Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and whether you’re a student looking to study abroad at an Italian university, or a student interested in visiting over winter or summer break… we’ve got you covered. Italy offers higher quality education with much more affordable tuition fees compared to other European countries, making it a popular destination for international students. If you don’t know Italian, no need to fret, there are plenty of Italian universities with programs solely in English, and there are also plenty of American universities that host campuses throughout Italy.
If you’re respectful, welcoming, and open-minded about other cultures, norms, and customs, then traveling abroad will be a lot more enjoyable for you. No matter which city you choose, every part of Italy is overflowing with history, art, culture, delicious food, and even better company. Choosing a specific area to stay in can be daunting, especially if you’re not sure how you’ll fit in as a foreigner… but we’ve made it easy by compiling a list of the top 5 places in Italy for international students.
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- Population: 1.35 million
- Land area: 70.18 mi2
- Top universities: Polytechnic University of Milan, Bocconi University, University of Milan (UniMi/La Statale), University of Milan-Bicocca
- Top attractions: Duomo of Milan, Sforzersco Castle, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Alla Scala Theater, the Navigli
- Fun fact: There are more than 3,400 statues on the Duomo of Milan.
Milan is an international hub, and if you’re looking to grow your network, it’s the perfect place – especially if you’re into fashion or finance. After all, Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world! From Armani to Fratelli Fabbri Editori, one of the biggest publishing houses in Italy, many Italian companies choose to have their headquarters in this city, and that’s no coincidence given its international reputation. Because it’s such an international city, it’s also very welcoming to students from all over the world and you’ll have no problem fitting in, since there is always something going on. If you’re planning on traveling around Italy and maybe even throughout Europe, Milan is strategically located a few hours by train from French, Swiss, Austrian, and Slovenian borders. The city also has multiple train stations and airports making traveling easier and more budget-friendly. Getting around the city is also very simple thanks to Milan’s extensive and affordable public transportation system – one of the most advanced in the world – that ranges from bike-sharing to the underground metro. Although a large metropolitan city, finding your place won’t be a problem!
- Population: 2.87 million
- Land area: 496 mi2 (with a city center of approximately 5 mi 2 )
- Top universities: Sapienza University, Tor Vergata University of Rome, Roma Tre University…and many, many more!
- Top attractions: Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, the Vatican Museums, Spanish Steps… although too many to list!
- Fun fact: Approximately 700,000 worth of Euro coins are tossed into the Trevi Fountain each year.
Do not be fooled by the short list of top universities we’ve compiled because Rome is home to 24 colleges and universities – offering a total of 620 study programs, so you are bound to find the perfect fit! Whether you’re thinking of studying in Rome or choosing to go for a trip, this city is one of the most welcoming to international students. If you’re debating skipping out on a semester here, we strongly encourage spending at least a few weeks to a month in Rome so you can fully experience what the city has to offer. Like Milan, Rome is an international hub as well as the cultural and political epicenter of Italy. As the nation’s capital and a major European city, it has hundreds of embassies, government agencies, international and multinational companies, and organizations. Regardless of your area of interest, if you’re looking to grow your network, Rome is a great city for you – particularly if you are keen on politics and business. Although Rome is the biggest city in Italy in terms of size and population, once you find your place, it will feel like home.Experience Rome and Interact with Others through this Live Virtual Tour:
- Population: 380,000
- Land area: 39.54 mi2
- Top universities: University of Florence, Florence Academy of Fine Arts, the European University Institute
- Top attractions: Uffizzi Palazzo and Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Baptistery of St. John, Piazzale Michelangelo, Galleria dell’Accademia (Academy Gallery, home to the world-famous David Statue by Michelangelo)
- Fun fact: In the 16th century, Florence became the birthplace of gelato.
