-i Sokhta and Mundigak in the 3rd Millennium BC,” in South Asian Archaeology 1979, ed. H. Härtel, Berlin, 1981, pp. 45-63.

Idem, “New Material in the Study of the Manufacture of Stone Vases at Shahr-i Sokhta. IsMEO Activities,” East and West 35, 1985, pp. 418-25.

B. Compagnoni, “The Bone Remains of Equus hemionus from Shahr-i Sokhta,” in Meadow and Zeder, eds., 1978, pp. 105-18.

Idem, “The Bone Remains of Gazella subgutturosa from Shahr-i Sokhta,” in Meadow and Zeder, eds., 1978, pp. 119-28.

Idem, and M. Tosi, “The Camel: Its Distribution and State of Domestication in the Middle East during the Third Millennium B.C. in the Light of Finds from Shahr-i Sokhta,” in Meadow and Zeder, eds., 1978, pp. 91-103.

B. Compagnoni, “On the Probable Presence of the Urial (Ovis vignei Blyth) at the Protohistoric Site of Shahr-i Sokhta (Sistan, Iran),” East and West 30, pp. 9-15.

L. Costantini, M. Tosi, and A. Vigna Taglianti, “Typology and Socioeconomical Implications of Entomological Finds from Some Ancient Near Eastern Sites,” Paléorient 3, 1977, pp. 247-58.

M. Cucarzi, and M. Piperno, “The Possibility to Distinguish Some Classes of Tombs in the Shahri-i Soktha Graveyard,” Rivista di archeologia 3, 1979, pp. 12-13.

P. Daffinà, L’immigrazione dei Saka nella Drangiana, Rome, 1967.

R. De Nicola, L. Bondioli, A. Lazzari, S. Laurenza, “Uno strumento ipermediale per la visita di un antico sito urbano dell’Asia Medio-orientale,” in 1st International Congress on “Science and Technology for the Safeguard of Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean Basin,” Catania, 27 November-2 December 1995, Palermo, 1998, pp. 1779-85.

S. Durante, “The Utilization of Xancus pyrum (L.) at Shahr-i Sokhta: a Further Evidence of Cultural Relations between India and Iran in the the-3rd Millennium BC,” in South Asian Archaeology 1975, ed. J. E. van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, Leiden, 1979, pp. 27-42.

D. Faccenna, “A New Fragment of Wall-Painting from Ghaga Shar (Kuh-i Khwaga – Sistan, Iran),” East and West 31, pp. 83-97.

P. Ferioli, E. Fiandra, and S. Tusa, “Stamp Seals and Functional Analysis of their Sealings at Shahr-i Sokhta II-III (2700-2200 BC.),” in South Asian Archaeology 1975, ed. J. E. van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, Leiden, 1979, pp. 7-26.

E. Fiandra, and C. Pepe, “Typology and Distribution of the Administration Indicators in Eastern Residential Area of Shahr-i Sokhta During Period II (2800-2600 BC). The Sealings,” in South Asian Archaeology 1997, ed. M. Taddei and G. De Marco, Rome, 2000, pp. 467-83.

B. Fishman, and B. Lawn, “University of Pennsylvania Radiocarbon Dates XX: Shahr-i Sokhta Series,” Radiocarbon 20/2, 1978, pp. 223-24.

B. Fishman, H. Forbes, and B. Lawn, “University of Pennsylvania Radiocarbon Dates XIX: Shahr-i Sokhta Series,” Radiocarbon 19/2, 1977, pp. 204-7.

L. Foglini, “L’area di lavorazione del lapislazzuli nei quadrati EWK-EWP,” in G. Lombardo, Perle orientali. Tradizione antica e artigianato moderno nella lavorazione delle pietre semipreziose in Medio Oriente, Rome, 1998, pp. 71-75.

M. Forte, P. Mozzi, and M. Zocchi, “Immagini satellitari e modelli virtuali: interpretazioni geoarcheologiche della regione del Sistan meridionale,” Archeologia e calcolatori 9, 1998, pp. 271-90.

B. Genito, “Una città achemenide tra centro e periferia dell’impero,” Oriens Antiquus 25/3-4, 1987, pp. 287-317.

Idem, “Altari a gradini nell’Iran antico,” in G. Gnoli, and L. Lanciotti, eds., Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicata, Rome, 1987, pp. 475-84.

Idem, “The Most Frequent Pottery Types at Dahan-e Ḡolāmān and their Spatial Variability,” in M. Taddei, and P. Callieri, eds., Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference of the Association of South Asian Archaeologists in Western Europe, held in the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, 6th-10th July Venice, 1977 II, Rome, 1990, pp. 587-604.

Idem, “The Iranian Empires and Central Asia: an Archaeological Perspective,” in Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei Atti dei Convegni Lincei 127, La Persia e l’Asia Centrale da Alessandro al X secolo, in collaborazione con l’Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Rome, 9-12 November 1994, Rome 1996, pp. 401-21.

Idem, “The Achaemenids and their Artistic and Architectural Heritage: an Archaeological Perspective,” in Proceedings of the First International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, May 18-23, 1998, ed. P. Matthiae et al., Rome, 2000, pp. 533-54.

Idem, “Dahan-i Ghulaman: una “vicina” periferia dell’Impero Achemenide, “ in Antica Persia, I tesori del Museo Nazionale di Teheran e la ricerca italiana in Iran, Rome, 2001, pp. XXI-XXXVI.

Idem, “Dahan-i Ghulaman,” in Enciclopedia Archeologica Treccani, Asia, dir. Gherardo Gnoli, sect. Iran e Asia Centrale, coord. Pierfrancesco Calmieri, 1. La protostoria: l’altopiano iranico: l’età del ferro e l’apogeo dei Medi, Rome, 2004.

G. Gnoli, “Additional Note to the Paper by U. Scerrato,” in La Persia e il mondo greco-romano, Rome, 1966, pp. 471-76.

Idem, Ricerche Storiche sul Sistān antico, Rome, 1967.

G. Gullini, Architettura Iranica dagli Achemenidi ai Sasanidi, Turin, 1964.

A. Hauptmann, “Zur frühbronzezeitlichen Metallurgie von Shahr-i Sokhta (Iran),” Der Anschnitt, 32/2-3, 1980, pp. 55-61.

Idem, and G. Weisgerber, “The Early Bronze Age Copper Metallurgy of Shahr-i Sokhta (Iran),” Paléorient 6, 1980, pp. 120-23.

A. Hauptmann, T. Reheren, and S. Schmitt-Strecker, “Early Bronze Age Copper Metallurgy at Shahr-i Sokhta (Iran), Reconsidered,” in Man and Mining. Mensch und Bergbau. Studies in Honour of Gerd Weisberger, ed. I. Stöllner et al., special volume of Der Anschnitt 26, Bochum, 2003, pp. 1-16.

“IsMEO Activities,” East and West, 25, 1975, pp. 550-52.

P. L. Kohl, “A Note on Chlorite Artefacts from Shahr-i Sokhta, East and West 27, 1977, pp. 111-27.

C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, and M. Tosi, “Shahr-i Sokhta and Tepe Yahya: Tracks on the Earliest History of the Iranian Plateau,” East and West 23, 1973, pp. 15-53.

N. Laneri, “Analisi radiografica e macrostrutturale delle ciotole tronco-coniche dell’inizio del III millennio a.C., Shahr-i Sokhta (Iran),” Orient Express 1, 1996, pp. 17-19.

Idem, and M. Vidale, “An Anatomy of the Truncated-Conical Bowl of Shahr-i Sokhta,” East and West 48, 1998, pp. 225-64.

A. Lazzari, “Bibliography of Shahr-i Sokhta (Sistan) 1968-1997,” Journal of Humanities. University of Sistan and Balouchestan 5/1, 1999, pp. 168-89.

E. C. Lombardi Pardini, and E. Pardini, “Sexual Dimorphism in an Ancient Sistan Population (Shahr-i Sokhta),” in South Asian Archaeology 1989, ed. C. Jarrige, Madison, Wisc., 1992, pp. 223-25.

R. Macchiarelli, and P. Passarello, “Analisi paleodemografica comparativa della popolazione di Shahr-i Sokhta (Sistan, Iran, III millennio a.C.),” Rivista di Antropologia 66, 1988, pp. 5-36.

L. Mariani, The Operation Carried out by the Italian Restoration Mission in Sistan 1975-1976 (2534-2535) Campaigns. Conservation of the Mud-Brick Structures in the Sacred Building QN3 at Dahan-i Ghulaman, and the Detachment of the Fresco in the Palace at Kuh-i Khwağa, Rome and Tehran, 1977.

Idem, “Conservation Work on Building 3 at Dahan-e Ghulaman,” in South Asian Archaeology 1977, ed. M. Taddei, Naples, 1979, pp. 737-54.

Idem, “Conservation Work on Building 3 at Dahan-e Ghulaman, Sistan,” in South Asian Archaeology 1977, ed. M. Taddei, Naples, 1979, pp. 737-54.

Idem, “Problems and Methods in Resource Mapping for the Paleoeconomic Study of the Hilmand Valley in Proto-Historic Times, in South Asian Archaeology 1979, ed. H. Härtel, Berlin, 1981, pp. 13-27.

Idem, “Craftsmen’s Quarters in the Proto-Urban Settlements of the Middle East: the Surface Analysis,” in South Asian Archaeology 1981, ed. B. Allchin, Cambridge, 1984, pp. 118-23.

Idem, and M. Tosi, “L’universo familiare a Shahr-i Sokhta,” in Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicata, ed. G. Gnoli and L. Lanciotti, II, Rome, 1987, pp. 853-79.

L. Mariani, “The Monumental Area of Shahr-i Sokta: Notes from a Surface Reconnaissance. South Asian Archaeology 1985, ed. K. Frifelt, and P. SΘrensen, London, 1989, pp. 114-36.

Idem, “An Overview of the Architecture Techniques at Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1987, ed. M. Taddei, Rome, 1990, pp. 411-26.

Idem, “The Eastern Residential Area at Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1989, ed. C. Jarrige, Madison, Wis., pp. 181-93.

R. H. Meadow and M. A. Zeder, eds., Approaches to Faunal Analysis in the Middle East, Peabody Museum Bulletin 2, Cambridge, Mass., 1978.

O. Nalesini, “Social Implication of the Morphological Variability of the Decorative Motifs of Shahr-i Sokhta II Buff Ware: an Outline,” in South Asian Archaeology 1981, ed. B. Allchin, Cambridge, 1984, pp. 108-17.

S. Nishimura, and M. Tosi, “Fission-Track Ages of the Remains Excavated at Shahr-i Sokhta and Kangavar, Iran,” in The Memorial Volume of the VIIth International Congress of Iranian Art and Archaeology, ed. M. Y. Kiāni, Tehran, 1976, pp. 221-85.

E. Pardini, and A. A. Sarvari-Negahban, “Craniologia degli inumati di Shahr-i Sokhta (Sistan, Iran),” Archivio per l’antropologia e l’etnologia 106, 1976, pp. 273-321.

Idem, “Gli inumati di Shahr-i Sokhta (Sistan, Iran). Studio osteologico preliminare,” Archivio per l’antropologia e l’etnologia 107, 1977, pp. 159-235.

Idem, “Gli inumati di Shahr-i Sokhta (Sistan, Iran),” Archivio per l’antropologia e l’etnologia 109-10, 1979-80, pp. 521-608.

Idem and E. C. Lombardi Pardini, “La struttura biologica della popolazione di Shahr-i Sokhta (III millennio a.C., Sistan, Iran),” in Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicata, ed. G. Gnoli and L. Lanciotti, II, Rome, 1988, pp. 1061-78.

E. Pardini, and E. C. Lombardi Pardini, “The Somatic Aspect of the Shahr-i Sokhta Inhabitants from Inhumed Skeletal Remains,” in South Asian Archaeology 1987, ed. M. Taddei and P. Callieri, Rome, 1990, pp. 453-57.

M. Piperno, “Micro-Drilling at Shahr-i Sokhta: the Making and Use of Lithic Drill-Heads,” in South Asian Archaeology, ed. N. Hammond, London, 1973, pp. 119-29.

Idem, “Grave 77 at Shahr-i Sokhta: Evidence of Technological Specialization in the 3rd millennium B.C.,” East and West 26, 1976, pp. 9-12.

Idem, “Socio-Economic Implications from the Graveyard of Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1977, ed. M. Taddei, Naples, 1979, pp. 123-40.

Idem, “Aspects of Ethnical Multiplicity Across the Shahr-i Sokhta Graveyard,” Oriens Antiquus 25, 1986, pp. 257-70.

Idem, and S. Salvatori, “Evidence of Western Cultural Connections from a Phase 3 Group of Graves at Shahr-i Sokhta,” in Mesopotamien und seine Nachbarn (XXV Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale) Berlin 3.-7. Juli 1978, ed. H.-J. Nissen and J. Renger, Berlin, 1982, pp. 79-85.

M. Piperno, and S. Salvatori, “Recent Results and New Perspectives from the Research at the Graveyard of Shahr-i Sokhta, Sistan, Iran,” AIUON 43/2, 1983, pp. 173-91.

M. Piperno, and M. Tosi, “The Graveyard of Sahr-e Suxteh (A Presentation of the 1972 and 1973 Campaigns),” in Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Symposium on Archaeological Research in Iran, ed. F. Bagherzadeh, Tehran, 1975, pp. 121-40.

M. Piperno, and M. Tosi, “The Graveyard of Shahr-i Sokhta, Iran,” Archaeology 28, 1975, pp. 186-97.

S. Pracchia, “Preliminary Analysis of the Shahr-i Sokhta II Buff Ware Painted Figuration: Some Observations for a Systematic Classification,” in South Asian Archaeology 1981, ed. B. Allchin, Cambridge, 1984, pp. 98-107.

Idem, “Shahr-e Sokhta,” Enciclopedia dell’arte antica, classica orientale. Secondo supplemento 1971-1994, IV, Rome, 1997, pp. 59-61.

G. Pugliese Carratelli, “Greek Inscriptions of the Middle East,” East and West 16, pp. 34-35.

S. M. Sajjadi, “Negāhi beh farhanghā-ye nāšenāḵta-ye nima-šarqi-ye falāt-e Iran: Šahr-e Suḵta, Irān,” Farā-vahar 1/276, 1983, pp. 86-109.

Idem, “Negāhi beh farhanghā-ye nāšenāḵta-ye nima-šarqi-ye falāt-e Iran: Šahr-e Suḵta, Irān,” Farāvahar 2/277, 1983, pp. 208-37.

Idem, “Negāhi beh farhanghā-ye nāšenāḵta-ye nima-šarqi-ye falāt-e Iran: Šahr-e Suḵta, Irān,” Farāvahar 3/278, 1983, pp. 273-83.

Idem, “Šahr wa Šahrnešini dar nima-šarqi-ye falāt-e Irān, Šahr-e Suḵta,” in Naẓar-e ejmāli beh šahrnešini wa šahrsāzi dar Irān, ed. M. Y. Kiāni, Tehran, 1986, pp. 51-77.

S. Salvatori, and M. Vidale, Shahr-i Sokhta 1975-1978: Central Quarters Excavations. Preliminary Report, Rome, 1997.

Idem, “Sequential Analysis and Architectural Remains in the Central Quarters of Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1977, ed. M. Taddei, Naples, 1979, pp. 141-48.

G. Santini, “A Preliminary Note on Animal Figurines from Shahr-i Sokhta,” in South Asian Archaeology 1987, ed. M. Taddei and P. Callieri, Rome, 1990, pp. 427-51. U. Scerrato, “A Probable Achaemenid Zone in Persian Sistān, East and West 13, pp. 186-97. Idem, “A Lost City of Seistan,” Illustrated London News, Archaeological sec. 2255, 29 October 1966, pp. 20-21. Idem, “Excavations at Dahan-i Ghulaman (Seistān-Iran), First Preliminary Report (1962-1963),” East and West, N.S., 16/1-2, 1966, pp. 9-30. Idem, “L’edificio sacro di Dahan-e Ghulaman (Sistan),” in La Persia e il mondo greco-romano, Rome, 1966, pp. 457-70. Idem, “La missione archeologica italiana nel Sistan persiano,” Il Veltro 14/1-2, February-April 1970, pp. 123-40. Idem, “Missions archéologiques italiennes au Sistan,” in The Memorial Volume of the Vth International Congress of Iranian Art and Archaeology, Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, 11th-18th April 1968, Tehran, 1972, pp. 200-203. Idem, “A proposito dello Airyana Vaejah. Notizie sulla possibilità di allevamento del bovino nella Drangiana come attività autonoma,” in Gururajamanjarika. Studi in onore di Giuseppe Tucci, I, Naples, 1974, pp. 101-12. Idem, “Evidence of Religious Life at Dahan-i Ghulamān, Sistān, in South Asian Archaeology 1977, Naples, 1979, pp. 709-35.

M. Tosi, “Excavations at Shahr-i Sokta, a Chalcolithic Settlement in the Iranian Sistan, Preliminary Report on the First Campaign,” East and West 18, 1968, pp. 9-66.

Idem, “Excavations at Shahr-i Sokhta. Preliminary Report on the Second Campaign,” East and West 19, 1969, pp. 109-22.

Idem, “Shahr-e Sukhteh,” Bastan chenasi va honar-e Iran 4, 1969, pp. 29-42.

Idem, “Shahr-i Sokhta: Un insediamento protostorico nel Sistan iraniano,” in Atti del convegno internazionale “La Persia nel Medioevo,” Accademia dei Lincei, Quaderno 160, Rome, 1971, pp. 405-17.

Idem, “Seistan v bronzovom veke. Raskopki v Shahri-Sokhte” (Sistān in the Bronze Age. Excavations at Šahr-e Suḵta), Sovetskaya Arkheologiya 3, 1971, pp. 15-30.

Idem, “Shahr-i Sokhta: un contributo degli archeologi italiani allo studio delle più antiche civiltà urbane ad oriente della Mesopotamia, “ La Parola del Passato 142-44, 1972, pp. 186-208.

Idem, “La lavorazione degli elementi di collana a Shahr-i Sokhta,” Rivista di geo-archeologia 1, 1973, pp. 15-20.

Idem, “The Cultural Sequence of Shahr-i Sokhta,” Bullettin of the Asian Institute of the Pahlavi University 3, 1973, pp. 64-80.

Idem, “The Lapis Lazuli Trade across the Iranian Plateau in the 3rd mill. B.C.,” in Gururājamañjarikā, Studi in Onore di Giuseppe Tucci, Naples, 1974, pp. 3-22.

Idem, “A Topographical and Stratigraphical Periplus of Sahr-e Suxteh,” in Proceedings of the IVth Annual Symposium on Archaeological Research in Iran, ed. F. Bagherzadeh, Tehran, 1976, pp. 130-58.

Idem, “Shahr-i Sokhta,” Iran 14, 1976, pp. 167-68.

Idem, “Ricerche archeologiche sulla protostoria del Sistan,” in Un decennio di ricerche archeologiche, Quaderni de “La Ricerca Scientifica” 100, Rome, 1978, pp. 519-48.

Idem, “The Development of Urban Societies in Turan and the Mesopotamian Trade with the East: the Evidence from Shahr-i Sokhta,” in Mesopotamien und seine Nachbarn (XXV Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale) Berlin 3.-7. Juli 1978, ed. H.-J. Nissen and J. Renger, Berlin, 1982, pp. 57-77.

Idem, ed., Prehistoric Sistan 1, Rome, 1983. Idem, “Shahr-i Sokhta: 5000 Jahre städtische Kultur in der Seistan-Wüste,” Bild der Wissenschaft 10, 1983, pp. 47-62.

Idem, “The Joint ICAR/IsMEO Delivering Program: a Constrained Return to Shahr-i Sokhta. IsMEO Activities,” East and West 34, 1984, pp. 466-82 (in coop. with S. Pracchia and R. Macchiarelli).

Idem, “Gli Italiani a Shahr-i Sokhta,” in Antica Persia. I tesori del Museo Nazionale di Tehran e la ricerca italiana in Iran. Rome, 2001, pp. XXI-XXV.

M. Vidale, “The Pear-Shaped Beaker of Shahr-i Sokhta: Evolution of a Ceramic Morphotype During the 3rd Millennium BC,” in South Asian Archaeology 1981, ed. B. Allchin, Cambridge, 1984, pp. 81-97.

Idem, and M. Tosi, “The Development of Wheel Throwing at Shahr-i Sokhta. Slow and Fast Revolutions Towards Statehood,” East and West 46, 1996, pp. 251-69.


