8 Things You Should Know Before Studying Abroad in Italy

By Steve Hersey (http://flickr.com/photos/sherseydc/2954982676/) [CC BY-SA 1.0 or CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Steve Hersey (http://flickr.com/photos/sherseydc/2954982676/) [CC BY-SA 1.0 or CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Live la dolce vita in Italy by choosing the land of pizza and pasta for your study abroad destination. Delicious food, historic cities, centuries of culture and gorgeous landscapes await you. Oh yes, and an enriching academic experience! But before you jet off, read this guide to the key things you should know before you study abroad in Italy:

1. Check if you need a visa

Whether you need to apply for a visa depends on the length of your program. If your academic programme is less than 90 days you will not need a visa, however, for courses longer than 91 days a student visa will be mandatory. Contact your local Italian embassy to check the requirements.

2. Get your residence card

If you’ve applied for and received your student visa, you need to head to your local police station within 8 days of arriving in Italy to get your residency card (permesso di soggiorno). This is important, as you need both this card and your visa to legally remain in the country longer than 90 days.

3. Don’t limit yourself to the big cities

When choosing which city to study in, don’t overlook Italy’s smaller and lesser-known towns. Rome and Florence are great, but consider places like Bologna, Pisa and Milan. Italy’s different regions have distinctly different flavours (and not just in the food), so do your research to find the right fit.

4. Choose the right accommodation

Depending on your specific programme, study abroad students in Italy typically have a choice between a homestay, or a shared apartment with international students. While a homestay is more immersive, and good for your Italian, a shared apartment offers more independence. Decide what you want to get out of the experience and make the right decision for you.

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5. Learn Italian before you go

While many courses include Italian lessons, these tend to cover the basics. Don’t assume that everyone can speak English, even in the bigger touristy cities like Rome and Milan. Make your transition easier for yourself by arming yourself with at least basic Italian before you arrive. You’ll find you get so much more out of the experience if you can communicate with the locals in their language.

6. Don’t forget the right adaptors and converters

Italy uses type F and L plug sockets, so make sure you pack in appropriate adaptors. It is also a good idea to bring a converter if your appliances run on anything besides Italy’s 230V. The last thing you want to do is blow out your electronics on your first day abroad.

7. Go easy on the electricity

Speaking of electricity in Italy, Italians are careful in their use, recognising that it is both an expensive resource and many houses can’t handle a high use of electricity at a time. Keep in mind that running too many appliances at the same time may cause the electricity to trip. Make sure you know where the fusebox is to reset it.

8. Cash is king

While you should definitely bring your debit or credit card with, plan to work mainly in cash. Italians are not big card swipers, and prefer to pay in cash. And that cash better be in small notes. Expect many grumpy faces if you try to pay for your coffee with a 50 euro note.


A semester abroad in Italy is sure to be an unforgettable experiences. Start planning those weekend getaways to Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and Venice (not to mention border hopping to the rest of Europe). And most importantly, start building your language skills. Contact us today to find out about Italian lessons near you.