Italian Academy - Columbia University, New York

1927 - present

New York


Casa Italiana is the building that houses the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, at Columbia University, at the corner between Amsterdam Avenue and 116th Street, in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

The building was erected in 1926-1927, based on the design by William M. Kendall, according to the Renaissance style and modeled after a 15th-century Roman palazzo.

The initiative to build a house of Italian studies came from the "Circolo Italiano," a club of Italian students at Columbia and Barnard College. The idea was soon embraced by Italian-American judge John J. Freschi, who helped raise the necessary funds, turning to other prominent Italian-Americans, including John Paterno, Anthony Campagna and Michael Paterno, who covered all the constructing costs.

Support also came from Italy, especially from private patrons who funded some of the first scholarships and donated furniture and works of art.

The building was officially inaugurated in 1927. Charles Paterno donated over 20,000 volumes, allowing the opening of the first library. Casa Italiana became the headquarters of the Italian Department of Columbia, as well as the main center for Italian studies in the United States, promoting the knowledge of Italian history and society throughout the following decades.

In 1991, the Italian government acquired the property for $17.5 million, establishing however a 500-year lease with Columbia. A series of restorations and improvements followed, as well as the relocation of the Paterno collection and of Columbia's Italian Studies Department (currently located in Hamilton Hall).

The building consequently became the exclusive home of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, a research center in the humanities and science. The goal, according to the Charter signed in 1991 by the Italian government and Columbia University, is to "offer a privileged view from Europe from an Italian perspective."

Casa Italiana is one of three Columbia buildings included among the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's list. Among its principal and early directors was the Italian writer and intellectual Giuseppe Prezzolini.

The Academy's Fellowship program is such that even today Casa Italiana is one of the main centers of Italian studies in the US.

Related Vectors

Umberto Eco

Writer, Literary critic, Academic, Journalist, Publisher

Giuseppe Prezzolini

Writer, literary critic, academic, journalist, publisher

Columbia University



Faedda, Barbara. From Da Ponte to the Casa Italiana: A Brief History of Italian Studies at Columbia University. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.

The Italian Academy's Website:

Author Giulia Crisanti