SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

MILAN

What are the best Milan neighbourhoods for international residents?

Whether you're moving to Milan for the first time or are looking for a new neighbourhood to live in, here are the five best 'quartieri' for foreign nationals.

What are the best Milan neighbourhoods for international residents?

With its extraordinary international appeal and wealth of job opportunities, Milan is one of the most popular Italian cities among foreigners.

Suffice to say that the northern economic powerhouse is home to as many as 280,800 foreign nationals, who make up around 20.3 percent of the city’s total population.

Also, Milan is the second-most popular Italian destination for native English speakers, with plenty of UK and US immigrants living in the city. 

But, like most other European metropolises, Milan has a very diverse urban area and some of its neighbourhoods are more suited to foreign nationals than others.

READ ALSO: Five things you’ll only know if you live in Milan

So, in no particular order, here are the city’s top five quartieri for foreign residents.

Porta Romana

Located in the south-eastern corner of Milan’s urban area, Porta Romana is one of the most liveable areas in the city. 

In particular, the area is known for its very laid-back vibe, which makes it perfect for young professionals looking to bask in some blissful tranquillity after a long day at work.

But, the neighbourhood is also suited to university students as it is relatively close to some of Milan’s most prestigious colleges and rents are not as expensive as they might be closer to the city centre.

While being very residential, Porta Romana still has a good share of leisure and entertainment venues – the Fondazione Prada exhibition centre and the iconic Plastic Club are located in the area – and several bars and restaurants line the sides of most streets. 

Finally, the neighbourhood is also very well connected to central Milan, with no shortage of buses, trams and metro lines servicing local residents.

Città Studi

Located in north-east Milan, Città Studi is by far the best neighbourhood for foreign students. 

Once a fairly run-of-the-mill rural area, Città Studi was converted into a state-of-the-art hub of medical centres, university campuses and residential lofts over the second half of the 1900s. 

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

Today, the neighbourhood is home to plenty of both local and foreign students, especially those attending courses at the Polytechnic University of Milan. 

Granted, the area is not as close to the city centre as others but public transport will still get you to central Milan in a fairly reasonable amount of time.

Finally, due to the young age of its residents, the area offers several dining spots and nightlife venues.

Porta Venezia

Porta Venezia, which sits just a couple of miles north-east of Piazza Duomo, is the most multi-ethnic quartiere in Milan, thus naturally lending itself to foreign nationals.

Indro Montanelli garden in Milan

The Indro Montanelli garden is one of the most enchanting places in the Porta Venezia area, especially so during the cold months. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

People of all races and cultural backgrounds populate the area, making it one of the most eccentric (and fun) places to live in. 

With its wealth of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, Porta Venezia keeps its residents busy on weekends as well as most weekdays.

However, this also means that the area might not be the right fit for those looking for a more quiet and relaxed environment.

Finally, Porta Venezia is also a very LGBTQ-friendly neighbourhood as it is home to lots of gay bars and alternative nightlife venues. 

Brera

Nested at the heart of the city, Brera is one of the most glamorous areas in Milan.

From high-end fashion boutiques to art galleries, to quirky dining spots, Brera’s swanky atmosphere is unmatched anywhere else in the city.

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

Unsurprisingly, the neighbourhood is also one of the best locations for celebrity-spotting, should you ever be interested in that sort of thing. 

That said, all the glitter and gold come at a cost and Brera has some of the most expensive rents in the whole city. 

As a result, it is mostly populated by successful businessmen or high-profile figures working in the art or fashion industry. 

Porta Genova and Navigli

The Porta Genova area sprawls around the Navigli canals, a few miles south of the city centre. 

This is by far the most bohemian neighbourhood in Milan, with cobblestone streets, tram tracks and antique stores giving the surroundings an oddly wistful (but very pleasant) atmosphere. 

Porta Genova area in Milan

With its canal-side bars and cafès, Porta Genova is one of Milan’s most fascinating areas. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

While being relatively quiet during the day, the area collectively switches on in the evening, with plenty of residents heading down to the numerous cafès and bars peppering the banks of the local canals. 

This might be ideal for those looking to get in on south Milan’s nightlife, but would hardly be a good fit for those who love an early night as the streets can be pretty noisy until late. 

That said, Porta Genova is still home to many people – from students to young families – and local rents are not as expensive as in more central areas.

SHOW COMMENTS