Italy is one of the top countries for study abroad students and there’s it’s no wonder as to why—rich history, beautiful vistas, an award-winning food culture, and friendly locals? Studying abroad in Italy is the dream! Because Italy is so popular, there are literally thousands of study abroad programs out there for you to choose from, which can be overwhelming. We’re here to make your search for the perfect Italian university abroad program as easy as possible: here are some pointers on the Top Colleges in Italy for Study Abroad—and how to study there.
Why study at Italian universities?
First of all, why are universities in Italy a good choice for international students? Universities in Italy offer incredible opportunities for students interested in all areas of study, but they are particularly perfect for those students interested in the humanities, language, and business. In a country where the arts, cuisine, music, and history reign supreme, you’ll have no shortage of programs that don’t just talk the talk—you’ll walk the walk on the same streets that Leonardo da Vinci, Sophia Loren, and Galileo Galilei once did.
You’ll get to actually experience the culture you’re studying in your day-to-day life, and engage with students and locals inside the classroom and without. And, you know, the delicious pizza, pasta, gelato, and every other regional culinary delicacy throughout Italy doesn’t hurt either.
Do we have you convinced? Here are some top Italian universities for study abroad.
1. The Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC)
Looking to live the glamorous life in the buzzing international hub of Milan, but with a dose of old world grandeur? You might be the perfect fit for the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, located in the heart of downtown Milan.
Pros: The university has a stunning campus, central campus, which is rare for Italy—most Italian universities are spread out in buildings throughout the city, but UCSC has a much more inclusive, campus feel. It is the largest private university in Europe, courses are taught in both English and Italian, and the quality of academics is high. UCSC is especially well-known for its law, economics, business, and finance programs, which draws Italian and international students alike to its doors.
Milan, located in northern Italy, is a bustling city known for its grandeur, cutting-edge fashion, and stunning cathedral. Because so many international businesses and banks are based out of Milan, the city has a very intercultural feel—similar to New York City or London—and its residents tend to be very young (and trendy).
Cons: If you’re looking for a fully immersive and truly Italian experience, UCSC and Milan might not be right for you. As mentioned before, Milan has a large international population, and it can sometimes feel like you’re surrounded by every other culture in Europe or the world when walking down the city streets. If you’re hoping for a little more of a rough-around-the-edges (wild hand gestures included)-type of study abroad program, look for a slightly smaller university and city a little further south!
Recommended study abroad programs at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC):
- SAI Programs: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
- University at Albany, SUNY
- Find more ways to study at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC) here.
2. The Università degli Studi di Padova (UNIPD)
The Università degli Studi di Padova (UNIPD)—in English, often called “Padua”—is one of the most well-known universities in Italy and all of Europe. As the second-oldest university in Italy, founded in 1222, and one of the world’s five oldest-surviving universities, the city of Padua has always been a “college town”—just a college town with stunning medieval and Renaissance architecture. Small, remote, and all about college life—if you’re looking for a unique Italian university experience, the Università degli Studi di Padova (UNIPD) might be for you.
Pros: UNIPD has educated some pretty big names over the years (does Copernicus, Tasso, or Casanova ring a bell?) and it’s perfect for students interested in engineering or the sciences.
Padova itself is a relatively small city, with wide, picturesque streets, grand palazzi, and, most importantly, a thriving student life. Because university students make up a large portion of the city’s population, it almost feels as if the entire city of Padova is a college campus, with opportunities to meet your fellow Italian and international students on every street corner. In almost no other city is the student population such a dominating cultural factor, so if you’re looking for a microcosm of student life, nestled in the hills of northern Italy, this is the university for you.
Cons: Because Padova is such a university city, it can be easy to get caught up in all the action of just your little city, and you might not be as tempted to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Interact with locals who aren’t your own age, explore other cities - don’t get too caught up in the student life scene, and remember that you’re also here to learn about, and immerse yourself in, another culture.
