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Student Life



Students will be accommodated in apartments. All the apartments are situated in a residence situated in the heart of all the important sites of Rome, one block away from the Vatican. Although the apartments may differ in the size, price and number of occupants, they all share some standards: a kitchen area with small fridge and hot plate, basic kitchen utensils, no dishwasher, weekly house cleaning including change of linens (but no dish-washing), one bathroom. All apartments are completely furnished. Some of the apartments may not have air conditioning, but the weather in Rome usually allows one to be comfortable enough with a simple fan. Apartments have access to a laundry room in the same building.

For more details on the apartments, and to get a better idea of RILA’s apartments and classroom locations, please check the locations page.
Although the RILA housing arrangement is intended to be a source of camaraderie, students who wish to live by themselves or with Italians should feel free to get alternative housing in Rome on their own. RILA cannot take any responsibility for making alternative arrangements or for the consequences of such arrangements.
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Students will be responsible for their meals. Student apartments are equipped with everything needed to prepare simple meals. To buy food in Italy, the cheapest and easiest solution is the supermarket, which is generally much smaller than American supermarkets, but still very well furnished, and food quality is usually very high. An alternative is presented by the “Alimentari”, which are traditional small food stores still present all over Rome. They represent a more characteristic alternative, although generally also a more expensive one.
During orientation, soon after your arrival in Rome, you will be given a list of supermarkets, as well as other facilities, in the area around your apartment.

Mr. Pihas dining out with a group of students
Mr. Pihas dining out with a group of students
For eating out, Rome offers a fantastic variety of restaurants, “pizzeria” (generally for pizza or pasta only), “pizza a taglio” (small shops that sell pizza by the slice), cafés, pubs, fast food restaurants, etc. for all kind of tastes and budgets. Food is generally very good, so do not be afraid to try new dishes and places, although we recommend that you avoid the most touristic locations, where the food is usually less good and more expensive; usually walking just a couple of blocks away from a major tourist attraction will be enough to enjoy a better meal at a more reasonable price. Two useful notes if you eat out: a service charge is always included in your bill; Italians usually leave just a small symbolic tip for the waiter in coins (about 5%). Also, there is nothing like the American “doggy bag” tradition.

As you will certainly notice soon, alcoholic beverages are sold everywhere in Italy with no restriction on age or public consumption. Nevertheless, it’s pretty rare to see drunken Italians: we warmly invite you to follow the local example.
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Cell Phones, Internet, Laptop

RILA is committed to its students’ safety and security, so we require each student to have an Italian cell phone at all times while enrolled in our courses. For your convenience, we established a cell phone rental service at a convenient price, as part of registration to our program. This solution ensures that, from day one in Rome, you will be easily reachable and able to contact us, which is an important safety feature of our program. (During the first editions of the program, we noticed that, after finding out how expensive it was for them to make or even receive calls in Italy, many students preferred to keep their American cell phones off, thus the necessity to provide all students with a less expensive way to communicate while in Rome.) RILA phones are small “dumb” flip phones, easy to carry with you, and unattractive for pick-pocketers. (Please note that unfortunately they do not offer internet access.) You will be required to have your cell phone turned on, charged, and with you at all times to enable RILA staff to reach you for everyday communications pertaining your classes and trips, as well as in the event of an emergency. Your Italian cell phone will also allow you to contact your fellow students in Rome at a much lower price than if you used an American cell phone. The cost for your outgoing calls in Italy will be 10-12 cents/minute, 15 cents per text message; incoming calls and text messages, both from Italy or abroad, are free of charge. Please be sure to communicate your cell phone number to your family so they can contact you during your time abroad.

At the same time, you are of course free to bring your own cell phone with you in Rome, to access the internet, or to communicate with the U.S. (However please note that a pre-paid international phone card purchased in Italy will be your cheapest option to call the U.S. from any phone in Italy.) Please consider that for your American cell phone to work in Italy, it must meet these three requirements:

  1. Your phone must use GSM technology. Some American phone companies, like T-Mobile and AT&T use it, while others, like Verizon and Sprint use a different technology, called CDMA. If your telephone works with CDMA, it won’t work in Italy, no matter what SIM card you put in it;
  2. Your telephone must be a quad-band. Many American cell phones are quad-band, bust some are three-band. If your telephone is a three band, it won’t work in Italy;
  3. Your telephone must be unlocked. Most American cell phones are locked, which means they only work with a SIM card from the telephone company that sold you the telephone. If your cell phone meets the first two criteria above, you can bring your telephone to any of your phone company’s stores, and ask to have it unlocked.