The earliest known references to Persia by Italian writers are gleaned from numerous notes in the oldest medieval travel accounts, dating from the 13th century onwards. Marco Polo’s Il Milione (comp. 1298), which is a great inventory of literary traditions (see Gabriel, pp. 35-39), contains interesting observations on Persia, particularly on the cities Tabriz, Solṭāniya, Sāva, Kāšān, Yazd, and Kerman). So does the Itinerarium of the Dominican monk Ricoldo da Monte Croce (1243-1320). The first scientific study of the Persian language began in the context of Franciscan and Dominican missionaries in Iran, Armenia, and the Crimea, from which originated the so-called Codex Cumanicus (Cod. Mar. Lat. DXLIX, Biblioteca Marciana, Venice). This is a Persian-Latin-Cuman Turkish dictionary, which was probably redacted around 1330 (it may have belonged to the personal library of Francesco Petrarca, 1304-74). The first attempt to render a formal transcription system of Persian in Latin characters, and with diacritic signs, has been found on the margins of a manuscript of a Persian translation of the Four Gospels dated 738/1338 (Vatican Apostolic Library, MS Borg. Pers. 19). The glosses, especially those inserted in St. John’s Gospel, reveal a deep knowledge of Persian lexicon and syntax, and show an advanced method of transliteration. The author of the glosses may possibly be identified as Giovanni of Florence (d. 1347), a Dominican priest who served as the bishop of Tiflis and was active for many years in the monastery of Kirnë in Azerbaijan (Piemontese, 2000, p. 125).

Outside of these restricted circles, knowledge of Persian long remained superficial. In cultivated European milieus, the existence of another literary language of the Islamic Orient distinct from Arabic was not really clear. A new process of conscious political observation and of the cultural discovery of Persia emerged with the accession of Uzun Ḥasan (r. 1457-78). The interest, particularly of the Republic of Venice and the Papacy, in the possibility of establishing a common alliance with Persia against the Ottomans, led to an active exchange of embassies (see above, ii). A secondary result of this activity on the Italian side was the publication of numerous accounts of Persia, mainly geopolitical in character. The travel diaries of the Venetian envoys Giosafat Barbaro (1413-94, q.v.) and Ambrogio Contarini (1429-99, q.v.), although mainly concerned with the figure of Uzun Ḥasan and his reign, also recount the general situation of the country and contain detailed descriptions of the towns they visited (Lockhart et al, 1973). The documents and considerations collected in the Diarii of Marin Sanudo il Giovane deal with the rise to power of Shah Esmāʿil (see Scarcia Amoretti, 1979), and Michele Membré’s Relazione di Persia (1542) is a most objective source on Safavid power under Shah Ṭahmāsp I. The period between the rise of Uzun Ḥasan and the death of Shah Esmāʿil is also treated in an interesting, firsthand chronicle ascribed to Giovanni Maria Angiolello (d. 1525, q.v.), a Venetian merchant enslaved by the Ottomans and then sent twice on missions to Persia. The accession of Shah Esmāʿil, the “Sofi,” was widely noticed in Italy, where he was even popularly seen (as a recently discovered note by Leonardo da Vinci indicates) as a “new prophet” (Ponte, 1977). (For bibliography of the travelers and their works, see above, iii.)

From the middle of the 16th century, the acquisition of an increasing number of Persian manuscripts laid the basis for direct research on Persian language and literature as distinct from Arabic and Turkish, and thereby for penetration into the heart of Persian culture. A first step was taken in 1548 when Stefan V, patriarch of the Christian province of Greater Armenia, whose capital was at the time Tabriz, presented Pope Paul III with a rare Persian Gospel, now conserved in Florence. Of greater impact was the introduction inside an erudite Venetian circle, via a certain Christoforo Armeno, of the reworked translation of some Persian text that was based, it appears, primarily on the poem Hašt behešt (comp. 700/1301) by Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi (q.v.). The translation was published as Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo (Pilgrimage of the three princes of Serendip; Venezia 1557). This, the first Persian literary text to be published in a European language, was an enormous success and was translated elsewhere in Europe (Cerulli, 1975), contributing to the birth of the genre of the detective novel and occasioning the coinage (by Horace Walpole in 1754) of the new word “serendipity.”

Also in the 16th century, some Oriental works were published, for the first time in Europe, in several Italian towns. In 1584 Giovan Battista Raimondi (ca. 1536-1614), professor of mathematics and philosophy, founded in Rome the Medici Oriental Press (Stamperia orientale Medicea), which printed several Arabic and Persian texts; these included the first printing of Avicenna’s (q.v.) medical Canon (al-Qānun fe’l-ṭebb) in 1593. Raimondi, the “greatest Italian Orientalist of the age defined the Persian language as the most beautiful in the world, divinely endowed with the spirit of expression of concepts in poetry” (Piemontese, 1988, p. 101). Yet the majority of Raimondi’s editions and translations of Persian texts and lexicons, as well as his studies, including a noteworthy Persian grammar, remained in draft form. His print sample of a ḡazal by Šāhi Sabzavāri (d. 857/1453) survives in Florence, even though not published, and represents the first Persian text ever printed. Between 1591 and 1607, Giovan Battista Vecchietti and his brother, Gerolamo, traveled to Egypt, Persia, and India and collected Arabic and Persian manuscripts, they collaborated with Raimondi. Giovan Battista had a good knowledge of Persian, and he laid the foundations for the study of Judeo-Persian literature (q.v.). Gerolamo brought to Italy from Cairo a codex (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Fondo Magliabechi, MS C1. III.24) which is the oldest extant manuscript of the (first half of the) Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsi, dated 614/1217 (Piemontese, 1980). The pioneering works of these three scientists and philosophers-turned-orientalists had a great impact on “the European scientific and Orientalist circles” (Piemontese, p. 101).

In the 17th century, with the decline in Venetian power, Italian Oriental studies tended to return to the dominion of ecclesiastical institutions, such as the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, whose main attention continued to be devoted to practical linguistic matters, and which in 1654 printed the first Persian grammar by an Italian scholar. The work was written by the Carmelite Ignazio di Gesù, a missionary and author of a Latin-Persian lexicon and of another interesting transliteration system for Arabic script (on him, see also MANDAEANS i. HISTORY). Another Christian missionary, Maurizio Garzoni, published the first European grammar of the Kurdish language in 1787. The other field of ecclesiastical engagement was the Islamic-Christian controversy, in which the Roman traveler and scholar Pietro Della Valle (1586-1652, q.v.) also took part. Yet Della Valle’s activity went further. Besides writing valuable accounts of his stay at the court of Shah ʿAbbas I in Isfahan, he collected and studied several Persian manuscripts. He was among the first Europeans to write Persian in Arabic script, and probably the first to spread Hafez’s fame through European literary circles (Bertotti, 1990). Thereafter, to the end of the 18th century, Iranian studies in Italy on the whole waned, although some important manuscript collections were acquired, such as those of the scientist, L. F. Marsili (1658-1730), of Bologna and of the antiquarian, J. Nani (1725-1797), in Venice.

A renewed interest in Iran followed the rise to political ascendancy of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia (from the 1830s on), and the expansion of its political aim to encompass unification of the Italian states. To the Sardinian diplomat and orientalist, Romualdo Tecco, we owe the formation of the collection of Persian manuscripts in the Royal Library in Turin. The Italian diplomatic mission to Persia in 1862 had important implications for scholarship. For the occasion G. Berchet was commissioned to produce his book La repubblica di Venezia e la Persia (Torino, 1865), which documented the relations between the Republic of Venice and Persia, from Uzun Ḥasan’s time onward. Moreover, one of the embassy’s members, Giacomo Lignana (1827-91), on his return laid the foundation for teaching Persian at the Naples Oriental Institute [Istituto Universitario Orientale] (1863-65), a task later continued by G. de Vincentiis (1845-1907), and Luigi Bonelli (1865-1947). The chair for teaching Iranian languages at Rome University was established in 1871. In Turin, Italo Pizzi (1849-1920), a scholar of classical Persian literature, completed his verse translation of Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma. Among his students were V. Rugarli (1860-1900) and C. A. Nallino, who both contributed in different fields of Iranian studies. Until the middle of the 20th century, however, Iranian studies in Italy were not conducted by specialists, but by scholars of other fields associated in varying degrees with the Iranian world and culture: islamists, arabists, turcologists, historians of religion, linguists, and others. During this period contributions to the study of Islamic Iran were made by Leone Caetani (1896-1935), U. Monneret de Villard (1881-1954), Ettore Rossi (1894-1955), E. Cerulli (1898-1988), and F. Gabrieli (1904-96). Caetani collected the Persian manuscripts now in the Lincei Academy in Rome. Cerulli brought to Italy a collection of 1,055 manuscripts and some lithographed books concerned with the passion plays (taʿzia); housed in the Vatican Library (Rossi and Bombaci), these have constituted the basis for specialized contributions on the subject by Italian scholars. In addition to the above collections, thirty Italian libraries in fifteen different towns at present count over 400 other Persian manuscripts (Piemontese, 1989, pp. XV-XX).

After World War II, the transformation of Italy from a prevalently agricultural into an industrial country had consequences also on university structure. In the area of Iranian studies, study groups and single researchers have developed increasingly specialized fields and methodologies, at a pace with the contemporary world’s scientific tendencies. In 1957, for the first time a chair of Persian language and literature was set up at the Naples Oriental Institute (now L’Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”), first held by A. Bausani (1921-88). Since the middle of the 20th century, all aspects of Persia in the Islamic period—language, literature, history, religious history, law, etc.—have been subjects of study in Italy, and many classical and less renowned literary texts have been translated from Persian into Italian. At present four Italian universities (Naples, Rome, Venice, Bologna) house chairs devoted to different fields of studies on Islamic Iran, and since 1984 a specialized Ph.D. program in Iranian studies has treated subjects related to both the pre-Islamic and the Islamic periods. A scholarly association, Societas Iranologica Europaea (see www. societasiranologicaeu.org), was founded in 1983 in Rome, at the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente [IsMEO] (now Istituto italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente [IsIAO]; for these, see below, vii.a and b), to promote Iranian studies with the participation of scholars worldwide. Its first congress was held in Turin in 1987.




R. Almagià, “Giovan Battista e Gerolamo Viaggiatori in Oriente,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Rendiconti. Classe di scienze morali, Serie 8, 11, 1956, pp. 313-50.

F. Bertotti, “Un viaggiatore romano e un poeta persiano: Pietro Della Valle estimatore e divulgatore di Ḥāfiẓ,” Islàm Storia e civiltà 9/2, 1990, pp. 121-27.

Enrico Cerulli, “Una raccolta persiana di nonelle tradotte a Venezia nel 1557,” Atti della Accademia Nationale dei Lincei, Memorie classe di science morali, storiche e filologiche, Ser. VIII, 18, 1975, pp. 247-363.

Alessandro Coletti, “Maurizio Garzoni padre della linguistica curda,” in U. Marazzi ed., La Conoscenza dell ‘Asia et dell ‘Africa in Italia nei secoli XVIII e XIX, I/1, Naples, 1984, pp. 535-41.

Maurizio Garzoni, Grammatica e vocabolario della lingua kurda, Roma, 1787.

A. de Gubernatis, Matériaux pour servir à l’histoire des etudes orientales en Italie, Paris, 1876.

N. di Lenna, “Ricerche intorno allo storico Giovanni Maria Angiolello (degli Anzolelli), patrizio Vicentino, 1451-1525,” Archivio veneto-tridentino 5, 1924, pp. 1-56.

Alfons Gabriel, Die Erforschung Persiens, Vienna, 1952.

F. Gaeta and L. Lockhart, eds., I Viaggi di Pietro Della Valle. Lettere dalla Persia I, Rome, 1972.

G. Gnoli, “Italian Contributions to the Study of Persian Drama,” East and West, N.S, 15/1-2, 1964-65, pp. 79-88.

Ignatius di Gesuž, Grammatica linguae Persicae, Rome, 1661.

L. Lockhart et al, eds., I viaggi in Persia degli ambasciatori veneti Barbaro e Contarini, Rome, 1973.

U. Monneret de Villard, “La vita, le opere e i viaggi di frate Ricoldo da Montecroce, O.P.,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica, 9, 1944, pp. 227-74.

P. Orsatti, “Grammatica e lessicografia persiana nell’opera di P. Ignazio di Gesù,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 55, 1981, pp. 55-85.

A. M. Piemontese, “La ‘Grammatica Persiana’ di G. B. Raimondi,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 53, 1979, pp. 141-52.

Idem, “Nuova luce su Firdawsī: uno ‘Šāhnāma’ datato 614 H. 1217 a Firenze,” Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, Nuova Serie 30, 1980, pp. 1-91.

Idem, Bibliografia italiana dell’Iran (1462-1982), 2 vols., Napoli, 1982.

Idem, “Italian Scholarship on Iran (An Outline, 1557-1987),” Iranian Studies 20, 1987, pp. 99-130.

Idem, Catalogo dei manoscritti persiani conservati nelle biblioteche d’Italia, Roma, 1989.

Idem, ed., Amir Khusrau da Dehli. Le otto novelle del paradiso, Soveria Mannelli, 1996.

Idem, “Un testo latino-persiano connesso al Codex Cumanicus,” AAASH 53/1-2, 2000, pp. 121-32.

G. Ponte, “Attorno a Leonardo da Vinci: L’attesa popolare del Sofì di Persia in Venezia e Firenze all’inizio del Cinquecento,” La Rassegna della Letturatura Italiana, 81, 1977, pp. 5-19.

E. Rossi, Elenco dei manoscritti persiani della Bibliotheca Vaticana: Vaticani, Barberiniani, Borgiani, Rossiani, Città del Vaticano, 1948.

E. Rossi and A. Bombaci, Elenco di drammi religiosi persiani (fondo mss. Vaticani Cerulli), Città del Vaticano, 1961.

B. Scarcia Amoretti, Šah Ismail nei “Diarii” di Marin Sanudo, Rome, 1979.

U. Tucci, “Una relazione di Giovan Battista. Vecchietti sulla Persia e sul Regno di Hormuz, 1587,” Oriente Moderno 35/4, 1955, pp. 149-60.


Italy houses 439 Persian manuscripts in two public archives and thirty public libraries located in fifteen different cities. All of them have been catalogued by Angelo Michele Piemontese (1989). Three more manuscripts are preserved at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa “I Tatti” in Florence, which, besides the three bound codices, possesses some loose folios from Persian manuscripts as well. Paintings in Persian manuscripts from the Harvard University Center (the Berenson collection) have been studied by Richard Ettinghausen (q.v.) in 1962, and their description is given by Piemontese (1984a). Additionally, within Vatican City, 189 Persian manuscripts are preserved at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (hereinafter the Vatican Library): 158 are part of the Vatican collection, 23 of the Borgia collection, 6 of Barberini collection, and 2 of Rossi collection. These manuscripts were catalogued by Ettore Rossi (1948). The Vatican Library also owns an important collection of Persian religious dramas (taʿzia). This collection was acquired by Enrico Cerulli (q.v.) during one of his sojourns in Iran in 1950-54 as the Italian ambassador. It was catalogued by Ettore Rossi and Alessio Bombaci (1961) and includes 1055 manuscripts, of which 15 are in Turkish, and a few others are written in both Turkish and Persian. Finally, 13 Persian manuscripts are part of a collection, mostly Arabic, purchased by the Vatican in 1927 and known as the Sbath collection, so called after the Syrian priest, Paul Sbath (1887-1945), whose original name was Bulos Sbāṭ al-Soryāni al-Ḥalabi, and who himself was a collector of manuscripts. Persian manuscripts of the Sbath collection were described by Piemontese (1978).

Apart from the Vatican Library, other Italian libraries that own the larger number of Persian manuscripts are: the Medicean-Laurentian Library in Florence (83 MSS); the Library of the University of Bologna and the Library of the National Academy of the Lincei in Rome (60 MSS each); the Marciana National Library in Venice (46 MSS); and the Ambrosiana Library in Milan (37 MSS). In fact, Persian manuscripts preserved in Italy are parts of larger collections of Oriental codices which, starting in the Renaissance period, were acquired for different reasons by various Italian courts, or through the initiative of noble families, religious institutions, and important members of the Catholic church, as well as individual scholars and travelers. The geographical dispersion of the manuscripts, which had been usually kept in Oriental funds without any linguistic distinction (except for the funds of the Vatican Library), has been a major obstacle for identifying and cataloguing them (for an updated report on the localization of Islamic manuscripts with references to the published and unpublished catalogues see Heine for the Vatican; and Orsatti, Pirone, and Gallotta for Italy).

Italy was the first European country to collect Oriental manuscripts. The history of acquiring Persian manuscripts for Italian collections is discussed in the studies of Giorgio Levi Della Vida (1939), Ettore Rossi (1948, pp. 11-16), Angelo Michele Piemontese (1979a, 1982, 1989), Stephan Roman (pp. 140-65), and Paola Orsatti (1996b, pp. 168-73). The first Persian manuscript in an Italian library appears to have been a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Persian dated 712/1312 (MS Vat. Pers. 4), acquired by the Vatican Library before 1570 (Levi Della Vida, pp. 167-69; Rossi, 1948, pp. 29-30; for the Persian copies of the Gospels preserved in Italy and in the Vatican see Rossi, 1948, index; Piemontese, 1989, esp. pp. 228-29; Gulbenkian).

It was also in Rome, during the late 16th and early 17th century, that an important initiative led to an interest in collecting Oriental manuscripts in general, including the Persian ones. Under Pope Gregory XIII (1572-85), the printing house ‘Stamperia Orientale Medicea’ was founded by Cardinal Ferdinando I de’ Medici (1549-1609, Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1587) in order to print texts that could be used in promoting Catholicism among Muslims, and for refuting the rites of Eastern Christians. In 1586 Ferdinando I de’ Medici acquired a collection of more than 100 Oriental manuscripts, including some Persian, from the Jacobite Patriarch Ignazio Neʿmat-Allāh Aṣfar of Mardin. Other Persian manuscripts were purchased for the ‘Stamperia Orientale Medicea’ by the brothers Giovan Battista Vecchietti (1552-1619), and Gerolamo Vecchietti (1557-ca. 1640), during their several missions to the East commissioned by the papacy. Furthermore, Giovan Battista reached Persia and India during one of his Oriental journeys (1598-1608) and became particularly excited by the Persian translations of Biblical texts and by the Judaeo-Persian texts which he collected (Almagià, pp. 321-23, 339). The manuscripts, either specially acquired by the Vecchietti brothers for the ‘Stamperia Orientale Medicea’ or collected on their own, are at present scattered among different libraries: the Medicean-Laurentian Library and the National Library in Florence, the Vatican Library, the National Libraries in Naples and Venice, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris (Richard, 1980).

Gerolamo Vecchietti purchased in Cairo the most remarkable Persian manuscript preserved in Italy—a copy of the Šāh-nāma dated 30 Moḥarram 614/9 May 1217 (Florence, National Library, MS Magl. III.24; Piemontese, 1989, no. 145), which contains the first part of the epic only. The manuscript, identified and described by Piemontese (1980), is the earliest known dated manuscript of Ferdowsi’s poem, and it was used as the basis for the critical edition of the Šāh-nāma by Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh (8 vols., New York, 1988-2007; see also idem, 1985-86, I, pp. 380-81; II, pp. 31 ff.). The manuscript has been reproduced in Tehran both in facsimile (Ferdowsi, 1369 Š./1990) and as a typeset edition (Ferdowsi, 1996-98, 2 vols., publication still continues at the time of writing this article).

Among the manuscripts brought to Italy by Giovan Battista Vecchietti, mention should be made of a copy of the Judaeo-Persian Pentateuch, preserved at the Vatican Library as MS Vat. Pers. 61 (Rossi, 1948, p. 87). Ignazio Guidi (q.v.) made a preliminary study of it, and Herbert Paper published the text in Latin transliteration (1965-68). The National Library in Naples possesses a copy of the Persian version of the Book of Psalms (MS III.G.34; Piemontese, 1989, no. 233), which was made in Lār in 1601 under the supervision of Giovan Battista Vecchietti (an identical ‘twin’ manuscript is preserved in Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris as MS Supplément persan 1; see Richard, 1980, pp. 295-96). In 1602 Vecchietti brought from Hormuz a copy of Asadi-Ṭusi’s (ca. 1000-1072/73, q.v.) Persian lexicon entitled Loḡat-e fors, which is dated to 733/1332-33 and is preserved in the Vatican Library as MS Vat. Pers. 22 (Rossi, 1948, pp. 49-51). This manuscript was used as the main copy in Paul Horn’s edition of the text published in Berlin in 1897 (Horn).

The collection of manuscripts that once belonged to the Patriarch Ignazio Neʿmat-Allāh Aṣfar includes a 16th-century copy (dated 8 Šawwāl 954/21 November 1547) of a 13th-century Persian Diatessaron, that is a compilation in which the four Gospels are ‘harmonized’ in a single work. At present, it is preserved as MS Or. 81 in the Medicean-Laurentian Library in Florence (Piemontese, 1989, no. 140; studied and edited by Messina in 1943 and 1951).

The superintendent of the ‘Stamperia Orientale Medicea’, Giovan Battista Raimondi (d. 1614), left behind numerous texts on Persian linguistics in manuscript form, which are at present dispersed as separate manuscripts between libraries in Florence and Venice (Piemontese, 1979b). Based on Raimondi’s studies and translations of Persian lexicons and grammars, Flamino Clementino Amerino—one of Raimondi’s collaborators, who worked in the convent of the Chierici Regolari Minori in Rome and is otherwise unknown—compiled a grammatical text in 1614 that is considered the earliest unpublished Persian grammar written in Europe. It is preserved as MS Vat. Pers. 24 in the Vatican Library (Kromov; Piemontese, 1989, p. 93; Orsatti, 1996a, pp. 559-61).