Recommended study abroad programs at the Università degli Studi di Padova (UNIPD):
- Boston University: Padua Italian Studies Program
- Art History Program Abroad
- Find more ways to study at the Università degli Studi di Padova (UNIPD) here.
3. Lorenzo de' Medici — The Italian International Institute in Rome
One of the top study abroad institutions in Italy, Lorenzo de’ Medici—The Italian International Institute (LdM) provides study abroad programs for international students that are specifically tailored to international students in terms of structure and academic level. This institution is perfect for those students interested in studying the arts, history, or international affairs.
Pros: Because classes are organized more similarly to American or British classes, there is slightly less of a cultural shock and struggle for students who are more focused on actually learning the material, rather than sifting through hours of complicated Italian university registration forms like in most colleges in Italy.
LdM, being located in Rome, offers students the incredible opportunity to be fully immersed in la città eterna—to walk among Roman ruins and the movie sets of iconic Italian films when Italy’s cinema was at its peak, and to be one of the locals, rather than just another tourist.
Cons: Because you are not going through an actual, Italian university, you will not have the fully immersive experience of attending an exclusively Italian university. You will be surrounded by far more international students instead which, while still a positive way to expand your worldview, will not give you an exclusively Italian perspective (if that’s what you were looking for in a study abroad experience).
Rome is also, admittedly, a very touristy and busy city. Although filled with incredible sites and history, it may take a little extra digging to get past all of the postcard vendors and to the heart of the city, where you can find delicious food and a fierce pride for the past.
Recommended study abroad programs with Lorenzo de' Medici - The Italian International Institute in Rome:
- Enroll Directly through LdM in Rome
- Academic Programs International (API)
- Find more ways to study with Lorenzo de’ Medici here.
4. University of Bologna
If you’re looking for colleges in Italy that are equal part history, food, and edginess, the University of Bologna is the university for you. As the oldest university in the world, its halls and archways (all a distinctive red color) have been home to students for hundreds of years. Bologna the city is known for—aside from its namesake university—its outspoken and politically-minded population, and its love for food. Specifically, meat and cheese. Interested yet? Yeah, we thought so.
Pros: Bologna combines the best of both worlds for international students: it is a fairly large, centrally-located city with many international students and all the exciting aspects of big-city life. However, the university itself is located in the heart of Bologna’s historic center, which still feels like the medieval town it once was. With such a large university, the opportunities for making friends with other international and Italian students over a shared plate of prosciutto are endless!
Cons: Bologna is not a touristy city, like many Italian cities. Studying at the Università di Bologna will be a fully immersive cultural experience—which is great! However, for those who aren't as confident about their Italian language skills, this might not be the university for you. Italians like to speak Italian, after all! (Hand gestures included, of course)
Recommended study abroad programs with the Università di Bologna:
- E.C.Co. Consortium Program in Bologna
- Indiana University Bologna Program
- Find more ways to study at the Università di Bologna here.
5. Florence University of the Arts (FUA)
Let’s be honest: you came to Italy for the art, food, and music, right? Well the good news is, you can go beyond visiting museums, eating your weight in panini and listening to singers on the street. You can actually take your love for the arts to the classroom, at institutions such as the Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in one of the greatest cities of art in the entire world.
Pros: FUA lets you study everything you love and are passionate about. Have you been hoping to dive into the field of leather craftsmanship? Do you drool over the idea of making the perfect pastry? Are you itching to become a whiz in the world of performing arts management? This is the university for you.
With FUA, you’ll get to not just learn about the arts, but also fully immerse yourself in them in your everyday life. Florence is bursting with culture and history, and even your walk to class will be an education in and of itself.
Cons: Florence has been a popular destination for travelers for centuries, which means that to this day, it has a lot of tourists. You may hear a lot of English spoken on the streets from international travelers, which means that you may not get a truly immersive and Italian experience in Florence or at FUA.
