The origins of the University of Florence date back to the Studium Generale set up by the Florentine Republic in 1321. The subjects taught were Civil and Canon Law, Literature, Medicine. There have been illustrious scholars such as Giovanni Boccaccio, who lectured on the Divina Commedia.
The importance of the Studium was ratified with a bull by Pope Clement VI whereby all titles awarded were officially recognised. The course of Theology was subsequently added. The Studium had also the privilegia maxima extended to it, as it was the case with the universities of Bologna and Paris.
In 1364 the Studium became an imperial university. When the Medici came to power in Tuscany in 1472 it was exiled to Pisa. From that time onward there were frequent transfers between Florence and Pisa according to the different changes in the government. Charles VIII brought back the Studium to Florence between 1497 and 1515. Then, a comeback of the Medici moved it again to Pisa. Throughout this period many teachings and research remained active in Florence supported by the numerous academies that came to flourish in the meantime, such as Accademia della Crusca and Accademia del Cimento.
In 1859 with the expulsion of the Grand Duke from Tuscany a unified structure re-emerged in the shape of the Istituto Superiore di Studi Pratici e di Perfezionamento (Higher Institute of Vocational and Advanced Studies). In 1924 the Istituto was officially granted the title of university.
Between 1924 and 1938 the university organised itself into the Faculties of Agriculture, Architecture, Economics, Pharmacy, Law, Humanities, Education, Medicine, Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences and Political Sciences. Engineering was added in 1970 and Psychology in 2002.
As of January 1, 2013 according to Law 240/2010 all faculties have been abolished giving all responsibility to provide teaching and services to the Schools.
The University has various campuses scattered throughout the town and beyond, with the new Science Campus in Sesto Fiorentino, the ones in Empoli and Calenzano. Some teaching activities are carried out also in Pistoia and Prato.