• University of Padova

Understanding the Italian Legal System: Public Law and Public Institutions

Learn about Italy’s constitution, institutions, and legislative structure to break down the complexity of the Italian legal system

In the image there are symbol of the italian Public Institutions las the president, the constitution, rome

Understanding the Italian Legal System: Public Law and Public Institutions

  • 7 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Gain an overview of the Italian legal and democratic system

The Italian legal system can seem complex to an outsider. Knowing a bit about its different public institutions and legislative powers will help you understand the system as a whole.

This seven-week course from the University of Padova will break down the legislative structure of the Republic of Italy. Starting with the constitution and moving through each level of government, you’ll gain an overview of the Italian democratic and legal system.

Discover the Italian constitution and its origins

The foundation of any legal system is its constitution. You’ll start the course with a definition of constitutionalism, and an introduction to some of the specificities of the Constitution of Italy.

You’ll look at case studies comparing the UK, US, and Italian constitutional systems.

Get to grips with public institutions and legislative powers in Italy

The Italian legal system depends on the separation of powers. That means that governance is divided between three levels: the Legislative Power, Executive Power and Judiciary Power.

In Weeks 3 to 6 of the course, you’ll be guided through the different levels of government in Italy and their functions.

Consider Italy from the perspective of comparative public law

Throughout the course, you’ll take a comparative approach to public law by considering the Italian system in relation to other countries. You’ll be invited to share insights about your own legal system with other learners on the course.

By the end of the seven weeks, you’ll have gained a comprehensive overview of the Italian legal system and a deeper understanding of the system in your own country.

The videos of this Course are now also available with Spanish and Chinese subtitles and transcriptions

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Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in this world. Many individuals captivated by the idea of “la bella vita” come to this country as a tourist, as a workers, as a students. Some even decide to live here eventually. However, for many, when observing the Italian legal system, it feels very difficult to understand how Italian public law and Italian public institutions function. In particular, it is not easy to understand why governments are unable to last for an entire legislature or why there is so much political instability or how the system of checks and balances is organized.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds During this course, we will provide you with a synthetic understanding of Italian public institutions focusing specifically on the importance of the principle of separation of powers in constitutional democracies. By using a comparative methodology, we will approach the Italian institutional system providing details on its structure and identifying similarities and differences with other legal systems. We will explain to you how the legislative, the executive and the judicial powers are organized and work within our system. This seven weeks course will support you in identifying the specific features concerning our parliamentary system, our government, our Head of State, our judicial system, our Constitutional Court, and the distribution of power among different levels of government.

Skip to 1 minute and 51 seconds You are not going to be alone during this journey, Sergio and I will assist you. Being professors of comparative public law will give us the opportunity to invite you to reflect on how Italian public institutions can be considered similar or different to your own country’s institutions. This comparative effort will assist you in understanding, fixing, and memorizing all the different topics. And if you have any doubt, don’t worry, it will be possible to interact with us according to the guidelines provided at the beginning of the course. By the end of this course, you should have a deeper understanding of how Italian public institutions function. Let’s start this journey together. Are you ready? Andiamo!


  • Week 1

    Constitutionalism: origins and contents

    • Getting started

      Here you will find some useful information about the course and a short biography of Professor Sergio Gerotto and Professor Michele Di Bari, co-authors of this course.

    • The origin of democratic constitutions

      Why is a Constitution so important? Let's discuss why democratic states need this fundamental document.

    • The difference between rigid and flexible constitutions

      What are the different characteristics of a Constitution?

    • Synthesis

      Summarize what we have learned during this week.

  • Week 2

    The separation of powers

    • The separation of powers: basic concepts

      What is the principle of separation of powers? This unit will provide an historical and comparative overview.

    • Synthesis

      Review what has been learned so far.

  • Week 3

    The Legislative Power

    • The Italian Parliament

      This unit examines the composition of the Italian Parliament and offers a comparative analysis of monocameralism and bicameralism.

    • The functions of the Italian Parliament

      This unit focuses on the legislative process, considering all the different procedures for adopting a new legislative act.

    • The Head of State

      In Italy, the role of the Head of State is essential. Examine the relation between the President of the Republic and Parliament.

    • Synthesis

      Summarize everything you learned during this week.

  • Week 4

    The Executive Power

    • The Executive power in Italy

      This unit describes the process governing the formation of a new executive cabinet in Italy, providing some useful examples.

    • The Legislative power exercised by the government

      This unit analyzes the legislative acts adopted by the Italian executive, in particular decree-laws and legislative decrees.

    • Synthesis

      Summarize everything you learned during this week.

  • Week 5

    The Judiciary Power

    • The Italian Judicial System

      How are the members of the judiciary selected in Italy?

    • The Judiciary and the separation of power

      How is the independence of the judiciary, that is, how is the principle of the separation of powers safeguarded in relation to the judicial power?

    • Synthesis

      Summarize what you have learned during this week.

  • Week 6

    Levels of Government

    • The Regional System

      Taking a comparative approach, this unit analyzes the distribution of power within different states. Then, a specific focus is made on the Italian regional system.

    • The Regions and the State

      What are the possible conflicts between the state and the Regions?

    • Synthesis

      Summarize what you have learned during this week.

  • Week 7

    Protecting the Constitution: the Constitutional Court

    • The structure of the Constitutional Court

      How are constitutional judges selected?

    • The main functions of the Constitutional Court

      What are the functions of the Italian Constitutional Court? We'll explain each one, including how the Court guarantees the principle of the separation of powers.

    • Synthesis

      Summarize what you have learned during this week.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop an extensive knowledge and understanding of the main features characterizing the Italian constitutional system.
  • Identify the main Italian institutional actors and their responsibilities.
  • Describe how public powers are distributed between different institutions.
  • Compare the Italian legal system features with other legal systems.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in understanding how the Italian legal system is structured and operates.

It will be particularly useful for students of law hoping to study in Italy or legal scholars who want to deepen their understanding of the specificities of Italian public law from a comparative perspective.

Who will you learn with?

Sergio Gerotto is a Full Professor in Comparative Public Law at the Department of Political Science, Law and International Studies, University of Padova. He is the Faculty Dean in the same Department.

Michele Di Bari is a tenure-track researcher in Comparative Public Law, at the Department of Political Science, Law and International Studies (SPGI), University of Padova.

Who developed the course?

University of Padova

The University of Padova is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious seats of learning; it aims to provide its students with both professional training and a solid cultural background.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 13 Aug 2024

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