A practical guide to the best student cities in Italy
We’ve got a few suggestions that will help you choose the perfect city for your university studies.
5 min read
Looking for a student-friendly city in Italy you can call home? Italy boasts plenty of renowned public universities and—depending on your major—you’ll most likely have an array of excellent options to choose from. However, in your search for the ideal student city, it’s important to take other criteria into account, such as the cost of living and the availability of public transport. And don’t forget: academic life isn’t everything—so be sure to look into what kind of leisure and social activities the city has to offer.
Is your head spinning yet? Don’t worry! We’ve put together a concise guide to help you choose a student-friendly city that’s just right for you.
Studying in Padua
Padua is home to a very large university. Founded in 1222, the University of Padua is also among the oldest in the world. With more than 60,000 students, the university offers quality education and great opportunities for international exchanges. Padua is predominantly a student city, thanks to its bike-friendly streets and affordable rents. It’s teeming with students during the academic year and offers a huge array of leisure opportunities—with tons of events and bars serving the typical spritz!
Top degrees according to the ranking of Italian universities published by CENSIS (2021/2022 edition): Master’s degrees in the fields of Sciences, Veterinary, and Agricultural Sciences; Political and Social Sciences, and Communication; and single-cycle master’s degrees in Pharmacy and Industrial Pharmacy.
Studying in Trento
The city of Trento oozes tradition and student life. Fun fact: the first student protests in Italy took place here, back in 1968. The University of Trento is home to the oldest department of Sociology in Italy, and you’ll encounter a great deal of services and leisure activities, such as pubs, theatres, concert venues, bars, and youth associations. All this and more is packed in a small and charming city, where you’ll frequently bump into familiar faces on the street—and have no problem making new friends.
Top degrees according to the CENSIS ranking: Social Sciences, Law, Information Technologies, and Cognitive Sciences.
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Studying in Bologna
The University of Bologna was founded around 1100, making it one of the oldest in the entire world. It’s also considered one of the best student cities in Italy thanks to its vibrant cultural scene, packed with venues and events, an excellent transport system, and superb, affordable food. In fact, its only flaw is the high cost of rent. However, with a concrete plan on how to save money as a student, living and studying in Bologna will be far more manageable.
Top degrees according to the CENSIS ranking: Three-year degrees in the fields of Economics, Psychology, Political Science, Social and Political Sciences, and Communication.
Studying in Siena
Founded in 1240, the University of Siena is also among the oldest in the world and includes campuses in Arezzo, Grosseto, and San Giovanni Val d’Arno. Siena is also home to the prestigious University for Foreigners (UniStraSi). This small medieval city’s historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Twice a year, the city center is adorned with flags and emblems with heraldic symbols of the districts (contrade) to celebrate the Palio—a horse race held in Piazza del Campo. Siena is a compact, livable city with a good public transport system. The city isn’t known for its nightlife, but you’ll find great food, fascinating libraries, and breathtaking museums.
Top degrees according to the CENSIS ranking: Arts and Letters.
Studying in Pavia
The University of Pavia was founded in the 14th century. Pavia is particularly student-friendly, with the majority of students living in residence halls (collegi) where parties and events are often organized. It’s one of the most affordable cities for students, especially compared to other cities in Lombardy. Plus, Milan is easily reachable by train if you’re planning a special night out.
Top degrees according to the CENSIS ranking: Single-cycle master’s degree in Medicine and Surgery.
Studying in Palermo
The University of Palermo is home to 40,000 students. Founded in 1800, it offers excellent learning opportunities. Palermo’s historic center is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture—it also overlooks the sea, so you’ll enjoy an unrivalled climate. Rent is often very affordable compared to the rest of Italy, and the cost of living is extremely low. Bursting with social events, Palermo is a city that never sleeps. Its only flaw is the badly-organized public transport system. However, you can reach most campus locations with a bicycle or a scooter.
Top degrees according to the CENSIS ranking: Master’s degrees in Sports and Physical Education.
Studying in Venice
Venice has always been an outward-looking city, and its international charm is evident at the Ca’ Foscari University and the Iuav (Istituto Universitario di Architettura), one of the first architecture schools in Italy. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the most affordable cities due to the cost of rent and transport. Nevertheless, once you’re off the beaten tourist paths, you’ll find bars and restaurants where food and drink are absolutely affordable. In the summer, be prepared to put up with a tremendous amount of tourists crowding the streets. It may be annoying, but don’t give up—those who’ve experienced university life in Venice say it’s a life-changing experience.
Top degrees according to the CENSIS ranking: Oriental Languages, Asian and Mediterranean Africa Studies (Ca’ Foscari), Art and Design (Iuav).
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