Italy: UNH-in-Italy Program:Life in Ascoli Piceno
Students will be housed in apartments centrally located in Ascoli Piceno. Within the first week of the Program, students will decide collectively specific housing arrangements. There are typically 3-5 students per apartment and each student has his or her own room. Apartments are located within walking distance of the UNH in Italy Center and classrooms. Apartments are fully furnished, but apartments in Italy typically do not have dryers - students should expect to hang clothes to dry.
Students wishing to share apartments with Italian students do so at their own initiative and must express this intent during the application process. Finding housing in Ascoli Piceno is not easy because the demand usually exceeds the supply. Please note that the decision to seek alternative housing may result in additional expenses (e.g., linens, towels, contract fees, deposit, utilities, etc.). Final financial arrangements for independent housing will be handled on a case by case basis.
Independent housing search
• Look for notices (annunci) on University boards, the library, or on walls all over the University district
• Look at classifieds on the web (www.postoletto.com; www.easystanza.it; www.studenti.it)
• Look at ads in newspapers
Usually it is easier to find a room in an apartment already shared by other students. Rooms may be single (singole) or double (doppie). Posto letto means that you share a bedroom with someone else.
Finding a room/an apartment: what to expect
• Rent contracts: All rental agreements should be formalized by a legal contract between owner and tenant but unfortunately this is rarely the case in Ascoli Piceno. If there is only a verbal agreement ask if it is possible to receive a written receipt of any amount you pay. Due to a recent change in Italian law, landlords who don't provide regular rent contracts and tenants who fail to show a contract when requested to do so by the competent authorities, might be fined up to 150 euros. This—along with the implementation of different and more flexible forms of contracts—has convinced many apartment owners to offer regular contracts also to foreign students. Once the contract is signed, the landlord and the renter should contribute 50% each to the payment of the Imposta del Registro (State Registration Fee) which varies according to the amount of the monthly rent. Please remember that all landlords (even those who do not provide contracts) are required to report to the local Questura that they are hosting foreign students providing names and addresses of the students, according to the anti-terrorism laws. This must be done no later than eight days after the students’ arrival.
• Deposits: You will be asked to pay a security deposit corresponding to one to two months’ rent. This amount is usually given back at the end of your stay if there are no damages (or unpaid bills) during the year. Please note that if you want to leave the apartment earlier than agreed, and you don't give at least one month notice, you could lose your deposit.
• Utilities: Utility bills are usually included in the price of your rent. This simplifies arrangements since sharing the bills among roommates can be very difficult. The expenses include water, gas, electricity and heating expenses. Final cleaning costs are usually not required.
• Furniture: In general, independent apartments are furnished and have kitchen appliances.
• Laundry: Most apartments have a washing machine otherwise there are laundromats available in Ascoli Piceno. Prices are higher than in the U.S.
Prior to departure, all students will be provided with an emergency contact card that lists the phone numbers of the On-Site Director, the emergency number (911-equivalent) in Italy (112), and International SOS. Family members back home should also keep a record of these phone numbers if in case of emergency they need to get in touch with you and are unable to reach your cell phone.
All students on the program are required to have a mobile phone while in Italy. For safety reasons, it is strongly recommended that you carry your Italian mobile phone at all times, keep it charged, and keep it on. This is part of our emergency plan, as it will be the mode of communication the On-Site Director uses when he needs to get in touch with you (especially in case of emergency).
Students find it is easy to use Italian mobile phones when communicating with fellow UNH-in-Italy Program students, the On-Site Director, and anyone else with an Italian phone number. While the phones are capable of calling the U.S., it is often cheaper to communicate with friends and family back home using Skype, or apps like WhatsApp or Viber. Many students find it useful to bring their U.S. smart phones (if they own one), but turn off the cellular data or keep it in airplane mode (otherwise you’ll be charged an astronomical amount for data!). Students have used their smart phones as cameras, or used them to connect to WiFi where it is available. Some students have chosen to purchase international data or calling plans, but they can be extremely expensive, which is why we recommend pre-purchasing a phone through a service like PicCell Wireless.
PicCell Wireless offers University of New Hampshire students a discounted cell phone package for Italy. This package includes a free cell phone and Italy SIM rental, a discounted activation fee of $19.90 (usually $59.90) and a local number in Italy. Incoming calls and text messages are free for you while you are in Italy when people call you on your Italian number (even from the US).
If you are thinking of using your US phone abroad, you may want to consider that although your US mobile provider can change your phone plan for international roaming, you’ll still be paying at least $.99c/min for incoming and outgoing calls while abroad. With your Italy phone, you’ll get local rates and receive free incoming calls while in Italy.
You can order your phone online and receive it before you leave home. Shipping is typically free if you order at least 14 days in advance of your requested delivery (start) date.
Please be sure to review the rates listed on the UNH-in-Italy-specific PicCell webpage (link below) along with all information regarding roaming, lost/stolen phones, and returning the equipment, billing etc. You are responsible for all traffic and costs incurred with your phone. For more information or to order: www.piccellwireless.com/unh-italy
If you have any questions during the order process, email PicCell Wireless at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1-877-235-5742.
