Italian! Ahhh the language of love! Whether you're a food lover who just wants to know how to properly order a cappuccino or have a little experience under your belt and want to take your intermediate level to advanced, you're not alone. Italian is the fourth most studied language in the world, and there's no better place to learn it than in Italy.
But which city should you study Italian in? How much will it cost? And where can you find a great Italian school within your budget? Right here. Read on.
This page has everything you'll need to find a language school abroad. Read our expert guide, then read reviews and choose a Language School from the list below. You'll be well on your way to fluency in Italian!
Italian Language Schools with Group or Private Courses
If you’re not interested in the programs affiliated with universities, there are plenty private Italian language schools in Italy that will accept you to solely learn Italian.
These lessons can take place in a number of large and small group settings, can be split time between conversation hours and grammar, and also can be private one on one lessons with an instructor. These are deeply beneficial because you can customize these courses to fit your needs – as well as help you with other orders of business such as accommodation and extracurricular activities.
Language Study and Au Pair Combination
For both girls and guys, au pairing is a great way to really delve into Italian culture and language -- and gain some work experience as a plus. Au pairs or nannies are very popular in Italy because many families would like their children to become fluent in English.
In exchange for caring for and teaching the kids English, you will usually get room and board. Some even support you with paying for Italian lessons when you’re “off duty.” This will allow you to get professional lessons, as well as learn Italian in an immersion setting.
For those already enrolled in a college at home and want to study abroad for a semester (a few weeks in the summer to a few months/year through the school year), you can speak with your advisor and visit your study abroad fairs for information on the best programs that you can attend while also getting school credit to put toward your degree.
These programs usually are more well rounded with history, art, and sometimes even other areas of study included in their courses. However, depending on your plan for your degree, this perhaps may be also a good avenue to choose if you have a major or minor in Italian!
Cultural Immersions/Extracurricular Activities
Many programs have cultural activities and excursions built into the cost, or for an additional fee. These can range from local theater trips to weekends in another city. Students enrolled in a university-based program may also be able to participate in university-sponsored activities. If students choose a program without additional activities, the local tourism office will have plenty of information on local sightseeing and trips.
Length of Program
The length of Italian language programs can vary from a week or two to years – depending on your availability, dedication, and financial and legal situation. If you enroll in a program that is less than ninety days, you will not need to get a student visa – which makes the registration process much easier.
If it is above ninety days, you will need a visa as well as a “permesso di soggiorno” or a permit of stay, which will allow you to remain as a student for longer. Ask your program about their lengths of classes and what is required from you for each duration.
Italy is the obvious choice for where to study Italian. However, if you’re searching for another area to study Italian, it's also heavily spoken in some parts of Switzerland (the Ticino region) and somewhat in Malta (though most of the courses there are targeted to local Maltese students, and it's not much of a destination for studying Italian abroad).
If you’re content with focusing on Italian and staying within the boot of Italia, you’ll have more opportunities to get a deeper understanding of this beautiful language. Below are some of the more popular destinations for Italian study in Italy:
If you’re looking to study Italian where the language as we know it today was formed, Florence is a small but amazing city to experience. If you are a complete beginner in Italian, this well-known city is easily accessible by means of speaking English because of the large amounts of tourism in the area.
Though this is great when your linguistic skills are still unstable, don’t use the ease of speaking English as a crutch! For those that really want to become fluent, Firenze may not be your best bet.
Though Rome sees as many (if not more) tourists than Romans within its ancient walls, the city outside these walls has more Romans. This means more “Italian” neighborhoods (Trastevere is a great one) and opportunities to practice Italian through daily life. Rome is perfect for the beginner to intermediate that still wants to be able to have that lifeline of using English if necessary, but also can explore the daily lives of Italians and their speech.
If you want to spend your time off from studying wandering the quiet canals of this City of Bridges, you can head to Venice to study in the heart of one of the most unique cities in the world.
