Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in our Guides to Living
is accurate at the time of going to press, but the University of Sussex can take no
responsibility for any errors or omissions. Views, where expressed, are those of the
contributors, and are not necessarily those of the University.
2003, The University of Sussex, International & Study Abroad Office.
Edited and produced by International & Study Abroad Office, University of Sussex.
Printed by the University of Sussex Print Unit.
The Student's Guide to Living in Austria
The Student’s Guide to Living in Belgium
The Student's Guide to Living in Denmark
The Student’s Guide to Living in Finland
The Student's Guide to Living in France
The Student's Guide to Living in Germany
The Student’s Guide to Living in Iceland
The Student's Guide to Living in Italy
The Student’s Guide to Living in Mexico
The Student's Guide to Living in The Netherlands
The Student’s Guide to Living in Romania
The Student's Guide to Living in Spain
The Student's Guide to Living in Sweden
The Student's Guide to Living in Switzerland
Introduction .......................................................................................................................... 2
Checklist ..................................................................................................................... 2
Getting There.... ................................................................................................................... 3
UK Travel Agents ....................................................................................................... 4
Taking a Car Abroad .................................................................................................5
Freight ........................................................................................................................ 8
Customs ...................................................................................................................... 8
Practical Planning ................................................................................................................ 9
Immigration ................................................................................................................ 9
Insurance .................................................................................................................... 10
Voting ......................................................................................................................... 10
Benefit Entitlements ................................................................................................... 11
Maintenance Grants and Loans on the Year Abroad ...................................................... 12
Making the Most of Your Money ....................................................................................... 13
Health and Well-Being ........................................................................................................ 14
Stresses and Strains ................................................................................................... 16
Upon Arrival in Italy ........................................................................................................... 16
Police Registration ..................................................................................................... 16
Finding Somewhere to Stay........................................................................................ 17
Private Accommodation ............................................................................................. 17
University Systems ............................................................................................................... 18
Student Services ......................................................................................................... 20
Mature Students ......................................................................................................... 20
Student Restaurants.................................................................................................... 21
Libraries ..................................................................................................................... 21
Paying Your Way ................................................................................................................. 22
Italian Banks .............................................................................................................. 22
Employment ................................................................................................................ 23
Shopping and Eating ........................................................................................................... 26
Travel within Italy ............................................................................................................... 27
Post and Telephones ............................................................................................................ 29
Safety and Welfare............................................................................................................... 30
British Consulates ................................................................................................................ 32
Useful Addresses in the UK.................................................................................................33
A period of study abroad is probably one of the most challenging opportunities that a student
undertakes during their university life. It is also one of the most demanding. This guide aims
to take the stress out of the practical planning before you go and to offer some helpful
guidelines on how to survive when you get there. Although it does not contain specific
information about the Italian system of higher education, or the particular university at which
you will be studying, it provides you with a basic framework of the essential information you
will need to live and study while you are away. While the information contained in this
booklet is applicable to students from a UK institute of higher education, much of it will be of
use to students in general. Also, whilst some of the information may apply to everyone, the
rest will vary according to individual circumstances. Bureaucracy is probably the worst
obstacle to overcome - it is important to note that the way in which the system works varies to
a certain extent at a regional level, and what is true for one part of Italy is not necessarily true
for another. However, this booklet contains much information which cannot be found in any
of the official guides, and will hopefully prove very useful.
Additional reading that may be helpful can be found in the Let’s Go Guide to Italy, Lonely
Planet Guide to Italy or Rough Guide to Italy (prices range from £13-£14). The ISIC
handbook also provides useful information on travelling in Europe. For more information on
general practical matters, from public holidays to motorway tolls, contact the Italian State
Over the summer you must make sure you have all of the following documents and at least 4
photocopies of each:
ISIC Card (for discounts on travel, and in galleries/museums abroad)
Attestation of two years’ previous study at your home university
Recent passport photographs (about 8)
Original A level certificates (or equivalent)
Proof that you have sufficient income to support yourself while abroad in the form of
evidence that you receive a Maintenance Grant or a letter from your parents stating that
they will support you financially during the year or a recent bank statement
An E128 health insurance form
Inform your bank that you are going on your year abroad and ask them to help you with
Traveller’s Cheques/Foreign Currency
Sort out travel arrangements and book tickets
Arrange with your home-doctor that you have supplies of any prescription medication that
you may need while you are abroad
The method of travel to and from your host destination will obviously depend on where you
are going. You may wish to take a train or coach as the distance is relatively small, but the
majority of students prefer to fly out, especially at the beginning of the year, because it is
easier. The British travel agencies selected here offer good discounts on all air, coach and
train travel for students, but it is worth investing in an ISIC card, which is internationally
recognised, to guarantee you cheap fares wherever you are. This card will cost you about £6
and more than pays for itself with the discounts you can get with it.
With the closure of Campus Travel, the cheapest place for tickets will probably be STA
Travel. Tickets are changeable and refundable, subject to a £75 cancellation fee and £15
charge per change of reservation. Also make sure you try one of the budget airlines like
www.ryanair.com or www.easyjet.com who fly to Rome and Bologna for as little as £13 one
way. As well as these, there are many other cheap flights websites so it is always best to shop
around before you book your flight. A disadvantage with flying is that you are limited as to
the amount of baggage you can take with you. The normal limit is 20kg of luggage or 23kg if
you are flying with British Airways, not including hand baggage. If you are slightly over this
limit then the airline will sometimes turn a blind eye but heavy excess will be charged for at a
rate of 1% of the full price airfare per kilogram. If in doubt make sure you arrive to check in
early because as the plane fills up they will be more likely to charge you! At the time of going
to press STA Travel were quoting the following prices for return tickets:
Bologna £95 + tax £57 + tax
Florence £110 + tax £110 + tax
Pisa £110 + tax £87 + tax
Rome £105 + tax £105 + tax
Eurolines (who are part of National Express Coaches) run coaches from Victoria coach
station to over 250 destinations in Europe. 25s and under can get discounted tickets but even
the full fare is relatively inexpensive. There are Eurolines agents in most large towns and you
may find this a cheap way of travelling home after your initial journey. Reservations can also
be made through any National Express office. Eurolines return tickets are valid for up to six
months for all international services and open-ended return tickets are available on the
majority of services - but return journeys must be reserved at least four days in advance. If
tickets are cancelled, there is a 50% refund for cancellations made within 48 hours of
departure and an 80% refund when cancellations are made more than 48 hours before
departure. To change your ticket will cost you about £2. At the time of going to print
National Express/Eurolines quote the following prices for return tickets:
under 26 adult 30 day advance
Bologna £101 £109 £61
Florence £101 £109 £61
Pisa £101 £109 -
Rome £101 £109 £61
STA Travel can advise you on the best way to get to your destination by train and will again
issue you with discounted tickets. Eurotrain specialise in youth rail travel in Europe and have
discounts for those under 26. Prices include channel crossing by ferry, with the return
journey valid for 2 months and the added option of breaking the journey and stopping off
anywhere en route. Ticket prices are usually cheaper than flying but considerably higher than
for travelling by coach.
If you have a long journey then it is usually better to book a couchette or sleeping
compartment. These are not very expensive and you are guaranteed greater comfort. Ask the
travel agent to book one for you when you buy your ticket.
Reimbursement by the LEA
If you fall under the old regulations and have been receiving a maintenance grant from your
local authority you will usually be eligible for reimbursement of one return ticket during your
year abroad. However, most LEAs will only give money back if you have used the cheapest
means of transport available. Contact your LEA before you leave to confirm this with
them. For more information on Grants and Maintenance see p. 13
UK Travel Agents
STA Travel 117, Euston Rd, NW1 Tel: (0207) 361 6161
Tel: (0870) 1600 599
Eurolines 52, Grosvenor Gdns, SW1 Tel: (0870) 5143 219
National Express 52, Grosvenor Gdns, SW1 Tel: (0870) 5808 080
Eurostar 52, Grosvenor Gdns, SW1 Tel: (0870) 5186 186
Aossa 65, Queens Rd, Brighton Tel: (01273) 725553
STA Travel 38 North Street, Brighton Tel: (01273) 728282
Fax: (01273) 679442
Useful Internet Sites
STA Travel www.statravel.co.uk/
Cheap Flights www.cheapflights.co.uk/
Euro Railways www.eurorailways.com/
Rough Guides www.roughguides.com/
Lonely Planet www.lonelyplanet.com/
For information on any airline, simply type: www.airline name.com/co.uk
Taking a Car Abroad
If you intend to take a car onto mainland Europe then the elementary principles should be
adhered to: drive on the RIGHT-HAND SIDE of the road!
