Italy certainly has plenty of charms to tempt tourists and international students alike: a diverse landscape; an immense cultural and historical legacy; iconic and historic sites including Rome’s Colosseum and Pisa’s Leaning Tower; incomparable cuisine; an impressive history of inventions and discoveries… and, of course, universities in Italy include some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious.
Aside from the monumental legacy of the Roman civilization, Italy has a long history of leadership and innovation. Notable Italians include explorers Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo; Enrico Fermi (physicist who created the world’s first nuclear reactor); Leonardo da Vinci, who proved the world is not flat; Alessandro Volta, who studied electricity (recognize the term ‘Volt’?); and Galileo Galilei, who discovered four moons around Jupiter and invented the telescope, with which he proved that the Earth revolves around the sun.
That’s just for starters – the list of famous Italian thinkers and inventors goes on and on, ranging from eyeglasses and espresso machines to automobiles and eau de cologne. The origin of the word ‘university’ is also attributed to Italy, and the University of Bologna is believed to be one of the very oldest in the world.
Then there’s the famous Italian fashion houses, and of course that fabulous food…
Ready to study in Italy? Click on the tabs below to learn about Italian universities, student cities, costs, visas, applications and more.
The top universities in Italy are spread across a wide area, as are the rest of the country’s attractions, meaning plenty of attractive choices for those planning to study in Italy. Find out more about some of the most popular cities for students…
Where to start with the Italian capital? Well, most people probably start with the main sights – the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Forum, the Spanish Steps and the catacombs. But, as a student in Rome, you’ll find that the fun lies in discovering new sides to the Eternal City.
You might take in a show in one of Rome’s many theaters, or enjoy a large outdoor performance at the Stadio Falminio or Olympic Stadium. If you’re keen on literature, why not enjoy a night out at a book bar – a fusion of bar, library and book club? For bargain hunters, Rome’s antique fairs and flea markets offer reams of vintage and second-hand goodies. If you’re brave enough, you might even rent a scooter and try to navigate the notoriously chaotic Roman traffic.
There are a range of excellent universities in Rome, particularly the Sapienza – Università di Roma which is ranked 215th in the QS World University Rankings 2018 , making it Italy’s fifth highest-ranked university. Other notable universities in Rome include the Università degli Studi Roma Tre (ranked 751-800). Rome itself was ranked joint 65th in the QS Best Student Cities 2017 index.
Celebrated as one of the world’s best cities for students, Milan offers the full package: world-class universities, a high standard of living, and a large and diverse student population. A thriving economic hub in the north of Italy, Milan retains a strong sense of its past, while simultaneously representing modern urban Italian life.
The city’s cosmopolitan population coexists alongside a wealth of historical sites, including the Santa Maria alle Grazie Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which contains the famous painting The Last Supper. As well as being Italy’s leading financial center, Milan is recognized as a world leader in the fashion and design industries, designated a fashion capital of the world alongside London, Paris and New York. If sports are more your thing, you’ll probably know Milan as the home of celebrated football teams AC Milan and Internazionale.
With eight universities in Milan, the city has the largest student community in Italy. Its higher education options include Italy’s highest entry in the 2018 ranking, Politecnico di Milano. Other internationally ranked universities in Milan include Università degli Studi di Milano (joint 325th), the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (481-490) and the University of Milano-Bicocca (651-700), while the Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi is known as one of Europe’s top business-focused universities. The Università degli Studi di Pavia (UNIPV), at 551-600 in the world rankings, is also located just north of the city of Milan and offers a range of international programs taught in English.
Once you’ve climbed the famous Leaning Tower and taken one of those typical tourist photos where you pretend to be holding the tower up with your hands, you’ll find there’s a lot more to Pisa than this iconic landmark. Pisa has more than 20 historic churches, several palaces and a series of stunning bridges across the River Arno. During the summer, you’ll find students relaxing along the banks of the river, sipping drinks from one of the area’s good wine bars.
While you might not find so many clubs or live music venues in Pisa, the city does offer some alternative music venues, disco bars and karaoke bars. Meanwhile, you can enjoy a leisurely dinner or drink at one of the city’s restaurants and bars, have a walk in Piazza Garibaldi and the riverside Lungarni, or treat yourself at one of Pisa’s spas.
The city gets much of its life from its student population, who organize all kinds of parties, shows and cultural events. Among universities in Pisa, the main one is the Università di Pisa, ranked 421-430 in the QS World University Rankings 2018. The university’s most famous past student is Galileo Galilei, who studied there in the 16th century and went on to become one of the world’s most famous astronomers, physicists and inventors. Along with the University of Pisa, the Scuola Normale Superiore and the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa, both ranked joint 192nd in the world, make up the Pisa University System, which is recognized as one of Europe’s leading education hubs.
Although less familiar to foreigners, Bologna is well-known among Italians, and not just because it is the largest city and capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna is known as the culinary capital of Italy, famous for its cuisine (la cucina Bolognese). It’s also been named a Creative City for Music by UNESCO and has a well-preserved historic center. The city’s pervasive shades of red, from terracotta to burnt oranges and warm yellows, have given it the nickname Bologna la rossa (Bologna the red).
