Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi

Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi is a prominent public high school in Bergamo, Lombardy, northern Italy, (ranked 2nd nationally by Eduscopio in 2016 and 2017[1]) because of the methodology combining Ancient Greek language and culture, Latin language and culture, Scientific studies with Philosophy and History.[2] Every year, some 100 students graduate from Sarpi, that is one of Italy's oldest humanistic, scientific and social high schools.[3] Established in 1506 under the name of Accademia della Misericordia, the academy is named after Venetian polymath Paolo Sarpi since 1803.

Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi
Una scuola nella storia d'Italia.
Il Liceo 'Sarpi' 1803–2003
The neoclassical façade of Sarpi palace, commissioned by the Austrian Government and designed by Ferdinando Crivelli in 1842.
Piazza Rosate, 4

Upper City of Bergamo



CoordinatesBergamo 45°42′08″N 9°39′44″E
School typePublic
MottoUna scuola nella storia d'Italia. Sarpi 1803-2003 (Italian)
(A school in the History of Italy)
DenominationLiceo Classico Statale Paolo Sarpi
CategoryLiceo classico
Enrollment100-120 yearly
Education systemMinistry of Education, Universities and Research (Italy)
National ranking2nd
The staircase leading to the first floor of the building

The documentary-film Gli anni e i giorni (2012)

Fifth-year Sarpi students share their last high school year in a documentary-film about the liceo classico and the Italian education system. While preparing for the Esame di Stato, students live the delicate moment of transition to adulthood and they seek to reconcile the uncertainties with the expectations about their future.[4]

Excellence at Sarpi: the 2015 National Report

Sarpi is considered an elitist high school and a selective, harsh and competitive environment[5][6][7] with the enrolment decreasing by 40% between 2015 and 2016.[8] A 2015 report of the Italian Ministry of Education highlights that drop-outs and failures at Sarpi are too frequent and must be reduced significantly.[9][10] To favour gifted students, 25% of students were not admitted to the next grade and 29.5% were conditionally allowed to advance to the next grade, only after re-taking failed exams over the summer (Italian average being 11,5%) in the year before Esame di Stato.[11] Students tend to enrol in other high schools, because of the higher chances to succeed. The school's policies too rarely allow teachers to assess students with top grades: bright pupils are rarely graded 9 and 10 out of 10 but more often middle band grades 7 and 8 (with 6 out of 10 being the passing grade). This grading policy disfavours Sarpi scholars as compared to students of other Italian high schools, where teachers abide by the national grading system, ranging from 3 to 10. In 2016, the average grade at Sarpi was 6.98 out of 10 and 1% of Sarpi students had a GPA higher or equal than 9.[12] Although data show that grades awarded at Sarpi stand below the Italian average, the report highlights Sarpi students excellence. At the 2014 Ministerial National tests of Humanities and Scientific studies, the Institute performed far above Italian schools' average and Sarpi pupils were asked to re-take the tests, because results exceeded the expectations as compared to the National situation (INVALSI National tests 2014).[13][14] On the other hand, students in South Italy, who are less prepared but tend to get better grades as compared to Northern Italy,[15][16][17][18][19] finished last in the National tests.[20] This phenomenon is also known as Italy's North-South divide in school grading standards, and it was described in the Italian Journal of Sociology of Education in 2015.[21]

In 2016, no scholars at Sarpi graduated with honours. On the contrary, South Italy holds the record of students graduated with honours: 944 in Apulia, 802 in Campania and 516 in Sicily.[22] About the competences, the report confirms that "the curriculum of this school does not address the world of work, rather it is meant to educate the future ruling class. Apprenticeships involving all students should be nonetheless implemented".[23]

History and contribution to the Italian unification

The first public school of Grammar, Humanities, and Rhetorics was established by the Republic of Venice in 1506 under the name of Accademia della Misericordia. The modern school was established by Napoleonic decree in 1803, while the villa on the Rosate hill was erected between 1845 and 1852 under the auspices of the Austrian Government as "Regio Liceo". In 1860, the academy contributed to the Italian Unification with seventy students out of 170 Bergamasque Hunters of the Alps taking part in Garibaldi's Expedition of the Thousand, aimed at invading the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and annexing its territory to the incipient Kingdom of Italy in 1861.[24] In 2011, the academy took part in the celebration of the 150° anniversary of the Italian Unification: for the occasion, the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, visited Bergamo, a town that Garibaldi hailed as La Città dei Mille, because of the major role the Alpine city played in the Expedition of the Thousand.

Sarpi seen from Piazza Rosate and Cathedral
Celebrations for the 150° Anniversary of the Italian Unification in 2011.

Recently, the school adopted the following modernization reforms:

  • in 1989 the Liceo adopted the continuation of foreign language learning in the triennium;
  • in 1990 the Liceo adhered to the National Plan for Computer Sciences Learning;
  • in 1996 it approved the experimentation of cultural heritage studies and history of art;
  • the Hermes project (1998) was an experiment of autonomous pedagogy, to find new ways to develop recovery activities.[25]
  • Since 2014, the school has opened its cabinet of Physics, Biology, Arts and History, with Italy's second most ancient collection of scientific instruments dating back to 17th century.


