”In the year 1564, in the city of Pavia, Pellegrino started his work on a Palace for Knowledge”, Giorgio Vasari wrote in his Vite de’ più eccellenti Architetti, Pittori et Scultori. With those words he noted the birth of Collegio Borromeo, which owes its existence to Saint Carlo Borromeo and was founded to enable gifted young students of limited economic resources to enroll in the University of Pavia and to ensure them an adequate moral education, in accordance with the Counter-Reformation atmosphere of that time.
Pope Pius IV, uncle of Carlo, decreed the foundation of the College with a Papal Bull on 15th October 1561. The project was assigned to the architect Pellegrino Pellegrini, alias Tibaldi (1527-1596); the first stone was laid on 19th June 1564 and work went forward for some twenty years under the supervision of the architect.
The building has become one of the most beautiful mannerist mansions in Lombardy. Its front has a strong plastic relief underlined by the decorated windows alternating with niches and a monumental main doorway.
The Collegio Borromeo officially opened on 1st April 1581 and since that day the structure has hosted around 4000 students.
No more than forty undergraduates were envisaged at the outset, eight of whom might come from any region of Italy, though the others had to be subjects of the Duchy of Milan. Students of all Faculties were to be admitted. As the Foundation ensured that places in college would be offered without charge, the recipients were clearly not expected to be wealthy, but the Constitutions leave room for manoeuvre with another end in view: the instruction of the nobility, in particular the nobility of Milan. The future ruling class of Lombardy was to receive as excellent and as thorough an education as possible. These didactic and moral preoccupations went hand in hand with a more general encouragement of learning.
Early in the twentieth century, Borromeo took on the status of a no profit making corporation.
Nowadays, the Almo Collegio Borromeo is a College of merit recognized by the Italian Ministry of University, Education and Research as an Institute of higher cultural status and Center of excellence in the right to study and accommodates some hundred students. A Women’s Section was open in 2009 to grant equal study rights to 50 female students.
Pavia is well connected to Milano and its major airports. How to get to Pavia.