This is an offer from PicCell Wireless. UNH in Italy does not have any business relationship with them and will not benefit financially in any way if our students decide to accept this offer. The decision to choose this offer is completely the student’s own choice and responsibility.
The Program does not offer a meal plan, but has made arrangements with the University of Ascoli Piceno for UNH-in-Italy students to dine in a restaurant called Boccaccio (located on Via Castellana, 5) that provides lunch and dinner service to Italian students. It is open every day of the week. The cafeteria (mensa) begins service in mid-September and is a wonderful venue for meeting Italian students. You can visit its website at www.boccacciolife.it. Please note that the UNH-in-Italy Program is not affiliated with the mensa.
Other relatively inexpensive eateries include pizzerie, self-service restaurants, and bars serving panini. Try the fairly inexpensive trattorie. Rosticcerie and tavole calde in some neighborhoods offer very reasonably priced food or even meals, which can be taken out. In nearly all sit-down eating establishments (except the mensa) a cover charge is added to the check. Tipping is not expected.
Ascoli Piceno has many grocery and department stores: Cityper (grocery and department), Tigre (grocery), Coal (grocery), Eurospin (discount grocery), and, reachable by city bus, two centri commerciali (malls). Many students prefer to buy their produce from outside stands or the fruit and vegetable market in the Chiostro di San Francesco and to purchase clothing at the outdoor market (Wednesday and Saturday mornings) in the centro storico (historical center). Produce on display should not be touched before it is purchased.
Hours of store operation vary, and there are two schedules, one for food and another for other types of stores, but almost all close for a period during the day from about 1 to 3:30 or 4 p.m., when they reopen until about 7 or 7:30 p.m. There are no 24-hour groceries; however, 24-hour vending machines are located on Via dei Bonaccorsi (off Piazza Arringo). Most of the larger supermarkets such as Cityper and Tigre stay open all day long and a few are open on Thursday afternoon when all other food stores are closed. All except Cityper close on Sunday.
Since most refrigerators and freezers are small, expect to shop every day or so and stock up for Sunday. The expiration date is never more than several days and is frequently the same day for meat. Food is sold by the hectogram (etto, about 1/4 pound) or kilogram (2.2 pounds). In some stores you must purchase bags; save them for reuse. Bring a tote bag or shopping cart to avoid having to buy bags.
Recycling and Garbage
Paper, plastics, aluminum cans, biodegradables, and glass are recycled in Ascoli Piceno. Garbage should be placed in plastic bags outside the front door after 20:00—there is trash pickup every evening except Sunday.
In addition to the Program’s holdings, students have access to the Biblioteca Provinciale di Storia Contemporanea (Corso Mazzini, 39) and the Biblioteca Comunale (Polo Culturale Sant’Agostino on Corso Mazzini). The latter provides free internet access for registered patrons. These libraries have a limited number of texts in English.
Stamps are sold at tabaccherie as well as at the Post Office. All tabaccherie are equipped with postal scales for weighing letters and small packages. Several commercial mailing companies have offices in Ascoli Piceno where you can send packages by Federal Express.
Most students never open a bank account in Italy. Instead they rely exclusively on direct withdrawals from their U.S. checking accounts using a debit card from their hometown banks. You will probably never need an Italian bank account. Be sure to contact your bank/credit card issuer to inform it of your departure and return dates. Many banks/credit card issuers require that you re-authorize your credit card every month while you are abroad.
Once you have your permesso di soggiorno, it is possible, however, to open an account at a major bank in Ascoli Piceno that engages in many foreign-exchange transactions, and have your parents send checks drawn on large and important U.S. banks—not credit unions or small local banks. Such checks are cheaper than wires or money orders. Find out before you leave which local banks associate with which Ascoli Piceno banks. The first transaction takes a while (about a month) to find the proper channel, while subsequent checks are substantially quicker. Only those students staying for the academic year have the option of opening a bank account.
Personal and university financial aid checks will not be cashed immediately, although they can be deposited in your bank account and will clear in one to four weeks. There is usually a high fee for cashing a check.
Banks are open 8:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Monday through Friday, and many re-open in the afternoons from 2:35 p.m. to 3:35 p.m. They are all closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
A single bus ticket (corsa semplice) costs one euro and is valid for 60 minutes on any number of buses. It must be machine-stamped as you enter the bus; if a controllore catches you without one, fines range from 40 to 150 euros.
Buses are crowded during peak hours: early morning, lunch hour, and evenings. Expect to stand at these times. Senior citizens and the handicapped should always be given seats. When you need to get through the crowd to get off at your stop, ask “deve scendere?” or say “permesso.”
The tourist information office in Piazza Arringo can provide you information on bus routes and stops.
Working and Volunteering in Italy
Your student status gives you the authorization to work legally for up to 20 hours per week. While finding work is not easy, there are some opportunities, such as tutoring in English. UNH-in-Italy does encourage students to engage in volunteer work activities.