If your car satisfies the construction and user regulations in its own country (MOT etc.), it can
be driven elsewhere in Europe. If the car you are intending to drive is not registered in your
name you are advised to carry a letter of authorisation with you. Please note that you are still
required to display a ‘GB’ sticker on the rear of your vehicle.
Make sure you find out about the laws and restrictions in the country you will be visiting. If
you do not respect its highway code, you may be heavily penalised, so don't be tempted to
rely on British regulations.
Speed limits in Italy at present are:
120 kph on motorways (75 mph)
90kph on other roads (56 mph)
50kph in built-up areas (31mph)
Driving under the influence of drink (more than 0.50 grams of alcohol per litre of blood) is
also severely penalised in Europe, resulting in the loss of your licence, and the alcohol test
may be carried out at any time! Parking offences may also be penalised and your car may be
clamped or towed away. Seat belts must be worn in the back as well as the front. Do not
think that because you are British your driving licence will not be confiscated! EU law
permits police in any country to take away the driving licence of any EU National if they
break the law in the same way as they would do in their home country. Remember that a GB
sticker on your car makes you very conspicuous and you should take extra care not to commit
Driving licences are now equally valid in all Member States of the EU and a shared European
format is currently being introduced. However, all existing forms of Community licence will
continue to be acceptable, including old green ‘group’ licences. But if you are entitled to
drive minibuses (not for hire or reward) and medium goods vehicles and trailers up to 8.25
tonnes, this may no longer be acceptable and you are advised to seek further advice. If you are
a holder of the non-EU format licence, then you will need to get a translation or an
International Driving Licence (both available from the AA or RAC) to be able to drive in
The other option open to holders of the original British licence is to apply for the EU version,
which will cost £11. Application forms are available from post offices.
For further information, contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (Monday to Friday,
8.15am to 4.30pm):
Driving licence enquiries: Tel: 0870 400009 Fax: (01792) 783 071
Vehicle licence enquiries: Tel: 0870 400010 Fax: (01792 )782 793
Each European country has its own rules for motor insurance. Be aware that when you drive
outside the UK your motor insurance policy provides the minimum third-party cover. This is
the legal minimum but does not insure you for anything other than third-party risks, even if
you have an ‘all risks’ policy in the UK. If you want to have comprehensive insurance
abroad, you will need to take out additional insurance.
It is no longer obligatory to obtain a green card from your insurance company (which
provides evidence that you have the legal minimum level of insurance required). This is
provided through your UK insurance certificate. However, the green card has been an
internationally accepted document for over 40 years, and you may find it useful to carry one.
Many insurers provide a European Accident Statement, a standard form that can be filled out
by both parties in the event of an accident. Accident Statements are available in all EU
languages and can be useful if you do not have a very good command of the language of the
country you are visiting. Ask for an English language version and a copy in Italian.
Vehicles must be taxed for the duration of the stay. If the tax runs out during the year, then it
should be renewed either at home or from the country you are studying in.
If you are taking a vehicle abroad it must be for your personal use and not for the purpose of
selling or loaning it abroad. If you do intend to sell your vehicle outside the UK, then you
must first obtain the consent of the Customs Authorities. If you are a member of another
country within the EU you may keep your vehicle with you for a maximum of twelve months;
after this period it will be assumed to have been exported and should be registered locally. If
you are a member of a non-EU country, you will have to register your vehicle after it has been
in the country for 6 months.
On the majority of motorways in Italy motorists have to pay tolls - you take a ticket as you
enter the motorway and pay as you exit. Payment can be made in cash or with a Viacard.
This card may be used for any vehicle and is available from ACI (Italian Automobile Club)
offices, motorway tollbooths and service areas, some banks, some tourist offices and some
tobacconists. When leaving a motorway on which the Viacard is accepted, give your card and
the entry ticket to the attendant who will deduct the amount due. Some motorway exits have
automatic barriers where you insert your Viacard into a machine.
NB The Viacard cannot be used on the A18 and A20.
Motorway driving can be fast and convenient, but can also be expensive. For example,
approximate toll prices:
Milan - Rome: 20 euros
Milan - Bologna: 8 euros
Turin - Milan: 5 euros
The Italian Automobile Club (ACI) is the equivalent of the AA or the RAC in this country.
They have a special 24hr helpline on 06-4477
Car Transport By Train
If you want to take your car to Italy but don't fancy the long drive, you can travel by Motorail
putting your car on the train. You must travel on the same train. This really is only an option
for those with money to spare, but you can get more details by phoning Rail Europe on 0990
International Motor Insurance Card, or green card: this is an internationally recognised
certificate of motor insurance
Valid national driving licence for EU students or valid international licence for others
An International Driving Permit or translated licence if necessary
Valid road tax
Beam-benders for the headlamps
A document showing your place of abode, if the residence permit has not yet been
Vehicle registration documents
A GB sticker on the front and back of the vehicle.
Travel emergency kit (must include warning triangle, also recommended to contain a first
aid kit, spare bulbs and a fire extinguisher)
The Association of British Insurers publish an information leaflet for those intending to travel
abroad, which includes a section on motor insurance. For a copy, write to them at:
51 Gresham Street
London EC2V 7HQ
Both the AA and the RAC offer help and guidelines for driving abroad to their members.
Automobile Association RAC Motoring Services
Fanum House PO Box 700
Hampshire BS99 1RB
RG21 4EA Tel: 0800 550 550
Tel: 0800 444 500
For further information contact the Italian Embassy (020 7312 2200).
One of the difficulties with going to live abroad is what to take with you and how. If you
travel by ferry or coach then you can take as much luggage as you can carry; if you travel by
air the luggage limit is likely to be about 20kg, and although you may be lucky and squeeze a
few extra kilos through, the charges for excess baggage can be very high. Be practical when
you plan what to take with you, remembering that cheap items are not worth breaking your
back for and are much better bought when you get there. If however, after being ruthless you
still need to have belongings sent over, there are two main ways; the first method is simply by
post, the second is by freight either through an air line or international parcel service.
Large parcels by post
These should be carefully padded and packed and then taken to a main post office to be sent
away. Try to avoid sending breakables or valuables as these services are really best for
transporting books and other heavy but durable items. The maximum weight per parcel is
30kg. The price for sending a 25kg package through Parcelforce’s ‘Standard Service’ to any
Italian destination (including automatic insurance of up to £250) is £48.80, the service taking
about 5-7 days. Further information from Parcelforce on 0800 224 466 or check out its
website at www.parcelforce.com.
Although in previous years we have advised students that they could send parcels through
Red Star Parcels International and Atlas Air, the companies tell us that they are no longer able
to arrange shipment of personal effects.
Large package freight by plane can be arranged with any air company. British Airways
state a minimum cost of £33.00, plus a minimum handling charge of £22.00 for import and
£16.00 for export. Further information is available from British Airways Cargo (01332 811
Customs information may vary slightly between countries but the following information
should serve as a guideline for restrictions on importing and exporting goods for personal
Goods obtained duty and tax paid within the EU
800 cigarettes or 400 cigarillos or 200 cigars or 1 kg of tobacco
Spirits: 10 litres; fortified wine (such as port and sherry): 20 litres; wine 90 litres (of which
sparkling wines no more than 60 litres); beer 110 litres. The above quantities include
anything you have bought duty-free. You can technically bring in even more but you must
be able to prove that the goods are for your personal use only and no other business
purpose. Customs and Excise recommend that you keep receipts of purchases just in case
you are stopped. If you are planning to buy goods affected by customs limits then check
the appropriate limits for the country you are leaving/entering before you attempt to cross
Before you make your travel arrangements there are lots of other things to consider before
you leave the UK for your year abroad. Be prepared - it is much easier to sort out the finer
details of such things as immigration, benefits and banking before you go than to arrange
them from your host country. To secure yourself a stress-free year abroad, it is certainly worth
your while to plan ahead.
