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Living in Italy - A Guide for Students

Studying for a Masters degree abroad can widen your horizons and help your CV to stand out in today’s competitive job market. It can also keep tuition costs down; give you the chance to learn a new language, or just the opportunity to immerse yourself in an different culture for a year or two. Italy is well connected to major cities around the world, has an excellent transport network, and is steeped in culture, making it a fantastic place to complete your Masters study.

What's it like to study abroad in Italy?

Italy is a proven popular study destination, with over 90,000 international students currently residing there. Rome (the capital) is Italy’s most densely populated city, home to 2.8 million people. Milan is also highly populated, being the preferred city for many students.

Tertiary education is very prevalent in Italy, with over 60% of Italian nationals currently studying at University. With a population of roughly 60.7 million people, that’s a high number of students! It will be of no surprise then that Italy is home to the world's oldest university – the University of Bologna, founded in 1088.

Known around the world for its influential culture, it is also no surprise that Italy has produced some of the world's most greatest thinkers, from the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas and Roman philosopher Cicero to Leonardo da Vinci and physicist Galileo Galilei.

Culture, food, and lifestyle

World-renowned fashion houses including Armani, Gucci, Benetton, Versace and Prada are well-known to most fashion-forward individuals, and Italy is certainly the place for you if you wish to enjoy luxury and a glamorous lifestyle.

Italy’s influence is also seen in the foods that we consume from day to day, including pasta and pizza. Food is a way of life for the Italians, and as such, social gatherings will usually centre around meals. Hearty foods such as carbs are staples in the Italian diet, including bread and, potatoes rice. Meals are regularly accompanied by supplies of fresh tomatoes, peppers, olives, and olive oil, and varieties of fish and cheeses are common in most regions. Pork, particularly in the form of sausages, is widely consumed.

Italians are very much the outdoors type, and it is common to see streets filled with people gathering at cafes and parks at all times of the day, including the evenings. Quiet drinks at small bars and meals at restaurants will most likely be your socialising activities, as opposed to clubbing.

Art and architecture

Italy has given rise to several architectural styles, including classical Roman, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical. Italy is home to some of the most famous structures in the world, including Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The Vatican – the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church – is another such site. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo sometime between 1508 and 1512, is a must- see.

Italy is also responsible for the origins of opera, an art form which has been around since the end of the 16th century. Italy has produced many infamous performers, such as Andrea Bocelli and the late Luciano Pavarotti.

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Accommodation

Italian universities will provide students with long-term and short-term accommodation solutions, either directly or through arrangements with public or private organisations. They often have a housing office which will advise students on accommodation alternatives, such as those listed below. They will offer you a legal advice service if you choose to live in privately-owned apartments and need help in negotiating, understanding and fulfilling tenancy contracts.

University residences

Not all universities offer these but when universities have their own residences, they tend to be close to the campus and provide all the facilities, social and academic, that students need. In general, to be eligible for this type of accommodation, you will have to meet certain criteria of academic merit and to demonstrate financial need.

Prices for university-owned accommodation range from €5,000 per academic year for a single room in a hall of residence or in a shared student flat to €7,000 per academic year for a studio flat.

Student residences (not managed by universities)

These organisations can be public and private but tend to have dedicated arrangements with universities which reserve rooms for their students.

  • ESU is a regional agency for the right to study. It manages the university halls of residences for “commuting” students who have enrolled at “local universities” and have been awarded a regional grant (which international students can apply for but which are means-tested). There are two tariffs, one full-price and one reduced (taking into account regional housing bursaries). At full rate, the cost ranges from €4,000 per academic year for a shared triple room with communal facilities, and up to €10,000 per academic year for a single room with your own facilities.
  • Other organisations such as the ones designated “Collegio Universitario” offer small student residences with all the amenities you would expect (although the quality may vary), including libraries and sports facilities. These organisations are connected to one or several universities in their area and tend to be not-for-profit organisations. Prices will vary considerably depending on the location and the type of building (anything from €250 per month for a shared double room with shared facilities to €500 or more per month for private rooms with private facilities).
  • CamplusCityHeart is a private student residence accommodation provider. They operate in several Italian cities and offer good standards of living accommodation and services, including cleaning and laundry services. Prices (inclusive of utilities and services) are around €680 per month for a 1-bed flat to €1,300 per month for a 3-bed flat.

Student accommodation offered by religious orders

Although this may sound unusual, this type of accommodation tends to be very well located. You may not need to be a practicing member of the order’s faith but you will be expected to be respectful of others. If you are of the quieter type, this can be a good option, although you will have to adhere to certain rules (such as a curfew). You’ll also find a strong sense of community (generally based around a common religious set of beliefs, if that’s what you are looking for).

There may be additional criteria to be eligible to reside in these residences, such as gender (some are female-only), or study-level (Masters-only or all graduate levels).

Private flats/apartments

Rent for private accommodation will vary widely, depending on location and size. As an indication, you’ll be expected to pay an average €600 per month for a 1-bed flat. If you are going through a letting agent, an admin fee will be charged. In addition to rent, tenants must have compulsory insurance and pay service charges (spese). Service charges usually include heating, hot water, rubbish removal, upkeep of grounds and gardens, use of lift, communal lighting and maintenance, and possibly a caretaker service. Service charges will range from €20 to €200 per month (and it is wise to ask to see a copy of the bills from the previous year).

