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There are about 1400 botanical gardens and arboreta in the world receiving over 100 million visitors per year. A large number are located in Europe and more than 30, including the University botanical gardens as well as others, in Italy. Italy boasts a historic first with respect to botanical gardens; the first structures of this kind were already founded in the 13th century at the Vatican in Rome and in the 14th century at Salerno, although both are no longer in existence. The function of these gardens was to display plants for medical use, as in the University botanical gardens, still existing, created in the 16th century in Padua, Pisa and Florence. Most Italian botanical gardens were founded in the second half of the 18th century and in the 19th century.

The gardens in Catania date back to 1858.