The Senate of the Republic (Italian: Senato della Repubblica) or Senate (Italian: Senato) is a house of the bicameral Italian Parliament (the other being the Chamber of Deputies). The two houses together form a perfect bicameral system, meaning they perform identical functions, but do so separately. Pursuant to Articles 57, 58, and 59 of the Italian Constitution, the Senate has a variable number of members, of which 309 are elected from Italian constituencies, 6 from Italian citizens living abroad, and a small number (currently 5) are senators for life (senatori a vita), either appointed or ex officio. It was established in its current form on 8 May 1948, but previously existed during the Kingdom of Italy as Senato del Regno (Senate of the Kingdom), itself a continuation of the Senato Subalpino (Subalpine Senate) of Sardinia established on 8 May 1848. Members of the Senate are styled Senator or The Honourable Senator (Italian: Onorevole Senatore)[1] and they meet at Palazzo Madama, Rome.


Number of senators currently assigned to each Region.

The Senate consists of 315 elected members, and as of 2016 five senators for life. The elected senators must be over 40 years of age and are elected by Italian citizens aged 25 or older.

The Senate (except for six senators who represent Italians residing abroad and the senators for life) is elected on a regional basis. The 309 senators are assigned to each region proportionally according to their population. However, Article 57 of the Constitution provides that no region can have fewer than seven senators representing it, except for the Aosta Valley (which has one) and Molise (which has two).

Region Seats[2] Region Seats Region Seats
Abruzzo Abruzzo 7 Friuli-Venezia Giulia Friuli-Venezia Giulia 7 Sardinia Sardinia 8
Aosta Valley Aosta Valley 1 Lazio Lazio 28 Sicily Sicily 25
Apulia Apulia 20 Liguria Liguria 8 Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol Trentino-South Tyrol 7
Basilicata Basilicata 7 Lombardy Lombardy 49 Tuscany Tuscany 18
Calabria Calabria 10 Marche Marche 8 Umbria Umbria 7
Campania Campania 29 Molise Molise 2 Veneto Veneto 24
Emilia-Romagna Emilia-Romagna 22 Piedmont Piedmont 22 Overseas constituencies 6

The senators for life are composed of former Presidents of the Italian Republic who hold office ex officio, and up to five citizens who are appointed by the President "for outstanding merits in the social, scientific, artistic or literary field". The current life senators are:[3]

Senator for life Appointment Since Parliamentary group
Giorgio Napolitano[4]
Politician, former President of the Republic
Ex officio
(Previously appointed by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi)
14 January 2015 (ex officio)
23 September 2005 to 15 May 2006 (appointed)
For the Autonomies-PSI-MAIE
Mario Monti[5]
Economist, former Prime Minister
Appointed by Giorgio Napolitano 9 November 2011 Mixed Group
Elena Cattaneo[6]
Professor of pharmacology
Appointed by Giorgio Napolitano 30 August 2013 For the Autonomies-PSI-MAIE
Renzo Piano[7]
Pritzker Prize-winning architect
Appointed by Giorgio Napolitano 30 August 2013 For the Autonomies-PSI-MAIE
Carlo Rubbia[8]
Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist and inventor
Appointed by Giorgio Napolitano 30 August 2013 For the Autonomies-PSI-MAIE
Liliana Segre[9]
Holocaust survivor
Appointed by Sergio Mattarella 19 January 2018 Mixed Group

The current term of the Senate is five years, except for senators for life that hold their office for their lifetime. Until a Constitutional change on February 9, 1963, the Senate was elected for six-year terms. The Senate may be dissolved before the expiration of its normal term by the President of the Republic (e.g. when no government can obtain a majority).


In 2016, Italian Parliament passed a constitutional law that "effectively abolishes the Senate as an elected chamber and sharply restricts its ability to veto legislation". The law was rejected on December 4, 2016 by a referendum,[10] leaving the Senate unchanged.

Election of the Senate

According to the Italian contistution, people aged more than 25 years are enabled to vote for the Senate. The election of the Senate is still regulated by Law no. 270, December 21, 2005, which however was judged to be partly unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in December 2013.[11] It introduces a regional based proportional representation system corrected with a majority bonus, with the following characteristics:[12]

  • The election uses a closed list system: seats are assigned based on the order of the candidates in the party list.
  • Parties can run in coalitions. To be entitled to a share of seats, parties or coalitions need to pass an elaborate system of election threshold, based on regional votes: coalitions need to have at least 20% of the votes and a list with at least 3% of the votes; parties or lists need at least 8% of the votes (lowered to 3% if the party or list is part of a coalition that meets the threshold).
  • In each Region, except for three, at least 55% of the seats are assigned to the coalition or list which received the most votes. The Aosta Valley elects one senator, so it uses a first past the post system. Molise elects two senators with a proportional system (no majority bonus). Trentino-South Tyrol uses a mixed member proportional system: it elects 6 senators in first past the post constituencies, plus one senator based on regional proportional voting.


