Senate of the Republic (Italy)

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Senate of the Republic

Senato della Repubblica
18th legislature
Logo Senato della Repubblica.png
Elisabetta Casellati, FI
since 24 March 2018
Seats321 (315 elected + 6 senators for life)
Italian Senate current.svg
Political groups
Caretaker government (249)
  •   M5S (62)
  •   LegaPSd'Az (61)
  •   FIUDC (51)
  •   PD (39)
  •   IVPSI (15)
  •   IpFCD (11)
  •   Mixed (10)
    •   LeU–Eco (6)
    •   +EA (4)

Supported by (24)

Opposition (46)

Others (2)[note 1]

  •   N-I (2)
Parallel voting: 116 FPTP seats, 193+6 PR seats with 3% electoral threshold (D'Hondt method)
Last election
25 September 2022
Meeting place
Aula palazzo madama.jpg
Palazzo Madama, Rome
  1. ^ Gregorio de Falco, Luigi di Marzio, Mario Monti and Liliana Segre
  2. ^ Elena Botto, Lello Ciampolillo, Elena Fattori, Vilma Moronese, Nicola Morra and Fabrizio Ortis

The Senate of the Republic (Italian: Senato della Repubblica) or simply the Senate (Italian: Senato) is the upper 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. The Senate currently has 315 seats. Pursuant to the amended Articles 57, 58, and 59 of the Italian Constitution, the Senate has a variable number of members, of which 196 will be elected from Italian constituencies in the next election, 4 from Italian citizens living abroad, and a small number (currently 6) 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 2018, 6 senators for life. The elected senators must be over 40 years of age and are elected by Italian citizens aged 18 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 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:[2]

Senator for life Appointment Since Parliamentary group
Giorgio Napolitano
Politician, former President
Ex officio
(Previously appointed by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi)
23 September 2005 — 15 May 2006 (appointed)

14 January 2015 (ex officio)

For the Autonomies
Mario Monti
Economist, Former Prime Minister
Appointed by Giorgio Napolitano 9 November 2011 Mixed Group
Elena Cattaneo
Professor of pharmacology
30 August 2013 For the Autonomies
Renzo Piano
Pritzker Prize-winning architect
Carlo Rubbia
Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist and inventor
Liliana Segre
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 9 February 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).

Electoral system and election of the Senate[edit]

According to article 58 of the Italian constitution, people aged more than 18 years (until 2021 25 years) are enabled to vote for the Senate.[3]

The electoral system is a parallel voting system, with 37% of seats allocated using first-past-the-post voting (FPTP) and 63% using proportional representation, allocated with the largest remainder method, with one round of voting.

  • The 315 elected senators are elected in:
    • 116 in single-member constituencies, by plurality;
    • 193 in multi-member constituencies, by regional proportional representation;
    • 6 in multi-member abroad constituencies, by constituency proportional representation.

For Italian residents, each house members are elected by single ballots, including the constituency candidate and his/her supporting party lists. In each single-member constituency the deputy/senator is elected on a plurality basis, while the seats in multi-member constituencies will be allocated nationally. In order to be calculated in single-member constituency results, parties need to obtain at least 1% of the national vote. In order to receive seats in multi-member constituencies, parties need to obtain at least 3% of the national vote. Elects from multi-member constituencies will come from closed lists. The single voting paper, containing both first-past-the-post candidates and the party lists, shows the names of the candidates to single-member constituencies and, in close conjunction with them, the symbols of the linked lists for the proportional part, each one with a list of the relative candidates.

The voter can cast their vote in three different ways:

  • Drawing a sign on the symbol of a list: in this case the vote extends to the candidate in the single-member constituency which is supported by that list.
  • Drawing a sign on the name of the candidate of the single-member constituency and another one on the symbol of one list that supports them: the result is the same as that described above; it is not allowed, under penalty of annulment, the panachage, so the voter can not vote simultaneously for a candidate in the FPTP constituency and for a list which is not linked to them.
  • Drawing a sign only on the name of the candidate for the FPTP constituency, without indicating any list: in this case, the vote is valid for the candidate in the single-member constituency and also automatically extended to the list that supports them; if that candidate is however connected to several lists, the vote is divided proportionally between them, based on the votes that each one has obtained in that constituency.