Unlike Rome and Milan, Florence is a much smaller city, but there is still so much to do and to discover in the few walkable city center miles. Known as the “Cradle of the Renaissance”, you can find monuments, churches, museums, and architectural masterpieces around every corner. Because there are many study abroad programs and international students, you’ll always find someone you can connect with. If you’re a student interested in immersing yourself in Italian art without the commotion of a big metropolitan city, Florence is for you. To add to its charm, it is ranked one of the top cities globally for safety, so you will instantly feel comfortable walking around, especially in the historic city center. You’ll notice the nightlife is always alive and students, both Italian and international, roam the streets to hang out and socialize even during weeknights. Lastly, if you’re interested in traveling around Italy while you’re in Florence, we’ve got great news. Because of its central location, you’re only a few hours away from other Italian cities like Pisa, Bologna, Rome, Naples, Milan, and Venice!
- Population: 388,300
- Land area: 54.39 mi2
- Top universities: University of Bologna (UNIBO) – ranked #1 in Italy, Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna (Academy of Fine Arts), Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe
- Top attractions: Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno, Basilica of St. Petronius, St. Stephen Basilica, Archeological Museum
- Fun fact: The Maserati trident logo was inspired by the statue of Neptune in Bologna’s Piazza del Nettuno.
Bologna is said to be home to the oldest university in the Western world, the University of Bologna, currently ranked #1 in Italy. Established in 1088 and renowned for educating students such as Dante, Petrarca and Carducci, the University and city are an excellent place to study, especially if you’re interested in learning Italian. Because the city is not as touched by tourists throughout the year compared to Milan, Rome, and Florence, it’s a great environment for students who appreciate a more relaxed lifestyle and who want to immerse themselves in a more characteristic and traditional Italian day to day. Although the international community isn’t as extensive in Bologna, there is still intimate community support through the university that will help you best navigate student life in the city. If you’re a foodie, Bologna is a great city to stay in as it is home to many traditional Italian dishes like Bolognese pasta and mortadella… although as you may have realized by now, Italy as a whole is a great place to find delicious food!
- Population: 11,000
- Land area: 5.019 mi 2
- Universities: Babilonia – Italian Language School, Università degli Studi di Messina
- Top attractions: Ancient Greek Theatre, Porta Messina, Isola Bella, Odeon, Piazza IX Aprile
- Fun fact: Although located in Sicily, Taormina is home to one of the world’s oldest and most
famous Greek Theatres.
Taormina is one of many hidden gems in Italy for international students, specifically those wanting to learn Italian and willing to fully immerse themselves in the Italian language and culture. This small hilltop beach town on the East Coast of the island of Sicily is a popular tourist destination for Italians and foreigners alike, especially in the summer, but has more to offer than just sun and sea. Don’t let the size of this town fool you! Although Taormina is an excellent choice for history and philosophy majors as it’s enveloped in ancient Greek and Roman history, it offers an array of study abroad, internships, and volunteer programs. Taormina is less than an hour drive from the cities of Catania and Messina, and about two hours away from Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. If you’re looking for a laid-back, traditional, and intimate beach town, look no further than Taormina.
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THE FINAL VERDICT
Whether you thrive in a busy city or would rather spend your days walking around a quiet little town, Italy has it all. From semesters abroad to volunteer programs and vacations, there are plenty of places where you will be welcomed with open arms as an international student. If you are respectful and open to different cultures, it won’t be difficult for you to get acclimated, and with a little bit of research, you’ll be able to find the perfect fit in no time!
No matter what city you choose, don’t be in a rush to explore and immerse yourself in the culture, because full immersion and the best experiences happen slowly and over time. Enjoy getting a cappuccino and croissant at a café in the city center, reading a book in a historic piazza or garden, or even seeing where the city takes you with its local events… and you’ll return from your time in Italy with stories and experiences to treasure for a lifetime.
Article by Julia Perry: Julia is an Italian American content writer, editor, and creator who loves to travel. She’s called many places home and has traveled to 20+ countries. She now lives in Hawaii with her dog, Millie, where she splits her time between traveling, working, adventuring, and cooking.