Will you need a visa to stay in your host country?
Will you need to insure yourself for items not already covered by the university policy?
Do you want to be able to vote whilst you are away?
Are you entitled to any UK benefits?
How can you transfer your money abroad?
Read on to find out more...
EU Nationals and Nationals of Liechtenstein and Switzerland do not require a visa to
study elsewhere in the EU.
Other Nationals (except those listed below) residing within the jurisdiction of the relevant
Consulate in London and resident in the UK can obtain a student visa on personal
presentation of certain documents. Application must be made at least three months before.
Non-UK residents must apply for visas through the relevant Consulate General in their home
Exceptions: Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Chad, Cuba, Iran, Iraq,
Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nigeria, North Korea, Romania,
Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Former USSR, Vietnam, Yemen.
The documents required for a permit to study in Italy are:
Passport with a minimum validity of five months
Application form, completed and signed
UK resident's permit
Letter of reference from the home institution
Proof of financial means
Letter stating confirmation of acceptance and the exact period of the course specifying
dates as well as proof that you have paid course fees.
In addition, if you are not an Erasmus student but wish to attend lectures at an Italian
university you must also get in contact with the Italian Consulate in your home country and
obtain a Consular declaration. This is necessary in order for you to enrol at an Italian
university and thereby get a permesso di soggiorno as a student. The Consular declaration
should be sent to your destination university, as without it you may find it impossible to get
For further information call the Italian Embassy's Visa Section on (020) 7235 937.
Insurance is vital for peace of mind. You should check with your university if they have an
arrangement with an Insurance company, which provides you with affordable cover for the
whole of your period of study abroad. For university registration you will be required to have
E128 cover, which entitles you to the same emergency medical care for illness or accidents as
nationals of that country. (NB This means that if local people have to pay for hospital stays
and obtain a refund later, so will you). The E128 form is available from the National
Insurance Contributions Office (tel. 0870 915 4811). You will need to give your full name,
UK address, date of birth, National Insurance number (if you have one), nationality, country
you'll be studying in and dates of study (e.g. Sept to Sept). You are eligible to obtain form
E128 if you are ordinarily resident in the UK and you are a national of the UK or any other
EEA country. Until recently students have taken the E111 form available from post offices;
however the National Insurance Contributions Office has now warned that overseas
authorities will refuse to accept this as it is intended for tourists only.
You will also need to take out additional cover for medical expenses (up to £1 million),
personal baggage (up to £1,000), and public liability. It is important that you check that the
policy covers all your potential needs. Does it, for example, cover rented accommodation
abroad, personal car insurance, or unusual items such as expensive musical instruments which
may require separate policies?
Endsleigh Insurance (Tel. 0207 436 4451) offer excellent rates for students though it is
certainly worth checking out insurance companies specific to your country for policies
relating to accommodation details for example. Be prepared for the unexpected to happen - it
is always better to be over as opposed to under insured.
British citizens can vote in general elections and European Parliamentary elections from
abroad by registering as Overseas Electors, and voting by proxy. Voting by proxy means that
you will assign someone at home the task of voting on your behalf in an election. Other
nationals may be able to arrange a postal vote through their consulate; however British
nationals cannot as ballot papers may not be sent out of the country. In order to register as an
Overseas Elector you need to contact your local council for the necessary form during the
summer vacation. It is important that you return the completed form by the end of
September; failure to do so will result in you losing your right to vote next year.
UK Benefit Entitlements
If you are receiving any form of benefit then the best idea is to inform the National Insurance
Contributions Office that you will be studying abroad for a year, and ask them how this will
affect you. At present social security protection for students who spend some time in another
Member State only covers students who are insured as a worker or self-employed person, or a
family member of a worker or self-employed person.
For further advice on social security rights abroad contact the Overseas Telephone Liaison:
Tel: (0191) 218 7777 or the:
Overseas Contribution EC
Department of Social Security
Benton Park Road
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE98 1YX
Tel: 0845 915 4811
Disabilities & Special needs
Students with disabilities or special needs have equal access to and are actively encouraged to
go on a year abroad. Please make sure you go and see your coordinators at your home
university and contact your host institution for more information as facilities vary at different
Maintenance Grants and Loans on the Year Abroad
Whilst the financial arrangements for your year abroad are your responsibility, you can
obviously seek advice from your local education authority (LEA) to check whether or not you
will be eligible for any extra money while you are abroad. The information listed below is
intended only as a guide and it is essential that you check with your LEA for individual
Since the introduction of maintenance loans in 1998, it is highly likely that you have been in
receipt of such a loan for your first two years at your home university. However, if you are
studying in another country for 8 or more weeks as part of your degree, you are eligible for a
higher rate of student loan. For more information on how much extra you can receive,
contact your LEA.
Students who still fall within the old regulations and who have been receiving maintenance
grants at their home university so far, are also eligible for a higher rate of grant than their
usual UK rate (providing you are studying in another country for 8 or more weeks as part of
Your local education authority (LEA) will be automatically informed of your year abroad and
university destination by the Student Progress Office. Once your LEA has been informed by
your University that you will be studying abroad, they will send you details of your
entitlements and the level of your loan or grant, asking you for details of your bank or
building society account. You are responsible for making appropriate arrangements for
transferring money abroad. If you have any questions regarding your loans or grant please
contact your LEA.
Please note that it is also your responsibility to advise your LEA of your term dates at your
host institution. You will receive a ‘Term Dates Form’ in your Year Abroad Dossier from the
International & Study Abroad Office at Sussex, which you will need to complete as soon as
you get to your host institution and send straight back to your LEA.
Visa Costs and Compulsory Medical Tests
Where visa costs are incurred or medical tests required by the country to which you are going
your local authority may reimburse these if you get a maintenance award.
Making the Most of Your Money
Before you leave the UK it is vital to tell your bank that you will be spending the next
academic year abroad. They will be able to advise you on managing your finances - there is a
wide range of possibilities on offer. Exchange rate inequalities between the pound and
European currency as well as bank and credit card fees (often surprisingly high) make it all
the more essential to manage your money in the most effective way possible.
Traveller's cheques, which can be exchanged for local currency, are a secure way to take
large amounts of money abroad. They are safer than cash because if you lose them, or they
are stolen, you can get replacements quickly and easily - usually within 24 hours. There are
two types of traveller’s cheques: ‘sterling’ and ‘local currency’. Sterling traveller’s cheques
are widely accepted in most European countries. You will usually be charged a small fee
when you exchange them for local currency. With currency traveller’s cheques the exchange
rate is set before you leave the UK; normally you won’t have to pay any extra charges when
you exchange them for currency, but they do cost a little more to buy than sterling traveller’s
Traveller’s cheques can either be deposited into a bank account or cashed in a bank or bureau
de change, usually free of charge. You can now buy foreign currency traveller's cheques in
the UK from any high street bank or Bureau de Change. Thomas Cook can usually issue
them on the spot, along with larger amounts of foreign currency than banks usually stock. If
you have a student bank account you may find your bank will change money for you and sell
you traveller’s cheques without charging any commission. It is quite likely that you will need
large amounts of cash during your first few weeks abroad and traveller's cheques are safer to
carry than large wads of bank notes. Nevertheless, keep your traveller's cheques safe, only
sign them in the presence of a cashier, note the numbers, keep them in a separate place from
the cheques, and report any loss or theft immediately to the police and to your bank. You will
be given an emergency number to ring when you collect your traveller's cheques.
Individual banks all offer a range of international services. It is worthwhile shopping
around to find methods that will most suit your needs and budget. Further information is
available: HSBC (0800 520 420), Barclays (0800 400 100) or NatWest (0800 50 50 50).
World Pay is available from HSBC Bank to both customers and non-customers. It is
probably one of the most cost effective services available, allowing payments of up to £2,000
to be sent in local currency, normally within 3 to 6 working days, for a fixed charge of £9.00.
The service is available in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal,
Spain and Sweden.
International Money Order (IMO): IMOs are pre-signed drafts available in US dollars,
Sterling, Euros, French Francs and Deutschmark for any amount up to £10,000. They are
useful primarily for sending funds abroad. The commission charge varies between £5 - £8
depending on where you go. You can pay by cash or cheque and if you order one through
your own bank it can be debited from your account. It is likely that to buy a money order you
will need some form of identification such as a passport, especially if it is for a large sum of
money. The IMO can be cashed, with suitable identification at any bank in the country of the
currency. At the time of going to press, Barclays offered the best IMO service that was
available to all, with HSBC and Lloyds TSB offering a similar ‘Money Draft’ service. These
however, were only open to each banks customers.
