Everything you need to know for a semester abroad in Italy

Whether you’re planning to come to Italy as a student or an intern, there are several important things to bear in mind. Ellie Bennett, an intern in Rome, provides some tips on the things you need to consider before making the move.

Everything you need to know for a semester abroad in Italy
Whether you’re planning to come to Italy as a student or an intern, there are several important things to bear in mind. Photo: Shutterstock

You will need a codice fiscale

Regardless of whether you’re studying or undertaking an internship, this tax code is an essential part of moving to Italy. You will need to take a photocopy of your passport to your local Agenzia delle Entrate (Inland Revenue) and ask for a codice fiscale form.

You will then sit for what feels like hours before being given a stamped certificate with a number on it. This number will be necessary for almost anything you want to accomplish – from renting an apartment and opening a bank account and to paying a bill and joining the gym – so keep it safe.

Photocopy everything

Buy a document wallet and photocopy everything you can possibly think of to photocopy before leaving your home country. The most important ones are your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), your passport and yes, your codice fiscale (once you get it). Most places will want to keep the photocopy, so make a few copies just in case, and keep them all in the wallet with the originals.

Plan house viewings before you arrive

Never pay anything online or over the phone and ask to see pictures of the apartment before you arrive. If it’s not a scam then the landlord should be happy to oblige. As a student, sites such as, and can be particularly useful for short term rentals in shared apartments. 

Take advantage of Erasmus events

Even if you’re not studying at a university for your year abroad, you can still take part in Erasmus events. All you’ll need is an ESN card, which is available from most university offices.

Just take two passport sized photos, your country’s health card and your ID with you to your local university and they’ll give you the card there and then. This allows you discounted entry into clubs and bars, as well as special events and trips, and can be a great way to meet people.

People will try to rip you off

Taxi drivers are particularly notorious for this. They can spot a newly arrived visitor a mile away and will try to lie about the fare in order to make more money. Look for signs on the side of cabs showing standard rates to the airport and obviously only use licenced taxis. Try to use Italian where you can, as this usually helps avoid rip-offs.

Beware of pickpockets

This goes for anywhere really, but newly arrived visitors can stand out to thieves and you have to be wary of your belongings. One friend of mine had only been in Rome a mere two days before having his wallet stolen while waiting in the queue at an ice cream shop. He didn’t notice anyone standing too close to him so by the time he realized it was gone, it was too late.

It is best to buy a small bag with a zip that can be kept close to you at all times, and be wary of anyone standing too close.

Remember to buy your bus tickets in advance

You have to pre-buy bus tickets in most Italian cities, and if you don’t buy one at a ticket machine in a train station then they’re available in tobacconist shops and at newspaper stands. So bear in mind that if you’re on a night out and are depending on the bus to get home, then remember to buy a ticket before the shops close so that you avoid a €50 fine or a long walk home.

Take a free walking tour

These are normally very easy to reserve and in larger cities may run as frequently as once a day. You will get to know the place you’re living in much more quickly and find out things you otherwise would not have known. Websites such as, and offer free walking tours in some of Italy’s most popular cities.

The culture shock is real

Tea is not widely available in Italy and kettles are seen as a strange, pointless invention so either stock up before you go or develop a serious coffee addiction. Other things you might miss include peanut butter and porridge, so decide if they are really worth packing in your suitcase.

Make sure to brush up on your vocabulary

When setting up a bank account or looking for a flat, specific words such as cauzione (deposit), bollette (bills) and tasso di interesse (interest rate) can surprisingly slip your mind. Brush up on your vocabulary before you come to avoid confusion.

By Ellie Bennett

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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.