The Grand Duchy period
Ferdinand III's reclaiming of the throne of Tuscany in 1814 coincides with the closure of the Scuola Normale, although various attempts were made to save it and its mission despite its Napoleonic foundation.
This cessation of activity, though, was only temporary. As early as December 22, 1817, in the premise of the decree which re-established the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano, consideration was given to creating different duties for the Order. In 1843 the Order proposed establishing a “boarding school for young noblemen” in the Palazzo della Carovana, attached to the Scuola Normale. It was to be paid for by the patrimony and profits of the Order. But the Palazzo was already functioning as a “residence for nobility” even before this, as novices of the Knights were often students at the University of Pisa.
To study the feasibility of the new project, Leopold III named a commission, which included two members of the Order. It concluded its investigation on June 5, 1846, and issued a detailed report, which re-established the function of the Scuola Normale Superiore to prepare secondary school teachers.
On November 28, 1846 a grand-ducal muto proprio established the “ Scuola Normale Toscana”, also called the “ Scuola Normale of the Imperial Reign” – as it was then connected to the “Theoretical and Practical” Austro-Hungarian system – designed “to train teachers and masters for secondary schools”. The new structure included a boarding school and an endowment to which the Order and possibly the Treasury of the Reign would contribute. It was presided over by a “Director of Studies”, who was assisted by two “Tutors”. Students were chosen through a competition at the age of 18 for a course of study lasting three years; each year ten full scholarships were available (preference was given to members of the Order).
Although students of mathematics and the physical sciences were admitted to the Scuola Normale, only students of Philosophy and Philology lived in the boarding school. All students were required to follow the teacher training courses of the Scuola Normale and complete an apprenticeship in secondary schools; this professional orientation was subsequently abandoned.
On November 15, 1847, the Scuola Normale was inaugurated in the Palazzo della Carovana, donated by the Order of the Knights, which maintained honorary patronage and the right to present to the “Royal Grand Master” a number of applicants equal to half of the places available. During the Grand Duchy period the Scuola Normale was affected by the political climate of its time, and enthusiasm for the Risorgimento was answered by reactionary attitudes for fear of subversive movements and riots. These attitudes were decried by the students themselves, including the famous writer Giosuè Carducci, who was a student from 1853-56.