In the 17th-century Italy, the interest towards Persian studies and towards collecting Persian manuscripts became mainly the prerogative of the religious and missionary circles. The Borgia collection, which the Vatican Library acquired in 1902 from Propaganda Fide (founded in 1622), perfectly represents this type of interest, mostly religious and linguistic, that the missionary community had in Oriental cultures (Orsatti, 1996b). Among the 23 Persian manuscripts of the Borgia collection, particularly important are some lexicographical works (MSS Borg. Pers. 2, Borg. Pers. 11, Borg. Pers. 12, Borg. Pers. 14, Borg. Pers. 15, and Borg. Pers. 17), and two copies of Persian versions of the Gospels (MSS Borg. Pers. 18 and Borg. Pers. 19; for the latter see Piemontese, 2000 and 2001).

An important group of Persian manuscripts in the Vatican library comprises 29 codices brought from the East by Pietro Della Valle (1586-1652, q.v.). These manuscripts have been preserved in the Vatican since 1718 and were identified as part of the Vatican collection by Rossi (1948, pp. 12-13). This group of manuscripts includes copies of the works of Persian classical poets, such as Neẓāmi Ganjavi, Saʿdi, Ḥāfeẓ (Della Valle was the first who introduced Ḥāfeẓ in Europe; see Bertotti), Jāmi, and Hātefi; works of religious disputes, including a treatise written in Persian by Della Valle himself during his stay in Isfahan in 1621 (for works on Islamic-Christian disputes in Persian see Piemontese, 1989, esp. pp. 201-2; Orsatti, 1992); works that document Persian linguistic studies at the Carmelite (see CARMELITES IN PERSIA) mission in Isfahan where Della Valle himself studied Persian; and a copy of Persian lexicographical work Majmaʿ al-fors of Soruri, transcribed for Della Valle under the supervision of the author (MS Vat. Pers. 69; Rossi, 1948, pp. 91-92). Finally, Pietro Della Valle brought to Italy two apparently unique manuscripts—two historical poems composed by Qadri Širāzi (first half of the 17th century) that describe historical events of Della Valle’s time, like the fights between the Portuguese and Safavid forces in 1622 for gaining control over islands in the Persian Gulf. These texts are the Jang-nāma-ye Kešm (MS Vat. Pers. 30; Rossi, 1948, pp. 56-57; published by Bonelli), and the Fatḥ-nāma (Modena, Biblioteca Estense, MS γ.F.6.22; Piemontese, 1989, no. 216; Pudoli, 1985; Pistoso; published by Pudioli in 1987-88). Another poem by Qadri Širāzi entitled Jarun-nāma speaks about the Safavids taking the island of Hormuz (Jarun) back from the Portuguese; it is preserved in the British Library in London as MS Add. 7801 (Rieu, II, p. 681).

Most of the Persian manuscripts preserved in the Bologna University Library come from the collection of Oriental manuscripts (mainly Arabic and Turkish) acquired by the scientist, Luigi Ferdinando Marsili (or Marsigli, 1658-1730), during his participation in the wars against the Ottomans in Europe (surrender of Buda in 1686 and the siege of Belgrade in 1688). Besides scientific works, which must have been the primary interest of the collector, this group of manuscripts also includes literary texts (mainly copies of the Pand-nāma attributed to Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār), an interesting poetic anthology (MS 3283; Piemontese, 1989, no. 3), several lexicographical texts, and a beautiful album of calligraphy (moraqqaʿ) datable to the late 15th or early 16th century (MS 3574PP; Piemontese, 1989, no. 37).

Persian manuscripts in the Marciana National Library in Venice are of different provenance. Some of them come from the Dominican convent of St. John and St. Paul in Venice, others are from the collection of philologist and Orientalist Emilio Teza (1831-1912), but the greater part (36 MSS) originate from the collection of the Oriental codices of the Venetian aristocrat, Jacopo Nani (1725-97), who acquired them during his journeys to the East and through the expeditions of the Venetian fleet. Among the Persian manuscripts preserved in Venice, the following bear larger importance: several scientific works (mainly medical); works of classical Persian literature (the Pand-nāma, the Golestān of Saʿdi, divān of Ḥāfeẓ, and poems of Jāmi); an early copy (allegedly dated to early 14th century) of Balʿami’s (q.v.) translation of the history of Ṭabari (MS Or. CXXVIII; Piemontese, 1989, no. 380; more details in Piemontese, 1977); lexicographical works; religious treatises of missionaries and Christian apologetics. The Marciana Library also possesses the famous Codex Cumanicus (MS Lat. DXLIX; for bibliography and history of the studies on the manuscript see Piemontese, 1989, no. 393; Stojanow), whose first part contains a Latin-Persian-Comanian dictionary compiled in Solḡat in the Crimea within the years 1324-25. The copy in the Marciana Library is dated to 1330 and was probably transcribed in the convent of St. John in Sarāy (Ligeti; Richard, 1981, pp. 227, 244-45).

A small but valuable collection of 15 Persian manuscripts is preserved at the Royal Library of Turin. They mainly come from the collection of Oriental manuscripts, which was owned by Carlo Alberto di Savoia (1798-1849, king of Sardinia from 1831). One of them—a beautiful illuminated manuscript of the Manṭeq al-ṭeyr of ʿAṭṭār, dated to Ṣafar 857/February-March 1453 (MS Or. 40; Piemontese, 1984b; Idem, 1989, no. 338)—has been reproduced in facsimile in Tehran in 1994 (ʿAṭṭār).

In Rome, the Library of the National Academy of the Lincei and Corsiniana has only four Persian manuscripts which derive from an early collection of the Corsini Library. A beautiful manuscript containing three poems of Hātefi, which once belonged to Federico Cesi (1585-1630), the founder of the Academy of Lincei, had been owned by the Barberini Library which in 1902 became the core part of the Vatican Library (MS Barb. Orient. 104; Rossi, 1948, pp. 159-60). Nearly all (56 out of 60) Persian manuscripts preserved in the Library of the Academy of the Lincei come from the collection of Prince Leone Caetani (1869-1935), a distinguished Orientalist who in 1921 established the Caetani Foundation for Islamic Studies housed at the Library of Academy of Lincei, to which he donated his private collection of manuscripts. Particularly important among this group of Persian manuscripts are those containing works of Persian historiography and classical literature, such as a copy of the collected works (kolliāt) of Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi dated 908/1503 (MS Caetani 38-39; Piemontese, 1989, no. 296; codicological study in Orsatti, 1993, pp. 322-23); two beautiful illustrated copies of the Ḵamsa of Neẓāmi, namely MS Caetani 36 (15th century; Piemontese, 1989, no. 286) and MS Caetani 58 (2nd half of the 16th century; Piemontese, 1989, no. 287); a copy of the Negārestān-e Moʿini (MS Caetani 62; Piemontese, 1989, no. 315; see also Tornesello) composed by Moʿin-al-Din Joveyni (q.v.) in 735/1335 in imitation of Saʿdi’s Golestān.

The Italian collections of Persian manuscripts, scattered in various cities and distributed between many libraries, are a mirror of the different types of interest that brought forth in the establishment of Persian studies in Italy. Besides, they form a valuable part of the multifaceted Italian cultural history.


R. Almagià, “Giovan Battista e Gerolamo Vecchietti viaggiatori in Oriente,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rendiconti della classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Series 8, no. 11/11-12, pp. 313-50.

Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār Nišāpuri, Manṭeq al-ṭayr be ḵaṭṭ-e Naṣir b. Ḥasan al-Makki, fascim. ed. of the manuscript preserved at the Royal Library in Turin (Italy), ed. N. Purjavādi, Tehran, 1994.

F. Bertotti, “Un viaggiatore romano e un poeta persiano: Pietro Della Valle estimatore e divulgatore di Hafiz,” Islam. Storia e civiltà 9/2, 1990, pp. 85-98.

L. Bonelli, “Il poemetto persiano Jangnāma-yi Kišm,” Atti della R. Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rendiconti della classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Series 4, no. 6, 1890, pp. 291-303.

R. Ettinghausen, Miniature persiane nella collezione Bernard Berenson, Milan, 1962.

Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma-ye Felorāns, čāp-e ʿaksi az ru-ye nosḵa-ye ketābḵāna-ye melli-e Felorāns mowarraḵ-e 614 hejri-e qamari, Tehran, 1990.

Idem, Šāh-nāma az dastnevis-e muza-ye Felorāns, 2 vols., ed. ʿA. Joveyni, Tehran, 1996-98.

I. Guidi, “Di una versione persiana del Pentateuco,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rendiconti della classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Series 1, no. 1, 1885, pp. 347-55.

R. Gulbenkian, “The Translation of the Four Gospels into Persian,” Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 36, 1980, pp. 186-218, 267-88; 37, 1981, pp. 35-37.

A. Heinen, “Vatican City State,” in Worldwide Survey of Islamic Manuscripts, 4 vols., ed. G. Roper, vol. I, London, 1991, pp. 145-59.

P. Horn, “Asadī’s neupersisches Wörterbuch ‘Lughat-i Furs’ nach der eingingen Vaticanischen Handschrift,” Abhandlungen der königlischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Phil.-Hist. Klasse, N.S. 1, no. 8, 1897, pp. 133-37.

Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh, “Moʿarrefi wa arzyābi-e barḵ-i az dastnevishā-ye Šāh-nāma,” Irān-nāma/Iran Nameh 3/3, 1985, pp. 378-406; 4/1, 1985, pp. 16-47; 4/2, 1986, pp. 225-55.

A. Kromov, “Darbāra-ye awwalin ketāb-e ṣarf o naḥw-e zabān-e fārsi dar Orupā,” Soḵan 20/1, 1970, pp. 83-84.

G. Levi Della Vida, Richerche sulla formazione del più antico fondo dei manoscritti orientali della Biblioteca Vaticana, Vatican City, 1939.

L. Ligeti, “Prolegomena to the Codex Cumanicus,” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientarium Hungaricae 35, 1981, pp. 1-54.

G. Messina, S. J., Notizia su un Diatessaron persiano tradotto dal siriaco, Rome, 1943. Idem, Diatessaron Persiano. I. Introduzione II. Testo e traduzione, Rome, 1951.

P. Orsatti, “Uno scritto ritrovato di Pietro Della Valle e la polemica religiosa nella storia degli studi sul persiano,” Rivista degli Studi Orienali 64, 1992, pp. 267-74.

Idem, “Le manuscrit islamique: caractéristiques, matérielles et typologie,” in Ancient and Medieval Book Materials and Techniques, Proceedings of the Conference at Erice, 18-25 September 1992, ed. M. Maniaci and P. F. Munafò, 2 vols., Vatican City, 1993, vol. II, pp. 269-331; Pers. tr. “Nosḵehā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e eslāmi: vižegihā-ye māddi wa gunešenāḵti,” Nāma-ye Bahārestān 6/1-2, nos. 11-12, 2005-6, pp. 35-74.

Idem, “Prodromi degli studi europei sul persiano nel Rinascimento,” in Italia ed Europa nella linguistica del Rinascimento: confronti e relazioni/Italy and Europe in Renaissance Linguistics: Comparisons and Relations, Proceedings of the International Conference, Ferrara, 20-24 March 1991, ed. M. Tavoni, 2 vols., Modena, 1996a, vol. II, pp. 551-67.

Idem, Il fondo Borgia della Biblioteca Vaticana e gli studi orientali a Roma tra Sette e Ottocento, Vatican City, 1996b.

P. Orsatti, B. Pirone, and A. Gallotta, “Italy,” in World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts, 4 vols., ed. J. Roper, vol. II, London, 1993, pp. 67-116.

H. H. Paper, “The Vatican Judeo-Persian Pentatech,” Acta Orientalia 28/3-4, 1965, pp. 263-340; 29/1-2, 1965, pp. 75-181; 29/3-4, 1966, pp. 253-310; 31, 1968, pp. 56-113.

A. M. Piemontese, “Il codice marciano della Tārix-e Ṭabari,” Annali. Istituto Universitario Orientale 37, 1977, p. 463-74.

Idem, “I manoscritti persiani del fondo Sbath nella Biblioteca Vaticana e un nuovo “Barzūnāma,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rendiconti della classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Series 8, no. 33/7-12, 1978, pp. 447-64.

Idem, “I fondi dei manoscritti arabi, persiani e turchi in Italia,” in Gli Arabi in Italia: cultura, contatti e tradizioni, ed. F. Gabrieli and U. Scerrato, Milan, 1979a, pp. 661-88.

Idem, “La ‘Grammatica persiana’ di G. B. Raimondi,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 53, 1979b, pp. 141-50.

Idem, “Nuova luce su Firdawsi: uno ‘Šāhnāma’ datato 614 H./1217 a Firenze,” Annali. Istituto Universitario Orientale 40, 1980, pp. 1-91.

Idem, “Les fonds de manuscrits persans conserves dans les Bibliothèques d’Italie,” JA 270/3-4, 1982, pp. 273-93.

Idem, “I manoscritti persiani della collezione Berenson,” in Studi in onore di Francesco Gabrieli nel suo ottantesimo compleanno, 2 vols., ed. R. Traini, Rome, 1984a, vol. II, pp. 631-39.

Idem, “Un codice miniato del ‘Manṭiq al-Ṭayr’ di ʿAṭṭār (857 H./1453) a Torino,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rendiconti della classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Series 8, no. 39/3-4, 1984b, pp. 55-78.

Idem, Catalogo dei manoscritti persiani conservati nelle biblioteche d’Italia, Rome, 1989.

Idem, “Un testo latino-persiano connesso al Codex Comanicus,” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientarium Hungaricae 53/1-2, 2000, pp. 121-32.

Idem, “Le glosse sul Vangelo persiano del 1338 e il Codex Cumanicus,” in Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae 8, Vatican City, 2001, pp. 313-49.

M. Pistoso, “Qadri di Širāz e l’Epica’ safavide,” Oriente Moderno 58, 1978, pp. 321-25.

M. C. Pudioli, “Un inedito masònavi persiano nella Biblioteca Estense di Modena,” in Contributi alla storia dell’orientalismo, ed. G. R. Franci, Bologna, 1985, pp. 39-44.

Idem, “Qadri di Siraz e la ‘Guerra di Kešm’,” Studi orientali e linguistici 4, 1987-1988, pp. 66-95.

F. Richard, “Les manuscrits persans rapportés par les frères Vecchietti et conservés aujourd’hui à la Bibliothèque Nationale,” Stud. Ir. 9, 1980, p. 291-300.

Idem, “Un lectionnaire persan des Évangiles copié en Crimée en 776 H./1374,” Stud. Ir. 10/2, 1981, pp. 225-45.

S. Roman, The Development of Islamic Library Collections in Western Europe and North America, London, 1990.

E. Rossi, Elenco dei manoscritti persiani della Bilbioteca Vaticana. Vaticani, Barberiniani, Borgiani, Rossiani, Vatican City, 1948.

E. Rossi and A. Bombaci, Elenco dei drammi religiosi persiani (fondo mss. Vaticani Cerulli), Vatican City, 1961.

V. Stojanow, “Der Codex Cumanicus in der Forschungsgeschichte,” in Il Codice Cumanico e il suo mondo: atti del colloquio internazionale, Venezia, 6-7 dicembre 2002, ed. F. Schmieder and P. Schreiner, Rome, 2005, pp. 3-44.

C. A. Storey, Persian Literature. A Bio-bibliographical Survey, vol. III/1, A. Lexicography. B. Grammar. C. Prosody and Poetics, Leiden, 1984.

N. L. Tornsello, “Un Negarestan di Moʿini Joveyni conservato al’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei a Roma,” Oriente Moderno, N. S. 15/2, 1996 (monographic volume: La civiltà timuride come fenomeno internazionale, 2 vols., ed. M. Bernardini), pp. 351-77.


Since the Middle Ages, Italians have been some of the greatest collectors of Islamic art in Europe. The Islamic market that Italy drew on was very large and some of the most opulent works were imported from Persia. Among the five most stunning are the early 14th century Central Asian textiles (lampas weave, silk, gold thread) used to make the burial cloths of Cangrande I della Scala (d. 22 July 1329), held by the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona since 1922 (similar ones used for the dalmatic robe of Pope Benedict XI are preserved in the Church of San Domenico in Perugia; Magagnato; Wardwell). Dating from the late 8th or early 9th century is a large piece of red silk with senmurv designs used in the Carolingian period to make a whole chasuble housed in the Abbey of San Salvatore near Siena. This textile was venerated as a relic of Pope St. Mark (first half of the 4th century; but to be dated, in all probability, to Pope John VIII (872-82; Dolcini). Until World War II, the façade of the Church of San Frediano (first half of the 12th century) in Lucca was surmounted by an engraved, cast bronze incense burner from the 9th century in the shape of a bird, fitted with a whistle that when the libeccio (south-west wind) blew emitted a very shrill sound (Treasury of San Frediano, Lucca; Scerrato, 1979, p. 491).

A bowl in relief-cut glass of an opaque turquoise color, perhaps previously in the possession of the Byzantines, appears to have been offered as a gift to the Signoria of Venice by Uzun Ḥasan (1453-78), leader of the Āq-Qoyunlū (q.v.), and has the word Khorāsān carved in relief underneath its base. It is a magnificent 10th century specimen, created in imitation of a carved turquoise bowl now in the Treasury of St. Mark in Venice (Inv. no. 140; Erdmann, pp. 103-4). The Treasury of St. Markalso holds a carved rock crystal dish (Inv. no. 102; Iran or Iraq, 9th-10th century), which is probably the one described in the inventory of 1325, as “Platinam unam de cristallo intaiatam” (Alcouffe, pp. 222-23; cf. also Erdmann, pp. 115-17).

One of the earliest, and most famous families to collect Islamic art was undoubtedly the Medici, in Florence who, from the 15th century onwards, collected Islamic metalwork. The collection was lost in 1494-95 when the Medici were driven out of Florence; nevertheless, when they re-entered the city in the following century, a limited number of the pieces were retrieved. A cast brass jug engraved and inlaid with gold and silver, produced in the late 15th-early 16th century, was acquired by Ferdinand I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1587-1609) in 1589, and has been kept in the Sala della Tribuna at the Uffizi Palace (Florence Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Inv. Bronzi 289); Curatola and Spallanzani, 1981b, pp. 13-16). The most recent inventory, in which its lid and its handle with a zoomorphic head (both later lost) are still recorded, is that of 1733. The jug is part of a remarkable group of Timurid pieces characterized by the same sub-spherical shape and elaborately decorated with arabesques (Komaroff, pp. 153-62, 169-83, 219-21). The same museum houses a hammered brass bowl, engraved and inlaid in silver and gold, depicting a series of horsemen and dated to the 14th century (PLATE I and PLATE II; Inv. Bronzi, 7161; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 265-66, cat. 152); an inscription on the base possibly refers to a Safavid collector of objects from Fārs (Melikian-Chirvani, pp. 77-78).

PLATE I. A brass bowl, engraved and inlaid in silver and gold, Iran (Fārs), 14th century. Courtesy of the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Inv. Bronzi 7161.PLATE I. A brass bowl, engraved and inlaid in silver and gold, Iran (Fārs), 14th century. Courtesy of the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Inv. Bronzi 7161.

PLATE II. A detail of PLATE I.PLATE II. A detail of PLATE I.

The Medici of Florence also collected precious objects such as vessels in crystal and in semiprecious stones; these include an outstanding sardonyx jug with a handle in the shape of a panther (Persia, 8th century), listed in an inventory compiled in the 15th century uponthe death of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1492) and copied in 1512: Uno bochale di sardonio chol manicho di detta pietra, col piè et bechuccio d’ariento dorato, pesa lib. xi once 3, vale f. 2000 ‘A jug in sardonyx with a handle in the said stone, with foot and spout in gilded silver, weight 11 pounds, 3 ounces, value fl. 2000’ (Spallanzani and Gaeta Bertelà, p. 34), at present in the Museo degli Argenti in Florence (Inv. Gemme 777; Damiani and Scalini, eds, p. 79, cat. 51) and a jade bowl (probably from Central Asia, 15th century) also from the collection of Lorenzo the Magnificent (Grote, p. 127). The latter was perhaps transferred from the Treasure of S. Lorenzo or from the Uffizi to the Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale in the 18th century and, at the end of the 19th century, to the Museo di Mineralogia e Litologia of the University of Florence (Inv. no. 1947, 1336/565; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 360-61, cat. 217). A small engraved serpentine bowl with a handle in the shape of a dragon was, in all probability, one of the gifts presented by Johan Georg I, the Elector of Saxony, to the Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany in 1654; it is perhaps the same bowl listed in a Medici inventory of 1666-70 (Florence, Museo degli Argenti, Inv. Gemme 745; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 359-60, cat. 216).

