Have you been looking into schools, but have no idea how to pick an Italian language school in Italy?
Imagine starting the school day with a cappuccino and a cornetto (Italian croissant). Then having lunch in a piazza after class and sipping a glass or two of vino (wine) in a small enoteca in the evening. There’s really no comparison!
And there’s really no substitute to being fully immersed in the language if you want to quickly improve your Italian. Or if quickly learn some handy phrases if you’re a beginner.
Now comes the tough part. How do you choose from the 60+ Italian schools and find the right spot for you?
Unless you know someone with first hand experience, trying to decide where to go can be overwhelming. It doesn’t help that there are so many options to choose from. The lack of reviews online doesn’t help either.
When I was researching different schools, I focused on a half dozen criteria to help narrow down the search (after months and months of deliberating!). To get started, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself …
Why do I want to study Italian in Italy?
You’ve decided you want to attend an Italian language school in Italy. Congratulations! You are going to have a great time. But asking yourself why you want to go can help narrow down your options. Some schools are going to be better suited for you based on your reasons for making the trip in the first place.
- Have you always wanted to live (even for a short time) in Florence, Rome, Venice, Sicily, Verona, [insert small, unknown Italian town here]? Then go to your dream location! Taking time off to fly to Italy and invest the time and money to attend a language school is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people. Why not go to the city or region you’ve always wanted to visit and select a school in that area?
- Are you studying because it’s part of your degree and you’re more interested in sightseeing than spending a lot of time learning or studying? If this is the case, consider looking for a school in a larger city with lots of things to do. At the very least, choose a city with good transportation options so day trips are easier if you want to explore outside the city.
- Are you looking to fully immerse yourself in the culture and avoid speaking your native language? Do you want to really focus on improving your Italian? Then consider a small town with minimal tourists (the locals are more likely to speak with you in Italian) and minimal distractions. This option provides the best opportunity to fully immerse yourself and feel more like a local.
Now that you’ve figured out why you’re embarking on the trip, here are some ways to help narrow down your options.
The comments below are generalisations and may not be applicable 100% of the time but will serve as a guide of what to expect.
Large City vs Small Town
City / Large Tourist Town
- Lots of sightseeing opportunities outside of class hours
- Larger cities tend to have better transport connections, increasing your day trip options
- If one of your main goals is to try as much Italian food as possible, there will be more food and restaurant options. I’d love to say I have tips to ensure you can fit in your clothes after multiple weeks in Italy, but I don’t! 🙂
- You’re more likely to find a larger school with a greater number of students, increasing the likelihood you’ll meet students with similar interests. This made a big difference to me when studying in Lucca as it led to spending lots of time outside of class practicing Italian over meals and drinks with fellow students.
- Locals tend to know more English in larger cities, so you may not have as many opportunities to practice your new found skills outside of class. While a generalisation, busy locals catering to tourists day in and day out may have limited time or patience to help you with your Italian (and I can’t say I blame them!).
- If you’re looking to learn as much as possible, sightseeing, on your own or with non-Italian speakers, might lessen your opportunities to practice speaking in Italian. At the very least, lots of sightseeing options may be a distraction if your main goal is to improve your Italian as much as possible.
- More likely to ‘feel like a local’ in a shorter period of time.
- More likely to meet people with limited or no English, therefore your common language will be Italian, however limited yours may be. With no opportunity to speak English, you’ll be forced to use and improve your Italian.
- Depending on the size of the town and your class schedule, you may find yourself restless after awhile if there are limited sightseeing opportunities. This would have happened to me if I stay in Todi more than a week!
- Small towns may have limited transport connections, limiting day trip options without renting a car.
- You’re less likely to find non-Italian food options or variety in terms of cafes, bars and gelaterias. This is not a problem if you don’t think you’ll grow tired of Italian food (and has never been an issue for me!).
Large School vs Small School
- With more students to place in a variety of classes, you may have a better chance of being placed in a class with students at a similar knowledge level to you
- Depending on the school, there may be more variety of after class excursions and activities
- There may be more learning options at larger schools such as learning Italian while cooking, walking, painting, etc. All schools will be able to provide a list of course options either on their website or upon request
- More students increases the chance you’ll meet fellow students you want to spend time with outside of class hours
- A larger school may have more administrative resources
- Larger schools are more likely to accept credit card payments compared to bank transfers or cash payments for smaller schools
- Class sizes tend to be larger, reducing one on one time with teachers. As a compromise, you can always add on private lessons in addition to the group classes. Registering for private lessons eliminates this entirely
- At a larger school you may have less personalised attention
- Schools can be smaller, with the likelihood that class sizes may also be smaller. In the small Italian school in Todi, the class sizes were limited to a maximum of 4 students, whereas the class size at Lucca Italian School was capped at 10. The opportunity to ask questions decreases with the class size
- More likely to have one on one attention when competing for the teacher’s time with smaller class sizes
- With less students, smaller schools may place you in a class where the students’ language abilities are quite different, meaning you’ll be working with content that is too easy or too difficult. Though many schools say that if the students’ capabilities are too different a new class will be formed, there’s not much you can do about it if this isn’t the case. This may also be true for larger schools at times when they are very busy.
- Less students means you’re less likely to meet fellow students with similar interests.
Coastal vs inland
I’m throwing this in as a bonus consideration as both schools I attended were inland (Lucca in Northern Tuscany and Todi in the Umbrian hills). If your idea of studying with afternoons lazing by the beach is your idea of a good way to learn, then consider the handful of language schools in coastal towns. I honestly can’t think of a better place to study than on the beach!
I hope you found the above tips helpful in your search for the best Italian school for you. From my experience, your fellow students will have a significant impact on your time studying Italian in Italy, so hopefully you’ll get lucky and meet an amazing group!
So how do I choose the right Italian language school in Italy?
Once you have a few of your key criteria, look into schools that would be most suited to your needs. Once you have a few schools that meet those criteria, reach out to the schools for more information. The spend and quality of the replies you receive might give you more comfort that one school is better suited over another.
Some questions to consider asking:
- How large are the class sizes?
- Can I be moved to another class if the level is too high or too low?
- What kind of social activities do you tend to have for the students?
- How long have the teachers been teaching Italian to foreign students?
- What kind of facilities does the school have on site for students?
- Do you offer private or group classes?
- Do you provide discounts for longer study duration (say greater than four weeks)?
- Do I have to pay a deposit up front? What happens if I have to cancel?
- Do you accept credit cards?
While choosing an Italian language school in Italy can be tough, at the end of the day you’ll be in Italy studying Italian. And it doesn’t get any better than that!
Some helpful links:
- To see my collection of blog posts from my time studying at Lucca Italian School click here.
- For my review of the Lucca Italian School click here
- To see my collection of blog posts from my time studying at Todi Italian School click here.
- For my review of the Todi Italian School click here
- Here’s a link to the Lucca Italian School I visited twice (once in 2017 and again in 2019)