Overrun with tourists in the summer months, Venice is another place that you may be able to get by in with English at first if necessary, though the dialect and accent up in Venezia may throw you a bit once your grocery shopping trips transfer into Italian. This is definitely a beautiful city to study in if you’re ready for a challenge.
Looking for a more modern city with a fashion flare? Milan is your best bet. Riddled with a controversial history and a world-famous fashion forwardness, Milan is the booming metropolis of Italy if there was one. With fewer tourist attractions and more skyscrapers, Milan may make you feel more at home than you’d think you’d be in Italy – and you can slide right into the daily life here just as easily as being a tourist.
The city of Bologna (no they don’t have our type of bologna there -- believe me) is an excellent choice for those that want to learn Italian to a more advanced level and want Italian friends. Also, since Bologna is the top city for Italians to go to University, this area is flooded with young Italians, a lively nightlife and lots to do.
If you find yourself studying in this beautiful town, make sure to hang out at the local bars and try getting a conversation partner to break into the local Italian scene. You’ll be fluent in no time!
As stated earlier, cultural immersion is easier in smaller and lesser-known towns where locals are more apt to speak with you and be friendly. From these connections, many are invited to dinners, aperitivo (we’ll let you figure this one out by yourself, but it is the best tradition Italians have), to play on local soccer or other sports teams, or perhaps a night of jewelry making and wine.
In bigger cities, many programs help out their students by organizing international event nights and other extracurriculars that’ll get you out into the local scene and allow you to make new friends and try out your language skills in a situation outside the classroom.
If you’ve already taken an Italian course in the past, you’re ahead of the game and this will help greatly for simply getting around town. However, if you don’t have a hint of Italian in your head yet, studying in Italy isn’t out of the question. There are plenty of beginner level classes that you can jump into without a problem and some of the more touristy cities are very helpful in your early learning period.
The only other potential qualification is a student visa. If you are planning on participating in a class and know what program you are enrolling in before you depart, ask them what their standard procedure is for a visa. Each program has it’s own method of visas; some complete the entire process for you, while others give you instructions as to how to go to your local embassy and apply yourself.
What you really need to think about when you’re selecting a program is what you want your end result to be. Do you want to simply woo your date with a few phrases of Italian and correctly pronounce bruschetta (not bru-sh-e-ta but bru-ske-ta with a rolled “r”)? Or do you want to be able to travel freely around this beautiful country, reunite with your long lost Italian relatives or become so fluent you dream in this renaissance language? Your call! And there’s a program for the entire spectrum.
Level of Difficulty
The level of difficulty for learning Italian can vary depending on where you study. If you are in Florence with a beginner class, the experience will resemble more of a vacation than a taxing learning opportunity. If you are in a small, undiscovered town somewhere in the south of the boot, you’ll have a bit more difficulty with dialects and accents, but because you are forced to speak to maneuver through your daily chores, your fluency will come quickly.
Participation in these programs can range anywhere from high school to retirees. As we discussed previously, Italy and its language has a romanticized pull that allows folks in any chapter of life to visit and enjoy all this country has to offer. If you’re looking for a class with more of a college feel and age demographic, choose a program associated with a university. Want a little more diversity and challenge? Enroll in a private program and ask about their diversity –- usually there is more of an age range and nationality spread.
Costs & Funding
The course and city you decide on for learning Italian abroad will be the main factors in how much you spend. If you are enrolled in university and they have their own program, sometimes the cost can even be lower to study abroad than it is to stay on campus. However, other private programs may be more expensive. With Au pairing, on the other hand, you may end up making money in the end.
For location costs – staying in big and touristy cities like Rome or Florence will make day-to-day living expenses more expensive, while smaller and less-known towns will have lower prices and the quality of goods is generally better. If you don’t have the funds but have your heart set on living in walking distance of the coliseum, don’t fret! There are ways to help you out –- like scholarships!
Nonetheless, plan to budget about $80 - 100 per day to cover food, accommodation, in-country transportation, and other personal expenses. If your accommodation is included in the program fee, budget around $50 - 70 per day instead.