A beautiful ewer in hammered and embossed brass, engraved and inlaid in copper and silver (Khorasan, late 12th to early 13th century), comes from the ancient collection of the Este (from 1288 Lords, and from 1452 Dukes of Modena, until 1796); it is presently in the Galleria Estense in Modena (Inv. no. 6921; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 234-37, cat. 125). The ewer, one of a fairly large extant group, has alternately fluted and concave faces, a pierced lid surmounted by a projecting feline, and many other ornaments (including harpies and falconers) projecting out from the body; some inscriptions in animated nasḵi on the body and in animated kufic on the foot. The inscriptions wish upon the owner glory, good fortune, and the like. The Galleria Estense holds another important example of Persian metalwork (Inv. no. 8082): an engraved cast brass bowl inlaid in gold and silver, inscribed “work of ʿAbd-al-Qāder al-Ḵāleq Širāzi” and dated Moḥarram 705/August 1305. On the body, epigraphical cartouches (nasḵ) alternate with medallions showing fighting, hunting, and court scenes (Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 266-67, cat. 153).

Cardinal Cesare Borgia (1731-1804), Prefect of Propaganda Fide, collected enough antiquities and curios from all over the world to fill a museum in Velletri (Rome); the objects in the Islamic collection included an outstanding engraved cast bronze bowl inlaid in silver, with an animated nasḵi inscription around the rim; we read on the body the name of its owner, Ḵalif b. al-Julāki (Khorasan, late 12th to early 13th century; now in the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, Inv. A.M. 112114; Scerrato, 1968, pp. 2-3). A later (13th to 14th century) bowl of similar shape, with a kufic inscription running around the rim, from the Carrand collection, is in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence (Inv. C 363; Damiani and Scalini, eds, p. 126, cat. 100). Some objects from collections of Islamic antiquities belonging to important Italian families are now housed in various museums abroad. Noteworthy is the so-called “Vaso Vescovali” from the Vescovali collection (see M. Lanci, Trattato), bought on the antiques market in 1950 by the British Museum. It is an important cast bronze bowl with lid (probably not originally part of the object), inlaid in silver, with complex astrological ornamentation (Khorasan, late 12th to early 13th century; London, The British Museum, Inv. OA 1950-7-2511; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 237-39, cat. 127).

There is also a collection of Islamic metalwork in the Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna, which includes a superb engraved, cast bronze bowl inlaid with silver (Inv. no. 2128), inscribed on the inside in animated kufic and on the outside in nasḵi, executed for a member of the retinue of Badr-al-Din Loʾloʾ, atābeg of Mosul (1222-59), probably from northwestern Persia and dated to the first half of the 13th century (Scerrato, 1979, p. 508).

Hunting scenes are depicted both on the outside, in medallions and on the inside, on the base. Some of the above-mentioned museums also house Persian objects in other materials, mainly ceramics, in their collections of Islamic art. Excellent examples of painted luster tiles (12th-14th century) are to be found, for instance, in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence (Curatola and Spallanzani, 1981a, pp. 6-17), and the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples (Scerrato, 1968, pp. 42-46, cat. 50-59), and also in the Scuola Grande di S. Rocco in Venice, the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza and the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale in Rome. In addition to cross, star, and quadrangular-shaped tiles with figures, there are many with verses from the Šāh-nāma by Ferdowsi. In Naples, there is a good collection of Safavid and Qajar tiles, not only in the Museo di Capodimonte, but also in the Museo Artistico Industriale, a 19th century establishment with a triple function (museum, school, and workshop where replicas of Islamic prototypes were made; Fontana, 1988, p. 12). Apropos of ceramics, it should be noted that the aforementioned museums in Faenza and Rome also hold large and important collections of Samanid, Seljuq, Il-khanid, Timurid, and Safavid vessels (Torre, ed., pp. 41-115; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 93-94, 222-34, 255-56, 263-64, 354, 424-26). Among the finest works in the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale in Rome (established in 1957), is a large Samanid bowl of so-called buff animated ware on which three horsemen hunting with a cheetah are depicted (Inv. no. 2629), some Seljuq turquoise glazed house-models (Inv. nos. 1417), a beautiful turquoise-glazed, molded ewer with a series of interlaced dancers (Inv. no. 4863; Ventrone), some luster and mināʾi pieces, and a magnificent lājvardina bottle (Inv. no. 1977). A good collection of Samanid, Seljuq, and Il-khanid ceramics, as yet unpublished, is housed in the Department of Asiatic Studies of the University of Naples “L’Orientale.” The collection of the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale in Rome also includes some of the oldest pieces produced in Persia, not only ceramics, but also other handicrafts: e.g., a turquoise-glazed ceramic storage jar with applied relief (Inv. no. 12749; Curatola, ed., 1993, p. 66, cat. 1), dated to the early Islamic period (late 7th-early 8th century), and a small bowl in greenish glass with applied or molded disks (Inv. no. 2705; Genito, p. 6) belonging to the same period. There are still some doubts, however, concerning the Persian or Byzantine origin of a group of glasses with wheel-cut disks in the Treasury of St. Mark in Venice (Grabar, pp. 70-71, 75-76, cat. 65, 78, 80-81). An engraved cast bronze jug (Khorasan or Transoxiana, 9th-10th century), with a stylized pomegranate serving as a thumb-rest (Rome, Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale, Inv. no. 877/695; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 97-98, cat. 25), belongs to a slightly later period, as does a cast bronze jug with an attached spout ending in the shape of a zoomorphic head, from the Church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (Rome), now in the Museo Sacro, Vatican City (Scerrato, 1979, p. 455). This museum also houses an important silk from eastern Persia (8th-9th century), displaying pairs of lions set face to face in oval medallions (Inv. no. 1251; Scerrato, 1979, p. 454).

Italian collections hold other textiles, some little known, including a beautiful silk from the Tomb of St. Cyriacus in Ancona, now in the local Museo Diocesano. The design, consisting of roundels containing pairs of lions set back to back, is most probably from Central Asia, mid-13th century (Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 244-45, cat. 132). In the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence there are two fragments of silks contemporary with the above, most probably from western Persia, dated to around 1340-80, both with a blue background, one with animal and vegetal designs (Inv. no. 2312 Carrand), the other with floral motifs (Inv. no. 609 Franchetti; for both see Suriano and Carboni, pp. 38-44, cat. 9-10). An earlier Central Asian silk (8th century), belonging to the so-called “Zandaniji” textiles, has oval medallions containing a pair of lions set face to face, alternating with trees of life and quadrupeds; it is also in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence (Inv. no. 633 Franchetti; Suriano and Carboni, pp. 18-21, cat. 2). Some Safavid textiles are to be found in the same museum, as well as in the Museo Correr in Venice, the Museo Civico in Turin, the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale in Rome, and the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan (PLATE III; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 428-33, cat. 274-76, 278; Suriano and Carboni, pp. 117-27, cat. 39-42). At the end of the 16th century, and particularly from the 17th century on, following the establishment of close diplomatic relations between Safavid Persia and major Italian cities, including Venice and Florence, many gifts were exchanged between Persia and Italy. In this manner, a number of Persian carpets found their way to both these cities.

PLATE III. Detail of an Isfahan carpet, 1521, or, more probably, 1541. Courtesy of the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Temporary Loan.PLATE III. Detail of an Isfahan carpet, 1521, or, more probably, 1541. Courtesy of the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Temporary Loan.

From 1603 on, some carpets were presented by Shah Abbās I (1587-1629) to the Serenissima of Venice, and are housed in the Basilica of St. Mark (Erdmann, pp. 123-24); while five Safavid examples known as “Polonaise” carpets, produced mainly in Isfahan but also in Kāšān, are in the Treasury of St. Mark in Venice (Inv. nos 23-27; Erdmann, pp. 123-27, cat. 133-37). A pair of “Polonaise” carpets, formerly owned by the Italian Doria family, are in two major foreign museums: the Carpet Museum in Tehran (King), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (Inv. no. 50.190.5; Dimand and Mailey, pp. 60-61, 103, cat. 18). Three carpets, woven with silk and gold and silver threads, entered the Florentine Grand Ducal collections in the 18th century at the time of the Grand Dukes of Lorraine, and are now in the Museo degli Argenti in Florence (Boralevi, 1980). Florence also boasts important collections of Persian carpets assembled by antique dealers during the 19th and 20th century. The most notable was Stefano Bardini, who bequeathed to the city of Florence a museum that bears his name (Museo Bardini), whose holdings include twenty Persian carpets, some of exquisite craftsmanship (Boralevi, 1981). A carpet in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence (Inv. no. 2203 Carrand; Curatola and Spallanzani, 1983, pp. 20-21, 26) and others in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan (Balboni Brizza, pp. 40-59) are magnificent examples of 16th century workmanship. Those in Milan include a particularly outstanding carpet with hunting scenes from Isfahan, dating to 1521, or, more probably, 1541 (see above, PLATE III, Temporary Loan); abandoned by papal troops in the Quirinal Palace in 1870, it became part of the furnishings of the royal palace of Victor Emmanuel III in Monza, who donated it to the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan in 1919, which, in turn, lent it to the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in 1923); and another with medallions and dragons, probably made for Shah Ṭahmāsp, (Kāšān, 1524-76: Inv. No. 424). A contemporary carpet fragment from Herat with animal and floral motifs is in the Museo Civico in Turin (Curatola, 1983, p. 80).

The two Italian museums that hold the largest number of Islamic armor are the Museo Stibbert in Florence and the Armeria of the Royal Palace in Turin. Some of the Safavid pieces in these collections are of exquisite quality. The Museo Stibbert houses entire suits of armor and a fine knife with an ivory handle, and blade decorated with gold, dating to the 16th to 17th century (Inv. no. 6459), while the Armeria has two swords with blades inlaid in gold and silver, dating to the 16th century (Inv. nos G. 98 and G. 99; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 435-36, cat. 283). Armor and weapons from the 18th and 19th century are held by other Italian collections, such as those in the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale and the Fondazione Caetani apud the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Di Flumeri Vatielli, pp. 329-37), both in Rome, and in the Museo di Palazzo Fortuny in Venice (Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 433-35, cat. 280, 282).

There are many illustrated manuscripts preserved in Italian collections, such as those from the Il-khanid and Timurid periods in the Berenson Collection at Villa “I Tatti” in Settignano (Florence), which houses a leaf of the Great Mongol Šāh-nāma showing Esfandiār approaching Goštāsp (qq.v.), a leaf from a manuscript of a Ẓafar-nāma (Shiraz, June-July 1436) illustrating Timur receiving guests at the marriage of his son, Jahāngir, and an anthology from Herāt (1 Šawwāl 830 A.H./26 July 1427), copied for the Timurid prince Bāysonqor (Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 271-72, 364-65, cat. 157, 220). An important Timurid illustrated manuscript of the Šāh-nāma, from Shiraz, dated to the second half of the 15th century (Ms. C1.III.48; Curatola, ed., 1993, pp. 368-69, cat. 223), is in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence. A Safavid Šāh-nāma of good quality, dating to 20 Rabiʿ I 977 A.H./2 September 1569, is in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples (Ms. III.G.68; Fontana, 1980).

Safavid illustrated manuscripts are also preserved in other collections, and in the Library of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and the Casanatense Library, both in Rome, and the Biblioteca Comunale in Palermo (see Piemontese). Special mention must be made of the collection of archaeological finds of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Ghazni, at present lent by the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO) to the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale in Rome. There are many marble slabs, architectural elements in terracotta and alabaster, and objects in ceramic and metalwork from the Ghaznavid Palace of Masʿud III (1099-1115; PLATE IV), and some pottery vessels from the so-called “House of Luster-Painted Wares” (Bombaci; Scerrato, 1959). There are also a few marble tombstones from Ghazni and its environs, belonging to a long period between the 12th and 16th century, in the same museum (Giunta, pp. 9, 109-11, 169-70, 217-18, 232-37, cat. 16, 30, 47, 53-54).

PLATE 4. A painted terracotta from the excavation of the Palace of Masʿud III at Ghazni (Afghanistan), 505/1112. Museo Nazionale di Arte Orientale Rome, on loan by the IsIAO, Rome. Courtesy of the IsIAO.PLATE 4. A painted terracotta from the excavation of the Palace of Masʿud III at Ghazni (Afghanistan), 505/1112. Museo Nazionale di Arte Orientale Rome, on loan by the IsIAO, Rome. Courtesy of the IsIAO.


D. Alcouffe, “La glittica islamica,” in Il Tesoro di San Marco, (Exhibition Catalog, Paris, 1984), Italian edit. by R. Cambiaghi, Milan, 1986, pp. 215-35.

G. A. Bailey, “The Bernard Berenson Collection of Islamic Painting at Villa i Tatti: Turkman, Uzbek, and Safavid Miniatures,” Oriental Art 48/1, 2002, pp. 2-16.

M. T. Balboni Brizza, Tappeti, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, 1993.

A. Bombaci, “Introduction to the Excavations at Ghazni,” East and West 10, 1959, pp. 3-22.

A. Boralevi, “Three Rugs in the Museo degli Argenti in Florence,” Halı 3, 1980, p. 48.

Idem, “I tappeti orientali del Museo Bardini a Firenze,” Halı (Italian Suppl. 1), Sept. 1981, pp. 2-15.

G. Curatola, Oriental Carpets, London, 1983.

Idem, ed., Eredità dell’Islam, Arte islamica in Italia, (Exhibition Catalog, Venice, 1993-94), Milan, 1993.

G. Curatola and M. Spallanzani, Mattonelle islamiche / Islamic Tiles, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 1981a.

Idem, Metalli islamici dalle Collezioni Granducali / Islamic Metalwork from the Grand Ducal Collection, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 1981b.

Idem, Tappeti / Carpets, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 1983.

G. Damiani and M. Scalini, eds., Islam, specchio d’Oriente, Rarità e preziosi nelle collezioni statali fiorentine, (Exhibition Catalog, Florence, 2002), Florence, 2002.

G. Di Flumeri Vatielli, “Metalli tardo-islamici nella Fondazione Caetani (Roma),” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 70, 1996, pp. 303-52.

M. Dimand and J. Mailey, Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1973.

L. Dolcini, “San Marco papa o Giovanni VIII. Nuove ipotesi per due sciamiti post-sasanidi e una confezione carolingia,” in L. Dolcini, ed., La casula di San Marco papa. Sciamiti orientali alla corte carolingia, Florence, 1992, pp. 1-51.

K. Erdmann, “III. Opere islamiche,” in H. R. Hahnloser, ed., Il Tesoro di San Marco II, Il Tesoro e il Museo, Florence, 1971, pp. 99-127.

M. V. Fontana, La collezione ceramica islamica e l’imitazione ottocentesca del Museo Artistico Industriale di Napoli (Museo Artistico Industriale), Naples, 1988.

Idem, “Un manoscritto safavide dello Šāh-nāma conservato alla Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli,” Annali dell’Istituto Orientale di Napoli 40, 1980, pp. 39-48.

B. Genito, Vetri iranici, Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale, Rome, 1977.

R. Giunta, Les inscriptions funéraires de Ġaznī (IVe-IXe/Xe-XVe siècles), Naples, 2003.

A. Grabar, “II. Opere bizantine,” in R. H. Hahnloser, ed., Il Tesoro di San Marco II, Il Tesoro e il Museo, Florence, 1971, pp. 13-97.

A. Grote, “I Medici collezionisti nel Quattrocento,” in N. Dacos, A. Grote, A. Giuliano, D. Heikamp, U. Pannuti, Il tesoro di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Repertorio delle gemme e dei vasi, Florence, 1980, pp. 125-30.

E. J. Grube, “Piattino in cristallo di rocca,” in Curatola, ed., 1993, entry no. 53 at pp. 143-44.

D. King, “The Doria ‘Polonaise’ Carpet,” in Persian and Mughal Art, (Catalog of exhibition at Colnaghi’s, 7 April-20 May 1976) London, 1976, pp. 301-10.

L. Komaroff, The Golden Disk of Heaven, Metalwork of Timurid Iran, Costa Mesa, Calif., 1992. M. Lanci, Trattato delle simboliche rappresentanze arabiche, Paris, 1846.

L. Magagnato, ed., Le stoffe di Cangrande, Florence, 1983.

A. S. Melikian-Chirvani, Le bronze iranien, Paris, 1973.

A. M. Piemontese, Catalogo dei manoscritti persiani conservati nelle biblioteche d’Italia, Rome, 1989.

U. Scerrato, “The First Two Excavation Campaigns at Ghazni, 1957-1958,” East and West 10, 1959, pp. 23-55.

Idem, Arte islamica a Napoli, opere delle raccolte pubbliche napoletane, (Exhibition Catalog, Naples, 1967), Naples, 1968.

Idem, “Arte islamica in Italia,” in F. Gabrieli and U. Scerrato, Gli Arabi in Italia, Milan, 1979, pp. 275-571.

Idem, M. Spallanzani and G. Gaeta Bertelà, eds., Libro d’inventario dei beni di Lorenzo il Magnifico, Florence, 1992.

C. M. Suriano and S. Carboni, La seta islamica, temi ed influenze culturali / Islamic Silk, Design and Content, 9th International Conference on Oriental Carpets (Museo Nazionale del Bargello), Florence, 1999.

P. Torre, ed., Le Mille e una Notte, ceramiche persiane, turche e ispano moresche (Exhibition Catalog, Faenza, 1990), Faenza, 1990.

G. Ventrone, “Una brocca selgiuchide con scena di danza,” in Arte Orientale in Italia I, Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale, Rome, 1971, pp. 31-46.

A. E. Wardwell, “Panni tartarici: Eastern Islamic Silks woven with Gold and Silver (13th and 14th Centuries),” Islamic Art 3, 1989, pp. 95-173.


The name of a project set up in 1989 by the School of Persian Literary Studies at Venice University. The aim of the project was to create a database for Persian lyric verse by following a computer-assisted and linguistic-statistical approach in a semiotic-structuralist perspective. The work preparing the ground for the project included a methodological essay on the modes of versification and interpretation of Persian poetry (Zipoli, 1988), and the first computer-generated concordances of the divān of Ḥāfeẓ (Meneghini Correale, 1989).

The project is being developed along three major lines. Firstly, the continuous increase in the database mainly made up of texts and lexical material of 1,000-line samples taken from the ḡazal collections of Persian poets (the only exception is the sample taken from Farroḵi Sistāni’s nasibs “lyrical introduction to the qaṣidas”). The decision to work on quantitatively uniform samples ensures that statistical comparisons can be made of the lexical material. In addition to the samples (for the list, see below), the database is made up of all the ḡazals of Ḥāfeẓ (Meneghini Correale, 1989), and Aṯir-al-Din Aḵsikati (q.v.), in addition to 104 ḡazals by Sanāʾi Ḡaznavi according to the seven oldest manuscripts (Zanolla, 2003).

The second main line of activity involves the construction of a software package dedicated to analyzing the texts. The main tools offer the possibility to search for contexts, morphological elements, and lexical solidarities; to identify rhyme structures and figures of speech; to calculate lexicon exhaustion; and to compare processed data (vocabularies, frequencies, etc.) besides other functions.

The third line of activity consists of analysis and research into the texts in the database at various levels (statistical-lexical, rhetorical, semantic, philological, etc.), using the dedicated software. These kinds of assays are not part of a systematic program, but are meant to demonstrate how the experience of the Lirica Persica project may be put to good use in different contexts.

The work carried out in the Lirica Persica project has led to the publication of a number of books and CD Roms (Lirica Persica Series) and articles in various journals (see Bibliography). The first volume in the Series is the project handbook, to be referred to for information not only on the structure, problems, and aims of the Series, but also the underlying principles, whose methodological criteria have subsequently been partly revised (Meneghini, Zanolla, and Zipoli, 1997). The Series includes eleven volumes containing the computer-processed texts by individual ḡazal authors (Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār, Bābā Feḡāni, Bidel, Faḵr-al-Din ʿErāqi, Ḥāfeẓ, Kamāl Ḵojandi, Naẓiri Nišāburi, Saʿdi, Salmān Sāvaji, Sanāʾi, and Ṭāleb Āmoli), one volume with a sample of Farroḵi’s nasibs, two volumes in which the data are analyzed (Zipoli, 1992; Meneghini Correale, 1993), and a presentation of comparative data of the first ten ḡazal samples (Meneghini and Zipoli, 1998). The database was later extended by adding the computer-processed texts of another nine samples of ḡazals (Ahli Širāzi, Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi, Anwari Abivardi, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi, Ḵᵛāju Kermāni, Ḵāqāni Šarvāni, Rumi, Ṣāʾeb Tabrizi, Waḥši Bāfqi) bringing the number of ḡazal samples up to twenty for a corpus of 20,000 lines (2,437 ḡazals, 370,053 tokens, 16,312 types, and 9,866 lemmas). The material processed from this database (texts in both Persian characters and transliteration, complete with lexical, prosodic, and statistical material; a collection of more than 500 files, with internal and external links) was stored on a CD Rom (Meneghini, 2000) and given with a hypertext system of navigation and search (to retrieve contexts, morphological elements, and lexical solidarities). This database has two different levels, Authors and Corpus. The Authors level enables the user to browse and search the 20 separate samples of 1,000 lines; the Corpus level enables the user to browse and search the 20,000 lines as a whole, thus as a sample of the Persian ḡazal lexical system.

