Studying in Rome was wonderful. With the Baroque churches, ancient ruins, palazzos, and the infinite amount of fountains, there's no doubt in my mind that Rome was the right place for me. As an art history student, I think it was a more informative city to study in than Italy's other popular study abroad destination, Florence. With that city, there's only one era that you can really delve into: the Renaissance. You see, the thing with Rome is that is has the Renaissance and even more - lots more. Anyways, I'm a Baroque guy. Caravaggio is one of my obsessions. In Rome you'll see not only his paintings but other masterpieces done in the Italian Baroque style.
OK, that's enough about art history... for now. What you need to know about is the program itself.
First things first, if you decide to choose API's program at JCU, you'll be spending your time in Trastevere. Narrow cobblestone streets, hanging vines and a festive atmosphere are what this neighborhood is about. It's very medieval too. (Take that Renaissance Florence!).
That being said, you're probably going to live on the outskirts of Trastevere. Most people I knew in the program - including myself - lived in apartments that were more in Monteverde, not Trastevere. (Monteverde is a more residential and developed area; it's not a big tourist destination, although do check out the Villa Pamphili - it's so cool!). Again, your apartment will only be on the edge and not that deep into Monteverde itself, but if you're observant you'll definitely notice a difference. I don't think this will detract from your experience. I just don't want anyone to expect to be in an apartment with a view overlooking a piazza in Trastevere. In any case, given how active the nightlife is, you probably wouldn't want to have to deal with all that commotion.
JCU is a good school. I'm not entirely sure why the "academics" rating is lower in comparison to the other ones. Since all of the other reviews are 5+ years old, it may be that things have changed. I would say my classes were pretty serious. If you expect to not be challenged, then expect otherwise. Again, I'm an art history major, and all of the classes I took dealt with that subject. They were really incredible classes. Two of them were on-site. That means that, instead of being in a normal classroom, Rome is your classroom! You would spend your time going to any number of sites in Rome. It can be much better than sitting in a darkened classroom while watching a PowerPoint. I really recommend taking a class like that if you're interested.
As far as support on-site goes, the resident directors, Alessio and Naike, are absolutely terrific. I remember going to their office to ask a simple question and Alessio being so friendly and helpful. Even though he didn't have to, he talked to me a lot about my interests and his favorite region in Italy, Emilia-Romagna, and how hyped he was about our excursion to Siena in particular - take that Florence! (I kid, I kid.)
And that's another thing: the excursions are fantastic. I remember speaking to someone who was studying through ISA and being unimpressed by their quality of excursions. Not to worry though, Alessio and Naike will always have something special planned. Our first excursion was to the Amalfi coast (so Sorrento, Capri and nearby Pompeii). There was also one to Tuscany where we saw a medieval wine cellar and had a wine tasting afterwards. Then there were ones in Rome like attending an opera or going to a soccer game.
There was also one to Florence. I didn't go.
Other advice? If you're thinking of LDM vs JCU, I would not go with the former. From what I could tell, very few people were in the LDM program. I think there were only five or so. If exceptionally small classes are your thing and if you want to do an internship, then look into it. Otherwise, go with JCU.
It's only been a year and I miss living in Rome and going to my on-site classes.
(And don't worry, I've been to Florence, it's a nice city, just not my cup of tea.)