The University of Florence is to move all its fashion-related courses to a former lunatic asylum on the outskirts of the city to create Italy's first University of Fashion.
This month, the university and the regional authorities began restoration work on the Villa Castelpulci, a group of buildings located near Scandicci, parts of which date from the early 13th century.
The first phase of restoration should be completed by 2004 and will cost €4.6 million (£2.9 million).
A second phase will cost a further €9 million.
All of Florence's fashion-related three-year degree courses, specialised degrees and postgraduate and masters courses will be taught from the villa.
These include a broad range of disciplines, from fashion, textile design and conservation and restoration to jewellery design, industrial design, design applied to theatre and film sets and fashion photography.
Stefano Chimichi, who heads the university's fashion design degree course, is coordinating the project.
He said that Villa Castelpulci should become a "centre of excellence" in its field.
"Florence has a historical cultural background in fashion and design that is second to none," he said.
"Moreover, there are firms such as Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Cavalli that have their headquarters and production facilities in the Florence area. This will be useful for collaboration, including visiting lecturers from these companies and internships for our students.
"We hope to attract students from all over the world, particularly with an exchange programme. We are already in touch with the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
"At the moment, Florence has about 300 students on fashion-related degree courses. When we have Villa Castelpulci, we hope to increase this figure to about 500. Eventually, we hope to add courses focusing on the marketing and business aspects of the fashion and industrial design world."