Another research area of the Lirica Persica project deals with developing a system for the computer-assisted collation and analysis of manuscripts. The outcome of this work is the publication of the second CD Rom in the Series (Zanolla, 2003), containing the electronic edition of a corpus of 104 ḡazals by Sanāʾi, organized in a hypertext (links added to the poems lead to the transcription of each witness, to the digitized images of the folios, to the single-witness and all-witness spelling databases, and to the word-by-word collation of the texts).

The Lirica Persica project has a website www. liricapersica.it, presenting its activities and publications.


Lirica Persica (LP) series. Daniela Meneghini Correale, Giampaolo Urbani, and Riccardo Zipoli, Handbook of Lirica Persica, LP 1, Eurasiatica 12, Venezia, 1989.

Daniela Meneghini Correale, Hafez: Concordance and Lexical Repertories of 1000 Lines, LP 2, Eurasiatica 13, Venezia, 1989.

Roscinach Habibi and Riccardo Zipoli, Faghani: Concordance and … , LP 3, Eurasiatica 17, Venezia, 1990.

Daniella Meneghini Correale, Taleb: Concordance and … , LP 4, Eurasiatica 18, Venezia, 1990.

Narges Samadi and Riccardo Zipoli, Naziri: Concordance and … , LP 5, Eurasiatica 20, Venezia, 1990.

Daniela Meneghini Correale, Farroxi: Concordance and … , LP 6, Eurasiatica 25, Venezia, 1991.

Riccardo Zipoli, Statistics and Lirica Persica, LP 7, Eurasiatica 26, Venezia, 1992.

Setrag Manoukian and Riccardo Zipoli, Saʿdi: Concordance and … , LP 8, Eurasiatica 32, Venezia, 1992.

Daniela Meneghini Correale and Valentina Zanolla, ʿAttar: Concordance and … , LP 9, Eurasiatica 34, Venezia, 1993.

Daniela Meneghini Correale, The Handling of Āb/Water in Farruḫī, Ḥāfiẓ and Ṭālib, LP 10, Eurasiatica 36, Venezia, 1993.

Riccardo Zipoli, Bidel: Concordance and … , LP 11, Eurasiatica 41, Venezia, 1994.

Daniela Meneghini Correale, Salman: Concordance and … , LP 12, Eurasiatica 44, Venezia, 1995.

Valentina Zanolla, Sanaʾi: Concordance and … , LP 13, Eurasiatica 47, Venezia, 1997.

Riccardo Zipoli, Kamal: Concordance and … , LP 14, Eurasiatica 50, Venezia, 1997.

Daniela Meneghini Correale and Riccardo Zipoli, The Collected Lirica Persica (ʿAttar, Bidel, Faghani, Hafez, Kamal, Naziri, Saʿdi, Salman, Sanaʾi, and Taleb), 2 vols., LP 15, Eurasiatica 53, Venezia, 1998.

Daniela Meneghini Correale and Valentina Zanolla, ʿEraqi: Concordance and … , LP 16, Eurasiatica 60, Venezia, 1999.

Daniela Meneghini Correale, Lirica Persica Hypertext: Browse and Search 20,000 Lines of Persian Ghazals, LP 17, HyperFolia 1, Venezia, 2000 (CD-Rom).

Valentina Zanolla, The Ghazals of Sanaʾi in the Most Ancient Manuscripts, LP 18, HyperFolia 2, Venezia, 2003 (CD-Rom).

Related studies. Daniela Meneghini Correale, The Ghazals of Hafez: Concordance and Vocabulary, Rome, 1989.

Idem, “Quelques observations sur la structure lexicale des ghazals de Hafiz,” in Michael Glünz and J. Christoph Bürgel, eds., Heavenly and Earthly Drunkenness: Seven Studies on the Poet Hafiz of Shiraz, Schweizer Asiatische Studien 12, Bern, 1991, pp. 105-36.

Idem, “Some Support Programs Used in the Lirica Persica Project,” in Proceedings of the 4th International Conference and Exibition on Multi-lingual Computing, London 1994, pp.

Idem, “Repérage automatique des tajnis dans la poésie lyrique néo-persane,” Studia Iranica Mesopotamica et Anatolica 1 (1994), 1995, pp. 189-230.

Idem, “La ripetizione lessicale nei ghazal di Salmân i Sâwajî,” Annali di Ca’ Foscari 36, Serie orientale 28, 1997, pp. 215-52.

Idem, “Potential of the Vocabulary and Actuality of the Text: Computer Assisted Procedures for the Study of the Anagram in Classical Persian Verse,” Annali di Ca’ Foscari 39, Serie orientale 31, 2000, pp. 201-14.

Idem, “Lexical Solidarity and Textual Cohesion in the Classical Persian Ghazal: Research Methodology and Preliminary Data,” Annali di Ca’ Foscari 36, Serie orientale 34, 2003, pp. 169-202.

Daniela Meneghini Correale, Valentina Zanolla and Riccardo Zipoli, Outline of a Persian-English Dictionary, Eurasiatica 51, Venezia 1997.

Valentina Zanolla, “Chashm in Sanâʾî, ʿAṭṭâr e Rûmî,” in Quaderni 3 dell’Istituto Culturale della Repubblica Islamica dell’Iran in Italia, Roma, 1995, pp. 39-136.

Riccardo Zipoli, Encoding and Decoding Neopersian Poetry, Rome, 1988.

Idem, “Tecniche informatiche e lirica neopersiana: dalle concordanze di Hafez a Lirica Persica,” Annali di Ca’ Foscari 29, Serie orientale 21, 1990, pp. 169-91.

Idem, “Lirica Persica’s Typical Vocabularies,” in Proceedings of the Second European Conference of Iranian Studies, Rome, 1995, pp. 759-79.

Idem, “Processing Word Pairs in Samples from the Lirica Persica Series,” Studia Iranica Mesopotamica et Anatolica 1 (1994), 1995, pp. 247-97.

Idem, “Textual Solidarity in the Ghazals of Hafez,” in Iraj Afšār and Hans R. Roemer, eds., Soḵanvāra: panjāh o panj goftār-e pažuheši ba yād-e Doktor Parviz Nātel Ḵānlari, Tehran, 1997.

Idem, “Syntagma Cohesion in the Neopersian Ghazal as Microtext,” Edebiyât 9, 1998, pp. 101-27.

Idem, “The Syntagmatic Cohesion between ‘Wind’ and ‘Hair’ in Hâfiz’s Ghazals,” Annali di Ca’ Foscari 40, Serie orientale 32, 2001, pp. 93-110.

Idem, “Comparing Typical Vocabularies of Persian Ghazal Authors,” forthcoming.


With a few rare exceptions, Persian literature has never been widely circulated or made commercially available in Italy—a fact that is more visible in this country than in other European countries with more uninterrupted political, economic, and cultural ties with Persia. The approach adopted toward Persian texts in Italy has been almost exclusively academic, with the consequence that many important works of Persian literature have never been translated into Italian, as they are accessible to scholars in other European languages. On the other hand, the highly erudite level of certain individuals of the Italian Orientalist tradition, which dates back to Renaissance times, has guaranteed the production of some translations of significant historical value and of very high literary and academic quality.

The first Persian work translated into Italian was actually also the first to be translated into any European language. It was the poem Hašt behešt by Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi (q.v.) written in 1300, which was translated by Cristoforo Armeno (16th century) as the Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del Re di Serendippo, and published in Venice in 1557. In accordance with the custom of the time, it is not a literal translation but rather a re-casting, probably the result of the collective work of a group of Venetian scholars through comparison with two other kindred Persian texts: Neẓāmi’s Haft peykar and Hātefi’s Haft manẓar (qq.v.). Since these three Persian texts are different variants of the ‘Romance of Bahrām,’ the first Persian text in Italian (and in any other European language) thus represents the genre of the ‘mirror for princes’ (Cerulli; Amir Ḵosrow, 1996).

In Papal Rome—the other center of Oriental Studies in Italy—the efforts of Giovan Battista Raimondi (d. 1614) would have offered further rare and early Persian texts, and from less frequented areas such as those of the sciences and religious literature, but his project for translations and publications through the ‘Stamperia Orientale Medicea’ printing house encountered a series of obstacles of both personal and logistic nature. The contribution of the erudite Roman scholar Pietro Della Valle (1586-1652, q.v.) to the field of translations from Persian to Italian was also to remain only potential. From what can be determined from his papers at present, his love for Ḥāfeẓ, whose fame he was the first to bring to Europe, produced translations of only a few poems, read at a gathering after his return from Persia, of which no written trace has remained (Bertotti, 1990).

Such outstanding scholars as Cristoforo Armeno, Raimondi, and Della Valle had planted the seeds of the culture of translation that would only bear fruit on a regular basis when the seats of Iranian studies were officially established in the Italian university system. With the establishment of a continuous tradition of academic activity dedicated to Persia, the production of translations of Persian texts into Italian gradually became more necessary and frequent (an overview in Piemontese, 1982, pp. 575-654).

The first significant translations of pre-Islamic Persian literary texts are the works of Francesco Adolfo Cannizzaro (1867-1914, q.v.) and Italo Pizzi (1849-1920), written in the period between the last two decades of the 19th and the early 20th century. They both concentrated almost exclusively on translating passages from the Avesta (q.v.), which culminated in a broad anthology by Pizzi (1916). Moreover, the Avesta has been particularly fortunate among the pre-Islamic Persian texts, for reasons independent of its Persian origins, being republished partially or entirely in 1943-44 and later in translations from European languages with an accent on its universal spiritual teachings. Since Pizzi was primarily a specialist in Islamic Persian literature, the real initiator of a period of systematic translations from pre-Islamic literature was Antonino Pagliaro (1898-1973). Pagliaro translated excerpts from the Avesta and passages of Old Persian inscriptions from the Achaemenid era, mainly for his compendium of literary history (Pagliaro and Bausani). He also devoted much of his time to the translation of passages and entire works of Pahlavi literature, in particular the Ayādgār ī Zarērān, the Kār-nāmag ī Artaxšēr ī Pāpakān (qq.v.; Pagliaro, 1927), and the Vičārišn ī čatrang (1951). Besides Pagliaro’s works, few other Italian translations of such comprehensiveness were produced in this field until recent times, and these were made by non-specialists in the field. Some examples are the translation of the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg (q.v.) by Giuseppe Messina (1939), a series of passages from Zoroastrian Pahlavi religious texts (Pand-nāmag ī Zarduxšt, Bundahišn, Dādestān ī mēnog ī xrad, Dēnkard [qq.v.]) translated by Alessandro Bausani (1957), and a later, isolated version of the Gathas (q.v.) translated by Marcello Meli (1996). The lack of a greater output of Italian translations in this field is due to three factors: the above-mentioned tendency towards an almost exclusively academic approach to the texts, which is particularly true for pre-Islamic studies; the availability of translations of most of the works in question into other European languages; and, finally, the spread of the use of English for scientific publications, even among Italian scholars. Nevertheless, in recent times there have been some additions to the list, such as a new translation of the Vičārišn ī čatrang by Antonio Panaino (1999), an anthology of Pahlavi texts for the compendium of literary history by Carlo Cereti (2001), and a completely new translation of the Avesta carried out by Arnaldo Alberti from the original texts (2004).

The period of Italian translations of Persian literary works from the Islamic era began, and not by accident, in the post-Risorgimento (Italian unification) age (1880s) with epic poetry. In fact, apart from the appearance of occasional literary passages (lyrical, didactic, a travel diary, a treatise on falconry), the first truly representative translation is the monumental version of the Šāh-nāma by Italo Pizzi (1886-88). Rendered in eight-line stanzas of non-rhyming hendeca syllables, which has often been subject of criticism, Pizzi’s Libro dei Re (‘Book of Kings’) is one of the greatest efforts of translating a Persian text in the history of Iranian studies worldwide (PLATE I). Pizzi has also translated numerous other works which were published either separately or as parts of his handbooks on the history of Persian prose and poetry (lyric poems by many poets, excerpts from narrative poems by Neẓāmi and ʿAṭṭār, historical texts, didactic pieces, a version of the Golestān of Saʿdi made in 1917; see Pizzi, 1887 and 1894). Nevertheless, his translation of Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma remains his most important contribution, arousing interest and admiration in Italy even among non-Orientalists (Carducci, 1886). Two other, incomplete, Italian translations of the Šāh-nāma (1989 and 2003) do nothing more than paraphrase, and often summarize, Pizzi’s work. Vittorio Rugarli (1860-1900), Pizzi’s disciple and brother-in-law, also worked on the epic narratives, producing valuable, well-written translations of the Šāh-nāma, the Barzu-nāma, the Kuk-nāma, and long sections from the Garšāsp-nāma of Asadi Ṭusi (qq.v.).

PLATE I. Frontispiece and title page of Italo Pizzi’s translation of the Šāh-nāma II (see Ferdowsi, 1886-88). Courtesy of Butler Library, Columbia University, New York City.PLATE I. Frontispiece and title page of Italo Pizzi’s translation of the Šāh-nāma II (see Ferdowsi, 1886-88). Courtesy of Butler Library, Columbia University, New York City.

A large hiatus separates this initial phase of Italian academic translations from the second cycle initiated by the following generation, in particular Francesco Gabrieli (1904-96, q.v.) and Alessandro Bausani (1921-88 q.v.), who focused on narrative, epic, and romantic literature with a short series of partial translations of the Marzbān-nāma, Gorgāni’s Vis o Rāmin, and Neẓāmi’s Haft Peykar. Bausani’s complete translation of the Haft Peykar in 1967 (incorporating passages translated by Gabrieli) marked an important point from which two different paths opened up. One was a specific interest in the works of Neẓāmi, whose Leyli o Majnun and Eqbāl-nāma were also translated into Italian and published commercially in 1985 and 1997, respectively. The other was a line of study that concentrated on the structural form of the book, which led to the Italian translation of the answers (jawāb) to Haft Peykar in maṯnawi form by Hātefi and Amir Ḵosrow, which came out in 1995 and 1996. Thus, considering also the section of Pizzi’s Libro dei Re related to Bahrām, Italy can boast of four complete versions of the ‘Romance of Bahrām.’ The attention paid to this narrative model is clearly related to the first Venetian translation of the Peregrinaggio in 1557. With Angelo Michele Piemontese’s translation of a second poem by Amir Ḵosrow, Āʾena-ye Eskandari (Lo Specchio Alessandrino, 1999), Italy consolidated a pioneering role in the filed, as the works of this important Indo-Persian poet had not yet been translated into any other European language. Along with this line of work, and besides the translations of excerpts published as individual studies or in volumes on literary history, such as those of Alessandro Bausani (Pagliaro and Bausani, 1960), Gianroberto Scarcia (1969), and Angelo Michele Piemontese (1970), only a few other complete translations of works of this genre appeared in Italian, notably the translation of Ebn Ḥosām’s (see EBN ḤOSĀM ḴᵛĀFI) version of the Ḵāvar-nāma, published in 1979.

To date, Persian historiography has received insufficient attention in Italy. Translations of brief fragments can be found in individual studies or in the usual general handbooks, beginning with the work on universal literature by Angelo De Gubernatis and in some anthologies (Piemontese and Scarcia, 1973). Lengthier versions in commercial editions, translated from intermediary languages, include: Tāriḵ-e Jahāngošā by Joveyni (q.v.; 1962, translated from English), some excerpts of Tāriḵ-e Ṭabari by Balʿami (q.v.; 1985 and 1993, from French), and a long excerpt from Rawżat al-ṣafāʾ by Mirḵᵛānd (1996, from French). In 2000, the Homāyun-nāma by Golbadan Bēgom (q.v.) was translated from the Persian original by Anna Vanzan.

In the field of didactic literature, mention should be made of complete translations of some masterpieces of Persian prose: Saʿdi’s Golestān (four complete versions: 1917, 1965, 1979, and 1991), Čahār Maqāla by Neẓāmi ʿArużi Samarqandi (1977), Qābus-nāma (1981), Safar-nāma of Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow (1991), and Siāsat-nāma of Neẓām-al-Molk (1999). At the same time, academic circles showed a growing interest in the satiric works of ʿObeyd-e Zākāni, which appear to be quite well suited to the Italian sense of humor: examples are translations by Bausani (1964), Piemontese (1973), and D’Erme (1979, reprinted in 2005).

Due largely to a deep-rooted tendency in Italian culture to favor a generally aesthetic approach to literary history, the greatest number of translations from Persian have been those of lyric poetry. The first examples of the translated poetry appeared in the beginning of the 19th century in the context of academic research: odes of Jāmi, Saʿdi, Ḥāfeẓ, and Ḵāqāni were translated by scholars such as, among others, Romualdo Tecco (1802-67), and Angelo De Gubernatis (1840-1913). However, in this area too, truly representative translations began with Italo Pizzi and Vittorio Rugarli. Besides translations of various classical Persian authors, often published as celebratory books for the weddings of noble Italian families, Pizzi and Rugarli were the first to introduce the works of ʿOmar Khayyam (Ḵayyām) to Italy. Following the European success of Edward FitzGerald’s (q.v.) translations, in Italy Khayyam represented the rare exception of a Persian author whose poetry appealed not only to academics but also to a vast and heterogeneous public, especially within the ‘decadent’ movement. There are over thirty publications containing selections of Khayyam’s quatrains translated into Italian, ranging from small excerpts in booklets edited by Rugarli to various complete editions that were published throughout the 20th century. The latter include translations based on the original texts and accompanied by scholarly introductions (especially Gabrieli, 1944 and Bausani, 1956, both of which have been re-edited and printed many times), as well as those made from intermediate languages, particularly FitzGerald’s English version. Khayyam is certainly the most widely known Persian poet in Italy and is recognized as a classic of world literature (Piemontese, 1974).

Once again, it was A. Bausani who began a new round of translations of lyric poetry, increasing the number of poets represented, even if by a single poem. To the anthology of classical poets (Rudaki, Farroḵi, ʿOnṣori, Manučehri, Sanāʾi, ʿAṭṭār, Masʿud-e Saʿd-e Salmān, Azraqi, Moʿezzi, Anwari, Ḵāqāni, Saʿdi, Rumi, ʿErāqi, Ḥāfeẓ, ʿObeyd-e Zākāni, Jāmi, Ṣāʾeb, and Qāʿāni, who constitute more or less the classical framework of all subsequent literary histories and anthologies) presented in his history of Persian literature (Pagliaro and Bausani, 1960), which also provides a review of the main motifs of Persian lyrics, Bausani added some of his own personal favorites, such as a translation of the Persian work of Avicenna and an ample selection of Rumi’s mystical poems. Important translations of lyric poetry were also produced by Gianroberto Scarcia, who similarly included excerpts in literary histories (Scarcia, 1969; Piemontese, 1970), individual studies, and collections; his personal favorites included poets from the later Indian style such as Ṣāʾeb and Bidel (Zipoli and Scarcia). So far, monographs have been quite rare; Ḥāfeẓ was treated in 1966 (a small volume edited by Eva Giardina), in 1998 (edited by Carlo Saccone), and two complete editions appeared in the early 2000s—one by Giovanni D’Erme (2004, so far first volume only), and the other by Stefano Pellò and Gianroberto Scarcia (2005). Other monographs concern Bābā Ṭāher (1988), Bidel (1995), and Mahsati Ganjavi (1999).

Anthologies for the commercial market have been published more frequently since the 1970s: the most comprehensive editions date to 1973 (edited by A. M. Piemontese and G. Scarcia, including Turkish poetry), 1986 (Divano Occidentale by G. Scarcia), 1995 (Antologia della pleiade ghaznavide by Rita Bargigli), 2003 (Ti amo di due amori, together with Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew poems, Persian section edited by Mario Casari), and 2004 (Poesia dell’Islam by G. Scarcia).

The collection of Rumi’s poems edited by Bausani also marks another area of translation of Persian works into Italian: that of philosophical-religious literature, especially of mystical nature. The approach to this subject, sometimes carried out in an academic context, as in the case of the translation of religious texts by Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow (1959 and 1990), the Omm al-Ketāb (1966), and the Ḥosn o del by Fattāḥi (1974), has more often been driven by the choice of texts that might attract interest among a broader, more general audience seeking a less familiar spirituality. This trend also includes the many Sufi anthologies containing Persian material (1951, 1964, 1991, and 1999), the publications dedicated to ʿAṭṭār (Taḏkerat al-awliāʾ, 1964; Manṭeq al-ṭeyr, 1986; Elāhi-nāma, 1990; and the dubiously attributed Gol o bolbol, 2003), Sanā’i (1992 and 1993), Sohravardi (1990 and 2000), and the numerous anthologies inspired by Rumi’s maṯnawi or divān, most of which were translated from French or English versions. The first complete translation of Rumi’s maṯnawi was made by Gabriele Mandel Khan and published in 2006. Other publications, which were the result of a political-religious approach, include those concerning Bahai (q.v.) literature and, more recently, the works of thinkers and ideologues of the Islamic Republic such as M. Moṭahhari and R. Khomeini.

