Studying abroad in Italy is an amazing opportunity to explore culture, food, history, and travel through the beautiful regions of Italy. From the canals of Venice to the grandeur of the Vatican, to the pastries of Sicily, and everything in between, there is much to experience. As a European capital city, international students in Rome can spend the day strolling the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, wandering inside some of the 900+ churches, or take day trips to the nearby beaches.
As incredible as studying abroad in Italy is, it is easy to get caught up in common tourist traps. Here are some studying abroad in Italy tips to help you make the most of your time abroad and to avoid seeming like the typical tourist!
1. Be open minded.
Things will inevitably be quite different than what you are used to, so come with an open mind and be ready to adapt. Be ready to embrace a new culture and new friends as a study abroad student in Italy.
2. Learn the language.
Even if your program is in English, try to learn some Italian. If you study key phrases before you depart for your semester in Italy, it will be a big help to make your arrival more comfortable and will allow you to communicate with the locals. And if you are studying in Italy for a full year, learning Italian should be one of your main goals.
3. Pack smart.
Don’t bring more than you can carry, so take time to think about whether you really need and will wear each item you bring! Remember that Italy has a different voltage than the United States, so your hair appliances won’t work here. It is also wise to leave some extra space in your bag for your return; you will certainly acquire souvenirs during your travels!
4. Get to know the locals.
Try to get out of the tourist traps and go to the restaurants where patrons are speaking Italian. If you are using an app to read reviews, list the reviews in Italian first, even if you can’t understand them you can see what the real Italians think.
5. Travel, travel, travel!
Take advantage of Italy’s central location in Europe to expand your horizons and experience the other European countries and cultures. With low cost airlines, an expansive train network, and bus companies just for students, there are many ways to travel on a student budget. Take advantage of your summer by studying abroad in Rome, and spend the remaining weeks of your time off traveling Europe.
6. Don’t forget to sightsee within Italy.
Whether you are looking for sunny beaches or steep slopes for skiing, Italy has a wide variety of terrain to explore no matter what time of year. The large cities are amazing to visit, like Rome, Milan, and Florence, but don’t forget that it is worth exploring the charm of smaller towns, such as Montalcino, Cinque Terre (which is actually five small towns), or Taormina.
7. Eat anything and everything Italian!
The food in Italy is famous for a reason, so be prepared to eat endless pasta and pizza, and always save room for dessert while studying abroad in Italy. This is our best tip for studying abroad for all you foodies out there! It is definitely worth trying a cannoli in Sicily, sfogliatella in Naples, and gelato everywhere you go.
8. Spaghetti and meatballs is not happening.
Spaghetti and meatballs is not a dish served in Italy—spaghetti is a first course and meatballs are a second course, which should never be combined. Sorry!
9. Enjoy the coffee culture.
Coffee is an art that the Italians have perfected. They generally drink an espresso while standing at the bar. Beware that when you order a coffee it will be an expresso. Also, don’t order a cappuccino after noon if don’t want to scream that you are a tourist! And a cappuccino is never acceptable after dinner…
10. Walk. A lot.
Most cities in Italy are very walkable, with many of the historic center’s sites all located within walking distance. Italians walk much more than Americans, so take advantage of the opportunity to wander through the narrow windy streets, get lost, and find new treasures (or photo ops) around every turn.
11. Bring a good pair of shoes.
Buy comfortable, yet stylish, walking shoes – you don’t want bad shoes to slow you down from seeing all the sites!
12. Dress like a local.
Italians tend to wear neutral colors and their clothing tends to be more conservative, so do your best to blend in. This is not only a good tip for studying abroad in Italy, but most of Western Europe.
13. Avoid scams.
Crime rates in Italy are generally quite low, but people who look like tourists can be a magnet for pickpockets. Always keep an eye on your bag and be aware especially when using public transportation. Although, it wouldn’t be so bad to lose your passport and be stuck in Italy forever, would it? (just kidding, don’t do that!).
14. Track your memories.
This is a once in a lifetime experience, and you want to be able to remember all of your amazing experiences. Whether you like to write, make videos, or just take lots of photos, make sure you have a way to track what you accomplish so you can relive those moments long after your study abroad program in Italy ends.
Most importantly, enjoy your time studying abroad in Italy, live in the moment, and take advantage of all the new opportunities to learn and explore that come with being in a new environment. Italy is a beautiful country, and you are fortunate to have the life changing experience of studying abroad. When in doubt, just do as the Romans do.
This article was sponsored by John Cabot University, an American university based in Rome Italy. Providing an American education in the heart of Italy, John Cabot takes pride in its “inspiring international environment” and welcomes students from around the globe.