Welcome to Italy
The Italy Destination Guide will provide a historic overview, scholarships, health and safety tips and identity-specific resources to ensure students feel prepared with insight and resources for their global experience in Italy. The information shared below is a bird eye’s view and meant to provide some country-specific context. We encourage students to conduct further research and chat with relevant points of contact including advisors, program leaders, international student services at the host campus, internship coordinators or peers who have traveled to Italy, to gain a greater understanding of their host country and/or city.
Known for its art, history and appetizing dishes, it is no surprise that Italy ranks second as a leading destination to study abroad. Also, who wouldn't want to try the most authentic pasta and gelato this world has to offer? Most recently, Italy attracted about 10.6% (35,366) of study abroad students from U.S. institutions, according to the 2018 Institute of International Education Open Doors Report.
From the ancient Roman Empire throughout centuries, Italy has heavily influenced global culture. Italy’s identity can be described as a blend of rich history and tradition intertwined with elements of modern culture. These characteristics draw some of the richest collections of art, cuisine, music and culture than any other country in the world.
There are endless activities and entertainment to enjoy while learning or working in Italy! Making a list of sites and activities you would like to check out will help with planning your time abroad, but also allow yourself to stumble upon local and spontaneous excursions to truly experience one of the most popular education abroad destinations.
Italia - Official Tourism in Italy
Cities & Education
If you are planning to study abroad, Italy’s institutions of higher education are reputable and offer a variety of options for students across disciplines, depending on the particular study abroad program. Additionally, you do not necessarily need to go to Italy to learn the language (although we always recommend you immerse yourself in this way!). While Italian is the national language, there is a robust infrastructure for accommodating international visitors to Italy, so U.S. students even with low levels of proficiency in Italian are usually able to navigate life as a student in Italy.
If history, culture, or architecture are subjects you would like to explore during an international experience Italy is an ideal destination. Cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice boast world renowned architecture and are home to arguably the most treasured collections of works by the greatest artists of the Renaissance. Italy has more UNESCO Heritage Sites than any other country. From the Colosseum in Rome, to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy offers must-see architectural wonders that a painting or photo could not do enough justice. If nature is what drives your interests, the Alps are a great place for a ski trip or an outdoor adventure. The beautiful landscapes of Sicily are also worth paying a visit.
Events & Tourism
Italy hosts countless historical sites both natural and human-made. From the mountain ranges of Northern Italy to the ruins you can stumble upon in the streets of Rome, you will never be disappointed by the sites in this country. Italy (in partnership with Greece) is often referred to as the birthplace of everything we in modern society from philosophy to politics. For students studying in Italy you can gain a different perspective in a variety of academic subjects as well as enjoy the history of a country that has deep roots and endless sites.
Italy has a variety of celebrations in alignment with their Roman Catholic heritage as well as their identity as Italians. See resources below to learn more about the celebrations that may take place while you are visiting Italy:
Diversity & Inclusion Climate
Although Italy is generally considered a welcoming country, depending on your identity, your experience may be affected by the status of Diversity & Inclusion in the country. With the large increase in North African immigration into Italy, tensions between Italians and immigrant groups have heightened. Unwelcoming attitudes against non-European people have also increased. When it comes to U.S. students, students of color often report that in Italy what first stands out is the fact that they are American, before it is acknowledged that they are a person of color.
Italy tends to be a more socially conservative country, especially in the North. The influence of the Roman Catholic Church affects some of the social policies in the country. For example, same-sex civil unions have been legal in Italy since 2006; however, same-sex marriage, is still not legal. Additionally, the society remains largely patriarchal and street harassment (cat-calling) of women by men is not uncommon.
The Italian Roma community is one of the largest ethnic minorities in the country. Due to the lack of disaggregated data the size of the community remains uncertain, with Council of Europe estimates of between 120,000 and 180,000. A significant proportion do not have Italian citizenship.
Italy has historically been an overwhelmingly Catholic country, but this is now changing as significant numbers of Italians now self-identify as practicing or atheists. Among Italian citizens, 3.5 per cent of the population are estimated to belong to religious minorities, including a range of non-Catholic Christians denominations
Note: This information is intended to serve as an overview and are not exhaustive. Be sure to research your destination thoroughly as your identity can have a significant impact on your experience abroad. More identity-specific information can also be found in the Diversity & Inclusion Guides to Italy.
Population in Italy:
62,246,674 (July 2018 est.)
Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)
Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)
Christian 80% (overwhelmingly Roman Catholic with very small groups of Jehovah's Witnesses and Protestants), Muslim (about 800,000 to 1 million), atheist and agnostic 20%
Immigration and Emigration
From the end of the 19th century through the 1960s Italy experienced mass emigration. About 750,000 Italians emigrating per year from 1898 to 1914 which is thought to be the largest mass migration in contemporary times and led to a diaspora of 25 million Italians. Today, over 5 million Italian-born people live abroad.
Italy began to attract many foreign immigrants in the 1970s. It's estimated there are over 5 million foreign residents in Italy today, which accounts for 7.5% of the total population including the 500,000 children born to naturalized immigrants.
Estimates place the number of individuals who have are undocumented in Italy at 670,000 today which is not included in the official population of the country. This number has increased by around 43% in 2016 in the midst of a migrant crisis in Europe. Many of the undocumented immigrants living in Italy are from Eastern Europe and North Africa.
There are also close to 1 million Romanian citizens officially registered in Italy, followed by Moroccans and Albanians with a population of half a million each. The largest ethnic group in Italy is the Native Italian, comprising 96% of the population.
Staying Healthy & Safe in Italy
You cannot always predict the hiccups that may occur during your time abroad, but taking the proper measures to ensure your health and safety in Italy will help you better respond to unplanned situations.
Health insurance is mandatory for all international students and expats in Italy. Students participating in a study abroad program of any duration are required to have international health insurance, usually included in the program costs and provided by your academic institution or program provider. If you are traveling independently, research international options available to you within your current health care provider. You can also look into international health insurance companies that provide various plans and choose one that best suits the type and duration of your travels in Italy.
In the case of an emergency, be sure this information is easily accessible by storing your insurance card in a transportable and secure place, creating a copy of your health insurance card or storing the information in your phone. It is also helpful to be aware of nearby hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in case you are in need of these services or resources. Here are a few of the EU and Italy emergency numbers to keep in mind:
112 - European emergency number
113 - Italy Police
115 - Italy Fire Brigade
118 - Italy First Aid
No matter where you are in the world, whether it is your hometown or a new city, it is important to be alert and practice awareness of your surroundings. Italy is a fairly safe place, however there are a few precautions any traveler should take while navigating the country.
Pickpocketing is common in city centers and sites that are attractive to tourists. There are many giveaways that can signal someone is a tourist from accent and Italian language proficiency to something as subtle as mannerisms and the way one walks. The goal is not to mask that you are a visitor, but to protect your belongings and ensure you do not fall victim to theft. Here are a few tips:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Leave valuable items at home whenever possible and only travel with your necessities
- Avoid being flashy or careless with valuable items
- Ensure your bags and pockets are tight and completely zipped
- Have a travel partner when possible
Aside from petty crimes, such as pickpocketing or scamming, most travelers can expect a safe and comfortable experience in Italy. However, at Diversity Abroad, we acknowledge that experiences can vary by identities and others’ perceptions of them. To access identity-based resources regarding health and safety view the Diversity Guides below.
Funding & Scholarship Opportunities
There are many scholarships to fund your education abroad experience. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in Italy, some of which can be applied to other types of international experiences:
For more scholarships, visit our Scholarships page.