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Living in Italy - A Guide for PhD Students

Written by Kristine Bagdassarian

Italy is a place of rich history, traditions and fascinating culture. Tourists often don’t feel they have sufficient time to experience everything there is to see and enjoy here, but as a PhD student in Italy, you might just come close.

This page provides some insight into life in Italy for prospective PhD students looking to study in Italy. We have included an overview of student lifestyle, accommodation options, work permits, transport and banking.

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Student life

Considered one of the ancestors of Western culture and values, Italy boast the perfect balance of rich heritage, beautiful nature and booming contemporary lifestyle. There is so much to see, do, learn and experience that it’s hard to imagine being bored during your studies here.

Wondering what kinds of adventures might await you on this boot-shaped peninsula? here is some information on the main sights and activities you might be interested in.

Culture and tourism

As the fifth most visited country in the world and home to the largest number of UNESCO Heritage Sites, Italy is a feast for the eyes and mind. If you’re a food lover, it’s also a feat for the tongue (but we’ll come back to that later). Once the centre of the powerful Roman empire and later the birthplace of some of the brightest thinkers and inventors of the Renaissance (including Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, Donatello and more), Italy has influenced the development of Western civilization in numerous ways.

During your studies here, you will be spoiled for choice in terms of experiences. The capital city, Rome, is bound to draw you in with its architectural elegance, art and music culture (including Italian opera). Elsewhere you can visit Pisa and its famous Leaning Tower, or perhaps head over to Venice for a romantic sail along the canals. Meanwhile, Florence, believed to be the origin city of the Renaissance, displays buildings from this age of cultural ‘rebirth’ along with structures from the Baroque, Neoclassicism and modern periods.

Sport and leisure

With a diverse natural landscape of green valleys, majestic mountains and blue water, Italy has plenty to offer in terms of outdoors activities. Here you can hike, tour or sunbathe to your heart’s content.

The locals love to cycle, so, depending on where you choose to live, it may be worth investing in a bicycle. Swimming and sailing are also popular (one of the best ways to explore local islands, for example, is with a boat).

Sport is important for the Italians, including football, volleyball, basketball, etc. Italy has strong teams in all those sports and is a strong contender at the Olympics.

Food and drink

Don’t be deceived into thinking that Italy is all about pizza and pasta.

Italy is home to one of the most colourful, diverse and exciting cuisines in the world. If you are a PhD student here, you will be blessed with the opportunity to explore a true European centre of fine dining. Italian meals are sophisticated, delicious and an important part of the culture. Local food will differ significantly, depending on where in the country you are, and the range of cheeses, meats, spices and wine are a celebration for the palette.

Speaking of wine, vineyard tours are a popular activity and may be worth considering as a break from your studies.


University cities in Italy generally have a wide range of accommodation options, so depending on your budget, you can find a fitting room or flat to stay in. University websites also offer some advice, including sources, tips and guidance.

The price of private rented property varies significantly depending on the city, location, size and quality. A number of websites offer options for students looking for housing, from as low as €300 per month to. . . as high as you would be willing to pay, probably. It’s worth having a look around sufficiently in advance in order to secure the type of accommodation that suits your needs.

Cost of living in Italy

Living costs in Italy differ between locations. Life in a large city like Rome is generally not inexpensive but, compared to other European cities, the price is reasonable and shopping at local markets and stalls can help you budget. In addition, there are many discounts and offers for students which can significantly reduce your expenditure.

It’s worth noting that despite the €450 per month required to obtain a visa, this isn’t sufficient to live in a place like Rome. According to crowdsourced date from Numbeo, a single person living in the capital city will spend around €700 per month (excluding rent).

Student Cost of Living in Italy - 2023
Restaurant Meal €15.00
Cinema Ticket €9.00
Monthly Travel Pass €35.00
Monthly Utilities €177.81
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

Working during your PhD

Doctoral students in Italy have the status of full-time university students.

Italian and EU nationals don’t require any form of work permit in order to work in Italy. They are allowed to work part-time, tutor at the university and conduct up to 40 hours of teaching per year.

Students that are outside the EU require a work permit for part-time jobs. The limit to working is up to 20 hours per week, excluding tutoring and the permitted 40 hours of teaching.


Italy uses the Euro (€) as its currency, which makes it convenient for students from the EU to both manage their funds and travel to nearby countries during their PhD.

It’s not compulsory to open a bank account, but as you will be spending 3-4 years in the country doing your PhD, this can make things much easier and more convenient for you. Opening an account can be a little tricky (especially if you don’t know Italian), the main reason being that you will first need to acquire a codice fiscal, the Italian identification tax code (somewhat like the National Insurance Number in the UK). This is done at the local Tax Office. Once you’ve obtained that, the process of opening a bank account is fairly simple, as long as you can provide proof of identity and address. Most banks will also have special student accounts.


Situated on the Italian peninsula, Italy can be reached in a number of ways. The road and rail infrastructure are well-developed and city on the coastline are accessible by water.

Rail ravel

The railway system in Italy is a major means of transport, with regional, international and high-speed services available at reasonable prices (especially second-class tickets). Different discount cards are also available, such as zone ticket cards (for regional travel) and international train passes. Citizens of EU countries can get an Eurail for travel around Europe, while non-EU nationals may wish to consider a Trentalia pass or an equivalent. Train connections from central Europe, including Austria, France and Germany, are available. To access the country from Eastern Europe using the rail services, you would need to travel through Vienna.

The national railway known as Ferrovie dello Stato, with Trentalia as its major operator.

Sea travel

As a country with a long coastline, Italy has developed good ferry services.

Several ferries operate internationally, connecting harbours in Italy with countries in Southern Europe and Northern Africa. Regular journeys are organised from coastal cities to various islands as well as between islands, so if you are a keen traveller, Italy is ideally located to provide you with options to explore your surroundings.

Air travel

Air travel is well developed in Italy, with most of the big cities having one or two airports. The main airport in Rome is Fiumicino (FCO - Leonardo Da Vinci). The national airline is called Alitalia.

A number of low-cost flights are available from Europe to various locations in Italy. Intercontinental flights tend to arrive in either Rome or Milan.

Inner-city travel

Cities in Italy are generally equipped with good public transport. This includes urban trains, subways and buses. Every city would also have some type of City Card that you can purchase, which will offer you a package of travel options as well as entries to certain museums.

Find a PhD in Italy

Ready to start browsing some current PhD opportunities in Italy? Alternatively, you can look at our other guides to PhD study abroad.

Applying for a PhD in Italy

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PhD in Italy – Fees and Funding Guide 2023

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Guide to Student Visas for PhD in Italy

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Student Accommodation in Italy– A Complete Guide

We cover the types of student accommodation available in Italy, typical costs and what to keep in mind when booking.

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Last Updated: 06 December 2022