Italian universities are prestigious and offer students superior teaching.  Of course studying in Italy has the added bonus of the famous cuisine, superb architecture and countless awe-inspiring attractions. This guide lists the top universities and cities for international students in Italy as well as visa requirements.

Top Universities in Italy

University of Bologna

Università di Bologna (UNIBO) was one of the first universities established in Italy. It gives its name to the Bologna Process, a project that strives to ensure that academic systems and qualifications become more compatible across Europe.

Polytechnic University of Milan

The University of Milan is a public teaching and research university noted for a variety of disciplinary fields. A leading institute for scientific productivity, it is the largest university in the area, with 64,000 students and also has great artistic and cultural heritage.

Bocconi University

Bocconi has played a leading role in Italy's social and economic modernization for the last century. It is a major research university that has democratic values and is politically and financially independent.  Bocconi is a private university, and includes SDA Bocconi School of Management which is consistently ranked as the no.1 school for an MBA in Italy.

Sapienza University of Rome

Sapienza is one of the world’s oldest universities with a large student population of 110,000 students, of which around 6,000 are international students. It also boasts six Nobel laureates among its faculty members and alumni.

University of Padova

UNIPD has 61,000 students enrolled in 32 departments and is home to the oldest surviving permanent anatomical theater in Europe (from 1595). It has taught Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei.

Top Student Cities in Italy


Milan is a modern city, ranked 1st in Italy and 22nd among the world’s best student cities. As one of Europe’s largest urban hubs and international centre for finance and business it offers students exciting opportunities in numerous industries. It is also a leader in fashion and art and is home to many stunning museums and cultural venues.  As a student, you can enjoy the aperitivo which Milan is famous for, whereby during happy hour the cost of a drink includes a buffet which for many students is a staple dinner.  Milan is a city very well-connected with an excellent public transport system and served by three airports for easy access to weekend escapes.


Living in Rome is an important part of the university experience where students have the opportunity to study in world class universities while learning about art, history and culture. While living in Rome can be complex and newcomers may find it daunting, it is well worth exploring and getting to know – the experiences are priceless.  The public transport system has some room for improvement, as the building of additional metro lines has been delayed because the workers keep discovering ancient ruins along the way however if you live in the right area you shouldn’t have any troubles.  It’s also an easy train ride to Ostia Lido for those times when the city is sweltering and you just need a beach.  The beachside is lined with clubs which are in full-swing through the whole of summer.


Pisa is a quieter place and for students who are not looking for a huge metropolis and lots of nights clubs. There are still many nice places to spend evenings with good company. Many young people enjoy walking to a square close to Borgo Stretto, Piazza Delle Vettovaglie, where there many cafes and bars. Pisa provides a perfect base for exploring Tuscany, both mountains and coastline including the fishing town of Livorno, the beachside resort of Viareggio and by travelling a little further up the coast you can access Cinque Terre via La Spezia.


Bologna is a smaller city so you can get around on foot or by bike (beware: bike theft is rampant). There is no metro service but buses that run into the night and the train station is centrally located. Rooms in private homes are plentiful and affordable. Pre-dinner drinks with snacks are common at aperitivo time in many bars all over the city. Bologna’s cuisine is second to none, but just don’t try ordering a “spaghetti bolognese” - although it sounds like it should be a dish that comes from Bologna, Italians claim it is a foreign invention.  What you will discover instead is Tagliatelle al ragù, a delicious rich tomato-based meat sauce.  But don’t stop there, as Bologna is famous for many more amazing dishes, such as tortellini in brodo and mortadella bolognese.  Buon appetito!

Requirements for Studying in Italy

Do I need a visa?

If you are an EU student you require an ID card or a valid passport to study in Italy and complete a degree without a visa. You do not have to register with the Questura (police station). If you are a Non-EU student, you will be required to obtain a student visa before coming to Italy since visas are issued by the Italian Embassy in the student’s home country. You do have to register with the Questura (police station) within eight days of your arrival in order to get a residence permit (the “permesso di soggiorno”).

What type of Visa is required?

If you are taking a short course (less than 90 days) a Short stay Visa (Type C) is sufficient. If you are enrolled in a degree course (at least 20 hours/week or 80 hours/month) you will need a Long stay (national) visa – type D, for study purposes.

Conditions that must be met:

  • You can’t ever have been refused entry into Italy or have a criminal record
  • You will need to provide a copy of your flight itinerary
  • You must have a valid passport with some blank pages.

How to apply

Apply for your student visa 3 months before arriving in Italy so that you allow ample processing time. Schedule a visa interview at the Italian Embassy in your home country.

What you will require

  • Application form for entry visa
  • Valid travel document
  • Italian University acceptance letter
  • Passport-size photograph (recent)
  • Proof of accommodation arrangement for the length of your stay
  • Proof of financial means (450 EUR/month)
  • Health insurance
  • Copy of previous education diplomas
  • Visa application fee  receipt

More information can be found on the residence permit in Italy. You can also get more detailed on visas at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Now you have all the information you need to prepare to live ‘la dolce vita’ in Italy for your study year away from home or while you get your degree.