The Mole Diaries: Rome

The Mole Diaries: Rome by Studenti Link

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 22nd November 2011 and has been read 8761 times.

Kian McCarthy was at Bath University and spent his year abroad in Rome, Italy. Here is his definitive guide to your plan of action when you arrive in Rome for your year abroad; accommodation tips, surviving La Sapienza University and other inimitable advice straight from a student who's been through it all himself.


By all means come early and try to find accommodation, but bear in mind that Rome (and indeed most of Italy) is ‘closed’ in August. GET A MAP OF ROME before you go. Know the general geography of it. When looking for housing bear in mind:

Location (which affects price)

££-£££££ Centro Storico – ie. From Monumento Vittorio Emuanuele II (piazza Venezia) until Piazza Del Poppolo - Spagna (Spanish Steps) up to Trevi Fountain and Barbarini. Prices paid by students in this area ranged from €2,000 per month for an appartment (single) to €500 for a medium sized bedroom in a shared house. The benefits of this area however are endless. Centrally located, within easy walking distance of the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Vit EmanII, etc. Also near to most Erasmus club nights, as well as a plethora of trendy bars and pubs.  £-£££ Termini – Vittorio Emanuele – San Lorenzo.  £-££££ Bologna  £-££ Re di Roma  ££-£££ Manzoni  ££ San Giovanni  £££-££££ Parioli  £££ Flemming – Far too far away.

Also consider different ways to find your accommodation:

Family Friends/Contacts in Rome Websites:, - Never pay up front for a viewing. Never give your bank details over the phone. Common sense, but some listings are sham listings. Publications - such as Portaportese which comes out every Thursday are recommended for looking for apartments. It has thousands of Apartments to rent listed every week. You can buy this at any Kiosk – in the street or in Tube Stations. (For around €1) University – around campus and especially on the boards, there are hundreds of listings for rooms or apartments to rent (don’t be put off by the ‘NO ERASMUS’ signs, take a few notices and ring them up, if all else fails you’ll be practicing your Italian).  Youth Hostel - If all else fails and you’re still staying in a youth hostel when you’re on your language course (as happened to some of my friends) don’t be scared to say… if it helps make a joke out of it in the lesson and you will probably find that there are a few people in the same boat as you. If not, then there will be someone to help you, I PROMISE!

At La Sapienza

The first thing you will probably want to do is cry or scream. Nothing seems organised and everything seems like too much of an effort. Don’t despair, welcome to Italy!

You will probably first experience La Sapienza on the Erasmus greeting day. If you’re from MLES you’ll be in the Scienze Umanistiche Faculty and your placement test will be in Aula I (Walk up the massive steps leading up to the entrance, to the back of the first floor and it’s the first big door you see… there will already be people there, like the Swiss).

Your placement test isn’t too important; it just assesses your level of Italian and sees which group you will go in for the language course - you can’t fail! A quick word of advice – if you do the language course in September (i.e. intensively throughout the summer) then you won’t receive the 3 credits for it – personally I think this is ridiculous! You also get an extra month in Rome… not bad! If, on the other hand, you take the course from October and carry on throughout semester one (once a week), then the credits do count. My advice though: do it in September – improve your Italian quicker, make some really good friends before the others get here and go to the beach a lot! And it also gives you a month extra to find a house.

What do you need to do straight away? The Roman Checklist.

1. Register as an Erasmus student at La Sapienza with your faculty.

2. Register with ESN (party time!)

3. Get a Codice Fiscale

4. Get your MENSA Card (cheap Uni food)

Where do you get these things?

Good question, because you don’t get much help!

1. To register with your faculty (if you are MLES / LP you will be registered to Scienze Umanistiche but you can study in whatever department or whatever subjects you want)

You will need:

a. Proof of Student Status from your home university

b. Proof of acceptance into La Sapienza as an Erasmus student

c. TWO Passport photos

d. Passport

e. Copy of passport/birth certificate

How to get there? (This took us absolutely ages to find! So if this helps, then I’ve done my bit: Enter the Scienze Umanistiche Building. Towards the end of the hallway are two sets of stairs (one on your left and one on the right). Take the stairs on your right down to the bottom. There should be a glass door to your left which will take you outside (on your right should be the ancient architecture dept.) Go outside and turn right – there should be a mirrored glass building in front As soon as you turn right turn immediately Left and infront of you should be an open doorway with lots of photocopiers inside. Go up the stairs to the top and follow the short corridor all the way along (to the right). The Erasmus office is on the right hand side. It has stupid opening hours, but there should be people inside even when it's 'closed'.

2. Register with ESN. Basically, this card (which costs €5) gets you free entry into all of the Erasmus parties, plus special drinks offers. You can do this inside the Economics faculty.

3. Get your Codice Fiscale from via Ippolito Nievo (i think tram 4, or Bus H and walk down).

4. MENSA card. Located at Via del Castro Laurenziano - the economics faculty road.

Top Tips: phones, surviving university and transport

When calling for a room/apartment – prepare/write down sentences before you ring. When your mind goes blank (it will!!) this is very useful  Buy a Wind SIM card for your phone (Wind and TIM were the cheapest networks). You need a codice fiscale for various things (this is basically a social security number). University: Don’t rely on what’s on the internet; its not always up to date, often department websites are better than the faculty website.  You don’t have to sign up for lessons, just for the exam at the end, so you can go to whichever lessons you like the sound of and then decide whether you want to do the exam.

All University offices are generally only open for a few hours a day/week, not 9 to 5, so check before you turn up!

Exams are generally oral and you just have to buy the book (which are generally available in the Giallo bookshop on the Main Campus). Learn the book by heart and you will get 100% - read the book and you’ll pass your classes.  There are no specific semester dates for the uni, they depend on the faculty, but generally speaking are beginning of October to 18th December, then 8th Jan to end of February for the Winter semester… Transport: you can get a student ticket which covers all buses and metros and trams in the city for €18, but you have to buy them at the beginning of the calendar month.

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