Reform proposals[edit]

In 2016, the Italian Parliament passed a constitutional law that "effectively abolishes the Senate as an elected chamber and sharply restricts its ability to veto legislation".[4] The law was rejected on 4 December 2016 by a referendum, leaving the Senate unchanged.[5]

In 2019, the Italian Parliament passed a constitutional law that reduces the number of the Senators elected by the people from 315 to 200, and asserts there can be no more than 5 Senators appointed by the President of the Republic serving at the same time (previously each President had the power to appoint their own 5 Senators, resulting in the complexive number of Senators appointed by the President of the Republic serving at the same time being higher than 5 in some cases). The complexive number of Senators is still variable, as the reform left unchanged the fact that all former Presidents of the Republic automatically become Senators for life at the end of their term. The law was approved on 22 September 2020 by a referendum. The Legislature XIX of Italy will be the first one in which the number of Senators elected by the people will be equal to 200.[6]

In 2021, the Italian Parliament approved a constitutional law which lowered the minimum voting age for the Senate from 25 to 18 years old, the same as the Chamber of Deputies. The law came into force on 4 November 2021. The 2022 Italian general election will be the first one in which the two houses will have identical electoral bodies.[7]


The membership of the Senate following the 2018 Italian general election:

Coalition Party Seats %
Centre-right coalition League (Lega) 58 18.4
Forza Italia (FI) 58 18.4
Brothers of Italy (FdI) 16 5.1
Us with Italy (NcI) 5 1.6
Total seats 137 43.5
Five Star Movement (M5S) 112 35.5
Centre-left coalition Democratic Party (PD) 53 16.8
More Europe (+E) 1 0.3
Together (IEI) 1 0.3
Popular Civic List (CP) 1 0.3
Aosta Valley (VdA) 1 0.3
Total seats 60 19.1
Free and Equal (LeU) 4 1.3
Associative Movement of Italians Abroad (MAIE) 1 0.3
South American Union of Italian Emigrants (USEI) 1 0.3
Total 315 100
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.[8]

The current president of the Senate is Elisabetta Casellati.

Name Period Legislature
Ivanoe Bonomi (PSDI) 8 May 1948 – 20 April 1951 I
Enrico De Nicola (PLI) 28 April 1951 – 24 June 1952
Giuseppe Paratore (PLI) 26 June 1952 – 24 March 1953
Meuccio Ruini (Independent) 25 March 1953 – 25 June 1953
Cesare Merzagora (Independent) 25 June 1953 – 7 November 1967 II, III, IV
Ennio Zelioli-Lanzini (DC) 8 November 1967 – 4 June 1968 IV
Amintore Fanfani (DC) 5 June 1968 – 26 June 1973 V, VI
Giovanni Spagnolli (DC) 27 June 1973 – 4 July 1976 VI
Amintore Fanfani (DC) 5 July 1976 – 1 December 1982 VII, VIII
Tommaso Morlino (DC) 9 December 1982 – 6 May 1983 VIII
Vittorino Colombo (DC) 12 May 1983 – 11 July 1983
Francesco Cossiga (DC) 12 July 1983 – 24 June 1985 IX
Amintore Fanfani (DC) 9 July 1985 – 17 April 1987
Giovanni Malagodi (PLI) 22 April 1987 – 1 July 1987
Giovanni Spadolini (PRI) 2 July 1987 – 14 April 1994 X, XI
Carlo Scognamiglio (FI) 16 April 1994 – 8 May 1996 XII
Nicola Mancino (PPI) 9 May 1996 – 30 May 2001 XIII
Marcello Pera (FI) 30 May 2001 – 27 April 2006 XIV
Franco Marini (PD) 29 April 2006 – 28 April 2008 XV
Renato Schifani (PdL) 29 April 2008 – 14 March 2013 XVI
Pietro Grasso (PD) 16 March 2013 – 22 March 2018 XVII
Elisabetta Casellati (FI) 24 March 2018 – Incumbent XVIII

Palazzo Madama[edit]

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 the one that depicts Cicero making his indictment of Catiline, who listens isolated.

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[edit]


  1. ^ Senators for life Renzo Piano and Carlo Rubbia are not part of any political group and rarely take their seats in the Senate.


  1. ^ "onorevole [o-no-ré-vo-le] agg., s." Corriere della Sera. Dizionario di Italiano (in Italian). Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Senatori a vita, XVIII Legislatura (dal 23 marzo 2018)" [Senators for life, 18th Legislature (since 23 March 2018)]. (in Italian). Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Constitute". Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Italy passes Renzi's flagship reform, opening way for referendum". Reuters. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Referendum costituzionale 2016: vince il No. I pro e contro della riforma" [Constitutional referendum 2016: "No" wins. The pros and cons of athe reform]. (in Italian). 5 December 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Il 20 e 21 settembre ci sarà il referendum sul taglio del numero dei parlamentari" (in Italian). Il Post. 15 July 2020. Retrieved 20 July 2022.
  7. ^ Biariella, Laura (8 July 2021). "Senato: elettorato attivo (anche) ai 18enni". AltaLex. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  8. ^ Giampiero Buonomo, Marco Cosentino (1999). "Il Vicario del Presidente nelle Assemblee parlamentari con particolare riferimento al Senato della Repubblica italiana" [The Vicar of the President in the Parliamentary Assemblies with particular reference to the Senate of the Italian Republic]. (in Italian). p. 24–37. Retrieved 15 June 2020.

External links[edit]

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