Indians and South Asians in Italy

by Sunil Deepak, (Updated November 2020)

If you are planning to come and live in Italy for work or for studies, this page is for you.

Introduction to Italy: Compared to India, Italy is a smaller country with a total population of around 60 million. It is shaped like a long boot extending into the Mediterranean sea from the bottom of the south of France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. To its north there are Alps mountains, while the central part of the whole length of the country is crossed by the Apennine mountains. Thus, from where ever you are in  Italy, usually you can easily reach the seaside and the mountains by a short train or bus ride. The biggest cities are Rome and Florence in the centre, Naples in the south, and Turin, Milan, Genoa, Bologna and Venice on the north. All the big cities and many smaller towns have well-known universities.

Climate: Generally speaking, the centre and south of the Italy are warmer but it can snow almost every where in winters, even more so in the mountains. June to September are warmer months, though it is possible to have sudden cold winds and rain even during summer. In winters, temperatures can go below zero. Therefore, for summers keep a wind-cheater or light jacket and for summer, come ready for snow.

Travelling in Italy: Italy has a good train network. Fast trains (Freccia Rossa and Freccia Argento) can be a quick way to travel between big cities, but can cost 3-4 times more than local trains (regional and inter-regional trains), which might take 2-3 times more time. If you are short  of money, check only for regional or inter-regional trains and be ready to get down and change trains, because these trains do not do long distances. Best website to book train tickets is the official site of Trenitalia. There are trains connecting Italy to neighbouring European countries, especially from Milan. More trains for France start from Turin, while a few trains for Europe start from Rome and Venice.  

Finding South-Asian Food shops: Almost all cities, even the tiny ones, usually have a shop run by a South-Asian (usually from Bangladesh or Pakistan, while Indians are rare). If not, even Moroccan or north-African shops have most of spices and lentils.

Finding South Asian Praying Places: Almost all cities also have a mosque, while Hindu praying places are less common. In the Veneto region (where I live), there are Hindu temples in Arzignano, Conigliano Veneto and Padova, while Arzignano organises Durga Puja festivities. In Bologna, there is a Hare Krishna temple and Durga Puja is organised in Centro Zonarelli. Indians are concentrated in a few cities in the north including Brescia. Persons from Indian Punjab are involved in dairy-farming and making of Parmisan cheese around the towns of Reggio Emilia and Parma and they have a big Gurudwara in Novellara (RE).

Finding Accommodation and Contacts with Others: Each South Asian community has its associations. The biggest Indian association in north Italy is in Milan. For students coming to Italy, persons looking for accommodation and other information and people looking for other Indians in Italy, the best way to make initial contacts is through the Facebook Group Indian Students in Italy.

Speaking in English in Italy: In all tourist cities, you can find persons who speak English. Almost all Indian students coming to Italy usually join courses taught in English. However, to know the country and its people, make an effort to learn Italian - it will also be helpful, if you so desire, in learning other Latin languages such as Spanish, Portuguese and French. Most persons in Italy, especially among older generations, do not speak English fluently even if some of them can understand it. If you plan to look for work after finishing studies, learning Italian will be fundamental.

History and Culture in Italy: If you are interested in art, archaeology, history, culture, and western classical music, there is no other country like Italy which has so much to offer. Even tiny towns have places which are 500-600 years old. Churches, medieval buildings and museums are all places to visit and learn about art and history.

There are no paid cable TV channels in Italy. The paid TV channels, including some American and British channels in English, are accessible through pay-cards and internet connections or dish antennas.

Italy is a football loving country. Cricket and badminton are almost unknown among the mainstream Italians thus Italian TV sports' channels never show any cricket or badminton matches. Some south Asians have together formed cricket teams and have matches around big cities.

WiFi Access: If you are new or just passing through Italy, you can use the free Wi-Fi service provided by city governments through the libraries. In most city centres and some commercial malls, you can access free Wi-Fi. However, you need to register and get password from the libraries or municipal offices.

Support for GLBT Persons: Most cities and all universities have a GLBTQI support systems. For example, in Bologna, the office of GLBTI centre called Cassero is close to railway station on Via Don Minzoni 18, next to MAMBO (Museum of modern art). They are in old medieval building of Port of Bologna, that is interesting from archaeological point of view. They have a good library on GLBT and human rights themes and their restaurant in the basement is a lively place with lot of cultural initiatives in the evenings and weekends. For knowing more about them check their website (opens in a new window).