If you choose to use the Italian SIM card in your smartphone, the cost for internet connection will be 4 euros per day (about $5/day).

Apartments have Wi-Fi service included in the rent. While on the go, you can also easily access the Internet from one of the many “Internet points” (small stores where for a low fee you can connect to the internet through one of their computers or by plugging in your laptop). Another option is to connect your laptop or other device in one of the many Wi-Fi hot spots in Rome. Once in Rome, you will be given a list of addresses of Internet points and Internet cafes in your area.

If you choose to bring a laptop, you will need a simple adapter to plug it in. Laptops have their own transformer, so you won’t need one, but you will need a transformer and an adaptor for any other electric item you bring with you. You can easily buy one at Radio Shack of any other similar store. You will not need a printer in Rome; electronic submission of essays will be acceptable.
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Insurance and health issues

For your safety, RILA requires that you have health insurance during your stay in Rome. For your convenience, we established group coverage with an insurance company as part of our registration process. This solution allows us to help you get health coverage in Italy at a reasonable price and with no effort on your side.

The health insurer RILA uses is called CMI Worldwide, which is part of the group FrontierMEDEX. Please note that the health plan provided will cover you for the sole period of the program, so if you arrive in Italy or leave it beyond the dates indicated for our program, you will not be covered in those extra days. For info regarding the provider and the coverage, please see: www.cmi-insurance.com

Even if you have health insurance that covers you during your stay in Italy, it’s very important that you bring with you any prescription drug that you are currently taking or which you might need in the coming months. Please make sure to bring a supply big enough to cover (or better still, to exceed) your maximum need for the period you will be in Italy. Some American drugs are not available in Italy in the same forms as in the U.S., thus it could be very difficult, and certainly pretty expensive, for you to purchase such medicines while there.
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Flight ticket

RILA students are required to organize their trip and buy their airline ticket on their own. You are required to arrive in Rome on the Saturday before the beginning of classes, and leave your apartment the Saturday after the end of classes.

Flights from the US to Europe usually leave the US the night of the day before their arrival date (so, to get to Rome on a Saturday you will have to leave the US on Friday evening/night). Please organize your trip in a way to get to your apartment between 9am and 8pm of the Saturday before the beginning of classes, and leave by 10am on the Saturday after the end of classes. Allow 2 hours to get to your apartment from the airport by car and 3 hours by public transportation. Please be aware that a late or early arrival could easily cause you a long wait before entering your place, and possibly an extra fee for checking-in out of the regular hours. If you find it impossible to arrive in that window of time, please let us know about it as soon as you can, so that we can try to arrange things in the best possible way for you.

When buying your ticket, keep in mind that many travel agencies offer special student discounts. You might start your search, but not limit it to, the following websites:

In the past, some students have also found good deals on the following websites:
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8g students gondola

Passport and visas

American citizens do not need a VISA to visit Italy for up to 90 days. However, their passport must be valid at least three months after the intended day of departure from Europe. International students should check whether they need a VISA, and find information on how to obtain one, on the website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at vistoperitalia.esteri.it/home/en.

Your passport is your most valuable possession while abroad. Be sure to treat it with great care. Make a photocopy of the first page of your passport. Keep the copy with you at all times, preferably in something that can be concealed underneath your clothing. Leave the passport safely in your apartment. In any case, absolutely do not carry your passport in a backpack, a handbag or in the back pocket of your pants! These are easy targets for pickpockets, especially on buses or in crowded areas.

Due to recent official estimates, passport applications may now take up to six weeks to process. We strongly encourage you to start your application immediately and to pay an additional fee for expedited processing, if you are starting your application less than two months before your trip. Please note that expedited service can still take up to three weeks. If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you’ll need to appear in person at a U.S. Post Office or Passport Agency to submit your application. You will also need to provide proof of citizenship such as an original birth certificate, proof of identity, and passport photos.

