In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section International Law in Italian

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • History and Perspective
  • Subjects and Actors
  • Sources
  • Responsibility
  • Dispute Settlement
  • The Relationship between International and Domestic Law
  • Use of Force and Collective Security
  • International Criminal Law
  • Immunities
  • Human Rights
  • Territory and Sea
  • Environment
  • Economic Law

International Law International Law in Italian
Paolo Palchetti, Maurizio Arcari
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 September 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0240


Despite the greater fluidity of national identities, Italian scholarship of international law continues to be largely characterized by a number of common features. The permanence of a strong rule-based conception of international law is probably the most striking one. A rule-oriented approach dominates the international legal discourse in Italian scholarship: its focus is on the determination, interpretation, and application of international rules. Moreover, despite the growing trend toward specialization, to a large extent Italian scholarship continues to embrace a generalist approach to the study of international law. The persistence of these and other common features may be explained by a number of factors. A long, deeply rooted, and culturally rich tradition of studies in international law is one of the principal explanations. The use of the Italian language is another element. In a scholarly world dominated by English, the permanence of a scientific debate in Italian is a factor that contributes to preserving a certain national identity in Italian scholarship. Italian scholars have not been resistant to the growing use of English as the main working language worldwide. The use of English may also be explained by the fact that Italian scholars increasingly tend to publish their works abroad. Yet despite the increasing use of English particularly by the younger generation of scholars, the great majority of articles in Italian international law journals are still written in Italian. Italian scholars continue to publish their monographic works predominantly in Italian. The dimension of this community, with more than 250 scholars employed in Italian universities, and the presence of lively scientific institutions contribute to the permanence of an effective internal debate. The selection of books, articles, entries in encyclopedias, and other publications presented in the next section is based, first of all, on a linguistic criterion: they are all written in Italian. Another criterion is a chronological one. The selection mainly includes recently published studies, in particular monographic works. The aim is to provide an overview of the main studies on international law issues in the current legal literature in Italian. Alongside more recent studies, a restricted number of older works, written by well-known maestri of the discipline and representing uncontested points of reference in the field, have also been included. This entry is the result of a joint work between the two authors. However, P. Palchetti is the author of the sections Introduction, Journals, History and Perspective, Sources, The Relationship between International and Domestic Law, International Criminal Law, Immunities, Territory and Sea; M. Arcari has written the sections Textbooks, Subjects And Actors, Responsibility, Use of Force and Collective Security, Human Rights, Environment and international Economic Law.


There is a strong tradition in Italian scholarship to provide in textbooks a theoretical systematization of the international legal order and its rules. The theoretical approach is prominent in treatises written by the recognized maestri of the Italian doctrine of international law of the 20th century, with some textbooks playing the lion’s share in the majority of Italian law schools. Morelli 1967 provides a masterful formal elaboration of the fundamental conceptual categories governing international law. Quadri 1968 proposes a different approach, based on a vision of the international legal order as strongly influenced by principal dominant actors and forces. Giuliano, et al. 1983 provides a full picture of the international society of states and its legal order conceived as a spontaneous legal phenomenon. Cassese 1984 outlines a comprehensive overview of international society and its law beyond a strict legal perspective. Conforti and Iovane 2021 is the early-21st-century updating of what has become another classic textbook in Italian law schools, based on the assumption of the critical role of domestic implementation of international law. The substantial reform of the Italian university system, with its impact on the teaching of international law at the beginning of the 21st century, is among the factors having prompted a proliferation of textbooks. New textbooks often strive to illustrate the growing complexification and fragmentation of contemporary international law, while at the same time paying tribute to the positivistic tradition of Italian scholarship. Treves 2005 and Scovazzi 2018 represents, under different perspectives, a continuation of Mario Giuliano’s “spontaneous approach” toward the international legal order. Tanzi 2019, Cannizzaro 2020, Focarelli 2021, and Salerno 2021 are among the most noteworthy efforts to systematize through alternative methodological approaches the complexities of current international law.

  • Cannizzaro, Enzo. Diritto internazionale. 5th ed. Turin, Italy: Giappichelli, 2020.

    A textbook providing an overview of the international legal order through the assessment of its main functions, carried out in light of the idea that a tension between decentralization and institutionalization is constantly at work in the international community. Special emphasis is placed on the basic issue of the regulation of the use of force, on the relationship between sources and the impact of peremptory norms, and on the collective dimension of international responsibility.

  • Cassese, Antonio. Il diritto internazionale nel mondo contemporaneo. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1984.

