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STUDYING IN ITALY

Rome vs Milan: Which is the best Italian city for students?

Both Italian cities are home to excellent universities but they're different in many ways. So which one is best to live in as a student?

rome milan
Photo Photo by David Billings on Unsplash and Photo by Caleb Stokes on Unsplash

Italy is a great country for students, with accessible universities and some of the top schools in the world. Milan’s Politecnico and the Sapienza University of Rome, for example, are ranked among the top 100 in Europe.

A recent QS Best Student Cities ranking meanwhile named Milan and Rome as the best cities in Italy for students to live in.

But which is better, really, and why?

Of course, it depends on what you’re looking for. “Milan is a more organised city regarding the services, cleaner and open-minded, but Rome is pure magic. So it depends on your opportunities in both cities and your personality and what you can tolerate”, Sammer Salah, a 30-year-old Egyptian citizen who has lived in several Italian cities over the last four years, tells The Local.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome

The dichotomy between the organised city versus the “city with soul” is similar to known feuds between New York versus LA, Sao Paulo versus Rio de Janeiro or, as a Brit might jokingly say, “London versus anywhere Northern”, comes up often in conversations with immigrants in Italy.

What sets Milan apart?

Milan is known for being Italy’s central financial hub and the home of the Italian high fashion industry. Located in the north of the country, it’s also very well connected (by plane, train, or road) to other European countries.

Italy’s best rated university, the Politecnico di Milano.

It can also be a fun and friendly city, with many international residents, lots of cultural events and busy city life.

It’s home to Italy’s best university, the Politecnico di Milano, and surrounded by lovely towns, lakes and close to the mountains.

REVEALED: What studying in Italy is really like and what you should expect

“Milan is generally a younger city. Both have a lot of universities, but Milan has a few large universities that also cater internationally. You also have a lot more young professionals in Milan because it’s where all the industry is”, says Carlos Diaz, who is from the United States and has lived in both Italian cities.

What sets Rome apart?

Rome is, of course, Italy’s capital and one of the most historical cities in the world. Some students say it has a more relaxed atmosphere when compared to busy Milano and the Italian city also gets praise for its cultural importance and beauty.

The capital is also well connected to other Italian cities and you can easily find cheap flights to many European destinations. Even though it doesn’t near other countries like Milan (Rome is located almost in the middle of Italy), it is closer to the sea – and to the famous Italian beach destinations in the south.

READ ALSO: Five things to know before you apply for an Italian student visa

“Milan is more organised when it comes to offices, traffic, people in general, but Rome has so much more soul, the people, sunsets, the eternal city, the vibe”, writes fashion editor Margherita, who added: “In my 20s, I would have chosen Milan for sure, in my 30s, Rome”.

What about the cost of living?

When it comes to the cost of living, Milan is, in general, more expensive than Rome. It has a reputation for being pricey, especially compared to other Italian cities – including the capital.

Rent can also set you back quite a bit.

A one-bedroom apartment in Milan’s city centre costs, according to Numbeo’s cost of living database, an average of around €1,240, which is 29 percent higher than Rome.

But on the other hand the infrastructure is fantastic, and Milan has one of the best public transport systems in Italy.

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

Overall you’d need a monthly income of €3,442 in Milan to maintain the same standard of living that you’d have on €3,000 in Rome, according to Numbeo.

While most things are more expensive in Milan, as salaries tend to be higher, local purchasing power in the northern city is also higher than in Rome.

The QS Ranking

The QS ranking uses the opinions of current international students in cities with more than 250,000 people and home to at least two universities featured in the QS World ranking.

They evaluate a series of indicators relating to university rankings, student mix, “desirability”, which includes questions like what are the pollution levels and how safe is the city, employer activity, affordability and “student voice”, with questions like what proportion of students continue to live in the city after graduation.

Milan and Rome did well in the survey, but Milan ranked higher in the top 50 best student cities while the Italian capital was among the top 100.

See more in The Local’s studying in Italy section.

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MOVING TO ITALY

Is Italy’s cheap homes frenzy coming to an end?

Italy's one euro homes captivated international audiences - but as renovation costs soar, would-be buyers are increasingly turning to other options, reports Silvia Marchetti.

Is Italy's cheap homes frenzy coming to an end?

In the past few years, dozens of depopulated towns across Italy have sold cheap and one euro homes for a song, triggering a property frenzy.