You are strongly recommended to check exactly what is included in the rent. As a general rule, you will be responsible for utilities such as gas, electricity and water. On signing a lease, you should ask to see proof that the utility bills have been paid by previous tenants to avoid being liable.

Not all has to be done through rental agents or private landlords. Why not check noticeboards at your university for rooms available in shared flats? Also organisations such as the association “Sportello Casa” in Turin, offers international students free assistance in finding apartments and rooms in the city. Check online or with your university’s housing office if there is something similar in the city you’re going to live in.

Living costs

You may think that living in Italy is expensive. Well, if your idea of living in Italy is to have your morning coffee on St Mark’s Square in Venice, you’re likely to be right. Secondly, compared to other European countries and certainly compared to destinations such as Singapore or Japan, Italy is relatively cheap. Obviously, how much it costs to live in Italy is largely dependent on your lifestyle and where you choose to study. Eating local produce and using public transportation makes living in Italy very affordable. Outside of the tourist hotspots (and therefore where you’ll get to experience a much more genuine Italian culture), you don’t have to spend a fortune. Well-known for their cuisine, Italians are passionate about good food, even in markets and small establishments. If you like to eat out, restaurants are very accessible to most budgets and you can get a decent two course meal for two with drinks for around €20-30.

Learn more about studying in Italy

Looking for more information about Masters study in Italy? Our detailed guide covers everything from university rankings and courses to fees, funding and applications.

Working whilst studying

Finding work in Italy is not particularly easy, especially if you cannot speak fluent Italian. There’s no general statutory minimum wage, so it is not particularly well-paid either.

EU/EEA students

If you are an EU or EEA national, you will not need to apply for a work permit in order to work in Italy.

You are permitted to undertake up to 20 hours work per week during term-time, and in certain circumstances may be allowed to take up more hours during vacation periods. This does however depend on your academic record at your university.

Teaching English or a position as an au pair are quite common roles for international students in Italy. Cafe and bar work is also popular.

Non-EU nationals

International students from outside the EU/EEA will need to obtain a work permit to access the job market, which is not an easy process. Strict rules are set whereby positions are only offered to you if you can prove that it could not be performed by an EU or Italian citizen.

There are also more limitations on the hours that you can work. Though the weekly amount you are permitted to work is 20 hours, in most cases you cannot take up extra hours during vacation periods.

If you do manage to find a job, your employer must present a letter of employment to the Italian Police Station (Questura).

Further information

By now you should be well-prepared for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of studying a Masters in Italy. You'll be able to find affordable accommodation, set up a sensible budget for living costs and then get on to the important stuff (a postcard or two home, perhaps). Read on for an introduction to transport, healthcare and banking for postgraduates studying abroad in Italy.

Travelling and discovering Italy

Italy is well-connected to major cities around the world and benefits from an excellent transport network. With its location in Europe, it is easy to get access to other European countries, by train, bus, boat or plane, a very useful thing if you are planning on using some of your time exploring the region. Within Italy, the rail network is excellent and with high-speed trains being available on most routes, you can move around very easily. For example, it now only takes three and a half hours to get to Rome from Florence.

Italy’s plentiful offering of things to do and places to see needs no introduction. From the North with the Alps and the lakes to the coast and the Southern landscape, via the rich regions of Tuscany and Liguria, Italy has an amazing array of landscapes to discover. The diversity of regional food is a direct result of the landscape so if you have an interest in Italian food, you’ll find something different in each region. Even pasta shapes have regional influences!

Italy has numerous historic sites and natural beauty spots. Ski resorts, indoor and outdoor sports, beaches, volcanoes, hilltop villages, dynamic and fashionable cities, medieval sites and Roman architecture are just a few of the things you’ll be able to indulge in while you are studying in Italy.

Banking

In order to open a bank account (and a telephone or mobile phone account and even electric or gas accounts), you will need to have an Italian tax code (Codice Fiscale).

The Codice Fiscale is a personal code (combination of numbers and letters) which identifies each individual person in Italy when dealing with public offices and/or administration. Your Italian Tax Code can be requested from the Revenues Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate).

Each bank will have an application procedure but you are likely to require your passport (and visa, if applicable), proof that you are registered with the local police/town hall, proof of address and your enrolment documents. Your bank at home may have branches in Italy so it is worth checking if you can make arrangements to open an account with your bank in Italy before you leave.

When opening a bank account in Italy (which you will require if you are in receipt of a scholarship), you should ask for a Bancomat card, which allows you to withdraw cash and to pay for goods and services. Having a debit card is not free and you will have to pay an annual or quarterly fee. Note that if you withdraw cash from a cash dispenser which does not belong to your bank you will probably be charged a small fee.

Healthcare

In Italy, healthcare is provided as a public service. The public healthcare system in Italy is excellent. As non-Italian citizen studying in Italy, you can apply to have access to this service at your local ASL (National Health Care Service) to have a family doctor/general practitioner. However:

  • EU students must provide documents which shows their healthcare status in their home country to ensure full access to the Italian system. These documents can be requested from your public healthcare organisation back home.
  • Non-EU students (as a condition of their Residency Permit) are required to have a health insurance policy valid for the entire duration of their stay in Italy. This policy may not cover you for everything (for example medication costs) so once you get your residence permit, you can register for ASL to ask for a family doctor/general practitioner and receive healthcare assistance in Italy.

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Last updated - 08/02/2018

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