In 1907, the Società Bergamasca di Ginnastica e Sports Atletici Atalanta was instituted in the gym of the academy by some Swiss students. It was renamed Atalanta B.C. after the mythological Greek athlete Atalanta in 1914[26][27] and competed for the first time in UEFA Champions League in the 2019–2020 season.[28]

The palace as a filming location

The palace and the surrounding areas have been used as setting of several movies:

School subjects and plan of study

In 2010, the Gelmini reform changed the traditional Italian school system, so now students follow this specific pattern of courses that covers a large range of disciplines. Sarpi offers (together with this programme of studies) courses in music theory and history of music or an in-depth course in science or maths, for one or two hours a week every year. Upon the completion of the studies, students must pass the Esame di Stato (until 1999 denominated Esame di maturità) to obtain their diploma di maturità.

Subjects Gymnasium Lyceum
I year II year III year IV year V


Italian language and literature 4 4 4 4 4
Latin language, literature, civilization 5 5 4 4 4
Ancient Greek language, literature, civilization 4 4 3 3 3
English 3 3 3 3 3
History and geography 3 3 - - -
History - - 3 3 3
Philosophy - - 3 3 3
Mathematics* 3 3 2 2 2
Physics - - 2 2 2
Natural sciences ( Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy, Geology, Earth Science) 2 2 2 2 2
History of art - - 2 2 2
Physical education 2 2 2 2 2
Catholic religion instruction or other activities[33] 1 1 1 1 1
Weekly lesson hours 27 27 31 31 31

Second Foreign Language and History of Music (optional). Speciality of Maths offered as well during the final three years of Liceo.

Notable alumni (partial)



  1. (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)[permanent dead link]
  2. "About Liceo Classico | Ancient Greek Reference". Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  3. "Storia del Sarpi" (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  4. Gli anni e i giorni, retrieved 2018-12-24
  5. "Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi di Bergamo". Opinioni degli studenti. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
  6. "Il Classico non è di moda La fuga dal liceo degli studenti bergamaschi - Bergamo News". BergamoNews (in Italian). 2013-08-23. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  7. "Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi di Bergamo". Opinioni degli studenti. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  8. "Sarpi, che ti succede? Sempre meno iscritti, serve un cambiamento netto - Bergamo News". BergamoNews (in Italian). 2016-05-09. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  9. "RAV Certificato di autovalutazione 2015" (PDF). 2015.[permanent dead link]
  10. "RAV rapporto di autovalutazione - Liceo Classico Statale Paolo Sarpi" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2015.[permanent dead link]
  11. "PAOLO SARPI". Scuola in Chiaro (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  12. (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. "RAV - rapporto di autovalutazione - Liceo Classico Sarpi 2015" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  14. "RAV 2015 - Rapporto di autovalutazione Sarpi" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  15. "Perché i voti sono più alti al Sud - la".
  16. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. "Voti più alti alla maturità al Sud? Capiremo perché valutando i prof".
  18. "Perché gli studenti del Sud ottengono voti più alti alla maturità?".
  19. "Maturità 2017, i voti più alti al Sud". 2017-08-04.
  20. "Maturità, al Sud è record di 100 e lode ma studenti meridionali ultimi in prove Invalsi. Zaia: 'Ragazzi del Nord penalizzati' - Il Fatto Quotidiano". Il Fatto Quotidiano (in Italian). 2016-08-12. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  21. "The North-South Divide in School Grading Standards: New Evidence from National Assessments of the Italian Student Population" (PDF).
  22. (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. "RAV 2015 - Liceo Classico Paoo Sarpi" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  24. Frattini, Pilade; Ravanelli, Renato (2014-01-30). Il Novecento a Bergamo: Cronache di un secolo (in Italian). UTET. ISBN 9788851121235.
  25. "Storia del Sarpi" (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  26. Tacco, Gol di (2018-10-17). "Auguri, cara vecchia Dea". Gol di Tacco a Spillo (in Italian). Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  27. "ATALANTA – Bergamo da scoprire" (in Italian). Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  28. (2019-12-17). "Champions League round of 16 fixtures and group stage results". Retrieved 2020-01-04.
  29. Call Me by Your Name - IMDb, retrieved 2020-01-11
  30. Spagnuolo, Eugenio (2018-01-26). "Chiamami col tuo nome: i luoghi dove è stato girato il film di Guadagnino - Panorama". Panorama (in Italian). Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  31. The Family, Sonia Bergamasco, Emmanuel Dabone, Filippo De Paulis, retrieved 2017-10-10CS1 maint: others (link)
  32. Manzi, Beppe (2012-12-18), Gli anni e i giorni, retrieved 2017-10-03
  33. namely, for students who decide not to follow this course
  34. "Équipe du Président". (in French). Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  35. magazine, Le Point (2017-05-26). "Qui est Claudia Ferrazzi, la conseillère culture d'Emmanuel Macron ?". Le Point (in French). Retrieved 2017-10-03.