“Gaudeamus igitur junenes dum sumus” (let’s enjoy life as long as we are young), so plays the first stanza of the International hymn of Goliardia. A jocular, light-hearted composition, dated 1287, that pokes fun at university life, and that sums up in a single sentence the core spirit of an immortal tradition hundreds of years old.
Even though, for the majority of people, the Italian term Goliardia describes just ironic and mocking actions and behavior, it is, however, one of the largest and oldest associations amongst European university students, a sort of tradition of belonging, which promotes the pleasure of irony, pranks, togetherness and a bit of transgression. The birth of these unions can be traced back to the Middle Ages, originally called “clerici vagantes”. These were groups of young religious people who had certain ecclesiastical immunities and who moved around the main Germanic and French prestigious academies to attend lectures by the most distinguished university professors. This phenomenon took the name of peregrinatio academica (academic pilgrimage), to indicate that the pilgrimage destinations were no longer made up of “saints and tombs” but of “intellectual knowledge and dignity”. These associations, in fact, have a structure similar to the knights’ orders of the Middle Ages, though in these academic orders, the sword was represented by the art of dialectic.
The Goliardia had faded over time and so had its presence in European cities. It was Giosuè Carducci, a famous Bolognese professor and poet, in 1888 that decided to reinstate the tradition, introducing the first “feria matricularum” in Bologna, the freshman party for new students to celebrate the eighth centenary of the foundation of the oldest University inEurope, The Alma Mater Studiorum.
Nowadays this millennial tradition is still alive all over Europe, and in Italy especially. These groups of Goliardi have different names and rituals depending on where they are located, but they all retain similar structures and values. They all dress up with hats, cloaks and dresses with a medieval flavor. Music as well as initiation rites, irreverent freedom, brotherhood and  a strong sense of belonging which bonds generations after generations of students, are the ingredients of Goliardia.
The great longevity of these orders is certainly to be attributed to laughter and jokes, which, together with good wine, help to carry on the shoulders the weight of tradition of which the Goliardi are the last custodians.