His family announced that he passed away late on Friday at his home.
Eco, who was born in Alessandria, northern Italy, in 1932, wrote novel The Name of the Rose which was made into a film 1989 starring Scottish actor Sean Connery.
The Name of the Rose sold millions of copies, a great accomplishment for a narrative filled with partially translated Latin quotes and puzzling musings on the nature of symbols.
His back catalogue also includes the novel Foucault’s Pendulum, Numero Zero and a selection of children’s books and literary criticism.
Eco founded the communications department at the University of San Marino in the 1980s and later became professor emeritus and chairman of the Higher School of Humanities of the University of Bologna.
Recent works include “From the Tree to the Labyrinth,” an essay on semiology and language published in 2007 and “Turning Back the Clock,” a collection of essays on various subjects, ranging from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to anti-Semitism and to staunch criticism of Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government in Italy. His most recent novel, “Numero Zero,” came out last year and recalled a political scandal from the 1990s that helped lead to Berlusconi’s rise.