There have also been some cautious attempts to make contemporary Persian literature better known to a wider public than strictly academic. While theatrical works (a handful of comedies from the Akhundov (1812-78, see ĀḴUNDZĀDA) school and a few passages from taʿzias and poetry (the Indo-Persian poet Moḥammad Eqbāl, introduced by A. Bausani, and poems by modern Persian poets such as Sohrāb Sepehri and Foruḡ Farroḵzād, qq.v.) have appeared only sporadically, certain prose writers have fared better, particularly Ṣādeq Hedāyat (q.v.), whose works came in the 1960s and 1970s via French, and in 2007 a new revised edition of his works was published on the basis of the original Persian texts. Besides a few novellas by authors like Čubak, Jamālzāda, and Behrangi, translated and published within some academic articles, the best attempt to introduce modern Persian literature to the Italian public was through an anthology of 20th-century Persian literature edited by Filippo Bertotti (1989), followed by an anthology of works by Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Sāʾedi (1990). Recently, some attention has been paid to contemporary Persian female writers, particularly Šahrnuš Pārsipur, who were presented by stressing a sociological approach to the status of women in Persia (1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004).

Following a similar pattern, which reveals the persistent methodological barriers to the diffusion of knowledge of Persian literature in Italy, an anthropological and ethnological, rather than literary, approach has favored the publication of many volumes of Persian fables, presented in popular ‘exotic’ editions that most often derive from anthologies in other European languages.


Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi, Hašt behešt, tr. A. M. Piemontese as Le otto novelle del paradiso, Soveria Mannelli, 1996.

Idem, Āʾina-ye Eskandari, tr. A. M. Piemontese as Lo specchio alessandrino, Soveria Mannelli, 1999.

C. Armeno, Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo, per opra di M. Christoforo Armeno dalla Persiana nell’Italiana lingua trapportato, Venice, 1557.

Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār, Manṭeq al-ṭeyr, tr. G. Saccone as Il verbo degli uccelli, Milan, 1986.

R. Bargigli, ed., I poeti della pleiade ghaznavide, Milan, 1995.

A. Bausani, Testi religiosi zoroastriani, Milan, 1957.

F. Bertotti, ed., I minareti e il cielo. Racconti persiani del Novecento, Palermo, 1989.

Idem, “Un viaggiatore Romano e un poet persiano: Pietro Della Valle estimatore e divulgatore di Ḥāfiẓ,” Islàm. Storia e Civiltà 9, 1990, pp. 121-27.

Bidel—see Zipoli and Scarcia. G. Carducci, “Arte e poesia,” Nuova antologia di lettere, arti e scienze 88, 1886, pp. 5-21.

C. G. Cereti, La letteratura pahlavi. Introduzione ai testi con riferimenti alla storia degli studi e alla tradizione manoscritta, Milan, 2001.

E. Cerulli, “Una raccolta persiana di novelle tradotte a Venezia nel 1557,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Memorie della Classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Serie 8, vol. 18/4, 1975, pp. 247-365.

Dāstān-e Kok-e kuhzād, tr. V. Rugarli as Kuk il Montanaro, Bologna, 1891.

G. M. D’Erme, “Opere satiriche di ‘Ubayd Zākānī,” in Iranica, ed. G. Gnoli and A. V. Rossi, Naples, 1979, pp. 3-160.

Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma, tr. I. Pizzi as Il Libro dei Re, 8 vols., Turin, 1886-88.

Golbadan Begom, Homāyun-nāma, tr. A. Vanzan as La storia di Humāyūn raccontata da Golbadan Begum, principessa dell’harem Moghul, Milan, 2000.

Ḥāfeẓ, Divān, tr. G. D’Erme as Canzoniere, vol. 1, Naples, 2004; tr. S. Pellò and G. Scarcia as Canzoniere, Milan, 2005.

Hātefi, Haft manẓar, tr. M. Bernardini, as I sette scenari, Naples, 1995.

Key-Kāʾus b. Eskandar, Qābus-nāma, tr. R. Zipoli as Il libro dei consigli, Milan, 1981.

ʿOmar Ḵayyām, Robāʿiyāt, tr. F. Gabrieli as Le Rubàiyyàt, Florence, 1944; tr. A. Bausani as Quartine, Turin, 1956.

G. Messina, Libro apocalittico persiano «Ayātkār-I Zāmāspik» I. Testo pehlevico, pārsi e pāzend restituto, tradotto e commentato, Rome, 1939.

Neẓāmi, Haft Peykar, tr. A. Bausani as Le sette principesse, Bari, 1967.

Idem, Leyli o Majnun, tr. G. Calasso as Leylā e Majnun, Milan, 1985.

Idem, Eqbāl-nāma, tr. C. Saccone as Il libro della fortuna di Alessandro, Milan, 1997.

A. Pagliaro, Epica e Romanzo nel Medioevo Persiano, Florence, 1927.

A. Pagliaro and A. Bausani, Storia della letteratura persiana, Milan, 1960.

A. Panaino, La novella degli scacchi e della tavola reale. Un’antica fonte orientale sui due giochi da tavola più diffusi nel mondo eurasiatico tra Tardoantico e Medioevo e sulla loro simbolica militare e astrologica, testo pahlavi, traduzione e commento al Wizārišn ī čatrang ud nihišn ī nēw-ardaxšīr “La spiegazione degli scacchi e la disposizione della tavola reale,” Milan, 1999.

A. M. Piemontese, Storia della letteratura persiana, 2 vols., Milan, 1970.

Idem, “ʿOmar Khayyām in Italia,” Oriente Moderno 54, 1974, pp. 275-97.

Idem, Bibliografia italiana dell’Iran (1462-1982), 2 vols., Naples, 1982.

A. M. Piemontese and G. Scarcia, Poesia d’amore turca e persiana, Novara, 1973.

I. Pizzi, Manuale di letteratura persiana, Milan, 1887.

Idem, Storia della poesia persiana, 2 vols., Turin, 1894.

Rūmī, Poesie mistiche, ed. A. Bausani, Milan, 1980.

Jalāl-al-Din Rumi, Maṯnawi-e maʿnawi, tr. G. Mandel Khan as Mathnavi. Il poema del misticismo universale, Milan, 2006.

Saʿdi, Golestān, tr. P. Filippani-Ronconi as Il Roseto, Turin, 1965; tr. R. Bargigli as Il Roseto, Rome, 1979.

G. Scarcia, “Letteratura persiana,” in Storia delle letterature d’Oriente, vol. II, ed. O. Botto, Milan, 1969, pp. 243-451.

Idem, Divano Occidentale, Bologna, 1986.

A. Vanzan, Parole svelate. Racconti di donne persiane, Padua, 1998.

R. Zipoli, ed., “Da Onsori a Hatefi. Antologia poetica,” Quaderni dell’Istituto Culturale della Repubblica Islamica d’Iran in Italia 1, 1989, Majmuʿa-ye Bahāria, pp. 7-43.

R. Zipoli and G. Scarcia, eds., Il canzoniere dell’alba. 50 ghazal di Bidel, Milan, 1997.


Two texts by Italian authors appear to be the first known translations of European literary works into Persian carried out in the modern age. They are the Idea del giardino del mondo, a treatise on natural medicine by Tommaso Tomai (d. 1593), and the De christiana expeditione apud Sinas (in Latin), a report about China by the Jesuit missionary (see JESUITS IN SAFAVID PERSIA), Matteo Ricci (1552-1610). The translator of both texts was Moḥammad Zamān (b. 1618), known as Farangiḵᵛān (‘reader of the Frankish language’)—an Iranian who converted to Catholicism in Isfahan in 1641 and subsequently emigrated to India. The excellent Persian translations of the Italian (Ḥadiqa-ye ʿālam, ca. 1642-50) and Latin (Tāriḵ-e Čin, ca. 1650-65) texts exist in two unique manuscripts (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Persan 158; and Calcutta, Asiatic Society of Bengal, MS Curson I.124). It seems highly probable that a missionary (in the second case, probably, the Jesuit father Enrico Uwens who was stationed in India and died in Delhi in 1667) may have aided Moḥammad Zamān in his translation. Nonetheless, whether or not he was helped by others, if these works were personally translated by Moḥammad Zamān, he should be recognized not only as the first Persian translator from Italian, but also as the first and, to date, the only known translator from Latin (Blochet, II, pp. 108-9; Richard, pp. 287-88; Piemontese, pp. 28-35).

Though both significant and praiseworthy, Moḥammad Zamān’s works were neither distributed in Persia nor were they followed by any similar endeavor and should therefore be considered unique and apparently occasional. It was not until the first half of the 19th century when Persian culture turned its attention to the languages and literatures of Europe once again, although it tended to concentrate primarily on French and, to a lesser extent, on English. These two languages were also to become the main intermediary channels for the subsequent approach towards Italian literature which, however, remained sporadic and discontinuous.

Indeed, it was with the translation from French of Giovanni Boccaccio’s (1313-75) Decameron by Aḥmad Khan Daryābeygi (governor of Bušehr and then of other ports in the Persian Gulf), that Italian literature stepped back into Persia at the beginning of the 20th century (Boccaccio, 1905). In this case, however, the work was recast rather than simply translated. It was stripped of its textual and contextual complexity, and the stories were presented in a simplified narrative sequence. This illustrated lithographic volume stemmed from a growing interest in literature of libertine character under the Qajars, which was not well received by the Shiʿite religious authorities. As Boccaccio’s work was at the center of such a substantial divergence from the norm, it did not circulate regularly in Persia, and, despite the occasional appearance of a few individual novellas, two new translations from French made by Ḥabib Šonuqi (1966) and by Moḥammad Qāżi (1986) were censored and have never been printed.

In much the same vein, Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) was presented as a hero and poet capable of both military and erotic achievements, rather than solely as a literary artist. His name and fragments of his writings appeared mostly during the decade of fervent publishing between the abdication of Reżā Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925-41) and the fall of the Moṣaddeq government (1943-53). D’Annunzio was mentioned in various journals (particularly in the widely distributed Eṭṭelāʿāt-e haftegi), in which other important Italian poets and writers, such as Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo, began to appear more frequently.

Among these newly introduced writers, Nicolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) represented an important step forward in presenting the Italian culture, and his ideas left a distinct mark. The translation of his Il principe from English by Maḥmud Maḥmud (1882-1965; a publisher of historical and political writings who also held various political posts) was printed in 1945. The translator presented Machiavelli’s masterpiece, emphasizing the cynical element in the Italian writer’s reflections in an updated, anti-British light. The book was well received and was reprinted several times until 1968, along with Persian translations of Machiavelli’s two other works: Belfagor (1963) and Mandragola (1966). Machiavelli’s theories in the history of political thought were also discussed (Piemontese, pp. 101-8). Iranian scholar and linguist Dāryuš Āšuri compared one German and two English translations to produce an admirable new Persian translation of Il Principe, accompanied by a thorough critical analysis (1987, rev. ed. 1996). This led to the translation of another important work of Machiavelli, the Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio (1998).

The works of Tomai, Boccaccio, and Machiavelli represent three landmarks, albeit isolated and motivated by different factors, in the approach of Persian intelligentsia toward Italian literature. It was, however, not until after World War II that Italian literature really took hold in Persia as a result of the strengthening of political and economic relations with Europe and the United States, the increase in travel to and from Persia, and the foundation of libraries and cultural institutions that made international literature available more easily. Nonetheless, Italian literature continued to be mediated mostly by French and English translations. Various cultural reviews began to publish Persian translations, often fragmentary, of 20th-century Italian authors and of critical reflections on their works. These were chosen according to the criteria that suited the elements and predispositions of Persian taste: the surreal compassion of Luigi Pirandello’s novels (in Soḵan, 1948, 1955; Eṭṭelāʿāt-e māhāna, 1948, 1950; Mehregān, 1952, 1955; Ferdowsi, 1955-56), the crude realism of Alberto Moravia (Mehregān, 1953, 1955; Kāviān, 1954; Ferdowsi, 1956; Soḵan, 1957; Tehrān-e moṣawwar, 1957-59), the bitter lyrical naturalism of Grazia Deledda (Eṭṭelāʿāt-e māhāna, 1952; Soḵan, 1954), and the magic and alienation of Dino Buzzati (Soḵan, 1955).

A name that often appears in association with some of these translations is that of Šojāʿ-al-Din Šafāʾ (b. 1918), who was one of the first to translate directly from Italian, although he amply complemented this with a constant comparison of French, English, and German versions. The most substantial undertaking in Šafā’s vast output was his translation of the masterpiece of Italian literature, Dante Alighieri’s (1265-1321) Divina Commedia (1956). Despite the abundant criticism directed against him, especially regarding the lack of any attempt to use poetic expression in the Persian language, Šafā’s translation should be regarded as highly successful because it corresponds meticulously to the original and is often annotated, either directly in the text or within explanatory notes. This translation enjoyed great popular success and was reprinted four times up to 1978. With the advent of the Islamic Republic, Dante’s work was removed from circulation (Bertotti and Orsatti, pp. 257-69). This situation has recently been reversed with a reprint of Šafā’s translation (1999) and, more importantly, with the publication of a new full translation of the work (based on French and English translations) by Farida Mahdavi-Dāmḡāni (2000, repr. 2001). Although this translation has brought important new contributions, there is still room for improvement. The same translator also published La Vita Nuova (1997), Dante’s only other work to be translated into Persian in full.

The translation of the Divina Commedia can also be regarded as a milestone in the Persian awareness of Italian poetry. Previously, Italian poetry had lacked broad and thoughtful attention and had been treated in a fragmentary manner, mainly through short extracts and comments translated from English and French, which were published in reviews and anthologies. Until then, except for Dante, publishers have only briefly touched on the great Italian authors of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, such as Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, and Metastasio, preferring instead collections of a wide range of 19th- and 20th-century authors, whose appeal is more immediate as Persians discover more of European culture. Moreover, if one leaves aside some significant exceptions (the translation of Giacomo Leopardi’s Canto notturno di un pastore errante dell’Asia in the review Bahār of 1922, the curiosity about Salvatore Quasimodo in some of the reviews published after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1959, some interest in the poetry of Cesare Pavese in reviews and collections from the 1970s onwards, and a volume dedicated to the poetry of Giuseppe Ungaretti in 1991), the main examples of Italian poetry in Persian can be found in two anthologies edited by the Cultural Institute of the Italian Embassy in Tehran. One of them was edited by Nāder Nāderpur in collaboration with Gina Labriola Caruso (Haft čehra, 1974), and concentrated on the 20th-century works, while the other, by A. Mohājer Irvāni (Bargozidegān-e šeʿr-e Itāliā, 1991), focused on the 19th-century authors.

Beginning in the 1960s, the popular success of some Italian authors, although limited almost exclusively to those of the 20th century, took a firmer hold. Writers such as Grazia Deledda, Alba De Céspedes, Carlo Cassola, Giovanni Guareschi, Curzio Malaparte, and Elio Vittorini appeared sporadically on the cultural scene in reviews and in the occasional volume, while others were introduced more systematically and, consequently, greater attention was paid to their literary development. The translation and publication of Pirandello’s short stories in reviews and magazines went on without interruption, accompanied by the appearance of volumes containing tales, novels, and plays: Bist dāstān (1956), Enrico IV and Il fu Mattia Pascal (1967 and 1969), Non si sa come (1970), Uno, nessuno e centomila and Il turno (1993), and L’esclusa (1995), although the latter work was censored before it was distributed. Similarly, the fame of Moravia continued to spread, and his stories appeared frequently in literary reviews. His works also appeared in volumes with substantial print runs, although they were almost exclusively translated from English: there are four different translations of La ciociara (in installments in Tehrān-e moṣawwar in 1960, then in separate volumes in 1964, 1985, and 1990); translations were also published of Gli indifferenti (1967), Racconti romani (1985), and Il conformista (1995). Buzzati’s works continued to appear too: some of his short stories in reviews and collections (1972, 1995, 2000, and 2003), and some of his novels, in particular the well-known Il deserto dei Tartari, which has seen three translations (1970, 1986, and 2000; see Vanzan, 2000; Ebrāhim, 2002).

To these three authors, who were already quite well known, other significant names may be added, each having a specific appeal for the Persian audience. Ignazio Silone, whose collection of essays Testimonianze sul comunismo had already been published in 1950, gained renown with the publication of his novel Pane e vino, translated from French by Moḥammad Qāżi (1966), which reached its twelfth printing in 1995. Critical reflections and radio readings accompanied the publication of numerous other writings by Silone, at times carried out by some of the most outstanding translators of Italian: Fontamara (1968, by Manučehr Ātaši, from English), Una manciata di more (1971, by Bahman Farzāna), L’avventura di un povero cristiano (1973, by Moḥammad Qāżi, from French), La volpe e le camelie (1977, by Bahman Farzāna), Il seme sotto la neve (1982), Uscita di sicurezza (1983), and La scuola dei dittatori (1984, the latter three by Mehdi Saḥābi).

The many aspects of Cesare Pavese’s works, including his poetry, received great attention, especially his short stories and several novels (two translations of La luna e i falò in 1967 and 1991, Paesi tuoi in 1974, and Il compagno in 1975). Some of Natalia Ginzburg’s best-known novels have been translated (Caro Michele, 1978 and Lessico famigliare, 1985), along with her many articles on culture and customs (Le piccole virtù, in installments in various reviews, and collected together in 1997).

Great attention was paid to Italo Calvino, already internationally celebrated, through the publication of articles and essays regarding him, and translations of his better-known works: Il visconte dimezzato (1967), Il barone rampante, Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore, Sei lezioni americane (1984, 1990, and 1996, in each case from French by Leyli Golestān), Le città invisibili (1988), Marcovaldo (1991), Palomar (1998), and even an anthology from his collection of tales entitled Fiabe italiane (1999).

The most striking publishing phenomenon regarding an Italian writer, however, is that of Oriana Fallaci, whose journalistic writing became the best known of all Italian voices in terms of both the number of copies sold and editions printed. After Niente e così sia (1971) and Se il sole muore (1973), the great success of Lettera a un bambino mai nato (four different translations between 1976 and 1977) and Intervista con la storia, which contained the interview with Moḥammad-Reżā Shah Pahlavi (four translations between 1977 and 1978), earned her the honor of being the most important foreign writer in Persia during the 1970s.

During the period in which these writers gained reputation in Persia, the names of a few prolific translators from Italian became familiar (Piemontese, pp. 126-44): Bahman Moḥaṣṣeṣ (b. 1931; translated works of Pirandello, Pavese, and also La pelle by Curzio Malaparte, which in 1964 created a certain scandal), Bahman Farzāna (b. 1938, translated works of Deledda, D’Annunzio, Ginzburg, De Céspedes, Pirandello, Buzzati, Silone, and also Vasco Pratolini’s Cronaca Familiare in 1975), Reżā Qeyṣariya (b. 1941, translated works of Moravia, Buzzati, Pirandello, Pavese, Calvino, and Leonardo Sciascia, as well as Il giorno della civetta in 1979), Mehdi Saḥābi (b. 1944, translated works of Silone, Calvino, Pavese, Sciascia, together with Gavino Ledda’s Padre padrone in 1987), and Moḥsen Ṭāher Nowkanda (b. 1947, translated works of Quasimodo, Pavese, Fenoglio, and Baricco).

A particularly influential factor in the awareness of Italian culture in general was the international success of Italian cinema and, in particular, the neorealist genre of the 1950s and 1960s. Numerous articles and essays on the subject were not, however, accompanied by an equivalent degree of effort in translating the screenplays (with the exception of a few by Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, and Michelangelo Antonioni). Italian playwriting has received slightly more attention. Translated plays were sometimes printed, but mostly performed either in theaters or as radio readings: above all, works of Pirandello (in particular translations by the director and translator Pari Ṣāberi), although other playwrights attracted attention too, like Goldoni (La locandiera, 1957) and, from the 1990s, the Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo (Morte accidentale di un anarchico in 1992).

An exceptional case is the introduction of the wooden puppet Pinocchio into the Persian cultural scene, with a mixture of cinematographic, theatrical, and literary influences at its roots. Carlo Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio is, moreover, a worldwide ‘steady-seller’ and one of the books that can boast the highest number of translations around the world. The first translation into Persian was made by the writer Ṣādeq Čubak (1916-88). It was published in 1955 and has continuously stayed in print. Besides this incomparable version, four other unabridged translations have appeared to date (1977-95), along with innumerable reduced versions, all pointing to the literary success with a degree of influence on the development of Persian literature for children in the second half of the 20th century (Casari, pp. 57-91). In this specific area of literature, which is very important in Persian publishing, another noteworthy Italian writer is Gianni Rodari, two of whose works have enjoyed good print runs: La torta in cielo, translated by Piruz Maleki (1985), and Tante storie per giocare, translated by Čengiz Dāvarpanāh (1992).

In the last years of the 20th century, besides the attention paid to contemporary authors particularly in vogue in Italy and Europe such as Umberto Eco, Susanna Tamaro, and Alessandro Baricco, the appreciation of the 20th-century Italian prose has been increased by two systematic anthologies: Gozida-ye dāstānhā-ye kutāh az nevisandegān-e moʿāṣer-e Itāliā, compiled by Firuza Mohājer and Kāmrān Širdel (1989), and Adabiyāt wa nevisandegān-e moʿāṣer-e Itāliā (1997)—a wide-ranging collection assembled by the translator Moḥsen Ebrāhim, who also translated some of the works of Buzzati, Ginzburg, and Calvino. The latter anthology also contains a long introductory essay which is the first history of Italian literature to be written in Persian originally.