If money is needed urgently, HSBC offer a Priority Payment scheme. Money can be telexed
to any country and can be paid in the foreign currency. This is good for large payments
needed immediately. The tariff is £15 on amounts up to £5,000, £20 on £5-10,000 and £35
on £10,000 and above. On top of this charge there may be a fee to pay when it arrives abroad.
The handling fee at the receiving end will vary between banks, but if whoever is sending it
out to you is feeling especially generous then an additional amount of £7.50 may be paid in
Britain to cover the foreign bank charges.
Visa and MasterCard are both world-wide payment schemes. Cards can be used to pay for
goods and services and to withdraw cash wherever the Visa and/or MasterCard logos are
displayed. If you have an existing account with Barclays, Lloyds TSB, or the Royal Bank of
Scotland then you will also have a direct debit Visa card. You can also use a Visa card in
most shops and supermarkets, although some will not accept them for goods under a certain
amount (possibly as much as £20). Banks and Bureaux de Change will change money for you
with your Visa card but will charge you an extra commission; to change money in this way
you must present your passport or birth certificate with the card.
Cirrus and Maestro are both signs usually displayed on any HSBC or NatWest Debit
(Switch) Card. They operate in the same way as a Visa debit card from the above banks but
are less popularly accepted. Cirrus and Maestro allow you to withdraw cash whilst abroad
from any machine displaying the symbol and Maestro also allows you to pay for goods and
services in shops and restaurants displaying the Maestro sign. In the same way that using
your Visa debit card abroad incurs a small charge, the same is true for Cirrus or Maestro
users. The charge for each transaction is usually about £1.50.
General advice: Always read the small print in your Visa, Eurocheque, or Travellers Cheque
information. If in doubt ask your bank to clarify exactly what charges will be levied.
Barclays Information Line: 0800 400 100
HSBC Information Line: 0800 520 420
Health and Well-Being
The healthcare system of your host country may well be very different from what you are used
to in the UK. Britain still remains the only European country with a free National Health
Service making it important to sort out E128 cover before you leave the UK, providing you
with automatically free medical services while you are away. It is important to realise though
that, unlike in this country, prescriptions will not in general be State-subsidised, so it is wise
to make sure you get any prescription medicines you may need for your year abroad from
your UK doctor before you go. It is also well worth investing in the basics: aspirin, plasters,
antiseptic cream, etc. (which are in general much cheaper in this country than abroad).
The E128 form entitles the bearer to receive aid in case of urgent medical necessity in any EU
or EEA country. The E128 may be obtained from the National Insurance Contributions Office
(tel. 0191 225 4811). Until recently students have taken the open-ended E111 tourist form;
however the National Insurance Contributions Office has now warned that overseas
authorities will refuse to accept this as it is intended for tourists only. Please see the previous
section on insurance for further details on how to apply. Although the E128 covers urgent
treatment for accident or unexpected illness, the form does not cover all medical expenses.
Like an Italian citizen, you will still have to pay some of the costs of treatment, such as a
percentage of the cost of prescriptions. It is therefore vital that you take out insurance that will
cover the cost of medical treatment, either through the university's insurance scheme or a
To obtain medical information go to your local Health Unit, Unità Sanitaria Locale (USL)
and hand in your E128 form and you will be given a certificate of entitlement. For a yearly
fee you can register through the USL for Assistenza Estera, which entitles you to register with
a family doctor and various reductions for tests etc.
NB: If you do not get a certificate from the USL you will have to pay for treatment and
may have difficulty in getting the refund of only part of the costs. If you are charged in full
for any medicine, keep the price tags as you will not get a refund without them. Ask to see the
list of doctors and dentists at the USL. Take your certificate to any doctor or dentist on the list
and you will be treated free of charge (although you must pay 25% of the cost of a prosthesis).
If you are given a prescription, take it to the chemist, where you must pay a percentage of the
cost of each medicine and a fixed charge per item prescribed. If the doctor recommends
hospital treatment, s/he will give you the relevant certificate. For more information about the
E128 form and any other specific enquiries about benefits abroad contact:
National Insurance Contributions Office
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE98 1ZZ
Tel. 0845 915 4811
Non-EU/EEA citizens: You will have some form of medical insurance, but you should be
aware of its exclusions. In particular, you will probably have to pay the first £25 of medical
expenses; nevertheless, keep all receipts, and claim promptly (i.e. within thirty days). You
will probably not be covered for routine optical and dental treatment, and emergency
treatment will probably only be paid for if you had a check-up before you left Britain. You
should do this in any case, as Italian dentists and opticians are very expensive. If you need to
see a doctor, it may be best to go to the Pronto Soccorso of the local hospital, whose doctor
will send you to the appropriate clinic. A specialist will see you, and the charge will probably
be small. The other option is to ask a pharmacist for advice.
Pharmacists and Chemists are qualified to offer advice on minor health problems and
recommend treatments. All pharmacies display a list of those, which are open at night and on
First Aid Service
Pronto Soccorso, which provides a first aid service with a doctor, is found at airports, railway
stations and in all hospitals.
Stresses and Strains
The period after arrival abroad can be very disorientating, as you adjust to what is in many
ways a very different culture. Problems with enrolment and accommodation, and the
difficulty of making yourself understood and understanding others, may make matters worse.
Many students suffer high levels of stress in their first few weeks, which can result in feelings
of depression and loneliness. Fortunately, these feelings do not usually persist, at least not in
an extreme form, and the long-term results of these crises are often closer friendships with
other students and an improved sense of your own capabilities. Past experience suggests that
after Christmas the Study abroad adventure just gets better and better, and that by the end of
the summer term you'll be very sorry to leave. However, if you do find you are suffering from
culture shock at first, talk to someone about it; you may well find that they have similar
feelings, and you can help each other to get through it.
Upon Arrival in Italy
You will need to register with the Italian police, who will give you your Permesso di
Soggiorno. This establishes your right of residence in Italy and is essential if you have any
dealings with the state or the police. You should go to the questura at the Ufficcio Stranieri,
after you have registered at the university. You will need your certificate of enrolment at your
Italian university, 3 passport photos, passport or equivalent identity card, your E128 form and
official proof of accommodation in Italy.
It is a good idea to take all the official papers you have with you, in case they are required.
The questura is usually full of people and you may have to wait a long time, but the
importance of the Permesso di Soggiorno cannot be exaggerated.
Finding Somewhere to Stay
A university room (studentato) is probably the cheapest accommodation available, but there
is a lot of competition as they are much scarcer than in Britain. If you do manage to get a
room, you will probably have to share it. Student accommodation in Italy is generally a lot
quieter than in Britain, because the Italian students treat the accommodation as a serious study
area. For this reason residenze are not such sociable places as they are in Britain, and it is
therefore not quite so easy to get to know people.
NB Italian students are generally very particular about hygiene. If you refuse to share in the
responsibilities of looking after your living environment, you may find yourself very
unpopular! Rent is paid monthly, and you will be asked for a deposit of up to one month's
rent, which will be returned when you hand back the keys at the end of your stay.
For information regarding accommodation at your university, you should go immediately to
the ERASMUS Office, if there is one, or if not, to the CTS (Centro Turistico Studentesco).
NB You do not need to register at the university to get university accommodation so you can
go straight to the accommodation office when you arrive.
It is not difficult to leave student accommodation as long as you give them fair notice of your
decision to move. You can’t choose your room! You can’t easily swap rooms through the
system: they are much sought after, so the accommodation service does not believe in
indulging the whims of individual students, especially if they are International students.
The most important thing, if you haven't already arranged accommodation, is to arrive before
the beginning of term - this may mean leaving Britain earlier than you would like to, but it
will probably save you a lot of time and money, as places are quickly taken, and hotels can be
expensive. Most Italian students share rooms but it is possible to find a single room if you are
prepared to pay a little more. Apart from asking at the university accommodation office, the
following strategies may prove successful:
Advertise on university notice boards and at the Mensa. These are excellent. Often you
can find advertisements looking for extra people for accommodation that has already been
found, or alternatively, students leave ads looking for others who are interested in house
hunting together. Always check the boards, especially 2-3 weeks before term begins.
