Is La Dolce Vita calling you? Does the idea of waking up surrounded by the timeless beauty of the Romans or the Renaissance make you swoon? Then studying in Italy may be the perfect place for you spend your semester (or year) abroad.
Not only is Italy home to some of the best food and most unique culture in the world, but it is also very well known for its institutes of higher education. Can’t speak Italian? Don’t fret! Whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate, or study abroad student, you’re sure to find something to suit your interests and language level. Although not all universities offer complete degree programs in English, many offer select English and Italian courses for international students. Program providers, like AIFS also provide English courses in Italy.
Italy is a unique country, even within itself. Since it wasn’t unified until the mid 19th century, many regions have maintained some of their own flair, foods, traditions, and customs. Italy has proved timeless in its beauty and has a distinct personality unlike anywhere else in the world. With an extensive rail and bus system and numerous airports, you’re only a short trip away from the rest of Europe. You’re sure to experience something new every day along the ancient, windy streets and in the modern, cosmopolitan cities.
How to choose where to study in Italy
The first and the most daunting step when choosing where to study in Italy is finding a city that fits your needs. Consider what you want to study, your language proficiency, and the type of area you want to live in. Use resources like numbeo, where all cost of living in this article is sourced, to match your budget with an Italian city. Private universities in Italy are significantly more expensive than public ones, so keep that in mind as you explore your options. Additionally, check out our article on the best cities to study abroad in Italy to get inspired!
While the city where you'll live while studying is a crucial component of a successful experience, so too is the university. Here are some of the best universities in Italy for international students, broken down into popular categories.
Note: This article is not a ranking, and the universities are in no particular order. Selections were made based on various factors, including popularity among and support for international students, quality of programs, and their social scenes. Tuition prices are for the 2022 academic year and are subject to change. All values are in USD.
Great for studying music: University of Milan
Overseas Tuition: $4,290/year
Cost of living: $953 + rent
The state-run University of Milan offers a wide assortment of programs for international students, including three programs entirely in English: economics, informatics, and medical school. They also offer “entry-level” programs where students take their first 45 to 60 credits in English and then the remaining courses in Italian. However, the final thesis may be written in English. At the doctoral level, the University of Milan offers 21 programs across multiple disciplines.
The University of Milan has a large international student population, with 6% of students enrolled coming from outside Italy. According to the US News and World Report Global Universities in Italy rankings, the University of Milan is ranked 5th overall. Additionally, this school offers many extracurricular activities, including its own amateur sports association, orchestra, choir, theater, and cultural activities.
Music majors and musicians will especially love the Univerity of Milan, as it has one of the most well-renowned youth orchestras in Italy. Even better, the Symphony Orchestra of the University of Milan hosts a yearly free concert season. Additionally, the Choir of the University of Milan is in its 25th year since inception, and all students and staff are welcome to audition.
The city of Milan is a major tourist destination. Along with being the second-largest city in Italy, Milan is one of the world's four fashion capitals and boasts the third-largest economy in Europe. The university is located in Ca' Granda's historical complex in the city center, perfect for students to immerse themselves in Italian culture.
Great for foodies: University of Bologna
Overseas Tuition: $3,300/year
Cost of living: $877 + rent
University of Bologna is the top-ranked university in Italy and top 50 in all of Europe, according to US News and World Report 2022 Best Global Universities Rankings. Additionally, it is the oldest university in existence, open since 1088! The University of Bologna is a leader in Europe’s push to make academic systems and qualifications more compatible across Europe. Most courses are taught in Italian, but some courses can be found in English. They also offer Italian language courses for non-native speakers.
The University of Bologna has been ranked in the top 50 for the world's best law schools, so students with a knack for the courtroom will be hard-pressed to find a better Italian university to extend their studies!
Bologna is a city that is still etched by the Renaissance with stunning towers and porticoes. Bologna considers itself Italy’s culinary capital and has the largest student population in Northern Italy. Additionally, Bologna has a renowned cuisine culture, including Bolognese sauce's birthplace. Vegans and vegetarians will love Bologna as it was ranked as the top vegan-friendly Italian city in Italy by La Repubblica. In the year 2000, Bologna was named the cultural capital of all of Europe! There's plenty to see and do there... affrettatevi!
Great for fashion and design: Accademia Italiana
Location: Florence and Rome
Overseas Tuition: $16,800/year
Cost of living: $874 - 876 + rent
With campuses in both Florence and Rome, the Accademia Italiana is a top fashion and design school with options for a three-year degree or short-term study options, authorized by the Italian Ministry of Public Education. The bachelor's degrees are jointly issued from the University of Wales and the Accademia. Courses are taught in both English and Italian, with some offered exclusively in Italian. That said, all the faculty speak English. In addition to design and fashion, students can also take language classes.
Accademia Italiana offers internships and initiatives during the year to provide students with a more diverse and comprehensive experience in the fashion and design industry. This focus on providing real-world, hands-on exposure gives students at Accademia Italiana an exceptional opportunity to affirm what they learn in the classroom.
If you're sold on Accademia Italiana but unsure what campus to attend, check out our article on studying in Rome vs Florence
Great for art and culture studies: Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute
Overseas Tuition: $18,000/year
Cost of living: $874 + rent
Don’t know Italian but still craving the life of a Florentine? Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute may be the place for you. This is the largest international school in Florence, with students from all over the world attending for a semester, year, or their entire degrees.
Courses are taught in English, and there are opportunities for language and culture study through unique avenues such as cooking or art courses. Though there won’t be locals in your classes, you can still connect to Italian student networks and integrate yourself into the Florence student scene.
The campus is in the city center, with classes held just minutes from the Duomo and the Arno River. Students can immerse themselves in the Italian culture while pursuing course credits or a US-accredited bachelor's degree taught in English. Lorenzo de’ Medici also has smaller campuses in Tuscany and Rome.
Great for entirely English-speaking courses: John Cabot University
Overseas Tuition: $24,900
Cost of living: $876 + rent
As an alternative to the traditional Italian system, there's John Cabot University, the only American University in Italy. The university is small and has a student body representing 55 countries globally. They offer everything an American university would, from dorms and meal plans to clubs and organizations. Courses are taught solely in English, with both four-year degrees and study abroad opportunities.
With thirteen different degree programs, students have the opportunity to earn both an American BA and a UK BA degree. There are also numerous opportunities for language study and international internships to facilitate travel across the world.
Located in Rome, this small institution has nearly 1000 international visiting students each year, in addition to its 700 full-time students. Students at John Cabot University can pursue degrees in Art History, International Affairs, and English Literature.
Where will you study?
There are programs and schools to fit everyone looking to study in Italy, spanning both the length of study and degree discipline. Whenever preparing for a study abroad opportunity, talk to your study abroad office as they are a great source of information, especially if you are looking to get course credit.
Italy has a reasonable cost of living, especially for the benefits of living in the heart of Europe. Additionally, universities in Italy don't typically charge non-EU students higher tuition, making it a great place to get an international degree.
Make a plan for what you want to get out of your program and what is important to you in a school. But most of all, keep an open mind and don’t get frustrated by the process of searching. There are a lot of options, which can seem overwhelming. Stick with it, and you’ll have the best experience living the Italian life, no matter where you choose.