Having developed around one of the world’s oldest universities, Bologna remains very much a university town, with a large and diverse student population. There is a thriving nightlife, active gay scene, good live music scene, and almost a hundred concerts every year featuring international rock, electronic and alternative bands. Other study-break activity options include a restored silent and sound films festival in July, three major car museums (Ducati, Lamborghini and Ferrari), and a Formula One collection.
Among universities in Bologna, the highest-ranked is the Università di Bologna (UNIBO) – which is Italy’s second-highest entry in the QS World University Rankings, at joint 188th. Other higher education institutions in Bologna include the Collegio di Spagna (within the University of Bologna, for Spanish students), a branch campus of the US’s Johns Hopkins University, the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna, and the Collegio Superiore di Bologna. You might also consider taking some classes at the Carpigiani Gelato University, where you can learn to make authentic Italian ice cream.
Applying to universities in Italy
University application procedures in Italy vary depending on whether you are an EU or a non-EU student, and whether you’re applying at undergraduate (referred to as ‘first cycle’) or graduate level (second and third cycle). The Study in Italy website run by the Italian Ministry of Education has all the information you’ll need about applying to universities in Italy – but keep reading for an overview of key steps.
In general, the first step is to contact your chosen university to check the entry requirements for your degree program. Once your eligibility is confirmed, you must submit a pre-application request form to the Italian embassy or consulate in your country of origin along with the relevant documentation (see below). You will need to get your documents translated into Italian by an approved translator. The form you need to fill out will vary depending on whether you are an EU or non-EU student and your degree subject. For example, non-EU students applying to study at institutions for arts, design, music and dance will need to fill in the form Model A-bis, while other students will need to fill the form Model A.
Documents you may need to provide include:
- Completed application form to receive a Letter of Academic Eligibility and Suitability (Dichiarazione di Valoro in Loco/ DV);
- Completed relevant pre-enrolment form;
- Copy of your school leaving qualification if you are an undergraduate applicant, or copy of your undergraduate qualification certificate if you are a postgraduate applicant;
- Transcript of exams, including name of each passed exam and syllabi of each course attended;
- Two passport-sized photographs, one of which you must sign;
- Any other documentation that can support your application (translated into Italian);
- You may also need to provide proof of proficiency in Italian by presenting the results of an Italian language exam.
If you are an EU student, the embassy through which you are applying will send you a Letter of Academic Eligibility and Suitability (Dichiarazione di Valoro in Loco/ DV), which acknowledges your foreign studies prior to applying to universities in Italy. The embassy will then send your documents to your chosen university and you will receive confirmation of acceptance (or rejection) directly from the university. If you are a non-EU student, the Italian embassy or consulate will find out if your application meets the criteria for a visa to study in Italy.
Applying for a visa to study in Italy
You will only be issued a visa to study in Italy if you can demonstrate that you:
- Have suitable accommodation in Italy;
- Have sufficient funds to cover all costs you might incur while studying in Italy (including tuition, accommodation, transport, textbooks and living costs);
- Have sufficient funds to be able to travel back to your country of origin at the end of your studies, or proof that you have already purchased a return ticket;
- Are entitled to medical care in Italy, either through private health insurance or an agreement between Italy and your native country;
- You might also need to show proof of certificate of payment in full for your degree program.
You can find out if you will need a visa to study in Italy using this handy tool offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministero degli Affari Esteri). Most of the time, the visa is free; however, some candidates may need to pay a visa processing fee. You will also need to present all necessary documents giving evidence of the requirements outlined above, as well as:
- Completed visa application form;
- Evidence of having paid the visa application fee (if applicable);
- Passport valid for at least three months after your course ends;
- Two recent passport-sized photographs, one of which you must sign.
Tuition fees, living costs and financial aid in Italy
Tuition fees at universities in Italy differ depending on the institution and course, as institutions set their own rates. According to government guidelines, average fees are between €850 and €1,000 (~US$900-1,060) per year at public universities in Italy, while private universities will be more expensive. Some specialized courses may also charge higher fees, while doctoral students receiving a grant from their university of choice will not need to pay fees.
In terms of living costs, you’ll need €12,000-18,000 (~US$12,740-19,120) per year to cover accommodation, food, transport, entertainment and other expenses. When budgeting, you should keep in mind your lifestyle and spending habits, as well as where you’ll be based – major cities and tourist areas will be more expensive than smaller towns, especially in the north of Italy.
International students are eligible for the same scholarships and grants as local students, assessed by academic merit or financial need. This applies to scholarships, student loans, housing assistance, meal tickets and fee waivers. These services are managed by the university’s DSU Office (Diritto allo Studio Universitario – Right to Education), which also provides useful information and services for students including counseling, extra-curricular activities, sports, transport and other practical matters.
Arrival in Italy
Having arrived in Italy, all students (including those from within the EU) must apply for a residence permit (Permesso di Soggiorno). Non-EU students on a long-stay student visa (more than 90 days) need to apply for this at their local post office within eight days of arrival, while EU nationals should register at their local Ufficio Anagrafe (registry office) within three months of arrival. International students on a short-stay student visa (up to 90 days) must make a declaration of presence (Dichiarazione di Presenza) to the local police (Questura). You should carry the declaration of presence or residence permit with you, as you may be asked to show it to police or public safety officers.