With the marvelous beauty and timeless charms of the Italian peninsula being so abundant, it seems like every place in Italy would be the best place to study Italian. One can of course study from home and learn a lot, but traveling to the land where the language is lived and spoken is a serious investment of time and energy, so choosing the right place to study is serious business.
One first of all is looking for a good program. Ideally a combination of formal classroom learning, with one on one tutoring and capped off by living and interacting with locals is the ideal situation. Also it doesn’t hurt to live in a beautiful city, a place of centuries old charms, natural beauty and good connections to the joys and wonders of this classic country. When trying to decide on schools a good place to start is by looking at places that are part of the ASILS conglomerate. These schools have more rigorous standards than any old language academy.
Whether it is for a few short weeks or several months immersion is the key to making this travel/educational experience worthwhile. It is best to avoid living arrangements where you will operate in your native tongue, the more you immerse yourself in the language and culture, the more proficient you will become. For that reason it seems the more rural and laid back cities are best. Cities such as Rome and Florence and Milan have excellent schools, often good package deals and living arrangements, but they can also be distracting. You will inevitably run into expatriates who tempt you to speak in your native tongue. Also in these bigger cities it is harder to make friendships because people are busier or have different priorities.
The real magic of Italy happens in the countryside, in the smaller to medium sized towns. Here life goes at a more leisurely pace, one can easily sit around a square or fountain and converse with locals, looking for a conversation with any passer by. You have the opportunity to meet families who might have a store, or a city job that also run a farm too. People in the countryside are often more tied to traditions like making their own pastas, cheese, wine and so a language experience might become a cultural one too.
Here are some of the cities which are beautiful to live in, have good language study programs and offer a great opportunity to see Italy from the inside out:
Perugia, Assisi, Bologna, Siena, Tropea, Ferrera, L’Aquila, Urbino, Bari, Padova
These are just a sampling, but what many of them have in common is that they are great University towns with a young population. They are not the biggest cities in the country and not completely overrun with tourists. In Central Italy like the Umbria, Abruzzo and Le Marche regions and the Southern Italian regions, life is more affordable.