Recommended study abroad programs with the Florence University of the Arts (FUA):
- Study in Florence with Academic Studies Abroad (ASA)
- SAI Programs: Study Abroad in Florence
- Find more ways to study abroad at the Florence University of the Arts (FUA) here.
6. University of Siena
For those students who want a small, medieval city, perched at the top of a hill and still steeped in its centuries-old traditions and rivalries right off the pages of a Shakespeare play...the University of Siena and the city of Siena might be for you.
Pros: Siena is a small city with a big reputation—it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is known worldwide for its famous Palio horse race, with roots that date all the way back to the pre-medieval ages. It’s a city full of local pride and much fewer tourists compared to some of Italy’s larger cities, located in the rustic region of Tuscany. The University of Siena also emphasizes language instruction not just in the classroom, but through a language exchange partnership program with your fellow Italian classmates. For those students hoping to get a more immersive and small-town experience, with plenty of language practice with the locals, this might be the university for you.
Cons: Being in a city at the top of a series of hills can offer stunning views, but it also means that it takes a little extra work to get to any other cities in Italy and Europe while studying abroad. Many of Italy’s larger locales have their own international airports and train stations, but living the authentic, local life in Siena might just mean learning how to navigate the bus system first before getting somewhere somewhat larger—a definite challenge, but what a great way to step outside your comfort zone and try something new and difficult!
Recommended study abroad programs with the University of Siena:
- IES Abroad Siena
- Harvard Summer School in Siena
- Find more ways to study abroad at the University of Siena here.
7. University of Verona
Ah in fair Verona where we lay our scene....come study abroad in the city of love, that inspired Shakespeare’s most famous play, Romeo & Juliet. The spirit of theatre and art is still very much alive in this city, where opera is still performed in ancient Roman amphitheaters. The University of Verona itself has been ranked the best public university in Italy for the past three years, and offers students endless opportunities for study and cultural exploration.
Pros: The University of Verona is perfect for those looking to indulge in their romantic side, and the romantic and beautiful side of the city of Verona itself. The university is known for its arts and humanities programs, as well as history and the sciences. The city of Verona is a renaissance-lover’s playground, with beautiful palaces set against a backdrop of rolling hills, and with a thriving arts scene abound.
Cons: As with many Italian cities, Verona is touristy, and you may have to deal with an onslaught of visitors while studying there. As long as you participate in university activities and get to know the locals, you’ should have no problem finding the “real” Verona (just make sure not to plot any fake deaths, okay?)
Recommended study abroad programs for the University of Verona:
- USAC ITALY: Verona-International Business & Italian Studies
- University of Dallas Shakespeare in Italy Program
- Find more ways to study abroad at the University of Verona here.
Next steps to attend colleges in Italy
So now that you’ve chosen your dream university, what do you do next? Studying abroad takes a lot of planning, paperwork, and patience, but never fear! We have the tips, guides, and articles to help you get there.
Be sure to take those first steps to discuss things with your parent(s)/guardian, your academic advisor, and—of course—with your university’s study abroad office! These people are incredible resources for helping plan out how to apply to a university abroad. Here are a few extra tips:
- Check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory for free money to fund your adventure!
- Utilize the MyGoAbroad tool to bookmark & compare programs for studying in Italy side-by-side
- Read up on the basics of How to Study Abroad: High School, College, & Beyond
- First time students abroad will love these tips
Now you’re well on your way to living the dream (and eating your weight in ravioli) in Italy!
Now THAT’S amore!
Who knew finding colleges in Italy for international students could be so easy? As you get caught up in the flurry of writing personal statements, applying for student visas, and planning out all your perfect outfits to rock the streets of Milan, don’t forget why you’re doing this! Studying abroad in universities in Italy is an amazing, life-changing opportunity to embrace a beautiful culture and history. You’ll make new friends, try new (delicious foods), and expand your cultural boundaries. So what are you waiting for? Andiamo!