The current membership of the Italian Senate, following the latest political elections of 24 and 25 February 2013:

Coalition Party Seats
Pier Luigi Bersani:
Italy. Common Good
Democratic Party (PD) 111
Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) 7
South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) 2
Trentino Tyrolean Autonomist Party (PATT) 1
Union for Trentino (UPT) 1
The Megaphone – Crocetta List (IM-LC) 1
Total 123
Silvio Berlusconi:
Centre-right coalition
The People of Freedom (PdL) 98
Lega Nord (LN) 18
Great South (GS) 1
Total 117
Beppe Grillo: Five Star Movement (M5S) 54
Mario Monti: With Monti for Italy 19
Associative Movement Italians Abroad (MAIE) 1
Aosta Valley coalition (VdA) Valdostan Union (UV) 1
Total 315
Popular vote (S)
Distribution of the 315 parliamentary seats (S)


Under the current Constitution, the Senate must hold its first sitting no later than 20 days after a general election. That session, presided by the oldest senator, proceeds to elect the President of the Senate for the following parliamentary period. On the first two attempts at voting, an absolute majority of all senators is needed; if a third round is needed, a candidate can be elected by an absolute majority of the senators present and voting. If this third round fails to produce a winner, a final ballot is held between the two senators with the highest votes in the previous ballot. In the case of a tie, the elder senator is deemed the winner.

In addition to overseeing the business of the chamber, chairing and regulating debates, deciding whether motions and bills are admissible, representing the Senate, etc., the President of the Senate stands in for the President of the Republic when the latter is unable to perform the duties of the office; in this case the Senate is headed by a vice president.[13]

The current President of the Senate is Pietro Grasso.

Recent Presidents of the Italian Senate:

Name Period Legislature
Giovanni Spadolini (PRI) 2 July 1987 – 16 April 1994 X, XI
Carlo Scognamiglio (FI) 16 April 1994 – 9 May 1996 XII
Nicola Mancino (PPI) 9 May 1996 – 30 May 2001 XIII
Marcello Pera (FI) 30 May 2001 – 29 April 2006 XIV
Franco Marini (PD) 29 April 2006 – 29 April 2008 XV
Renato Schifani (PdL) 29 April 2008 – 16 March 2013 XVI
Pietro Grasso (PD) 16 March 2013 – 23 March 2018 XVII
Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati (FI) 24 March 2018 – present XVIII

Palazzo Madama

Palazzo Madama as it appeared in 17th century
Palazzo Madama today

Since 1871, the Senate has met in Palazzo Madama in Rome, an old patrician palace completed in 1505 for the Medici family. The palace takes its name from Madama Margherita of Austria, daughter of Charles V and wife of Alessandro de' Medici. After the extinction of the Medici, the palace was handed over to the House of Lorraine. and, later, it was sold to Papal Government.

Later, in 1755, Pope Benedict XIV (whose coat of arms still dominates the main entrance) ordered major restructuring, entrusting the work to Luigi Hostini. In the following years there were installed the court offices and police headquarters. In 1849, Pius IX moved the Ministries of Finances and of the Public Debt here, as well as the Papal Post Offices. After the conquest of Rome by the newly formed Kingdom of Italy, the palace was chosen to become the seat of the Senato del Regno (Senate of the Kingdom).

Cicero Denounces Catiline

Palazzo Madama and the adjacent buildings underwent further restructuring and adaptation in the first decades of the 20th century. A radical transformation which involved, among other things, the modernization of the hemicycle, the full remaking of the prospectus on Via San Salvatore and Via Dogana Vecchia, and the establishment of a connection with the adjacent Palazzo Carpegna. The latter, owned by the Senate, was entirely rebuilt in an advanced position compared to its original position. The small church of San Salvatore in Thermis, dating to the 6th century, which stood in the street to the left of the palace, was first closed, expropriated and later razed for security reasons.

The current façade was built in the mid-1650s by both Cigoli and Paolo Maruccelli. The latter added the ornate cornice and whimsical decorative urns on the roof. Among the rooms one of the most significant (and perhaps the most impressive from the political point of view) is the "Sala Maccari," which takes its name from Cesare Maccari, the artist who decorated it in 1880 and created the frescoes, among which stands out as one that depicts Cicero makes his indictment of Catiline, who listens, isolated from their seats.

The chamber where the Senate met for the first time on 27 November 1871 was designed by Luigi Gabet. A plaque on the wall behind the speaker's chair commemorates the king's address to Parliament when first convened in the new seat of government:


"Italy is restored to herself and to Rome... Here, where we recognise the fatherland of our thoughts, all things speak to us of greatness; but at the same time all things remind us of our duties..." - Victor Emmanuel II, 27 November 1871

Above this has been placed a plaque bearing the inscription:

IL 2 GIUGNO 1946
On 2 June 1946
by popular suffrage
in defence of public liberty
and a certainty of civic progress
was proclaimed
the Italian Republic

To the viewers' left stand the flags of the Italian Republic (with a ribbon embroidered with the words SENATO DELLA REPUBBLICA) and the European Union.

See also


External links

Coordinates: 41°53′57.09″N 12°28′27.4″E / 41.8991917°N 12.474278°E / 41.8991917; 12.474278