If you already have a passport, please be sure to check that it is still valid, and remember that upon your arrival in Italy you may be required to have a passport valid three months after the program end date. If you need to renew your passport, you may have the option to do so by mail. Even in the case of renewal, we strongly encourage expedited processing.
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Transportation in Rome

Public transport in Rome is run by “ATAC”. All public transportation (bus, subway, and tram) is on one ticket. You can even use the ticket on some regional trains. For your time in Rome, you might consider getting two monthly tickets, one from the date of your arrival to the end of June, and the other from July 1st until you leave. Monthly tickets cost 35 euros (each) and offer unlimited travel during the calendar month in which you buy the ticket. That might in fact be the least expensive option, at least in case you are planning to use public transportation daily. Otherwise, individual tickets (BIT) are valid for 100 minutes, and cost 1.50 euro each, tickets for one, two, or three days (ROMA 24H, ROMA 48H, and ROMA 72H) cost respectively 7, 12.50, and 18 euros. Finally, weekly tickets (CIS) are 24 euros. Unfortunately, foreign students are not eligible for the student discount that ATAC offers.

Every ticket must be stamped, at the beginning of your trip, in the validation machine in the bus/station/tram where you use it. For weekly and monthly passes, you only validate the first time you use them. Tickets of any kind can be bought at any “Tobacco shop”, easily recognizable by the big “T” on the sign, or at any Newspaper stand or Info point for tourist. You will find one or more of those on any block, as well as in train stations. Only very few buses have a ticket purchasing machine on board, so please be sure to get your ticket before you get on a bus. The fine for a missing ticket is 50 euros. Once in Rome, to calculate a route, go to the English version on the ATAC website at http://www.atac.roma.it/index.asp?lingua=ENG.


To reach your apartment in Rome from/to Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) airport:

By car

If you choose to book RILA suggested car service from the airport to your apartment, you will find the car driver at the exit of the luggage area.  He will hold a sign saying “RILA” and will know your name and flight info, as well as your address in Rome. In case your flight is late, the driver will wait for you or he will warn us before leaving the airport so that we will be able to rearrange an alternative pick-up service for you.  If you choose to be part of a group transport you might have to wait for your fellow students (you will receive an e-mail with detailed information about it before you leave the US).  The cost for this option is indicated on the registration “Travel info” form.

If you prefer to take a public cab, please be aware that we don’t recommend it. Taxi drivers in Rome are notorious for giving long unnecessary rides to tourists, charging very expensive fares (up to three times the regular price). If you should want/need to take a public taxi anyway, please try following these precautions: only take an official taxi (you can recognize the car from the sign on top of it) and absolutely refuse the services of any unauthorized car driver hanging out at the airport, no matter how low a fare they promise; before you leave look at a map of Rome and try getting an idea of the route you need to go, if possible suggest it to the driver as soon as you get into the car (i.e.: “Let’s go through via della Magliana”), he will get the sense that he can’t drive you to the other side of the city without you noticing it; be aware that the city has imposed a fixed fare of 48 euros from Fiumicino airport to the historic center. Although the Vatican neighborhood is technically out of the historic center (for a couple of blocks), it is actually closer to the airport than most part of the center, so the fare shouldn’t be much higher than 48 euros in any case.

By public transportation

Once you leave the luggage area follow the signs for the train station (=”stazione”) that is inside the airport.
The easiest option is to take the direct train to Termini station; the train is called “Leonardo Express” and leaves from track #1. The train is very easily recognizable (it’s actually impossible to be mistaken), and it’s guaranteed even on a strike day. The price of the ticket is 14 euros; you can purchase the ticket at the desk in the train station, at the newspaper stand or at the automatic ticket machine. The ticket must be stamped with the date and time of the day at one of the small orange machines in the train station (failing to do so will get you a fee on the train even if you have the ticket). The train leaves every 15-30 minutes from 6:20am to 11:20pm, and it takes 32 minutes to get to Termini, Rome central station. Once at Termini, purchase a bus ticket at the news stand (see above for info on public transportation in Rome), exit the station on the side of Piazza dei Cinquecento (the main bus area) and take the bus #64 for 15 stops. Get off the bus at the stop “Cavalleggeri/San Pietro”. Once there, cross the street, walk backwards from the direction the bus was going, and make a right on via delle Fornaci. Your residence, at n.38, is two minutes away on your right hand.
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Getting around

A good way to start planning your time in Rome is getting to know the city a little bit, before you actually get there. Look at a map of Rome and try to familiarize yourself with your neighborhood and the historic center in general. Simply having an idea of the more noticeable landmarks (i.e.: some monuments like the Pantheon, or bigger squares like Piazza Venezia) will help you to feel more comfortable once you are there.

