Studying in Italy: The Cost, the Culture and the Clubs

Federica Montella

Updated on Nov 20 • 7 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, interesting attractions and friendly people ready to treat you just like “famiglia.”

Many young people opt to go for Erasmus in Italy because this marvellous country offers a host of exciting opportunities, whether you are going to study for a semester or two, or even hang around to complete your Master’s. You’ll find yourself in good company, because internationals from all over embrace the adventure and relocate to Italy, making it a fine home-away-from-home.

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!

Truthfully… will it break the bank 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.

Let’s take Florence, for example. Here, you can study at some of the following world-class higher-learning institutions:

  • University of Florence - home to over 60,000 students
  • Florence Academy of Fine Arts - oldest public university in the world, founded in 1563
  • European School of Economics - a leader in business and design teachings
  • Polimoda - top fashion school in the country

If your tastes lean more toward the historical roots of Rome, be sure to look into:

  • University of Roma Tre - youngest university in the city, boasting many new, innovative courses
  • University of Rome Tor Vergata - has six faculties, plus a one-cycle degree program
  • Università LUMSA - private Catholic-based university with a humanistic approach
  • La Sapienza University - boasts over 115,000 students and offers free tuition program for those who qualify
  • Campus Bio-Medico University - focusing on medicine and engineering, along with an outpatient clinic, intensive care and more

And if the wonders of Milan’s neighborhoods call, the best options include:

  • Academy of Fine Arts of Brera - a state-run tertiary public academy dedicated to the fine arts
  • University of Milan - one of the highest-ranking universities in Italy with 130 undergraduate classes alone
  • Milano-Bicocca University - placed #21 on the Times Higher Education list for universities under 50 years old
  • Bocconi University - one of Europe’s best business and management universities
  • Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - largest Catholic university in the world
  • Polytechnic University of Milan - high-ranking technical university with two campuses in Milan

Tuition fees

Some tuition fees may vary, but when compared to fees in other countries, Italy’s tuition is considered to be relatively low. Additionally, there are several scholarships offered to reward students for their academic results, or given for financial reasons.

For a better idea of what to expect when calculating your budget, consider these figures: To give you a rough idea, at a public university, you can expect to pay between €900 and €4,000 annually. However, fees at a private university can cost between €6,000 and €20,000 annually. But on average, most international students pay an average of €1,500 for the entire academic year, although there is a wide range between the estimates for both public and private universities.

Living costs

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.


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 each month
  • Rent for a one-bedroom flat - €700-800 each month
  • Rent for a two or three-bedroom flat - €850-1,150 each 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.


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.

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. Most cities will also have discount grocery stores like Aldi or Lidl.


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 options, such as Lime.

Understanding the Italian higher education system

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

The learning system 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 make a presentation.
  • 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.

Grading system

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)

Will there be a big culture shock in Italy?

The good news is that you won’t find yourself needing to survive a big culture shock in Italy. With so many internationals flowing through its most popular cities, there’s a great student population and plenty of communities for expats.

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

Get Out and Dance

You won’t be spending all of your time in Italy in a library or a lecture hall, so be sure to explore some of the area’s most popular nightclubs.

  • Milan - Venus Milano, Armani and Club Alcatraz
  • Rome - Ice Club, Goa Club and Vinile
  • Florence - Moyo, Mayday Club and Rex Cafe

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 easily 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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