Some examples of volunteer activities in which students have participated are: projects in local schools and working with various populations of people (e.g., working with children at the hospital, elderly people, immigrants, and/or people with disabilities).
Ascoli Piceno offers a great variety of musical, artistic, literary, and cultural events, which are well publicized through newspapers and posters and announced on the bulletin board in the UNH-in-Italy Program office. If you are interested in season tickets for opera, chamber music or symphony concerts, inquire about their purchase as soon as you arrive in Ascoli Piceno.
Students arriving in late August can expect to find sunny 80-90 degree Fahrenheit weather and humid conditions to continue through September. Ascoli Piceno enjoys a long autumn and spring, when average temperatures during the day vary between 60 and 80 degrees with some rain. The nights are considerably cooler. Although the temperature rarely goes below freezing in winter, Americans tend to find Italian buildings cold. When the heat is turned on (usually November 15 through April 15 regardless of temperature), it is not on all day and evening but at scheduled intervals. Although winters tend to be mild (40-50 degrees), they can be very wet. The stone and tile throughout the buildings reinforce the damp and chill. Pack appropriately.
In general, Europe has an excellent railway system that is affordable and reliable. Tickets are available at first and second class prices. Barring couchettes for long distance travel, comfort in the two classes is so similar that first class is not worth the extra cost. Rather than waiting in line at the train station, buy your tickets in advance for the same price at a travel agency or online. A number of guidebooks are available in the UNH-in-Italy Program office. Check the website www.ferroviedellostato.it for information.
There are several classifications of trains in Italy. The fastest are the EC (Eurocity), which travels between cities in Europe, and the ES (Eurostar), which operates within Italy. Both require a reservation and are very fast. The IC (Intercity) is also good and the E (Espresso) is the slowest of the fast trains. All of them require a supplemento rapido which you purchase along with your ticket. If you fail to do so and are forced to buy the supplement or the ticket on the train, you will pay an amount substantially over the regular price. The following are slower trains, which do not require the supplemento rapido: the IR (Interregionale), which travels between regions of Italy, is a very good train for short trips between adjoining regions; the D (Diretto), which is not quite what the name suggests; and the R (Regionale), which travels within a particular region and perhaps makes the most stops of all. There is no savings in buying a round-trip ticket (andata e ritorno), except in time saved standing in line. In Italy, one must always timbrare, that is, machine-stamp your ticket, before getting on a train. If you have a round-trip ticket, you will have to stamp it a second time, at the opposite end, when you use it to return. There is a fine for not doing so. The machines are easy to find; they are yellow and they are distributed throughout the stations.
A train schedule (orario) may be purchased at a newsstand, train station or travel agency. They are also available online (www.ferroviedellostato.it). Schedules give times of departure, destinations, and train classifications.
A student may buy the Biglietto Ferroviario Transalpino, which offers up to a 40% discount on European travel and can be purchased at a student travel agency, or the Carta Verde, which can be purchased by those younger than 25 at the train station and is valid for one year. It entitles the bearer to a 20% discount on tickets.
The various Eurail passes provide periods of prepaid travel throughout Western Europe (except Britain and Northern Ireland). In addition, each European country offers passes for various periods of unlimited travel within its borders. The Eurail passes must be purchased in the U.S., but you can have your parents buy it and mail it to you overseas. The national rail passes can be purchased in Europe. After a six-month residency, you can purchase an Interrail pass which is also honored in Britain and is generally superior to the Eurail pass.
Only Italian citizens and foreigners who are resident aliens may own cars in Italy. Renting a car in Europe can be expensive, and gasoline costs about three times as much as it does in the U.S.
Many students have bicycled in Europe and found it to be a very rewarding experience. With advance arrangements you can take bikes onto the trains, and in many countries (most notably France, Belgium, the Netherlands and England) people and roads are quite friendly to cyclists. You can camp in numerous campgrounds, or bike from hostel to hostel. Some students purchase bicycles for transportation in Ascoli Piceno.
Some students choose to purchase bicycles for transportation in Ascoli Piceno. Throughout Ascoli Piceno there are many locations where renting a bike for free is possible. These locations are marked with a bike symbol that reads: Adotta una bici (Adopt a bike). There is a four-hour limit per day on these bikes and you need to register for a membership card, which costs 10 euro.
Youth hostels provide clean, inexpensive, albeit spartan accommodations throughout Western Europe. Many require that you have a hostel card in order to spend the night. Cards cost $25 for the year and are available from Hostelling International on the web at www.hiayh.org. You can also purchase memberships at any youth hostel overseas.
Commercial air travel in Europe costs much more than comparable distances cost in the United States. However, there are student charters to numerous destinations (especially at break times) at bargain-basement prices. Check with the student travel agency CTS, which is located in Piazza Roma.
The nearest airports are Ancona (http://www.aeroportomarche.com/index.php?lang=english) and Pescara (http://www.abruzzo-airport.it/eng/index.php). From these two airports you can fly to different major European cities (e.g., Brussels, London, etc.) as well as reach some interesting locations in Italy (e.g., Trapani in Sicily).