Studying in Italy: The Cost and the Culture

Federica Montella

Updated on Nov 20 • 6 minute read

If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to say that you’re making the leap to study abroad in Italy. Beyond the world-class universities, you’re going to find a mesmerizing country that offers some of the best food and wine on the planet, some of the best places to live on the planet and friendly people ready to treat you just like “famiglia”.

But just like with any new experience, you’ll need to know exactly what to expect to be sure that you’re making educated decisions and can plan accordingly for your exchange semester. In this guide, you’ll learn what you should budget for your studies, how the Italian higher education system works and much, much more. So, grab a cannoli to get you in the mood, and let’s dig in!

How much does it cost to study in Italy?

Before you begin to picture the rolling vineyards and imagine yourself tasting every pizza Italy has to offer, one of the very first things you’ll need to do is make sure that it fits into your moving abroad budget. Of course, a lot will depend on where you stay in Italy, and then you can break it down even further by neighborhood.

You’ll be looking for __international cities__ with the highest concentration of universities and schools. Plus, most of the larger cities, which are more frequented by tourists, tend to offer more courses in English, which may be something to consider if you need a little brushing up on your Italian.

Tuition fees in Italy

Tuition fees may vary across different schools in Italy, but when compared to fees in other countries, Italy’s tuition is considered to be relatively cheap. Additionally, there are several scholarships available, offered to reward students for their academic results or to help clever minds from less fortunate socio-economic backgrounds make it into higher education.

For a better idea of what to expect when calculating your budget, consider these figures: To give you a rough idea, at a:

  • public universities in Italy: you can expect to pay between €900 and €4,000 annually.
  • private universities in Italy: are more expensive and can cost between €6,000 and €20,000 annually.

On average, most international students pay an average of €1,500 for the entire academic year.

Cost of living for students in Italy

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you begin to think about your total living expenses on your moving checklist for Italy. One of the first things to consider is that a lot will depend on the location. However, you’ll need to take a good look at your budget and decide if living close to one of the major universities is of great importance, or if you don’t mind an easy commute.

You’ll want to ensure that you include even the little things when looking at your living costs; after all, every little bit will add up. Yet, for moderate housing expenses and a regular budget that includes necessities and a little “fun money,” most international students can make things work on around €800 to €1,000 monthly.

Of course, there are always other factors to consider, such as shopping and going out for special dinners with friends. So, let’s try to break this down a little into more specific details.

Student Housing in Italy

The accommodation ranges in Italy can vary greatly. For example, pricing can begin at about €300 per month on the low end, and double in cities like Rome. Plus, it can also depend on whether you like to stay in the center of the action, or if you don’t mind hopping on a bus for a short ride to save a few euros. But to get a nice idea of housing costs, let’s use the city of Florence as a guide:

  • Rent for a private room - €300-500 per month;
  • Rent for a one-bedroom flat - €700-800 per month;
  • Rent for a two or three-bedroom flat - €850-1.150 per month.

Keep in mind that if you want to save a little money and make friends more easily, you should consider sharing a flat and splitting all of the expenses. You will be able to share the rental price, as well as utilities, including things such as Wi-Fi, and maybe even food costs. Plus, it’s nice to also share cleaning responsibilities, and you can take turns cooking at home. It’s a great way to get to know new people!

Before the big move to study abroad, many expats join online communities so that they can meet other students who are going to relocate to study in Italy. That way, you can make living arrangements, or at least meet up with a few friendly faces once you move.

Above all else, when it comes to housing, you’ll need to fully understand your rental agreement. That way, you won’t be surprised by any unexpected fees. For example, check if utilities will be included, or if those will come at an additional cost.

Food

Many people visit Italy solely to try the food and drink the wine. So, we understand if you and your taste buds are super excited!

Many restaurants in the areas closest to the universities will offer student discounts on meals, and the on-campus cafeterias typically offer inexpensive, healthy meals. So make sure you bring your student id wherever you go!

As mentioned above, you can try your hand at cooking at home, especially if you have roommates who might like to take a turn as well.

When shopping for ingredients or even other regular household items, visit the local markets in your area. These products tend to be local, fresh and more affordable than what you'll find in the supermarket. Most cities will also have discount grocery stores like Aldi or Lidl, if you're looking to save money on groceries.

Transportation

In each city in Italy, you’ll be able to pick between buses, trams and subway travel. There is also an extremely convenient rail system called Trenitalia that runs through most of Italy, offering multiple routes and travel options.

For your convenience, you can purchase single tickets, weekly and monthly passes and more. Discounts are also offered for students, which may vary by region.

And, with the lovely weather in Italy, it’s definitely not uncommon to see residents riding their bikes. You can purchase a bike at a secondhand store, and there are also scooter rental options, such as Lime.

Understanding the Italian higher education

With such a large emphasis on higher education in Italy, it’s definitely understandable why so many incoming internationals decided to make it their choice for an exchange semester. You’ll find a good number of courses taught in English, with a wide variety from which to choose.

The system is binary and divided by the university sector and institutions of higher education for music, dance and art. However, it’s very similar to other European cities when it comes to the methods used for instruction.

Lectures and seminars

College in Italy relies on many traditional forms of teaching, often blending the roles of teacher and student.

  • Lectures - The professor provides a presentation.
  • Seminars - The students are actively involved in the sessions.
  • Project-Based Learning - Projects are given to help introduce real-world experiences.
  • Exams - Regular written and sometimes oral exams will help the professor understand how successful the learning process has been for each student.

The Grading system in Italy

Italy uses a 1-30 grading system, with 18 being the passing grade. Each number illustrates varying degrees of exemplary performance or the need for improvement.

Course accreditation

The Italian higher education system is comprised of three cycles: 1st Cycle, which is the Bachelor’s degree (Laurea Triennale) 2nd Cycle, which is the Master’s degree (Laurea Magistrale) 3rd Cycle, which is the Ph.D. degree (Dottorato di Ricerca)

Can I study in Italy in English?

The good news is that you won’t find yourself needing to survive a big culture shock in Italy. With so many internationals living in its most popular cities, there’s a great international student population and plenty of communities for expats, leading to more and more courses taught in English at universities across Italy.

Additionally, about 30% of the population speaks English, with this percentage being significantly higher in areas popular with students, expats and tourists. However, you should still try to learn the basis of Italian to get you by before your move.

In general, Italian people are welcoming and friendly, so it probably won’t be long before you have your fair share of local friends as well. Meals are a big deal in Italy, so if you find yourself invited to an authentic family meal, then enjoy every single bite!

Student Associations

Now, student associations will really get you through while you’re on Erasmus, and they can help you see the many benefits of living abroad. They set up events, parties and much more, so be sure to join one or more. Some of the most popular are:

  • ISN - International Student Association
  • ESN - Erasmus Student Network
  • AEGEE - European Students Forum

Now that you have an idea of what to expect when studying in Italy for Erasmus, the Italian higher education system will have no secrets for you! You can readily find affordable housing at your fingertips and enjoy every moment of your time as an expat in one of the most glorious countries on the planet!

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