The ultimate guide to studying in Bologna as an international student

Deciding where to study is a difficult decision. Read this guide to find out if studying in Bologna is the right fit for you!


9 minute read
Updated on 23 Apr 2024

If you're considering studying abroad in Bologna, you're in for a treat! Bologna ranks among the best cities in Italy and is home to some of the best universities in the country.

The University of Bologna ranks as the top university in Italy, making it the most common choice among the incoming students.

In this guide, we'll provide you with information on:

  • Whether or not Bologna is a good city for international students
  • The student life in Bologna
  • The universities in Bologna
  • The things you should know before moving to Bologna for your studies
  • The cost of living in Bologna for students and tips on how to save money

Is Bologna a good city for international students?

Bologna’s known as the student city of Italy and for good reason. The city’s universities attract thousands of new local and international students each year. This is a big reason why Bologna has a lively culture and vibrant nightlife for students.

The big and bustling student community in Bologna provides a perfect opportunity to socialize and make new friends, making Bologna a great destination for international students. It's easy to find your own little crowd as the student community is characterized by a strong sense of camaraderie; students support one another in academics, extracurriculars, and fun adventures.

Overall, studying in Bologna is a great experience for international students. Whether you're looking for an afternoon spent studying at the many libraries or cafes or are seeking nights of adventure at some of Bologna's legendary clubs and events, there’s no shortage of things to do.

The student associations in Bologna

One important aspect of student life in Bologna is the student associations. Whether you're looking for leadership opportunities, ways to meet other international students, or ways to make a difference in the world, there's sure to be a student association that's perfect for you.

The most popular student associations in Bologna are:

  • Erasmus Student Network (ESN): a network of over 1,200 student associations across Europe that helps international students adjust to student life in their host country.

  • The Student Association for International Students (AIESEC): a global organization that provides students with opportunities to develop their leadership skills through internships and volunteering.

  • The Student Association for Sustainable Development (ASviS): a student-led organization that promotes sustainable development both in Italy and abroad.

Universities in Bologna

So what’s all the buzz about and what’re the universities that contribute to Bologna’s reputation as a great student city? Keep reading to find out the best programs in each of the 3 universities in the city and what the tuition fees for each of them are.

The University of Bologna

If you're looking for a top-ranked university with a long history of academic excellence, the University of Bologna is a great choice. It was founded in 1088, making it the oldest university in the world.

  • Top programs: Law, medicine and humanities.
  • Course language: English and Italian -International and exchange student-friendly: Yes
  • Tuition fees: The tuition fees at the University of Bologna vary depending on the type of program, field of study and country of origin.
ProgramTuition (Non-EU)Tuition (EU)
UndergraduateStart at €5,000 per yearStart at €1,500 per year
GraduateStart at €5,500 per yearStart at €2,000 per yeaR

The University of Bologna has a whole section on its website with information about its exchange programs, so make sure to give it a thorough read before making your final decision.

Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna (Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna)

The Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna is one of the oldest and most prestigious art schools in Italy. Founded in 1563, it has educated some of the most renowned artists in history. They offer various courses in the fields of studying, producing, or preserving art.

  • Programs: Domains of visual and applied arts, restoration, as well as communication and teaching art.
  • Course language: Italian
  • International and exchange student-friendly: Although the formal teaching language is Italian, some professors may use English. It’s a good choice if you know Italian at an intermediate or advanced level.
  • Tuition fees: The tuition fees vary widely from program to program so it’s best that you check the details on the website of the university.

Conservatorio Giovanni Battista Martini

The Conservatorio Giovanni Battista Martini is one of the most popular music schools in Italy. The university offers a wide range of bachelor's and master's degrees in music.

  • Top programs: Opera singing, piano, and orchestral instruments.
  • Course language: Italian
  • International and exchange student-friendly: No, it’s the least suitable since all the programs are only available in Italian. It’s also only open to Erasmus+ students.
  • Tuition fees: They vary widely based on the facilities that your program would require.

Things to know before deciding to study in Bologna

If you're considering studying in Bologna, there’re a few things you should know before making your decision.

Unless you’re an EU citizen, getting a visa can be difficult

Acquiring an Italian student visa is the first hard requirement for all non-EU citizens who intend on studying in Italy. The application process can be long and complicated.

There’re 2 types of student visas that you can apply for depending on the intended length of your stay in Italy:

Type of VisaType C Student VisaType D Student Visa
ValidityUp to 90 daysBetween 90 days and 6 months
Permission to workNoYes, up to 1,040 hours per year

Even though you can start the application process as early as 3 months or as late as 3 weeks before your intended travel date, it’s best to start as soon as possible due to the long wait times caused by Italian bureaucracy.

Residence permit

As an international student in Italy, you'll also need to obtain a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) in order to stay in the country for more than 90 days.

The process of getting a residence permit can be difficult, and it's important to make sure that you have all of the necessary documents before beginning the application process.

