A symposium on Louis Ferdinand Celine, the French author, at Turin University sparked hours of violent clashes between groups of students of the extreme left and extreme right.
Police in full riot gear intervened with baton charges inside the building which houses the liberal arts departments and in the streets outside.
Fighting continued for hours and the final toll was one arrest, dozens injured, including a police officer wounded in the head by a stone, and serious damage to university windows and furnishings.
The symposium on Celine, who was known for his rightwing leanings and his declared anti-Semitism, had been organised by the FUAN, the extreme rightwing student movement. But several hundred Autonomi of the far-left anarchist movement also turned up demanding that the symposium be cancelled and trying to stop people going in.
Busloads of riot police arrived to defend the symposium but were soon charged by the Autonomi. Italian television showed them assaulting police defending the symposium while from behind the cordon rightwing students with skinhead haircuts raised their hands in fascist salutes.
Reports indicate the first frontal assault was repelled by a counter charge by the police and then degenerated into a confused but violent free-for-all between rival groups and police in the streets around the university. Several cars and a bar were damaged.
Large-scale clashes between left and right have not been seen in universities since the mid-1970s. The Turin incidents may reflect a rise in political tension in universities following recent events. The presence of the mainly neo-Fascist National Alliance in the government coalition, and may have given a sense of identity and legitimacy to a right-wing student movement.
The resurgence of the right, a recent hike in university fees and introduction of limited admissions to many departments, considered "elitist" measures by the far left, have given fresh impetus to the Autonomi, who had been seen as a colourful throwback.