See local newspapers in the mornings and phone up immediately if anything interests you.
Corner shops have ads for vacant flats, house-shares, or lodgings.
It is also worth checking at your local library, and at any youth information centres, or
particular cultural centres in your town, especially if they are British or American
Clubs/Centres/Libraries, as some people offering accommodation look specifically for
Some towns have lists of rooms and flats available, which are produced and distributed by
the citizens' advice bureau, tourist office or equivalent organisation.
Agencies are not recommended. Italian students do not generally use them, as they don’t
really cater for student needs and can be costly.
Contracts can vary. The standard contract is usually for a lease of 12 months, although this
can be adapted to the needs of students depending on the willingness of the proprietor.
Whether bills are included or not depends on the landlady/lord. Deposits are always expected
and can range from 1 month's rent to 3 months' rent in advance and are usually two months’
rent in advance so be prepared!! Again, this depends on the contractual agreement. If you are
planning to rent in the private sector, be sure you have sufficient funds to pay the deposit.
Make sure that you receive a copy of anything that you sign and that you understand the terms
and conditions of bills and the deposit.
Expect to pay approx. 400 euros for a single room and about 300 euros for a shared room.
Many landlords do not give a contract, and although this is illegal (it allows them to evade tax
and deprives you of your rights) it seems that students are willing to put up with the situation.
If you have to take a bus to get to university, you may be able to claim travel expenses from
your Local Education Authority in the UK. (See Grants Section)
An agency will not provide rooms for single students so make sure that you have at least one
other person before you go. Usually you are charged about £100 in fees but this may be
deducted from your rent so check in advance.
In Italy most universities are state-run. There are a few private universities, but the content of
their courses cannot differ from those, which are offered by the state universities. At present
there are about 64 universities in Italy with over three hundred faculties, departments and
degree-granting branches in all fields of learning, and for all professions. There is only one
kind of university degree: the Laurea di Dottore. The minimum duration of a degree course
(corso di laurea) is four years, although some last five years or more. Courses involve a
number of examinations. This varies according to the course chosen (from around 20 to 30
examinations at regular intervals during the course). On successful completion of a corso di
laurea, students obtain the title of 'doctor' in the chosen subject.
When you arrive in Italy, you should contact the co-ordinator of your exchange scheme as
soon as possible. S/he should then inform you of the necessary procedures you will need to
go through in order to register. Registration can only be done when you have decided upon
your courses and is a time-consuming, often badly-organised process. Queuing systems do not
appear to work in Italy so you may have to literally jostle your way in! Once you have
registered, you will be provided with a certificate of your student status which should then be
taken for police registration at the questura; you will be given a tessera (student ID card) and
you will be provided with a libretto universitario, to be filled in if you intend to take exams.
Signing on for Courses
You should see the academic co-ordinator at your host university for some practical advice on
and help with choosing courses. Otherwise, there are published university course guidebooks
containing details of all the courses on offer at the university. To find out specific course
information also try to speak to individual course tutors. At some universities you will be able
to take courses in other faculties. If in doubt, ask your co-ordinator. Please note that it is very
important to regularly attend all courses despite the practices of Italian students. It is also
advisable to remember how formal the relationship between students and teachers is in Italy
in comparison with British universities.
Most people going to Italy will be taking some kind of exam. There are various means of
examination which vary from 20 minute orals to pieces of written work in Italian and
sometimes also in English. Oral exams are conducted after an appello has been made. This
means that the tutor puts a form on his/her office door, and students must register their names
on the form and then turn up on the appointed day. In Italy exams are public, so if you find
the idea of an oral exam intimidating, why not go and watch some as preparation.
Tutors' expectations of International students vary wildly and therefore so can marks. Perhaps
the best way to cope with this lottery is not to take it too personally; do remember however,
that you will be expected to attend the entire course of your choice to be eligible to sit an
exam. If you are taking exams, you will need to have your libretto universitario signed by the
appropriate tutor (your examiner). Remember to hand it to your tutor so s/he can write in your
mark (in Italy you are marked out of a score of 30 with 18 as the passmark) and make sure
s/he signs it. At the end of your stay, you should hand the libretto to your personal tutor/main
tutor when you have done all your exams so that s/he may photocopy your marks for their
Clear, systematic information is hard to come by in Italian Universities. There are notice
boards in all the departments on which there should be lists of all the courses and the tutors
who take them, the time and place, etc. If you have any problems finding information or the
department library then you'll just have to ask around! In Italy there are people who are called
bidelli, almost self-appointed guardians of the university, who make it their business to know
all there is to know about the courses, etc. You will find them at the entrance of most
An Italian student wishing to contact a tutor either approaches the tutor at the beginning or
end of a class; or s/he finds out the tutor's office hours (which are few and far between) and
goes to the tutor's office. You will find that in Italy, tutors teach far fewer hours and are rarely
to be found in their offices; as a result it may take some time for you actually to make contact
with a tutor. If you do find that getting hold of a tutor is near impossible, then your best
chance will be to contact them via e-mail.
Most non-scientific courses in Italian Universities are lecture-based. Some courses also offer
seminars. For details you should consult the Notiziario, the official listing of courses.
Attendance at lectures is not compulsory, and some students take exams without attending a
single lecture, but permission for this must be gained in advance. It is always recommended
that you introduce yourself to your tutor or course organiser at the beginning of the course as
it may be of benefit to you to make it clear that you are an Erasmus student.
Italian Universities tend to run on a loose semester system. The first semester begins at the
beginning of October, but some courses might not begin until November. 'Second semester'
courses begin in February or March, and there may be some courses which run for the whole
year. There is a break of about three weeks at Christmas, and another of about two weeks over
Easter. Exams are generally held in late February and in late May - July. Courses usually
finish in May.
Additional Public Holidays are as follows:
1 November - All Saints’ Day
8 December - Immaculate Conception
1 January - New Year’s Day
6 January - Epiphany
25 April - Liberation Day
1 May - Labour Day
15 August - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Italian Universities do not have Students' Unions as such; however, some of the services
provided by the S.U. are provided by the university itself or by voluntary student
organisations - these services might include sports facilities and cultural groups, but others,
such as welfare, counselling and crèche facilities, are virtually unheard of. In general you
also find that the ERASMUS associations are very helpful and slightly more advanced than
other student services.
There is no reason why studying in Italy should present any intrinsic problems to mature
students. Although the number of mature students in Italian Universities is low compared to
Britain, the concept of a mature student is not totally foreign to the Italian system. Difficulties
are obviously more likely to arise with family and financial commitments in Britain, but if
these can be satisfactorily resolved, the opportunity offered by the year abroad in Italy should
not be missed.
The system is: if you have a tessera from the university administration confirming your status
as a student at the university, then you are entitled to eat in the subsidised student restaurant,
la mensa. You must have your tessera with you at all times; otherwise you could be refused
entry. There are usually several mensas scattered around offering different types of food
service. There is usually a good selection, and the meals are generally good value - from 1.50-
3 euros. They do not cater specifically for vegetarians, although there are often alternative
vegetarian dishes, particularly in the first course pasta section. Instead of the meat dish, you
can take the alternative cheese portions (usually mozzarella). So for example for 1.50 euros
you are entitled to 5 points worth of food - Pasta (1); large slice of pizza (2); antipasto of meat
or cheese (2); fresh fruit salad (2). This is extremely good value.
Libraries are treated as important historical archives in Italy, so even just trying to consult a
book on the premises could prove very time consuming. As with any bureaucracy, be
prepared for the worst - you may find you have to go back the next day with specific
documentation or a signature from a tutor authorising you to use the library.
You will find for the most part that British-style university libraries do not exist at Italian
universities. However, the style of library is changing. For example, in Forli, you will find
that its library has adopted a system similar to that of your home university. Books will be
distributed amongst the libraries of various disciplines. Don't be put off by specialist
libraries, as apart from specialist books, they will often also have relevant books from other
academic fields. The library resources of many Italian universities are not only arcane in their
organisation but often restricted in their scope. Many key texts cannot be borrowed, and so
must be consulted in the library itself. If you are considering a dissertation with a comparative
topic (i.e. British/ Italian, French/Italian etc.) you should be aware that information on the
non-Italian aspect of the topic may be limited.
