Much like the country’s other attractions, the top universities in Italy are spread across a wide area. Find out more about some of Italy’s top cities for students…
Universities in Rome
Where to start with Italian capital Rome? Well, most people probably start with the main sights – the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Forum, the Spanish Steps or the catacombs. But as a student in Rome, the fun lies in discovering new sides to the “Eternal City”. Just walking around can be a great way to feel the energy of the city – at once reminiscent of ancient Roman history and thriving with a modern, cosmopolitan energy.
You might also want to take in a show in one of Rome’s many theaters, or enjoy a large outdoor performance at the Stadio Falminio or Olympic Stadium. If you’re keen on literature, why not enjoy a night out at a ‘book bar’ – a sort of stylish fusion of bar, library and book club. For bargain hunters, Rome’s antique fairs and flea markets offer plenty of vintage and second-hand goodies waiting to be discovered. If you’re brave enough, you might even rent a scooter and try to navigate the notoriously chaotic Roman traffic.
There are a range of excellent universities in Rome, particularly the Sapienza - Università di Roma which is ranked 196= in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings and is Italy’s second-highest ranked university. Other notable universities in Rome include the Universitá degli Studi di Roma - Tor Vergata (ranked 320 in the world) and the Università degli Studi di Trento (ranked 441-450).
Universities in Milan
Ranked among the world’s best cities for students, Milan offers the full package: world-class universities, high standard of living, and a large and diverse student population. Milan retains a strong sense of its past history, while simultaneously representing modern urban Italian life. Its cosmopolitan population coexists alongside a wealth of historical sites such as the Duomo di Milano, La Scala, the Brera, the Pirelli tower, the San Siro, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (an ancient and glamorous arcaded shopping gallery) and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Santa Maria alle Grazie Basilica which contains the famous painting The Last Supper.
As well as being Italy’s leading financial hub, Milan is also recognized as a world leader in the fashion and design industries, designated a ‘Fashion Capital of the World’ alongside London, Paris and New York. If sports are more your thing, you’ll probably know Milan as the home of two of Italy’s biggest football teams, AC Milan and Internazionale.
With eight universities in Milan, the city has the largest student community in Italy. Its highest ranking entry in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings is the Politecnico di Milano (ranked 230= in the world), followed closely by the Università degli Studi di Milano (235). Other internationally ranked universities in Milan include the University of Milano-Bicocca (491-500) and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (451-460), while the Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi is known as one of Europe’s top business-focused universities and a favorite of employers seeking out graduates in this sector.
Universities in Pisa
Once you’ve climbed the famous Leaning Tower and taken one of those photos where you pretend to be holding it up, you’ll find there’s a lot more to Pisa than this one iconic landmark! Pisa has more than 20 historic churches, several palaces and a series of stunning bridges across the River Arno. During the summer, it’s popular to relax along the banks of the river, sipping drinks bought from one of the area’s good wine bars. Must-see places include the Piazza dei Miracoli, the Pisa Baptistry, the Camposanto Monumentale, the Borgo Stretto (with strolling arcades and a Gothic-Romanesque church), Medici Palace, the Royal Palace and the Palazzos Gambarcorti and Agostini (and you’re bound to discover plenty more for yourself).
While you might not find so many clubs or live music venues in Pisa, the city does offer some alternative music venues, disco bars and karaoke bars. Meanwhile, you can enjoy a leisurely dinner or drink at one of the city’s restaurants and bars, have a walk in Piazza Garibaldi and the riverside Lungarni, or treat yourself at one of Pisa’s spas.
The city gets much of its life from its student population, who organize all kinds of parties, shows and cultural events. In terms of universities in Pisa, the main one is the Università di Pisa, ranked 259 in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. The university’s most famous past student is Galileo Galilei, who studied there in the 16th century and went on to become one of the world’s most famous astronomers, physicists and inventors. Along with the University of Pisa, the Scuola Normale Superiore and the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa make up the Pisa University System, which is recognized as one of Europe’s leading education hubs.
Universities in Bologna
Although less familiar to foreign visitors, Bologna is well known among Italians, and not just because it is the largest city and capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna is known as the culinary capital of Italy, famous for its cuisine (la cucina Bolognese). With a rich musical history, Bologna has also been named a Creative City for Music by UNESCO, and music lovers can enjoy open-air concerts held at the Conservatory, the Opera School, the Theatro Comunale (the Opera Theater) or the hundreds of other music associations operating in the city and surrounding area.
Bologna also has one of Italy’s largest and best preserved historic centers, known for its vibrant red-brick buildings, iconic Due Torri towers, and almost 40km of arcaded porticoes – sheltered corridors which make it possible to walk long distances in all weathers. The city’s pervasive shades of red, from terracotta to burnt oranges and warm yellows, have given it the nickname Bologna la rossa (Bologna the red).
Having grown up around one of the world’s oldest universities, Bologna remains very much a university town, with a large and diverse student population. There is also a thriving nightlife, an active gay scene, a good live music scene, and almost a hundred concerts every year featuring international rock, electronic and alternative bands. Other study-break activity options include a restored silent and sound films festival in July in the Piazza Maggiore, three major car museums (Ducati, Lamborghini and Ferrari), and a Formula One collection.
Of universities in Bologna, the highest ranked is the Università di Bologna (UNIBO) – which is Italy’s top entry in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings, at 188. Other higher education institutes here include the Collegio di Spagna within the University of Bologna for Spanish students; a branch campus of the US’s Johns Hopkins University; the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna and the Collegio Superiore di Bologna. You might also consider taking some classes at the Carpigiani Gelato University, where you can learn to make authentic Italian ice cream.
Wherever you study in Italy, make sure you complete these ten things to do >