M. Afšār, Ketābšenāsi-e romān wa majmuʿehā-ye dāstāni-e motarjam, 2 vols., Tehran, 1998.

Dante Alighieri, Komedi-e elāhi. Duzaḵ. Barzaḵ. Behešt, tr. Š. Šafāʾ, 3 vols., Tehran, 1956; tr. F. Mahdavi-Dāmḡāni, 3 vols., Tehran, 2000.

F. Bertotti and P. Orsatti, “Dante in Iran,” in L’opera di Dante nel mondo. Edizioni e traduzioni del Novecento. Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi, Roma, 27-29 aprile 1989, ed. E. Esposito, Ravenna, 1992, pp. 257-69.

E. Blochet, Catalogue des manuscrits persans de la Bibliothèque nationale, 4 vols., Paris, 1905-34.

G. Boccaccio, Ketāb-e Dekāmeron, tr. A. Ḵ. Daryābeygi, Bushehr, 1905.

D. Buzzati, Biābān-e Tātārhā, tr. S. Ḥabibi, Tehran, 1970.

Idem, Ṣaḥrā-ye Tātārhā, tr. M. Ebrāhim, Tehran, 2000.

I. Calvino, Viskont-e šakkesoda, tr. B. Moḥaṣṣeṣ, Tehran, 1967.

Idem, Agar šab-i az šabhā-ye zemestān mosāfer-i, tr. L. Golestān, Tehran, 1990.

M. Casari, “Pinocchio persiano,” Oriente Moderno, N.S. 22 (83), 2003, pp. 57-91.

C. Collodi, Pinokio. Ādamak-e čubi, tr. Ṣ. Čubak, Tehran, 1955.

M. Ebrāhim, Adabiyāt wa nevisandegān-e moʿāṣer-e Itāliā, 2 vols., Tehran, 1997.

Idem, “Riflessioni su alcuni aspetti della ricezione di Buzzati in Iran,” Studi buzzatiani 7, 2002, pp. 83-94.

O. Fallaci, Nāma be kudak-i ke hargez motawalled našod, tr. V. Mošfeq, Tehran, 1985.

N. Ginzburg, Alefbā-ye ḵanevāda, tr. F. Mohājer, Tehran, 1985.

N. Machiavelli, Šahryār, tr. M. Maḥmud, Tehran, 1945; tr. D. Āšuri, Tehran, 1987, rev. ed. Tehran, 1996.

F. Mohājer and K. Širdel, Gozida-ye dāstānhā-ye kutāh az nevisandegān-e moʿāṣer-e Itāliā, Tehran, 1989.

A. Mohājer Irvāni, Bargozidegān-e šeʿr-e Itāliā, Tehran, 1991.

A. Moravia, Dāstānhā-ye romi, tr. R. Qeyṣariya, Tehran, 1985.

Ḵ. Mošār, Fehrest-e ketābhā-ye čāpi-e fārsi az āḡāz tā āḵar-e sāl-e 1345, 3 vols., Tehran, 1971-73.

N. Nāderpur and G. Lābriolā Kāruso, Haft čehra az šāʿerān-e moʿāṣer-e Itāliā, Tehran, 1974.

A. M. Piemontese, “La letteratura italiana in Persia,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Memorie, Series 9, vol. 17/1, 2003, pp. 1-251.

L. Pirandello, Henri-e čahārom, tr. B. Moḥaṣṣeṣ, Tehran, 1967. Idem, Yek-i, hičkas, ṣadhezār, tr. B. Farzāna, Tehran, 1971.

F. Richard, “Une traduction persane d’un ouvrage italien au XVIIe siècle,” Stud. Ir. 7, 1978, pp. 287-88.

Š. Šafāʾ, Montaḵab-i az zibātarin šāhkārhā-ye šeʿr-e jahān, Tehran, 1952.

I. Silone, Nān wa šarāb, tr. M. Qāżi, Tehran, 1966.

A. Vanzan, “Sahra-ye Tatarha: traduzione in lingua persiana de Il deserto dei Tartari di Dino Buzzati, a cura di Mohsen Ebrahim, Teheran, 1379/2000; Shast dastan, traduzione in lingua persiana de I sessanta racconti di Dino Buzzati, a cura di M. Ebrahim, Teheran, 1379/2000,” Studi buzzatiani 5, 2000, pp. 187-91.


It is difficult to speak about a true Persian community in Italy. The presence of Persians in Italy has always been fragmentary and discontinuous, which never led to any extended, cohesive social groups of permanent residents. Even during the periods when the migratory flow from Persia towards other countries was at its peak (India until the 18th century, France from the middle of the 18th century, Sweden and the USA, for different reasons, after World War II and especially following the Revolution of 1978-79), few Persians arrived in Italy. Unlike other countries, Italy has not been an especially favored destination for a long stay abroad or for exile, due to its fewer cultural and diplomatic links and the less developed legislation on immigration, work availability, and refugee asylum.

Recent research is now casting light upon the presence in Rome, in ancient times, of important personalities from the Persian court as well as members of the nobility, in particular during the Parthian and the early Sasanian eras. They included sometimes hostages or refugees staying for long periods of time as guests of the Roman imperial court and later on also newly converted Christian pilgrims (Nedergaard; Ricci 1996; Piemontese, 2001; idem, 2003). The scant information available concerning Persian merchants and ambassadors who came to Italy (especially Rome and Venice) between the Middle Ages and the modern era does not reveal either a steady presence or lengthy stays. It seems that the first group of Persians to settle in Italy followed the arrival of the first Persian chargé d’affaires, Narimān Khan Qawām-al-Salṭana (1896) and then with the entourage of the minister plenipotentiary, Malkom Khan, in Rome (1899-1908), but about whom very little is known. The creation of a diplomatic seat gave a degree of continuity to a small-scale, but significant, Persian presence in Italy, which was represented by diplomatic staff and their families. The period of their residence in Italy, however, depended on the length of their assignment to their diplomatic posts, and, besides, they tended to isolate themselves from the Italian society in general, mainly residing within the areas around the embassy and the consulates. This has remained relatively constant even throughout crucial political and institutional changes. At present (2004), the Persian diplomatic corps, divided between Rome and Milan, consists of about forty individuals, including officers and clerical staff and their respective families. Since the mid-1980s, the Persian embassy to the Vatican has become a point of reference for the Shiʿites in Italy, and, as the European Islamic Cultural Centre, has published numerous religious works.

Historically, students have always constituted the main body of Persians residing in Italy. Fragmentary information indicates that since the 17th century, although still very sporadically, there has been the custom of spending spells in Italy to pursue artistic studies. Uncertain information indicates an educational voyage of a certain Moḥammad-Zamān to Rome in the first half of 1600. It is not clear whether he is the same Moḥammad-Zamān Farangiḵᵛān, who translated into Persian the Idea del giardino del mondo of Thomaso Tomai (see ITALY xii. TRANSLATIONS), or the famous painter living in India at the Mughal court (see Manucci 1901, II, pp. 16-18; Tucci 1949, pp. 79-80). Another known name is that of the intellectual and painter Mirzā Abu’l-Ḥasan Khan Saniʿ-al-Molk Ḡaffāri (q.v.), who spent five years (1846-50) in Italy studying at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Rome and copying the works of Italian masters. In 1860, he became the editor of the first Persian newspaper, the Ruz-nāma-ye waqā…yeʿ-e ettefāqiya, published in Tehran (Davarpanah; Ḏokāʾ, pp. 18-19). Alongside these students of the arts (who remained very few until the 1950s), since 1927 another kind of Persian student could be found at the Naval Academy in Livorno, where Persian cadets received military and naval training (together with technical training in a variety of specializations up to university level), with the objective of creating the Persian Royal Navy. The influx of students to the Academy was, however, interrupted by the advent of the Revolution of 1970. In any case, both of these projects were temporary, and, with a few rare and not statistically significant exceptions, most students returned home after completing their studies.

A greater flux of Persian students to Italy can be identified from the 1950s onwards. This new flux was soon helped by the creation of study grants established in accordance with the Cultural Agreement signed between the two countries in 1958. Exact figures are not available, but between 1950 and 1970 some tens of thousands of Persian students came to settle for varying periods of time in Rome, Florence, Turin, Venice, Perugia, and other major Italian cities, to study architecture, fine arts, music, engineering, medicine, and agronomy.

In Italy, as in the rest of Europe, among these students, who were mainly children of the wealthy classes from Tehran, opposition groups began to form against the politics of the shah. These groups were linked to the international network of the Confederation of Iranian Students, National Union. The activities of these student associations, such as the Federation of the Unions of Iranian Students in Italy, was never comparable to that of their equivalent groups in France, Great Britain or Germany, and in terms of publications, it never went much further than a few pamphlets.

During the same period, in particular during the late 1970s, Italy witnessed a boom in the importation of Persian carpets, with an increase in the number of Persian tradesmen coming to Italy. The trade in carpets and the vast network of shops and related activities (cleaning, repairs, etc.) has also represented the main working opportunity for the new generations of Persians in Italy during the twenty-five years following the Islamic Revolution.

With the advent of the Revolution of 1978-79, the majority of the last generation of students who had arrived during the monarchy regime decided to stay on in Italy, and many eventually started new lives there, mostly obtaining Italian citizenship (currently, approximately 5,000 Persians who were born in Persia have Italian citizenship). At times, these new residents have responded to the need to express their identity through cultural activities connected to their language and world (small publishing companies such as Entešārāt-e Bābak, which has been active for several years, the Persian bookshop, Nimā, active in Rome since 1994, several cultural associations, the longest standing of which is the Associazione culturale Italia-Iran in Florence, magazines with a few issues, concerts, recording of traditional Persian music, etc.). Others have integrated into Italian environments and working situations, using the training they have acquired in cultural and technical fields such as medicine and engineering. On the whole, it is particularly noticeable that since the second half of the 20th century, a rather significant number of artists and intellectuals (writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, illustrators, photographers, actors) who completed their education in Italy settled there, assuming a productive role in their respective fields of expertise. This recent Persian contribution to Italian culture has yet to be duly recognized.

Since the beginning of the 1980s, as an aftermath of the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, a new migratory influx from Persia started to move towards Italy, although on a smaller scale compared to the same phenomenon towards other Western countries, especially the United States (see DIASPORA viii). According to information provided by the Ministry of the Interior (the only available data), the number of Persians in Italy rose from 10,131 in 1981 to 13,536 by 1986, who were fairly evenly spread throughout the country. Part of a sociological investigation carried out between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s on the Persian immigrants in Italy highlighted some of the characteristics of this migration. The immigrants came almost exclusively from the middle class of Tehran and displayed the features of first generation immigrants: young people (80% under 30 years of age), mainly male (71.1%), and mostly unmarried (58.3%). A common feature seems to be the temporary nature of their immigration. As already mentioned, Italy’s legislation and employment situation do not make it an ideal country either for exile or for a long-term integration project. The pretext for coming to Italy has always been to study, though this is often neglected in favor of some form of temporary employment. Employment is still perceived as temporary even when it lasts over ten years, since the final and constant objective is to return to Persia as soon as the conditions permit.

The link with Persia is never broken and is often reinforced by economic ties with the family. A feature that characterizes Persian immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s is a sense of national identity common both to those who come from a religious background and culture and those who have arrived with secular or lay backgrounds and positions. The former, even when politically opposed to the authorities of their country, consider the return to the homeland as absolutely fundamental, whilst the latter seem to be more open to integration in the context of Italian society, even if in a state of continuous uncertainty. In any case, partly due to this constant “utopia of returning home” and also due to the higher than average level of culture and social conscience, Persians in Italy do not consider themselves “immigrants” and tend not to lay down the foundations for the creation of a real Persian social network. Work—always present even if often temporary, especially for those who have arrived most recently (and particularly in the carpet sector, as already mentioned)—, personal relations within a limited range, and the distant but rooted link with their homeland have been main features of the Persian identity in Italy in the last two decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

Persians of the Bahai religion are an exception. Though overall a minority, they put their religious faith with its ecumenist characteristics before their national identity. They consider themselves citizens of the world and brothers of the Italians (or people of other nationalities) sharing the same religion. Consequently, they pursue social integration in the country where they are guests, supported by an efficient network of assistance from their own community, which in Italy is focused mainly in Rome and the surrounding area.

This context of the Persian presence in Italy, small-scale and fragmentary, is reflected in the low rate of political dynamism that can be seen. Despite the presence of almost all the opposition factions to the Islamic Republic, from Marxists to liberals, from monarchists to the Mojāhedin-e Ḵalq (probably the most active, with periodic demonstrations and radio broadcasts), as well as the supporters of the Tehran government, political debate has never turned into any particularly noteworthy activity, either in periodicals or in noteworthy occasional publications.

This framework, together with the most recently published figures from the Italian National Institute of Statistics, which indicate 8,371 Persian citizens (5,041 males and 3,330 females) legally present in Italy in 1999, confirm the notion that Persians in Italy, while representing a significant presence, especially due to their integration at certain professional and cultural levels, have not yet constituted a true “community.”


Data has been used from the Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior, from the Italian National Institute of Statistics, and from private archives. Stefano Allievi, “Sciiti d’Europa: Una minoranza senza visibilità,” in Arnaldo Nesti, ed., Laboratorio Iran: Cultura, religione, modernità in Iran, Milan, 2003, pp. 113-26.

Changiz Davarpanah, “Il primo giornale a stampa iraniano e l’Italia (1853-56),” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 70, 1996, pp. 199-225.

Yaḥyā Ḏokāʾ, “Mirzā Abu’l-Ḥasan Ḵān Ṣaniʿ-al-Molk Ḡaffāri, moʾsses-e naḵostin honarestān-e naqqāši dar Irān,” Honar o mardom, no. 10, 1963, pp. 14-27.

Niccolao Manucci, Storia do Mogor, tr. William Irvine as Storia do Mogor or Mogul India 1653-1708, 4 vols., London, 1907-1908; repr. Calcutta, 1965.

E. Nedergaard, “The Four Sons of Phraates IV in Rome,” Acta Hyperboraea 1, 1987, pp. 102-15.

Angelo Michele Piemontese, “L’antica Persia veduta in Roma,” in Laura Biancini et al., Roma memoria e oblio, Rome, 2001, pp. 71-81.

Idem, La memoria romana dei santi martiri persiani Mario, Marta, Audiface e Abaco, Rome, 2003.

Cecilia Ricci, “Principes et Reges externi (e loro schiavi e liberti) a Roma e in Italia: Testimonianze epigrafiche di età imperiale,” in Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Rendiconti. Classe di scienze morali, S 9/7, 1996, pp. 561-92.

Chantal Saint-Blancat, “L’immigrazione iraniana in Italia: vera o falsa parentesi?” in Giovanni Cocchi, ed., Stranieri in Italia: caratteri e tendenze dell’immigrazione dai paesi extracomunitari, Bologna, 1989, pp. 109-25.

Idem, “La presenza iraniana in Italia,” Inchiesta, no. 90, 1990, pp. 59-67.

Giuseppe Tucci, Italia e Oriente, Milan, 1949.



Studies on subjects related to the Iranian cultural world can boast an ancient tradition in Italy, but not as an independent field of study at academic level. The earliest scholar to hold a chair whose main focus was Persian language and literature, to which he later added the teaching of Iranian philology, was Italo Pizzi in Turin, whose main claim to fame was a verse translation of the Šāh-nāma in eight volumes (Pizzi, 1886-88). But things have considerably changed in recent times. The last forty-five years have witnessed the growth of the scholarly tradition investigating Persian language and literature, as well as the birth of a school focusing on the study of Iranian philology, history, and religion.

The beginning of contemporary Iranian studies may be set in 1957. In that year Alessandro Bausani (q.v.) won the chair of Persian Language and Literature at the Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples (IUO, now Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”), and Giuseppe Tucci, President of the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (IsMEO, now Istituto per l’Africa e l’Oriente; see xvii, below), inaugurated the first archeological expedition at Ghazni, which was to be followed by expeditions in Sistān (1959), and at Isfahan and Persepolis (1964). In 1967, Gianroberto Scarcia was appointed chair of Persian Language and Literature at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Venice “Ca’ Foscari,” and in 1968 Gherardo Gnoli (q.v.) was called to cover the newly established chair of Iranian Philology at the IUO, Bausani left Naples in 1971 for the “Scuola Orientale” of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” where he taught Islamic studies, with particular attention to Iran, until his retirement in 1987. In 1975, Angelo M. Piemontese, previously in Naples, was appointed chair of Persian Language and Literature in Rome. Thus by 1975 all three historical seats of Oriental research in Italy saw the presence of at least one chair focusing on one or other aspect of Iranian culture and civilization. Today, this field of study is fortunately present also in universities with a weaker tradition in Middle Eastern and Asian studies. Giovanni M. D’Erme, who was elected in 1980 as chair of Persian language and literature at the Istituto Universitario Orientale, had inaugurated Persian studies at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bologna as early as 1973. Iranian studies were pursued from the start in the newly founded Faculty of Cultural Heritage, located in the Ravenna branch of the University of Bologna. In 1996, Antonio Panaino moved from Bologna to Ravenna, where he obtained the full chair of Iranian Philology in 2000. Since 1986 Iranian studies have also been pursued at the University of Pisa, in the Faculty of Humanities, where Elio Provasi, previously at the Orientale in Naples, teaches Iranian philology and linguistics. This scholar, a specialist of different fields of Middle and New Iranian linguistics, is now actively preparing a comprehensive dictionary of the Sogdian language. In 2002, the University of the Tuscia in Viterbo, through the effort of its Rector, Marco Mancini, himself a student of Walter Belardi, opened a new position and appointed Elina Filippone chair of Iranian Studies. A collaborator and former student of Adriano Rossi, she is mainly interested in modern Iranian linguistics. Iranian studies are also pursued, though marginally, at the Catholic University in Milan, where Giancarlo Bolognesi and Valeria Fiorani-Piacentini teach. The former is a linguist, the latter principally a modern historian.

Many scholars belonging to the older generation had studied in Rome, but in more recent times this University was joined by Naples and Venice in preparing a significant number of prospective scholars in the field of Iranian studies. The most significant recent development was the establishment in 1984 of a doctoral course in Iranian Studies at the Istituto Universitario Orientale, with a curriculum covering both pre-Islamic and Islamic studies. A number of students have completed the program, and in fact all scholars who have been able to pursue an academic career in Iranian studies in recent years are graduates of it. A second doctoral course, which covers pre-Islamic Iran as part of Ancient Near Eastern studies, is active in Rome.

Iranian studies in Italy are divided academically into two broad divisions. The first goes under the name of Persian Language and Literature, a field inaugurated by Italo Pizzi, mastered by Alessandro Bausani, and continued by Angelo Michele Piemontese, Giovanni Maria D’Erme, Riccardo Zipoli (Chair, 1987), Maurizio Pistoso (Chair, 1987), Rahim Raza, Daniela Meneghini, Michele Bernardini, Paola Orsatti, and Carlo Sacconi. It specializes in literary and linguistic studies of the Persian language, but also covers literary and linguistic studies concerning other modern Iranian languages. The second is more concerned with philological, historical, religious, and linguistic studies and has its roots in historical linguistics, history of religions, and ancient history; it now encompasses Islamic Iran as well. Although many scholars have turned their attention to problems in these subjects since the birth of Iranian studies, the collective field of studies only gained independent status in the second half of the 20th century, thanks to the impressive works of such giant Iranists as Walter Bruno Henning (q.v.), Sir Harold Bailey (q.v.), and Georg Morgenstierne (q.v. ). In Italy it was introduced by Gherardo Gnoli and later continued by Adriano Rossi (Chair, 1980) and more recently by Antonio Panaino (Chair, 2000), Carlo G. Cereti (Chair, 2001), Elina Filippone (Chair, 2002), Elio Provasi, Mauro Maggi, and Andrea Piras.