To join the Central Library, (Biblioteca Universaria), you will need to fill in some forms,
show your tessera (Italian student ID), your passport, and have various sections of the forms
signed by a university tutor and stamped by another university official. Additionally, you may
require proof of status as a student. It can be a long process so a lot of patience is required.
Different libraries have different rules of admission: some may be only for the use of students
studying in a particular field: if you wish to consult them then you may again have to find a
tutor who is on the library's list to sign a form for you. Once the form has been signed, you
may go back to the library and get temporary admission for the period stated.
Once in the library you may have access to books, periodicals, inter-library loans, etc. The
number of books you can take out is likely to be between 2 and 4. In order to navigate
successfully the various libraries, it is essential that you learn to use the computer catalogues -
librarians should be able to assist and instruct.
Opening times vary for each library, but in general they tend to open 09.00-17.00, or for a
few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon, closing for a couple of hours at
lunchtime. Some faculty libraries are open all day and quite late into the evening.
Photocopying is expensive on the coin operated machines in the library, so Italian students
go to the numerous copy-shops where it is much cheaper. As books are scarce, people often
copy them whole! However, this is a breach of copyright and illegal, and occasionally the
'Finance Police' spot-check copy shops. Recently there has been an initiative launched to curb
the illegal copying of texts, which would put many copy shops out of business, but so far this
seems to have made little if any impact. It is not permitted to photocopy bound newspapers
but some libraries offer a special service whereby they transfer a document to microfiche, and
then onto paper. This, however, is very costly.
Other Libraries and Archives
General Regulations: a malleveri, or guarantee letter, is required from outside users of
research libraries. You must be aged 18 or over. Italian libraries are rather archaic in the way
they are administered and you may need to have a letter from your home university co-
ordinator to allow you access. For further information on Libraries and Archives, consult:
Libraries and Archives in Italy, ed. R.J. Lewanski, which gives details of various archives
and libraries in Italy, and has a list of libraries classified by field of study. It gives detailed
information on each library's special field, resources and facilities available, times of opening,
and offers further bibliographical references.
Paying Your Way
Studying abroad is expensive and as well as finding the best way to manage your money
when you get to Italy, it is also worth bearing in mind that you can usually subsidise the year
by working while you are away which not only has obvious financial rewards but may also be
a good way of improving your language skills too. Whether or not you decide to work, an
Italian bank account is certainly worth having and will make bill payment and any
employment wages much more easy to process.
In general you will find that few Erasmus or Italian students will hold Italian bank accounts
because of the charges that are incurred simply by having an account. It is advised therefore
to keep your British bank account active and use your MasterCard, Visa or Cirrus to withdraw
money from the ‘Bancomat’.
Bank charges: During your time in Italy you will have to change several thousand pounds
from sterling into euros. Relatively small variations in commission charges can add up to a
lot of money over a year - as much as £100 in some cases. For this reason it is important to
be organised and careful with your money. Above all, avoid relying on traveller’s cheques for
the whole year, as each transaction will cost you money. Having said that, it is a good idea to
have them, especially during the first few weeks, and also as backup later in case of difficulty.
The advantage of having a bank account is that you never need to carry around large amounts
of money as you can use your bancomat card in the same way that we use Switch at home. If
you do decide to open an Italian bank account it is worth noting that you will have to pay an
amount each month, usually a high charge, to receive the standard bank services you take for
granted in Britain. One bank has been known to charge around 16 euros a month for the full
service. It is possible to open an account just for keeping your money (conto di risparmio),
which would not incur high charges, but in this case, you would receive no bank service.
Banca di Roma have a student account that charges less than other banks.
Opening an account
It is not difficult to open an account in Italy. You will need a codice fiscale, your passport,
proof of address in Italy, and possibly of your home address abroad. There are no special
facilities for students, no free use of cheques or free overdraft facility. You will be given a
cash point card and a cheque book. Banks are not the most efficient institutions in Italy, and
bank charges are liable to be high. Two banks have been particularly recommended in
previous years, Credito Italiano and Banca Toscana, as they have special student accounts
with reduced charges. Banca dell'America Italiana supposedly has a special link with
Barclays in Britain but it does not have as many branches as some of the other major Italian
Banking hours in Italy are 08.30 -13.00/13.30, and one hour in the afternoon, generally from
15.00 to 16.00, but check locally as times of opening in the afternoon vary from bank to bank
and from city to city. Banks are not open on Saturdays, Sundays or any other National
Holidays. Traveller’s Cheques can be changed at most hotels.
Within EU law, all residents of the EU have the right to seek employment in member
countries, and do not require a work permit to do so. The only conditions that apply to this
law is that you are in possession of a full British or new European Passport and that you are
not a Commonwealth citizen who has right of abode in the UK. However, if you want to
work in hotels, bars and restaurants you are required to obtain a Libretto Sanitario and it is
illegal to work in these places without one. You need to go to the commune to get one and
take with you the codice fiscale, permesso di soggiorno and 2 passport photos. Do make sure
you have one as Italian employers are very lax about this and it will be you who receives a
fine rather than the employers themselves.
The permesso di soggiorno entitles you and your family to stay in Italy and work there for up
to 5 years. Non-EU Nationals intending to work in Europe should enquire at the nearest
Consulate-General about the possibility of finding work in Italy. It cannot be too strongly
stressed that work, especially for those who do not speak Italian fluently or who do not have
special skills, is hard to find. Italian law prohibits private employment agencies and agencies
for au pair work, however, state agencies do exist. Hotels and restaurants may have vacancies
during the high season, but fluent Italian is almost always needed. Part-time work is hard to
come by, but Informa Giovani does have details of how to find some.
There are opportunities for seasonal work in Italy in restaurants, hotels and tourist resorts. If
you are interested in this kind of work you can send your request directly to potential
employers. You can get a list of hotels etc. at your local tourist office and at the Centri di
Informazione Giovani. You are advised to send your applications early in the year, including
a CV, references and photo.
If you are athletic with qualifications in swimming, sailing, tennis, windsurfing or any other
particular skills, then you may be interested in working on a 'vacation village'. For further
information write to:
Club Mediterranée, corsia dei Servi, 11, 4220122 Milano
Touring Club Italiano, corso Italia, 10, 20122 Milano
Vacanze, via Rastrelli, 2, 20122 Milano
Valtur, via Milano, 00184 Roma
Work in the Countryside
If you would like to find farm work you will have to do a little research, either through local
agricultural co-operatives, or directly at job centres (Ufficio di Collocamento). However, the
best way is to contact the farms directly.
May-August: strawberries, cherries, peaches and plums in Emilia Romagna; Sept/Oct:
apples and pears in Emilia Romagna, Piemonte and Trentino; grape-harvest in Emilia
Romagna, Lazio, Piemonte, Puglia, Trentino, Veneto and Toscana; Nov/Dec: olives in
Puglia, Toscana, Liguria, Calabria and Sicilia: flowers in Liguria, Toscana, Lazio and Puglia;
tobacco in Umbria, Puglia and Campania.
There is special authorisation by the Provincial Labour Office for au-pairs. This authorisation
necessarily pre-supposes the stipulation of an employment contract whose validity is based
upon the following conditions:
1. The worker is not under 18 years and not over 30.
2. The worker shall be guaranteed the normal health and social insurance coverage.
3. The worker shall also be guaranteed normal board and lodging as well as a certain
sum of money for out-of-pocket expenses.
4. The fixed working hours foresee at least one day a week off work and also attendance
at language courses or cultural or vocational advancement courses.
One of the 3 copies of the 'Au-Pair contract' with an attached medical certificate for the
person wanting such employment (dated within 3 months previously) giving the person's state
of health, must be sent to the Provincial Labour Office appropriate for the area, together with
the application for authorisation for employment. The Provincial Labour Office, after
ascertaining that the contract contains all the aforesaid conditions, issues the authorisation for
a maximum period of one year, but renewable for another year.