But with soaring inflation and sky-high building costs, the bonanza might be nearing its end, as people longing to live in a picturesque rural spot are starting to look at alternative options. 

One of the first towns to sell one euro homes in Sicily was Gangi, where over 500 crumbling buildings have been offloaded for the cost of an espresso since 2015, while more than 1,000 fixer-uppers have been sold.

READ ALSO: How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

“The best ones, particularly those in need of minimal fixes within our beautiful historical center, have all been snapped up”, says former deputy mayor Giuseppe Ferrarello.

“There are still some good deals regarding cheap homes, but prices have risen due to the high demand,” he says.

In Gangi, as in other Sicilian towns such as Sambuca and Mussomeli that have run similar schemes, what you could previously have bought for $15,000 – like a nice 50 square meter dwelling with a panoramic balcony in need of minimal renovation – now costs at least $20,000.

Soaring inflation, plus a lack of builders due to Italy’s superbonus tax breaks aimed at upgrading homes and making them ‘green’, has made it hard, and more expensive, to find construction teams available for a swift restyle. 

READ ALSO: PROPERTY: How Italy’s building bonuses are delaying the restyle of one-euro homes

In the Tuscan town of Vergemoli where abandoned stone cottages scattered across five districts have been bought up predominantly by South American families for a symbolic one euro, mayor Michele Giannini is now mapping more areas of the municipality to identify old houses long abandoned by locals which could be placed on the market.

“We’ve run out of one euro homes at the moment, which is actually a very good thing because it means our scheme was successful, but there are still so many dilapidated properties which could be given a new life and we still need new folk to revitalize the place,” he says.

As the rising cost of living may soon spell the end of Italy’s cheap homes frenzy, people are opting for other solutions; mainly rentals of furbished, turnkey properties and country homes which are cheaper than those in the old town and even come with a patch of land, including olive groves and plots. 

The popularity of one euro home schemes may be on the decline.

The popularity of Italy’s one euro home schemes may be on the decline. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

In Troina, a Sicilian town which two years ago placed one euro and cheap homes on the market, renting a cozy three-floor apartment on the outskirts of the old district where all the main shops and grocery stores are located starts at €400 per month.

In the Piedmontese mountain village of Carrega Ligure, meanwhile, a cozy farmer’s house can be rented for €250 per month. 

Jacques Noire, a French retiree from the countryside around Nimes, says that not having found an available cheap home in Troina (as they all sold out last year) ended up being a godsend.

“I came with the idea of snatching a house for some €10,000, but I found none, then I bumped into a local at the bar, we started chatting, somehow I understood his cousin was renting her entire ancient palazzo, far from the old neighbourhood near the fields, for like €600 euros per month,” he says.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Italians aren’t snatching up their country’s one-euro homes

“By 8pm, I signed a lease contract for six months and now I come and go, spending three months in Sicily and half in France”.

Noire says the plus points of a rental are not having to deal with head-splitting bureaucracy, a tedious renovation, hidden costs and the hassle of liaising with construction teams. 

Word of mouth is helpful, but convenient rentals can be also be found online.

In Latronico, set in deep Basilicata, Biccari in rural Puglia, and Carrega Ligure in Piedmont, the rising popularity of rentals has pushed local authorities to advertise on their websites not only old dwellings for sale, but also those available for lease.

“I think it’s extremely helpful giving people interested in moving here or spending their holidays the chance to have several options at hand, both for sale and for rent, and a direct contact with the owners.

“When deals are signed it’s nice to see them together at the bar celebrating, or having dinner in the middle of an alley”, says Latronico’s deputy mayor Vincenzo Castellano.

The municipal platforms that advertise the properties serve as ‘virtual meeting places’ where original owners and interested tenants can get in touch. 

In other towns that have run out of one euro and cheap fixer-uppers, people have gone on a hunt for the ‘ideal’ rural home surrounded by pristine sheep-grazing fields and orchards.

Located a few kilometers from the ancient districts, these ‘bucolic’ farmer’s dwellings are up to 40 percent cheaper than those located in the historic center, and come with patches of land.

In the countryside close to Maenza, a village mid-way between Rome and Naples, a few 120 square meter villas with patio, barbecue, lemon orchards and olive groves, in no need of restyle, have been snapped up for as little as €40,000.

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