The number of international congresses hosted in Italy covering both the pre-Islamic and the Islamic periods is evidence of the the strong interest in Iran. Particularly noteworthy are four conferences organized jointly by the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO, ex IsMEO) and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei: Persia and the Graeco-Roman World, 1966; Persia in the Middle Ages, 1971; Persia and Central Asia from Alexander the Great to the 10th Century, 1994; and Persia and Byzantium, 2002. In 1983 (18-20 June) the First European Colloquium of Iranology met in Rome. On that occasion, the participating scholars came together in the evening of the 19th to found the Societas Iranologica Europaea (SIE), which still has its legal seat at the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente in Rome. A few years later IsMEO and the Piedmontese Centro per gli Studi Medio ed Estremo Orientali (CeSMEO) jointly hosted the first Europaean Conference of Iranian Studies in Turin (7-11 September 1987); the fifth met in Ravenna (6-11 October 2003). During April 9-11, 2003, the IsIAO, the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” and the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche jointly organized an international conference under the title “Middle Iranian Lexicography. The Vocabulary of the Middle Iranian Languages.” The IsMEO has further organized in Venice, in collaboration with that city’s Fondazione Giorgio Cini, three conferences on various aspects of Iranian culture. The first (Incontro di religioni in Asia tra il III ed il X secolo d.C., 1981) was devoted to selected problems in the study of religions in Asia between the 3rd and the 10th century C.E. The second (Turfan and Tun-Huang. The Texts, 1990) and the third (Cina e Iran. Da Alessandro Magno alla dinastia Tang, 1994), were organized together with the IUO and UNESCO, and in both the discussion focused on the vast region of Central Asia linking Iran to China. Luigi Cirillo has organized four conferences on Manichean studies, though only the last two had relevance for Iranian studies. The first two were held at the University of Calabria in 1984 and 1988, both on the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis (see COLOGNE MANI CODEX). The third, held at the same place in 1993, was entitled Manicheismo e Oriente Cristiano Antico. The latest was held at the IUO in 2001, under the title The Fifth International Conference of Manichaean Studies. In the 1970s, the Caetani Foundation, closely linked to the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, organized a number of symposia on classical Persian poetry: in 1974 on Rumi, in 1975 on Neẓāmi, in 1976 on Ḥāfez,á in 1977 on ʿAṭṭār, and in 1978 on Sanā’i. Italy has also hosted a few exhibitions of Iranian art. The first was held in Rome in 1956, followed by a second and more eleborate one in Milan in 1963 (called 7000 Anni d’Arte Iranica-). The third exhibition was hosted many years later at the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale in Rome (Antica Persia, 2000).

At present Iranian studies in Italy represent a fairly thriving field of research, encompassing all its different branches. The main centers of research are the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, the Department of Oriental Studies of the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” the Department of Asian Studies of the University of Naples “L’Orientale” (formerly Istituto Universitario Orientale), the Department of Eurasian Studies at the University of Venice. The University of Bologna presents a peculiar situation, with Iranian studies divided between three different faculties: the Faculty of Cultural Heritage in Ravenna, and those of Humanities and Foreign Languages and Literatures in its historical seat of Bologna.

In Rome, Persian language and literature as well as Iranian studies are taught, the first subject by Angelo Michele Piemontese, Paola Orsatti, and Simone Cristoforetti, the second by Gherardo Gnoli and Carlo G. Cereti. The main focuses of teaching are Persian literature, codicology, and history of Iranian studies in Italy (taught by A. Piemontese, Paola Orsatti, and Mario Casari), history of Zoroastrianism, both ancient and modern, history of Manicheism and Iranian philology and linguistics (G. Gnoli and C.G. Cereti), and also studies on the Iranian calendars and other anthropological subjects (S. Cristoforetti). Umberto Scerrato, Bianca Maria Alfieri, and Francesco Noci teach Islamic archeology and art history with particular attention to the Iranian world. Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti, Professor of Islamic Studies, in her youth devoted time and energy to the history of Islamic Iran. The Roman school of linguistics traditionally shows a particular interest in Iranian languages, and still today Walter Belardi, Palmira Cipriano, Paolo Di Giovine, and Claudia Ciancaglini are active in the study of Iranian lexicography and historical linguistics. An international research project aimed at the compilation of a Middle Persian Dictionary has recently been started in collaboration with the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. This project, coordinated at an international level by Shaul Shaked, enjoys the participation of the Faculty of Humanities in Rome, IsIAO, and the University of Naples “L’Orientale.”

The University “L’Orientale,” in Naples, has chairs for Persian language and literature (Persian linguistics and literature, taught by G. M. D’Erme; Persian literature in India, taught by R. Raza; Persian and Turkish literature and history, taught by M. Bernardini; Modern Persian literature, taught by L. Tornesello) and for Iranian Studies, which are the fields of A.V. Rossi (Iranian philology and linguistics) and M. Maggi (Khotanese, Buddhist studies, and comparative Indo-Iranian grammar). Mario Vitalone studies the contemporary Zoroastrian communities in Iran and India, while Felicetta Ferraro concerns herself with modern Iranian history seen from an anthropologist’s point of view. Maria Vittoria Fontana teaches Islamic art and archeology with specialization in the Iranian world, and Bruno Genito holds the chair of Iranian archeology and actively participates in a number of archeological excavations in Iranian lands. Another art historian, Giovanna Ventrone Vassallo, who had worked in Isfahan, was until very recently at the Orientale of Naples. Among the scholars of Islamic studies, both Alberto Ventura and Claudio Lo Iacono are interested in Iran. A major research project run by the Orientale and the IsIAO is the Baluchi Etymological Dictionary (see BALUCHISTAN).

Ca’ Foscari in Venice is a third important center for the teaching of Iranian subjects, although there is no chair specified as such. Persian language and literature, and New Persian linguistics and prosody, are taught by R. Zipoli and D. Meneghini. However, the chair of Islamic studies in Venice is held by one of Bausani’s former disciples, G. Scarcia, who is principally an Iranist, although, like his teacher, quite adept in a wide range of subjects. G. Vercellin, an expert in modern Iranian history, formerly held the chair for Afghan language and literature but now teaches History and Institutions of Asia. A very important research project run in this university is Lirica Persica, aimed at creating a vast electronic database of Persian poetry (see xii, above).

Two specialists of pre-Islamic Iran are teaching at the relatively new Faculty of Cultural Heritage of Ravenna: Antonio Panaino (Avestan, history of Zoroastrianism, and intercultural relations in antiquity and late antiquity), and Andrea Piras (Avestan and Zoroastrian religion). They collaborate with a group of Byzantinists and ancient historians. New Persian is taught in Bologna, at the Faculty of Humanities by Maurizio Pistoso and at the Faculty of Foreign Languages by Carlo Saccone. Pierfrancesco Callieri and Maurizio Tosi, both archeologists and experts in the Iranian area, also teach at the Faculty of Cultural Heritage in Ravenna. The Melammu research project, studying the continuity of Mesopotamian cultural heritage in different historical contexts, is run by the Department of History and Methods for the Preservation of the Cultural Heritage in collaboration with the Department of Oriental Studies of Rome, the Department of Asian Studies of Naples, and the Department of Ancient History of Padua.


7000 Anni d’Arte Iranica. Mostra realizzata in collaborazione con l’Istituto Italiano per il Medio e l’Estremo Oriente, Milano-Palazzo Reale, Maggio – Giugno 1963, Milan, 1963.

Antica Persia. I tesori del Museo Nazionale di Tehran e la ricerca italiana in Iran, Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale 29 maggio-22 luglio 2001, Rome, 2001.

Atti del convegno sul tema: La Persia e il Mondo Greco-Romano, Roma 11-14 aprile 1965, Accademia dei Lincei, Rome, 1966.

Atti del convegno Internazionale sul tema: La Persia nel Medioevo, Roma, 31 marzo-5 aprile 1970, Accademia dei Lincei, Rome, 1971.

Alfredo Cadonna, ed., Turfan and Tun Huang: The Texts. Encounter of Civilizations on the Silk Route, Florence, 1992.

Alfredo Cadonna and Lionello Lanciotti, eds., Cina e Iran. Da Alessandro Magno alla dinastia Tang, Florence, 1996.

Colloquio italo-iraniano sul poeta mistico Fariduddin ‘Attār, Roma, 24-25 marzo 1977, Rome, 1978.

Colloquio italo-iraniano sul poeta mistico Sanā’i, Roma, 29-30 marzo 1978, Rome, 1979.

Colloquio sul poeta persiano Nizāmī e la leggenda iranica di Alessandro Magno, Roma, 25-26 marzo 1975), Rome, 1977.

Convegno internazionale sulla poesia di Hāfez, Roma, 30-31 marzo 1976, Rome, 1978.

Convegno internazionale sul tema: La Persia e l’Asia Centrale da Alessandro al X Secolo, Roma, 9-12 novembre 1994, Accademia dei Lincei, Rome, 1996.

L. Cirillo, ed., Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis. Atti del Simposio Internationale. Rende-Amantea 3-7 settembre 1984, Constance, 1986.

Idem, ed., Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis. Atti del secondo Simposio Internationale (Cosenza 27-28 maggio 1988), Constance, 1990.

L. Cirillo and A. van Tongerloo, eds. Atti del Terzo Congresso Internazionale di Studi “Manicheismo e Oriente Cristiano Antico,” Arcavacata di Rende-Amantea 31 agosto-5 settembre 1993, Louvain and Naples, 1997.

Ferdowsi, Il libro dei re. Poema epico recato dal persiano in versi italiani da Italo Pizzi, 8 vols, Turin, 1886-88.

Gherardo Gnoli, ed., The First European Colloquium of Iranology, Rome, June 18th-20th, 1983, Orientalia Romana 6, Rome, 1985.

Gherardo Gnoli and Antonio Panaino, eds., Proceedings of the First Euroapean Conference of Iranian studies held in Turin, September 7th-11th, 1987 by the Societas Iranologica Europaea, 2 vols, Roma, 1990.

Lionello Lanciotti, ed., Incontro di religioni in Asia tra il III e il X secolo d.C., Florence, 1984.

Nel centenario del poeta mistico persiano Ǵalāl-ad-Dīn Rūmī, Conferenze, Roma, 18-19 Gennaio 1974, Rome, 1975.

Italy xv. IsMEO

IsMEO is an acronym for the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (‘Italian Institute for Middle and Far East’). The IsMEO was founded in 1933 by Royal Decree no. 142 as a moral institution (Ente Morale) under the inspiration and encouragement of Giuseppe Tucci, then a young scholar but already well-known as an Indologist and Tibetologist. Its first President was Professor Giovanni Gentile, a famous Hegelian philosopher who, as the Minister of Culture in the Fascist government, exerted enormous influence in the field of cultural politics. With Gentile’s strong support, Tucci was appointed the executive Vice-president of IsMEO. The creation of the IsMEO was clearly seen by the leadership of the Italian state at that time as the answer to the political need for developing cultural relations with the entire Asiatic world. That its aim was in fact the promotion of Italian presence in these countries with a deep interest for the politico-economic affairs, is documented by a number of IsMEO’s monographs as well as its official periodicals, such as Bollettino dell’Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (‘Bulletin of the Italian Institute for Middle and Far East’ 1935 only), and Asiatica (1936-43). Although these perspectives doubtless represented an objective interest associated with the politics of the Fascist government, in the actual realization of the cultural projects of the IsMEO, they never formed its primary goals. In reality, the scholarly activity of the staff leading the Institute was kept, as far as possible, independent, and came increasingly to be devoted to purely scientific programs, all directed by Tucci with the official support and protection of Gentile. This explains the impressive results obtained by the IsMEO in the field of Tibetology, mainly owing to a number of long and repeated expeditions by him to Tibet, which had started in 1929, before the birth of the IsMEO, but continued with the direct support of the Institute in a more systematic way until 1948.

Between1943 and 1947, the IsMEO remained inactive. Then it resumed its scholarly goals, thanks to the re-establishment of democratic life in Italy, and also on the other hand, to its own traditional scientific orientation which was enormously greater than its earlier political role, the institute was finally able to mainly focus its interests on research activities. Under the chairmanship of Professor Tucci, a new phase in the life of the Institute was opened in November 1947. The year 1950 saw the beginning of the well-known monographic serial “Series Orientale Roma” (‘Rome Oriental Series’) and of the quarterly East and West, which took new shape from 1958 with publication exclusively in English; the periodical Cina started in 1956, while Il Giappone was started by the IsMEO, with the collaboration of the Japanese Cultural Institute of Rome, in 1963. In 1951 the courses of Oriental languages were organized on a new basis. Between 1950 and 1955 a number of new expeditions to Nepal were organized while, beginning in 1956, the archaeological campaigns in Pakistan took place, followed by other archaeological missions and campaigns in Afghanistan (from 1957) and in Iran (from 1959). From 1954 the IsMEO organized various Oriental art exhibitions, opening the treasuries of many ancient Eastern cultures to the Italian and Western world (Chinese art, 1954; Iranian art, 1956; Gandhara art, 1958; Afghanistan, 1961). The increasing archaeological activities of the Institute were soon supplemented from 1960 with a program of restoration and conservation of the cultural heritage of many countries, in particular at Kabul and Ghazni (Afghanistan), Persepolis and Isfahan (Iran). The results of these works were made public from 1960 through the publication of two new series of the IsMEO “Reports and Memoires,” (in two Series: Major and Minor) and “Restorations” (also in two Series: Major and Minor). After Professor Tucci’s retirement in 1978, Professor Sabatino Moscati was elected president of the IsMEO; he was succeeded in 1979 by Professor Gherardo Gnoli who maintained his function till 1995, when the IsMEO was finally merged by a law passed by the Italian Parliament (Act no. 5054 of 25 November 1995) with the IIA (acronym for the Istituto Italo-Africano, ‘Italian-African Institute’) into a new Institute called IsIAO (Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, ‘Italian Institute for Africa and the East’). Professor Gherardo Gnoli was elected as the chairman of this new institution. The IsIAO actually has its main office in Rome (via Ulisse Aldrovandi 16, 00197), in the building which was the place of the IIA, while the offices of Palazzo Brancaccio (via Merulana 248) have been moved to the new address (with the exception of the Centre for Excavations and the Office of the Editorial Staff). Two further branches of the Institute exist at the moment: one in Milan (dating back to February 1937) and the second in Ravenna (activated in 1999). Further information on the IsIAO are available on the website of the Institute (www.isiao.it). In addition to the periodicals East and West, Cina, Il Giappone, the IsIAO publishes other journals: Yemen: studi archeologici, storici e filologici sull’Arabia meridionale; Ming Qing Yanju and Newsletter of Baluchistan (both in collaboration with the Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli); and Africa: rivista mensile di interessi africani.

The investigations of the IsMEO (and now of the IsIAO) in Iran have been considerable and fruitful. Already in 1959 Tucci focused the main archaeological researches in Iran on two sites: the city of Isfahan and the Sistān basin. In Isfahan the archaeological mission headed by Professor Umberto Scerrato shed new light on the oldest phases of the most important mosque of the city, the Masjed-e Jomʿe, finding stratigraphical levels of the 8th century as well as those belonging to the Sasanian period. In Sīstan, excavations in the Kuh-e Ḵᵛāja (an architectural complex attributed to Parthian-Sasanian periods and situated on the island in the middle of Hāmun lake) and in Qalʿa Tape started in 1960, and were continued in 1962 with the inclusion of the Achaemenid site of Dahāna-ye Ḡolāmān, probably the location of the capital of the ancient Persian satrapy of Zranka. In this place, excavations directed by Professor Scerrato and continued till 1966, found some of the main monumental religious and civil structures of the area. The stronghold of Qalʿa-ye Sām, with stratigraphical levels of the post-Achaemenid and Sasanian periods, was excavated in 1963, while some additional archaeological research was devoted to the Islamic site of Bibi Dust. Under the direction of Professor Maurizio Tosi the study of the protohistorical phases of Sistān began in 1967 and continued until 1972, with the main focus being the excavation of Šahr-e Suḵta “The burned Town,” the largest inhabited area of the Bronze Age in Southwestern Asia (151 ha). This mission did not limit itself to illuminating the status of the material culture in the third millennium B.C. but introduced an original multidisciplinary approach in the field with an impressive development of scientific knowledge spanning from the field of Palaeo-botany to that of physical anthropology, etc. A very significant analysis of the necropolis of Šahr-e Suḵta, which covers a surface of ca. 29 ha. and contains some 20,000 to 30,000 graves, has been carried out by Marcello Piperno and Sandro Salvadori. From 1964, the IsMEO (with the direct involvement of its “Centro Restauri”) undertook, with the support of the Ministero per gli Affari Esteri (‘Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ = MAF), a long series of restoration and conservation activities in Iran. In Isfahan itself, the architect Eugenio Galdieri directed the restoration of the Safavid pavillons of ʿĀli Qāpu and Čehel Sotun and of that of Hašt Behešt; further restorations there were conducted in the Masjed-e Jomʿe, in the Meydān-e Šāh, in the Sardar-e Qeyṣariya, and in the Kāravānsarā-ye Šāh. In the Isfahan area, the Pir-e Bakrān of Lenjān and Masjed-e Jomʿe of Bersiyān were subjects of investigation and exploration. In Fārs, thanks to the brilliant works of Giuseppe Tilia (and the cooperation of Domenico Faccenna, Giuseppe Zander, and others), a great work of restoration and conservation was achieved in the monumental area of Persepolis, and significant improvements resulting from scientific investigations and systematic restorations were brought about in the following monuments: the Tačara or Palace of Darius, the Hadiš or Palace of Xerxes, the Hundred-Column Hall, the “Unfinished Gate,” the Gate of All Lands, the “Harem of Xerxes,” the Apadāna, and the tombs of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III. Other repairs were made in Pasargadae, at the tomb of Cyrus, in the palaces P and S, while in Marvdašt other Achaemenid pavillons were studied and preserved. Of particular importance was the transferring of an Achaemenid bridge at Dorudzan, which was moved and reconstructed down the valley in order to avoid its submersion by a hydroelectric dam. Unfortunately, all these activities were interrupted in 1979, and despite many diplomatic and scholarly attempts to maintain the cultural and scientific collaboration in this field (see the chronology of the relations between the IsMEO [and after by the IsIAO] and the Sāzemān-e mirās-e farhangi-ye kešwar [= SMFK] between 1979-1999 in the booklet Il contributo dell’Istituto … , pp. 10-14), their resumption has not materialized. In the meantime a great archaeological recognition of the ancient Margiane (in Turkmenistan, in the area around Mary, the old Merw) has been directed by M. Tosi with the fresh publication of a detailed archaeological map (The Archaeological Map of the Murghab Delta. Preliminary Reports 1990-5, ed. by A. Grubaev, G. Koshelenko and M. Tosi, Rome, 1998). The outlook for the future is bright. Already new forms of collaboration have been established with the Iranian cultural institutions resulting in the organization in Rome (May 29-July 22, 2001) of a great exhibition of the treasuries of the National Museum of Tehran (following one held in Vienna), and of the Italian collection of Iranian art and archaeology. Furthermore, the publication of the results obtained by the IsMEO’s archaeological mission in Iran prior to 1979 has been started anew in collaboration with Iranian scholars and authorities. In addition to all these activities the IsMEO and its successor, the IsIAO, have conducted many philological, historical and religious researches in the field of Iranian studies, which have been mainly published in the Rome Oriental Series and in East and West. Likewise, the Institute strongly supported the birth of the Societas Iranologica Europaea (SIE), which was officially founded in Rome (at the Institute) on the June 19, 1983 on the occasion of the First European Colloquium of Iranology. The IsIAO organized the first Conference of Iranian Studies (Turin, 7-11 September 1987) and has supported in many forms many other activities of the SIE. Actually, the legal seat of the SIE is at the address of the IsIAO. The Institute in addition cooperates with many scientific, cultural and academic institutions for the promotion of Iranian studies.


On the history of the IsMEO, and the tenure of Giuseppe Tucci and Giovanni Gentile see V. Ferretti, Politica e cultura: origini e attività dell’IsMEO durante il regime fascista, Storia Contemporanea, 17, 1986, pp. 779-819; Giuseppe Tucci: nel centenario della nascita, Roma, 7-8 giugno 1994, edited by B. Melasecchi, Roma (IsMEO), 1995.

Gh. Gnoli, Nel cinquantenario dell’IsMEO: discorso tenuto a Palazzo Bran-caccio il 16 febbraio 1983, Roma (IsMEO), 1983.

Giuseppe Tucci, Ancona (Istituto Marchigiano-Accademia di Scienze Lettere e Arti), 1985.

Gh. Gnoli, “Giovanni Gentile fondatore e presidente dell’IsMEO,” in Giovanni Gentile: la filosofia, la politica, l’organizzazione della cultura, Venezia (Marsilio), 1995 (Engl. tr. Giovanni Gentile, Founder and President of IsMEO, East and West, 44, 1994, pp. 223-29).

R. Gnoli, Ricordo di Giuseppe Tucci, with contributions by L. Petech, F. Scialpi, G. Galluppi Valauri, Roma (IsMEO), 1985 (Engl. tr. in Purana, 26, 1994).

Centenario della nascita di Giuseppe Tucci: discorsi pronunciati da Sabatino Moscati e Gherardo Gnoli il 6 giugno 1994 in Campidoglio, Roma (IsMEO), 1995.

Statuto dell’Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. Approvato con Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica 9 ottobre 1987, Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 37 del 15 febbraio 1988.

On the scientific activities of the IsMEO (and of the IsIAO) see Il Contributo dell’Istituto allo studio della Civiltà Iranica. Una breve presentazione. (IsIAO), Roma 1999.

IsIAO. Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente. (Italian version of a booklet of presentation of the Institute), Rome (IsIAO), 1996, (containing a catalogue of the scientific Iranological activities of the Institute till 1999).

See also many individual contributions concerning IsMEO archeological activities in Iran published in the catalogue of the exibition Antica Persia. I tesori del Museo Nazionale di Tehran e la ricerca italiana in Iran, Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale, Roma, 2001.

Cite this page
Cereti, Carlo G., Casari, Mario, Vanzan, Anna, Genito, Bruno, Orsatti, Paola, Fontana, Maria Vittoria, Meneghini, Daniela and Panaino, Antonio, “ITALY”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 22 February 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_3718>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20071215

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