This is the legal method of obtaining an au-pair job; you may, however, have a more relaxed
relationship with the family who wishes to employ you, and they may not want to declare you
are working for them. If this is the case, be very attentive about insurance cover - medical or
accidental - as you could find that the family may refuse to cover any of the expenses, should
a problem arise. Au pair work is listed in the Lady magazine and in general working holiday
magazines. The following agencies may also provide further information on au pair work:
Euroyouth: (01702) 341434
Teaching English privately is a good way to earn money; there is almost always a demand
for this at university, so try putting up your advertisement on the student boards. Be careful
about advertising your phone number, and arrange to meet in a public place.
Baby-sitting is always a good way of earning extra pocket money, and families often seem to
be keen to have British students look after their children. Again, it is a matter of putting up
notices in shop windows and consulting notice boards and newspapers.
Hotel and Catering work is another option and English speakers are often considered an
asset, particularly in tourist areas. The simplest method is to trek round the local
establishments and ask if anyone is needed, but you may find that there is a national
publication, which would make the task a lot lighter.
These are a kind of voluntary service that offer the possibility of living and working with a
group of different people in exchange for room and board, or by paying a small fee. If you
are interested in receiving a programme of organised camps, you can write to:
Servizio Civil Internazionale: via Laterani, 28, 00185 Roma. Tel: (0)6/7005367. Activities:
solidarity, environmental protection, social work with disabled people, restoration work and
Mani Tese: via Cavenaghi, 4, 10149 Milano. Tel: (0)2/4697188. This organisation is
currently composed of and run by lay volunteers. Activities: collection of recyclable
materials, which help to finance some of the organisation's small projects in developing
Movimento Cristiano per la Pace: via Rattazzi, 24, 00185, Roma. Tel: (0)6/734430.
International movement involving Christians of all faiths as well as non-Christians. They
work towards eliminating all forms of violence and injustice. Activities: environmental
protection, archaeology, anti-apartheid camps, social work with disabled people, drama and
YMCA (associazione Cristiana dei giovani), piazza Indipendenza, 23/c 00185 Roma Tel:
(0)6/4940657. This is open to everyone and strives to stimulate the interest of young people
in international co-operation and in the awareness of different cultural traditions.
Pax Christi Movimento Internazionale Cattolico per la Pace, sezione italiana, piazza
Adriana, 2100193 Roma. This organises volunteer work in international summer hostels in
Venezia and Roma.
Some UK employment agencies who deal with work overseas are registered with the
Federation of Recruitment and Employment Services (FRES). If you write to them
before you leave they may be able to help you. Their address is:
36-38 Mortimer Street
London W1N 7RB
Other ways of finding employment can include checking the local papers for job offers, or
looking on the student noticeboards. Publications, which may be useful, include:
The Directory of Jobs and Careers Abroad (£11.95)
Teaching English Abroad (£11.95)
The Au Pair and Nanny's Guide to Working Abroad (£10.99)
Live and Work in Italy (£10.99)
All these titles are distributed by:
Vacation Work, 9 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HJ
Tel: (01865) 241978
Shopping and Eating
Cafés, Bars and Restaurants
As you will be aware, food and drink are very important for most Italians. Italians eat out
more often than most British people, and consequently restaurants are cheaper and of a higher
standard in general. There are different types of restaurant, which go by the names Trattoria,
Osteria and Ristorante. In theory they follow the same order in terms of price and quality, but
in practice this distinction does not always apply. The food in all these places is usually of a
good standard, and low prices are certainly not an indication of low quality, as even the
humblest establishments tend to take a pride in their cooking which puts many British
'restaurants' to shame.
Vegetarianism is not common in Italy, and vegetarians are not, in general, specifically catered
for. Nevertheless, you can still eat very well if you are a vegetarian, provided you like pasta
and/or risotto. Vegetarian main dishes are a rarity, but various small vegetable dishes and
salads are offered as contorni - aubergines, peppers and artichokes are particularly common
and are often delicious.
There are numerous bars, which serve all kinds of drinks; many of them do not stay open late,
and in any case they are usually not social meeting places in the way that British pubs are.
Beer is often very expensive in bars - wine is usually a cheaper option - and those more 'up-
market' bars, which have only waiter service, can be ridiculously expensive. Many (but not
all) bars will charge extra if you sit at a table rather than standing at the bar, and sitting
outside on a terrace will almost always be much more expensive. It is usual practice in most
bars to pay when you leave. Additionally, in general, bars are more popular with men than
women, making it sometimes a little daunting if as a woman you go there alone.
Service is usually included in restaurant bills, although an additional small tip will never be
refused. Tipping is not standard practice in most bars.
Shops and businesses are generally open Monday to Saturday (closed Thursday and Sunday)
from around 09.00 to around 13.30 and then in the afternoon from around 16.00 to
19.00/20.00. Many food shops also close one afternoon in the week - often Wednesday. Bars
and restaurants close one day per week - which day is indicated, along with the opening
hours, on a sign on the front door of the establishment. Credit cards are widely accepted in
shops and restaurants, although not in smaller trattorie ; most alimentari do not accept credit
Travel within Italy
Alitalia operates internal flights, and a number of bus companies operate services, but train
travel in Italy is relatively cheap, and represents the best balance between price and comfort.
Trains are often crowded, especially those running between major cities. Reservations are
recommended on Intercity and Eurocity trains (for which a supplement is also payable)
especially if you are travelling a long distance - otherwise you might easily find yourself
sitting on your luggage or standing in a crowded corridor for several hours. When taking
overnight trains, it is recommended that you take a cuccetta - these provide a much more
comfortable and safer option, especially if you are a woman travelling alone.
It is now compulsory to have a ticket before you board the train - if you do not have one you
should go immediately to the conductor who will issue you with a ticket which will include a
set surcharge - if you wait for him/her to come to you, the surcharge will be even higher.
Biglietti Chilometrici must be stamped in the machine beside the platform prior to departure,
as must andata e ritorno tickets before the return leg of the journey. Failure to do so could
incur a penalty of around 20 euros.
There are various special tickets available, but many of them offer only minimal savings, and
some might even end up more expensive than buying normal tickets. The following tickets
are likely to offer the biggest savings:
Biglietto Turistico Libera Circolazione is particularly suitable for those who would like to
do some travelling around Italy. It allows unlimited travel on any Italian train, including
Rapido, Intercity and Eurocity without paying a supplement:
Chilometrico Ticket is a special reduced ticket for 3,000km of rail travel. It may be used by
up to 5 people at the same time, for a maximum of 20 separate journeys. All supplements
must be paid for and it is valid for 2 months.
Circulare Ticket is only obtainable in Italy. Issued for journeys of not less than 1,000km,
which must commence from any frontier (land, sea or air) and finish at the same or a different
frontier. Breaks are allowed, but since tickets must be endorsed at every stop made and since
one may not pass through any place more than twice, they may be of limited use. They are
only slightly cheaper than equivalent sectional tickets unless the journey is to be very
extensive, e.g. to include the extreme South and Sicily. Names and initials of each traveller
must be provided and they are valid for 1 month.
Inter-Rail: Italy is a wonderful base for further travel around Europe, and the Inter-Rail card
can be a good way of getting around. For British residents under 26, it gives a reduction of
50% on British Rail and free travel on the National Railways of some 20 European countries,
including Italy. It must be bought in the UK.
Cartaverde is available to those under 26, is valid for one year and gives a 20% discount on
any fare. If you are planning on travelling extensively during your year in Italy, this is
probably the best card to buy.
Biglietto di Abbonamento is a season ticket and is good value if you need to take a train to
university (in which case you may also qualify for extra travel assistance from your LEA), or
if you travel very frequently to a nearby town (e.g. Forlì - Bologna). For students under 26, a
three month ticket is available for the price of a one month ticket after you have bought six
consecutive one month tickets, all of which must be presented at the time of the purchase of
the discounted ticket.
Other Discounts: day returns and three-day returns, covering a maximum of 50km and
250km respectively, cost 15% less than two one-way tickets. Groups are offered a reduction
of 20%, if between 10 and 24 people, or 30% if over 25.
NB: Some stations will not take credit cards from foreigners, even if they are advertised as
accepted, due to the large numbers of thefts. Be prepared to pay in cash for your ticket. For
more information on ticket prices, discounts and timetables, In Treno Tutt' Italia, available
from bookshops and magazine shops, is well worth buying.
