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Italy is home to the world's oldest university.

The University of Bologna, founded in 1088 - and its historic institutions are credited with initiating the Renaissance.

The country has also produced some of the world's most influential thinkers, from Roman philosopher Cicero and medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, to Renaissance artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci, political philosopher Niccola Machiavelli, and astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei. But access to education was restricted and illiteracy in southern and rural regions of Italy remained high well into the twentieth century.