You’ll need a certificate to prove your language proficiency

You’ll need a certificate proving that you’re proficient in either Italian or English depending on the university and program you wish to enroll in.

The eligible certificates for Italian and English are as follows:

  • To prove your proficiency in English, you need to pass either the IELTS, TOEFL or CFA certification exams with a score that equates to B1.

  • Proving your proficiency in Italian is possible through attaining either the CELI or CILS certificates with a score that signifies at least B1.

You’ll need to learn at least a bit of Italian regardless of whether you’d need a certificate or not since not many people in Bologna speak English.

Registering with the National Health Service is a hassle

The Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) is one of the best in the world. The registration is compulsory and comes with an extensive process, regardless of your country of origin.

The pros and cons of living in Bologna

Bologna is a very walkable city. This makes it easy to get around if you don’t own a car and poses the perfect opportunity to discover the hidden gems of the city.

However, one downside of living in Bologna is that it can feel quite small and crowded at times. With a population of just over 400,000 people, living in this city often feels much more like living in a big town than a big city.

Living in Bologna can be a great choice for students and young professionals alike. The city has a large student population, making it an ideal place to go to school or pursue higher education. Similarly, the city’s thriving economy and diverse job market make it an ideal place for kicking your career off.

However, living in Bologna can be quite expensive, especially for students. Additionally, it can be difficult to find career progression opportunities, so you might have to relocate to another city in Italy, such as Milan.

Cost of living for students in Bologna

The cost of living in Bologna for students can range from €1,000 to €1,200 per month. Of course, this number can be higher depending on your lifestyle.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs that make up the list of monthly expenses you’ll have to cover:

  • Food costs amount to €150-€200 per month. Shopping at supermarkets like Lidl, Penny Market or Esselunga will help you stretch your budget.

  • The accommodation expenses can range from €350 to €1,200 per month. You can expect to pay €350-€450 per month if you live in one of the dormitories, making this the most economic rental solution. Living in private accommodation and sharing the rent with other students will set you back anywhere from €600 to €800 per month.

  • Going out to restaurants, bars and clubs can set you back with as much as €40-€60 per evening. These expenses can add up quite quickly so make sure to be mindful of how much you spend on your leisure time!

Where to live in Bologna as a student

Finding the right neighborhood is crucial to having a great experience as a student in Bologna. And if choosing the right neighborhood wasn’t enough pressure, the options run out rather quickly because of the significant inflow of students. If you’re lucky, you’d be able to book a room in one of the dormitories of the universities but keep in mind that they’re very limited too!

With such high demand, the chances are that you might need to rent a room far from the city center. This wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience since Bologna has a good public transport system

The best neighborhoods for students in Bologna

The liveliest student neighborhoods in Bologna with many great bars, restaurants, and cafes:

  • San Vitale
  • Santo Stefano
  • Porta Saragozza

If you're looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, then you may want to consider living in one of the city's quieter neighborhoods:

  • Ozzano dell'Emilia
  • San Lazzaro di Savena
  • Borgo Panigale

They’re perfect if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city at an affordable price.

Out of the neighborhoods listed above, the ones where you’d find the most affordable accommodation in Bologna are:

  • San Vitale
  • Borgo Panigale
  • San Lazzaro di Savena

What to do in Bologna as a student

If you're a student in Bologna, there's no shortage of things to do in your free time. From exploring the city's many historical and cultural landmarks to enjoying its delicious food and wine, there's something for everyone.

Here are just a few of the many things to do in Bologna as a student:

  1. Visit the city's many museums and historical sites. From the Fountain of Neptune, which was built in 1563, to the Basilica di San Petronio, one of the largest churches in Italy, there are countless cultural attractions to explore in Bologna.

  2. Catch a football game at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. Fans of Italian football (soccer) can catch a game of Bologna F.C., while fans of basketball can watch Virtus Bologna, one of the country's most successful teams.

  3. Enjoy the city's food and wine. Bologna is known for its delicious cuisine, and there are plenty of great places to eat and drink throughout the city. Be sure to try some of the local specialties like mortadella, a type of cured pork sausage, or tagliatelle al ragù, a dish of pasta with meat sauce.

  4. Shop til you drop. From high-end boutiques to sprawling street markets, Bologna is full of great shopping opportunities. Whether you're looking for local artisan crafts or the latest fashion trends, there's something for everyone in this vibrant city.

  5. Go to one of the many student-friendly bars in Bologna and enjoy some quality time with your friends.

  6. Take a day trip. Bologna makes an excellent base for exploring the rest of Italy. Why not take a day trip to Florence, Venice or Milan? Or if you're feeling adventurous, head further afield to the stunning beaches of the Adriatic coast.

Now that you have a better idea of what to expect from the student life in Bologna, it’s time to get familiar with the rest of the items on your relocation checklist for Italy and start the process for getting a residence permit for the time of your stay in Bologna.

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