Hiring cars is not cheap, and is probably only worth doing if you club together and share the
costs between four or five people. Most of the major car-hire firms have offices in Italy. You
can arrange with their British counterparts to hire a car in Italy. Small local firms often offer
cheaper rates but cars can only be booked locally. Some firms restrict hire to drivers over 21.
Usually, you must have had a valid driving licence for at least one year before applying for
Post and Telephones
Public phones, run by the Italian phone company SIP, are everywhere in Italy. There will
usually be instructions in English. They take phone cards, tokens (Gettone), or coins. Phone
cards and Gettone can be bought from card machines near public telephones and in Post
Offices, tobacconists, bars, etc.
Cheap Rates: It is cheaper to phone between 10pm and 8am, Monday-Saturday, and all day
Directory enquiries: dial 12 (free of charge) for information on opening times of offices, for
postcodes and if you only know a number or a person's name and wish to get the full address.
However, enquiries for numbers in your own area (unless new) and numbers abroad are
Phoning the UK: to dial direct, phone 00-44- and then the UK number with the first zero
left off - i.e. to call 01273 606755, you dial 00-44-1273-606755.
International directory enquiries: dial 170
Europe and the Mediterranean basin: 176
Reverse charges: 10
International reverse charges: 15
A reverse charge call to the UK is very expensive and it is advisable to keep calls to an
Private telephones will cost approximately 130 euros to have installed and then an additional
charge for line rental each month. You will need to call SIP (Telefon Italia) to arrange finer
details. When you arrange to have your telephone installed you should enquire about the
times for cheaper rates.
Mobile phones can be converted to work in Italy at favourable terms. Whilst calls transmitted
or received on a mobile to and from Britain cost a fortune, the local rate and national tariffs
are often quite reasonable. Contact your UK supplier for details of mobile transfer. To buy a
mobile can be very expensive in Italy although it is worth shopping around. The company
‘Wind’, for example, have good value tariffs for phoning England and within Italy cheaply.
If you haven’t got a fixed address in your first few weeks, you can always receive letters using
the post restante system. Simply address them to FERMO POSTA, followed by the town etc.
(i.e. FERMO POSTA, Bologna, Italy). Letters will be delivered to the central post office,
where they are kept for up to a month. You pick them up by showing your passport and
paying a small fee.
Safety and Welfare
As a foreigner, you are usually less able to detect danger signs and therefore slightly more at
risk from crime. Follow the same precautions as you would at home. Hold on tightly to your
bags, especially in a crowd, and keep your wallet close to your body so that it cannot be taken
without you noticing. Pickpockets are common, especially around groups of foreigners.
In addition, it is worth remembering that the less conspicuous you look, the less interest you
will be likely to provoke. If for example you have to consult a map, it is better to do it in a
café than to advertise that you are unsure of your surroundings. If you lose any personal
belongings or documents go directly to the police and report it.
Your behaviour will also play a part in your personal safety. Young people in Europe do not
in general drink to get drunk so ensure that you check the behaviour of your peer group in
bars, cafés and discos. If one of your friends is the worse for wear, do make sure that you
accompany him/her home. You will find that your dress code will also influence the way you
are treated. Young women in short skirts and bare midriffs will find themselves verbally and
physically harassed; again look to your peer group for guidelines on not causing offence to
locals and avoid making yourself unnecessarily vulnerable.
Specific Advice for female students
Attitudes towards women are still fundamentally different in Italy from those you may be
used to in Britain, even if many Italians claim to take a fairly 'modern' point of view on
feminist issues. This difference can manifest itself in many ways, although to put it in general
terms, female students may find that they have to deal with a generally higher level of sexism,
chauvinism and harassment when they are in Italy. Men will often pass comments and
whistle at you in the street, and in some cities this can start almost as soon as you walk out of
the front door. This behaviour is not physically threatening, but is annoying nevertheless, and
there is not much you can do about it except assume an indifferent and confident air - looking
extremely bored usually acts as a good deterrent. You may find that both Italian men and
women gasp in amazement if you go to a bar or restaurant on your own; women do go out in
groups (although they are usually outnumbered by ragazzi) but the woman out by herself in
the evening is still considered 'on the lookout' and can thus attract unwelcome attention.
Similarly, a woman travelling on her own, especially in an overnight train, has to be more
than usually watchful; if you are doing this, try to find a compartment with other women in it,
and do not hesitate to ask the conductor to put you in another compartment if you are not
happy with the one you have.
In the event of loss of documents, the police will write out a temporary form which will
cover you whilst you are in the process of obtaining new papers, which you should do via the
nearest British Consulate. If you find yourself without any access to cash, without your
passport, or in any other serious kind of trouble, the Consulate will try to help. In the unlikely
event of you being arrested for a serious offence, insist on the Consulate being informed: you
will be contacted as soon as possible by a consular officer who can advise on local
The only way to avoid theft is to be constantly on your guard; never take out large sums of
money unless absolutely necessary and if possible keep your documents and money in a
wallet, which you can keep on your person, rather than in a bag, which can be easily snatched.
If you are robbed, you should report it to the police immediately. If you lose your credit cards
or bank cards then get in touch with your bank as soon as you can to have them stopped;
banks at home and abroad provide emergency numbers for use in the event of loss or theft, so
be sure to make a note of the numbers and keep it separate from the cards themselves.
Helplines and Information Centres:
Centri Giovanili: these are youth information centres based all over Italy where you may
get information as to the help agencies available in your area.
Crisis Centres: for information, dial 113.
Differenza Donna: Casa della Cultura, Largo Arenula 26, Rome, tel: 6544909/68804909
(women's help and advice centre).
A Consulate can provide the following services:
Issue emergency passports;
Contact relatives and friends and ask them to help you with money or tickets;
Advise you how to transfer funds;
Advance against a sterling cheque for £50 supported by a banker's card;
Provide a list of local lawyers and doctors;
Give some guidance on organisations experienced in tracing missing persons;
If you are arrested on a serious offence, insist on the British Consulate being informed.
You will be contacted as soon as possible by a consular officer who can advise on local
If you lose your money, passport or anything else abroad, report it first to the local police
and obtain a statement about the loss. Then contact the Consulate if you still need help.
If you need access to reading material in English it is often worth enquiring whether they
offer a lending library facility - or perhaps they may know of one.
British Embassy British Consulate
Via XX Settembre 80a Lungarno Corsini 2
00187 Rome 50123 Florence
Tel: (06) 482 5441 / 5551 Tel: (055) 284133
British Consulate British Consulate-General
The British Council Via San Paolo 7
Via Saluzzo 60 20121 Milan
10125 Turin Tel: (02) 723 001
Tel: (011) 65 09 202
British Consulate British Consulate
Dorsoduro 1051 Via Dante Alighieri 7
30123 Venice 34122 Trieste
Tel: (041) 522 7207 Tel: (040) 347 8303
For any addresses not listed try: www.fco.gov.uk/directory/posts
Useful Addresses in the UK
AA 0800 444 500
Eurolines 52 Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1
` 08705 143219
Eurostar 08705 186 186 or www.eurostar.com/
ISIC Help Line (020) 8666 9205
(24-hour emergency helpline for ISIC holders)
National Express 08705 808 080 or
RAC 0800 550 550
Rail Europe 08705 848 848
STA Travel 111 Euston Road, London, SW1
0870 1 600599 or www.statravel.co.uk/
Youth Hostel Association Trevelyan House, Dimple Road, Matlock,
Derbyshire DE4 3YH
0870 7708868 or www.yha.org.uk/
British Airways Cargo 01332 811967 or www.baworldcargo.com/
ParcelForce Worldwide enquiries:
0800 224 466 or www.parcelforce.com/
Fedex 0800 123 800 or www.fedex.com/
Italian Embassy 14, Three Kings Yard, London W1K 4EH
(020)7312 2200 or www.embitaly.org.uk/
(020) 7235 9371 (Consular Section)
Barclays Bank International Enquiries 0800 400 100
HSBC Bank International Money Line 0800 180 180
NatWest Bank International Enquiries 0800 50 50 50
National Insurance Longbenton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE98
Contributions Office (0191) 225 4811
Endsleigh Insurance International Student Insurance Enquiries
020 7436 4451
Italian State Tourist Board 1 Princes Street, Piccadilly, London
(020) 7408 1254