We strongly recommend that you make a plan about things you’d like to do and places you’d like to see while you are in Rome. The city is so full of monuments, churches, museums, historic buildings and archeological sites that it can actually become overwhelming. You could end up not seeing much because there is too much to see! Plan ahead and make a list of at least eight or nine places to see/things to do in Rome. To help you pick up your favorites, here are a couple of guidebooks that will give you at least a general idea of your main options:

  • Rome from the Ground Up, by James H.S. McGregor. A history of Rome that describes the palimpsest of art and architecture, literally from the ground up, period by period.
  • Ancient Rome: Oxford Archeological Guide, by Amanda Claridge, Judith Toms, Tony Cubberly. In-depth, quasi-scholarly accounts of the ancient sites.
  • Rome: Blue Guide, by Alta MacAdam. A tourist guide, with a focus on art. Doesn’t attempt to be interesting, but tries to identify all the major things.
  • Key to Rome, by Frederick Vreeland and Vanessa Vreeland. A tourist guide, well written and well focused.

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In general, Rome is an extremely safe city. Crime levels are far lower in Rome than in any U.S. metropolitan area. You will probably not encounter any problems with crime in Rome. However, there are certain kinds of crime you should be especially careful of. Students, and especially female students, should be careful about coming home alone late at night, just as they would in any city. College students become targets if they drink too much and walk home alone. So, if you are staying out late, keep alert, and always plan out a way to return home with other students.

Also, one kind of crime that is bound to be more common in Rome than in the U.S. is pick-pocketing. Be careful about bags you can’t see (like back-packs), and avoid putting valuables in back-pockets. Pickpockets tend to operate in crowds and in and around buses and trains, so be especially careful when riding, or getting on/off those. Be especially careful around Rome main train station, Termini, and on bus that run between the station, the historic center, and the Vatican.

We will discuss this and other issues more in depth with you at orientation when you arrive, but feel free to ask us questions if you have any. We recommend that you look over a guidebook before coming. The Blue Guide to Rome and Key to Rome are a couple of good guides to the city that specialize in information on art and architecture. Numerous other guides provide general and practical information about the city.
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Money saving tips

Avoid Tourist Traps

Eat like locals where the locals eat! Venturing off the beaten path and choosing the simple “trattoria” in a hidden alley over the more polished place in front of the famous monument can save you dozens of euros.

Cook and Share Your Meals

If possible, cook meals and eat together with your fellow students. The proximity of all the apartments allow you to do so, it will make your meals more pleasant and cheaper.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Every museum offers special group fare, but even when moving by yourself you can find some student discounts for museums, cinemas, theaters and concerts. It’s always worth trying to ask. Having an international student card or other id that proves that you are a student might be helpful.

Get Skype and Research Phone Cards

Download free software for Skype and talk to your family and friends online for free, or research prepaid international phone cards (available at any tobacco shop); they are always cheaper than using your cell phone or any public phone to make international calls.

Plan Trips Ahead of Time

Plan ahead for trips you may take (for travel reservations, etc.) before or after RILA classes. Look into travel times at odd hours and/or for specific student travel deals (on specific trains, for example.) Dozens of low-cost air companies offer incredibly low fares to travel in Europe. Be also sure to compare special train fares for students (like the InterRail pass) to low-cost flights.

Travel $mart

Only carry small amounts of cash, so you won’t spend more than you can afford. Take with you a credit card for emergencies, but leave it in your apartment (that will save you from accidental loss and pick-pocketing; using the local currency will also save you the unfavorable exchange rate and high fee for international operations applied by most credit cards).

Compare Prices

For souvenirs or anything else, wait before you buy. Remember that the historic center, especially close to the main touristic attraction, has the highest prices in town. Compare prices before buying at markets, learn local bartering customs, and ask locals where to get better deals.

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