Should I Study Abroad in Torino or Milan?

by Danielle DeSimone

You’ve chosen to study abroad in Italy, one of the most beautiful and pizza-laden countries in the world, but now comes the hard part: which city to study in? When researching study abroad programs in Italy, you’ll find that some locations are more popular than others. You should also know that your chosen city will shape your study abroad experience immensely, so it is important to consider the aspects of each location to ensure that you get the most out of your summer, semester, or year studying abroad in Italy.

To help you choose between Italy’s two most popular cities for study abroad, Milan and Torino, we’ve come up with a list of some of the most important characteristics of each. 

Il Duomo (Milan's Cathedral)

Il Duomo (Milan's Cathedral)

Lifestyle

Milan

This city is well known for its prestigious and extravagant lifestyle. As a fashion capital of the world, a center of art and history, and the financial powerhouse of Italy, this city provides an exceptional lifestyle that you can immerse yourself in. Aside from the renowned grandeur at La Scala opera house, the streets are lined with shopping, art museums, and Milan’s cathedral (il Duomo - the fifth largest cathedral in the world), the pinnacle of Italian gothic architecture.

The Milanese lifestyle is best experienced in its canal district, where locals, and study abroad students, meet at various bars and cafés to enjoy aperitivi: a great deal of socializing alongside drinks and limitless appetizers.

Due to the many universities in Milan, such as Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, there is a very large student population within the city. Milan also attracts an incredibly diverse and international population, from its various businesses and industries, making it a very exciting place to study abroad in Italy. However, because of this high-class clientele, Milan is an expensive city to study abroad in. Therefore, students who choose to study abroad in Milan will have to budget accordingly and to take advantage of student discounts. 

Torino

As the third-strongest economical metropolis of Italy, Torino prides itself on its long history of industry, politics, cinema, and soccer. With a few of the largest and more prestigious Italian universities housed within the city limits, including the University of Torino, the strong student influence is clearly seen in the various underground music and modern art venues throughout Torino.

Much of Torino’s social life is found in its grand piazzas, where students and locals alike meet for drinks, dinner, or ice-skating on the temporary ice rinks throughout the city in the winter months. Torino is also famous for its wine and chocolate, making it a gastronomical playground for students who appreciate the finer things in life.

Although slightly more affordable than Milan, Torino is still a very large city with a reputation of being the “Paris of Italy.” The cost of living in Torino is higher than in other regions of Italy, but can be easily be managed by using local resources, such as student discounts, and shopping at open-air markets, where you’ll find lower prices and a chance to shop like a local! 

Academics

Study abroad programs in both Milan and Torino offer you the opportunity to study abroad in Italy for a summer, a semester, or a full year.

Milan

With its world of designer brands and exceptionally-dressed locals, Milan is an excellent location to study fashion in Italy. It is also a leading force in textile production, commercial trade, and banking, so business and international relations are exciting subjects to explore in Milan too, especially since it is one of Italy’s largest cities. 

Piazza Vittorio in Torino, Italy

Piazza Vittorio in Torino, Italy

Torino

Torino plays host to multi-million Euro companies such as the Fiat automobile industry, the main Italian news channel Rai, and Lavazza coffee (just to name a few). As such, international business is a very popular subject to study in Torino. History and cinema-buffs rejoice! The city has also been a key player in Italian politics of the past century and was the founding city of Italian cinema, so Torino is a prime location to study both history and film. And don’t forget that the second-largest collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt can be found in Torino, therefore, archeology is one of the top subjects to study in Torino too.

Geography & Climate

Both Milan and Torino are in northern Italy and surrounded by the Alps (ski trips are very popular amongst students in both cities). Students should expect to experience rather chilly (and snowy) weather during the winter months, but temperate, beautiful weather throughout the fall, spring, and summer months.

Milan

For students looking for a sprawling metropolis studded with historical sights and modern art sculptures, Milan is the place for you to study abroad in Italy. It is the second-largest city in the country and has multiple international airports and train stations, making it very well-connected to both other other areas of Italy and the rest of Europe.

Torino

For those who like large cities with charming, small historic centers, Torino is the ideal city for study abroad. Torino was the host of the 2006 Winter Olympics, chosen specially for its easy access to the mountains. Torino also has its own international airport and train station, with railways linking it to various cities throughout the rest of Italy. 

History 

Both of these cities have very distinct histories that they are proud of; in fact, you will find that most Italians are more patriotic about the individual city they hail from than about being Italian.

Milan

Like most Italian cities, Milan earned most of its fame during its years as a center of political and cultural power during the medieval ages and the Renaissance. But Milan also earned its place in history as the center for the Italian Resistance against the Nazi occupation in World War II. You will find that the partigiano (Italian rebel fighter) is one of the most highly celebrated figures in Italian history, and particularly in Milan.

The city has long claimed a history of musical excellence, particularly with the world-famous opera house, La Scala, located directly in the city centre. Milan is a city for students who like rubbing elbows with some of the richest and most powerful people that specialize in the finer things in life. From the palace-lined streets to the designer shoes to the buzzing crowd strolling beneath the glass paneled ceiling of la Galleria, Milan is a city for students who revel in the finer parts of Italian culture. 

Torino

Torino has been a major power-player in Italian history since before the Roman Empire. Its roles have included acting as the capital of the Duchy of Savoy, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, and the temporary capital of the newly-united Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Not surprisingly, Torino places a particular emphasis on its political history. Torino’s recovery from violent fighting in World War II served as a fairy-tale success story in Italy’s economic growth after the war, and it is now a model for modern Italian innovation and style.

Torino is an ideal city for students who want to be immersed in a large Italian city, while still forming a personal connection with the locals, and getting familiar with the wide cobblestoned streets where world-famous chocolatiers and history aficionados thrive. 









Milan's city skyline

Milan's city skyline

How Location Impacts Your Study Abroad Experience in Italy 

The decision of where to study abroad is a challenging one, as it will shape your entire experience. It is important to thoroughly research both the study abroad programs and the culture of each city that you are considering so as to ensure that you have both a well-rounded personal and academic experience studying abroad in Italy. 

Milan and Torino are both very lively and beautiful cities with highly-regarded universities which open their doors for international students every year. Your choice between the two may be dependent on Milan’s leading voice in fashion or on Torino’s dominance in the field of industry and business, but you might also want to consider Milan’s affinity for brilliant, yellow bowls of saffron risotto or Torino’s passion for truffle-laced dishes.

The Italians will tell you that the most important decision will obviously come down to futbol teams: do you support Inter Milan or Torino’s Juventus? In the end, whichever city you choose to study abroad in, you are guaranteed to have a distinct experience that will give you a true glimpse into Italian life.