    An alternative presentation of international law, based on a nonformalistic approach toward the international legal order and its rules, which would later be translated into a successful textbook in English. It strives to explain the role of law in international society beyond a strict legal perspective, through the reference to the historical and sociological contexts in which international institutions are originated and evolve.

  • Conforti, Benedetto, and Massimo Iovane. Diritto internazionale. 12th ed. Naples, Italy: Editoriale Scientifica, 2021.

    The latest edition of a text originally published in 1976 (Appunti dalle lezioni di diritto internazionale, Naples, Italy: Editoriale Scientifica, 1976) from a transcript of notes for classrooms and then constantly enlarged and updated through the years to become a classic textbook in Italian law schools. Premised on the basic idea that contemporary international law, while primarily addressed to states, is intended to govern relations carried out within states and their domestic legal orders, with domestic judges having a critical role in the application and implementation of international law.

  • Focarelli, Carlo. Diritto internazionale. 6th ed. Milan: Wolters Kluwer, 2021.

    A comprehensive description of the international legal order carried out following an approach qualified as “realist-constructivist.” Based on the idea that the basic purpose of international law, as a universal legal order, is to make possible the coexistence among different human communities and their particular legal systems.

  • Giuliano, Mario, Tullio Scovazzi, and Tullio Treves. Diritto internazionale. 2 vols. 2d ed. Milan: Giuffré, 1983.

    An impressive treatise in two volumes (Vol. 1, La società internazionale e il diritto. Vol. 2, Gli aspetti giuridici della coesistenza degli Stati) ranging from the historical origins and the theoretical foundations of the international legal order to the material content of the rules concerning different aspects of state relations (e.g., the regime of the territory, sea and outer space, diplomatic relations, and immunities). A coherent picture based on the perception of international law as a spontaneous legal phenomenon governing the society of states.

  • Morelli, Gaetano. Nozioni di Diritto internazionale. 7th ed. Padua, Italy: CEDAM, 1967.

    A textbook based on a fairly abstract description of the international legal order and its rules. The consideration of the classic problems of international law is premised on a rigorous apprehension and classification of the underlying conceptual categories. A legal analysis that is pure formalism in its essence, but still compelling today as it was at the time at time of its first edition (1947).

  • Quadri, Rolando. Diritto internazionale pubblico. 5th ed. Naples, Italy: Liguori, 1968.

    Based on an extensive overview of the relevant practice and case law, as well as on the critical appraisal of the main doctrinal opinions, this textbook proposes a strong vision of international law as a set of rules endowed with appropriate remedies and guarantees (garanzie), the effectiveness of which is driven by the main dominant forces at work in the international society.

  • Salerno, Francesco. Diritto internazionale: Principi e norme. 6th ed. Milan: Wolters Kluwer, 2021.

    A textbook based on the vision of international law as a legal phenomenon arising from the underlying social reality, but characterized by a substantial degree of systemic coherence and regulatory autonomy. It provides an accurate description of the dynamics of the international legal order as one dominated by the tension between state-centrism and the protection of collective values and interests.

  • Scovazzi, Tullio, ed. Corso di diritto internazionale. 2 vols. 3d ed. Milan: Giuffré, 2018.

    A textbook in two volumes (Part 1, Caratteri fondamentali, evoluzione storica e soggetti del diritto internazionale; il mantenimento della pace e l’uso della forza; Part 2, Le norme; la responsabilità internazionale; diritto internazionale e diritto interno) intended to cover the material and the formal aspects of international law, based on an accurate description and assessment of current international practice and case law. It provides an overview of the development of international law as a set of rules oriented to manage the fundamental needs of the international community.

  • Tanzi, Attila. Introduzione al Diritto internazionale contemporaneo. 6th ed. Milan: Wolters Kluwer CEDAM, 2019.

    A textbook providing a comprehensive assessment of the trends of the contemporary international legal order, conceived as a set of legal rules intended to promote the communication between international actors. An overview covering the main formal and material aspects of international law, paying a particular attention to the dialectic between change and stability in the elaboration and transformation of international rules, with a conclusive chapter on the tension in the passage from sovereignty to cosmopolitanism.

  • Treves, Tullio. Diritto internazionale: Problemi fondamentali. Milan: Giuffré, 2005.

    An ideal continuation of Mario Giuliano and his colleagues’ textbook, borrowing its basic theoretical and systematic approach but providing an updated assessment of the “general” or “institutional” aspects of international law. Focuses on the main classic problems of international law such as subjects, sources, responsibility, and dispute settlement revisited in light of new trends in international society at the beginning of the 21st century.

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