Schools in Italy

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Overview of the Italian school system



International schools 

American schools

U.S. colleges and universities with degree-granting programs in Italy

Useful links and resources for schools in Italy 

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Italian school system overview

Education in Italy is compulsory from the ages of 6 to 16. The Italian system of education is split into three compulsory levels, with an optional stage for younger children. 

From the age of 3, parents can choose to send their children to nursery school/kindergarten or scuola dell’infanzia. At the age of 6, children begin their formal education with primary school at scuola primaria (elementari). Secondary education, known as scuola secondaria, is divided into two sub-levels. From the ages of 11 to 14, children attend middle school or scuola secondaria di primo grado (scuole medie) and proceed to scuola secondaria di secondo grado (scuole superiori) until they are 19.

Expats moving to Italy will have a number of public and private options available in terms of schooling. They should invest considerable time weighing the pros and cons of the different schooling models before making a final decision. 

School hours may vary from school to school. For most primary and lower secondary schools, classes tend to be from 8:00 to 13:00, Monday through Saturday. Other schools may only run from Monday to Friday, in which case, students would have a one-hour lunch break, and classes until around 16:00.

Public schools in Italy

State schools in Italy are free, even for foreigners living in Italy who aren’t formal residents. This applies to primary schools, secondary schools, and even universities; although enrollment taxes do become applicable after students reach the age of 16.

Most Italians send their children to public schools, and those who opt for an alternative usually do so because they want their child’s education to be rooted either in a particular religion (most commonly Catholicism), or an alternative teaching method. 

Italian is the primary language of instruction at public schools. However, English is offered as a second language in many cases. 

Despite the language barrier, expats moving to Italy for the long term should not overlook state schools. Many of these institutions make a concerted effort to integrate expat students through the use of intensive Italian language classes, cultural activities and remedial lessons.

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Private schools in Italy

Private schools in Italy are generally either run by religious organizations, or offer alternative teaching methods, such as Montessori education.

For the most part, the standard of education does not vary greatly between public and private schools in Italy, as both have to adhere to the same national curriculum.

The benefits of paying to attend a private school in Italy include smaller class sizes, arguably better facilities, and a broader range of extracurricular activities.

Private school fees vary according to the kind of school and the variety of services that are offered. Most require parents to pay an enrollment fee (e.g. between €300 and €550), followed by either annual or monthly fees (between €175 and €350 per month).

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Primary school in Italy (ages 6 to 11)

Primary school is compulsory for all Italian or resident foreign children in Italy. Primary level starts at the age of 6, and lasts for five years, with children typically finishing primary school at the age of 11.

School hours for primary school may vary from school to school. Weekly school hours are typically 27 hours. Some may run for 24 or 30 hours a week, but this may depend on the number of children in each class. Only a small number of schools operate during both mornings and afternoons, and some schools may choose to have classes on Saturdays, running for six days a week instead of five.

The following classes make up the mandatory curriculum: Italian, English, history, geography, mathematics, science, music, arts, physical education, and technology.

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Lower secondary (middle) school

This school level follows elementary/primary school, and is mandatory for all Italian or foreign resident children in Italy. The curriculum is the same as primary education, with the addition of a second language of the European Union.

School hours vary greatly by school, but classes tend to be 30 hours per week.

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Upper secondary (high) school

This education level is the equivalent of high school. At this stage, students must choose a subject in which to specialize: arts, classical studies, languages, music and dance, sciences (applied sciences or physical education), humanities, or economics and social sciences. This will largely influence their course of studies at university.

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Technical and professional institutes

Alternatively, at this education level, students have the option to attend technical schools or professional institutes. Technical schools teach specific skills applicable to the job market, from administrative work to agriculture, as well as programming, engineering, and so on.

Professional institutions, on the other hand, include teacher training programs. In these schools, students train to become primary school teachers or nursery teachers.

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Some of the best universities in Italy are included in both European and worldwide top university rankings. 

Topping the rankings are the following universities:

  • Politecnico di Milano: 61st in Europe and 149th in the world
  • Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Pisa­: shared 75th place in Europe and 177th in the world
  • University of Bologna (UNIBO): shared 75th place in Europe and 177th in the world
  • Sapienza University of Rome: 89th in Europe and 203rd in the world
  • Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa: 90th in Europe and 204th in the world

The cost of attending university in Italy depends on the school. 

University education can cost anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 EUR a year. Keep in mind that prestigious universities can have annual tuition fees as high as 6,000 EUR. 

Private universities tend to cost even more than top-notch public universities. Prices for private institutions can start at 6,000 EUR, and go up to 20,000 EUR a year.

For the purpose of student visas, international students must have no less than 6,000 EUR (6,600 EUR), roughly equivalent to 500 EUR a month, to prove they are able to support their studies in the country. 

If you are not a resident of the EU, you must pre-enroll in the Italian diplomatic mission of your country of origin.  In order to do this, you need to present:

  • an original request, based on Form A (two copies)
  • a letter of eligibility for enrollment
  • an original copy of your qualifications
  • a passing grade on a required exam for entry university in your country of origin
  • two photographs (one of which must be authenticated by the Italian Mission)

You may need certified translations for these documents, so check with your school or consular mission.

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International schools

Some of the best international schools in Italy can be found in bigger cities, like Rome, Milan, and Naples. These schools are ideal for international students looking to study a universal curriculum in a language other than Italian. The most common international schools teach in English, specifically the British curriculum, but you can also find American, French, and German schools, and even a Japanese school, in the country.

If you wish to enroll your child in an Italian state school later on, some international schools offer bilingual programs so your child can take national exams.

Some international schools offer education levels from preschool to upper secondary education, between 3 and 19 years of age. Enrollment requirements will largely depend on the school, so you may need to contact each school separately.

However, it is a good idea to have a few documents on hand whenever enrolling your child in a new school. This includes transfer papers from previous schools, vaccination documents with all the required vaccines in order, and any language tests that may be needed to certify your child’s language skills.

Admissions are based on previous school reports, and sometimes require a personal interview.

Tuition fees for international schools can range from 4,000 to 12,000 EUR a year. You are normally also asked to pay admission fees, which can range from 300 to 500 EUR.

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American schools

When considering attending a U.S. study program in Italy, a distinction should be made between the numerous (currently 140) semester-abroad or year-abroad programs offered by U.S. accredited institutions of higher education, and degree-granting institutions.

Semester-abroad or Year-abroad Programs offered by U.S. accredited institutions of higher education –These study-abroad programs in Italy are open only to students already enrolled at these institutions’ home campuses in the United States. The vast majority of U.S. accredited higher education institutions present in Italy are members of the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy (AACUPI).

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U.S. colleges and universities with degree-granting programs in Italy

The following universities with degree-granting programs based in Italy accept applications for admission from the general public, irrespective of nationality:


Educational programs offered in English in Italy

There are no U.S. Government operated schools in Italy, but there are a number of independent, private schools offering courses and classes taught in English.

Some of the schools have classes from kindergarten to high school, while others offer a curriculum at the elementary or secondary school levels. Classes are taught in English, but the emphasis is on multiculturalism, and courses in Italian and other languages are offered at many of the schools.

Several schools do accept boarders. The school year often begins in September and ends in June; actual beginning and ending dates vary from one school to the next.


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Useful Links and Resources for Schools in Italy

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Early Childhood, Primary, Middle School


Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, High School


Pre-School to Grade 5 


Primary, Middle and High School


Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, High School

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