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Back to school: How much will it cost in Italy - and how can you save money?

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected] • 7 Sep, 2021 Updated Tue 7 Sep 2021 14:10 CEST
Back to school: How much will it cost in Italy - and how can you save money?
Pupils wearing a face mask arrive on September 14, 2020 for the start of the school year at the Luigi Einaudi technical high school in Rome, during the the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. - Schools in some European nations were set to open on September 14, 2020 with millions returning to classrooms in Italy, Greece and Romania. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

As children return to school for the start of a new academic year, parents are stocking up on essential supplies. New figures have revealed how much families will need to fork out for going back to class in Italy.


The average total cost per student, including books, dictionaries, stationery and backpacks amounts to €1,130, according to estimates by consumer rights group Codacons.

A similar association, Federconsumatori, has placed the figure at a total of €1,019 per student for the whole bundle of school necessities, including face masks and hand gel this year again, according to reports.

This is broken down to €547 for materials and €472 for books and dictionaries.

Codacons also noted an increase in the cost of supplies, such as diaries, notebooks and pencil cases.

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The hike in price is recorded as 3.5 percent for designer products, such as celebrity endorsed items like those of influencer Chiara Ferragni and the children's pop group 'Me contro te'.

Parents can expect to spend €294 on textbooks for a child entering sixth grade, the first year of middle school, according to media reports on school equipment costs.

This price tag doesn't include dictionaries, though, which can add up to an extra two to four books per pupil.

For a middle school student, a monolingual dictionary could set parents back at least €30, while the Rocci Greek-Italian dictionary has a heftier price tag, reportedly at around €110.

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However, the national association of agents and publishing promoters (Anarpe), said that prices of textbooks are not unreasonable.

The body's national president, Vincenzo Calò, said the price of "practically everything has increased" in almost ten years, but not textbooks.

The average cost rises from middle school to €335 for a child in a type of secondary school called classical high school (liceo classico).

Costs vary depending on the kind of high school a child attends. In Italy, secondary schools are split into specialisms with a focus on different branches of academia.

Families will need to shell out similar amounts of cash for high schools specialised in scientific subjects, known as liceo scientifico and humanities or liceo umanistico (each totalling €320) and linguistics or liceo linguistico (€335).

However, the figure drops slightly for students at an art school or liceo artistico (€275) and economic technical school or liceo tecnico economico (€304), with the lowest textbook costs expected for vocational secondary education, such as for a hospitality training school or Istituto alberghiero (€299).


How to save money

While parents may bemoan the cost of expensive books each year, there is a market for second-hand publications, according to Calò.

Sellers reported that families sold their books "more and more intact, to the point of looking freshly printed" in order to get some extra cash ahead of summer.

Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Online retailer Amazon has also launched a 'Ready for School' initiative, in which parents can select their child's particular school and class in order to find the list of books needed and find possible second-hand versions.

For school supplies, non-branded products offer big savings as they are reported to cost up to 40 percent less. As Codacons noted, a branded backpack can cost as much as €190, a non-designer equivalent could pocket families considerable savings.

Help from the government

The Italian government has assigned funds to help families struggling to meet the costs of books. To be eligible, net household income must fall below €15,493 per year.

For the 2021-2022 school year, a total of €103 million has been allocated nationwide and distributed differently across the regions.

How much money is available in each region is based on the number of pupils enrolled in schools in the individual regions and on income data provided by Istat, according to the Ministry of Education.

The highest amount of funds available to those in compulsory education has been assigned to one of Italy's poorest regions, Calabria, at just over €14 million.

The region with the least amount of financial help available is Valle d'Aosta with just under €139,000.

For a full list of the funds available, check the decree here.

"It is a pity that usually half of it [the funds] remains unused every year," stated Calò. Currently, the system requires families to buy the books and they are then reimbursed - a system that Calò describes as "complicated" and the reason why second-hand books are a preferred option.


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