By Georgia Nicklin, BSc Finance and Management with the University of Venice at the ICMA Centre, Henley Business School.
Student life is very different in Venice compared to Reading. The major differences to consider are: where to do your supermarket shopping and how much you should budget, what to eat, where to socialise, and getting used to using euros. Whilst these factors were difficult to adjust to at first, I soon got used to the Venetian lifestyle.
Venice, as a city, is very expensive (perhaps even more so than London) so you have to be very savvy as a student.
There are quite a few supermarkets around Venice, although there’s no such thing as a delivery option, unfortunately! The largest are Coop (located near Piazzale Roma) and Conad (located near Zattere). There are small branches of these all around Venice so I used Conad most of the time, as that was closest to my house.
On the whole it was relatively cheap, but there was nowhere near as much choice as there is in British supermarkets – vegans and gluten-free people would definitely notice this!
I think I probably budgeted €20 per week which bought the essentials such as milk, bread, ham, cheese, fruit, vegetables, etc. As I only had a microwave to work with in my accommodation, I rarely bought meat so my weekly shop may be cheaper than average.
One thing that was noticeable was that most of the Venetian supermarkets didn’t sell porridge oats! Every time I went back to England I literally stocked up on porridge to take back to Venice, so take note if you’re a fellow porridge-lover.
What to eat
For breakfast I either had porridge (see above!), or if I was in a rush to get to uni (probably most days), I bought a croissant (called ‘un brioche’ in Venice) and an espresso from a local bakery which came to €1 each.
Italy is the coffee capital so if you don’t like coffee now, I can guarantee you will by the end of the nine months! I hated espressos (called ‘un café’) at the start of the year, but soon became addicted one month in, with their cheap price encouraging me to buy one daily!
Like any student diet, pasta was by far the easiest (and cheapest) thing to live off, particularly in the country it originated from (in supermarkets, you can buy it for as cheap as 29 cents per pack)! I cooked this a lot with vegetables and pesto.
Italians eat a lot of antipasti too (cured meats and cheeses) so I tried to integrate this into my diet with salads to feel like I was immersing myself into the culture!
When it came to eating out in restaurants, I found Venice to be extremely expensive. However, the city is very beautiful so instead of eating in a restaurant, my friends and I would grab a pizza or a pasta pot from a takeaway shop and sit by a canal – perfetto!
A slice of pizza in Venice only came to €2 and you will see stands around the whole of the city. I was lucky enough to have one right around the corner from my house (which I passed everyday when walking to uni) so I think I bought a slice every single day. The pizza shop owners got to know me so well that we even exchanged Christmas presents and occasionally they would give me pizza for free!
Despite having all of this amazing food around you, the reality is that Italy is the carb capital so you are guaranteed to put on weight if you’re a foodie like me! With gyms being extremely pricey in Venice, walking/running is your only hope of shifting any gained weight. But the plus side is that there’s no such thing as cars in Venice so you’re bound to walk it off eventually (that was my logic and thought-process anyway!).
Where to socialise
There is no clubbing scene in Venice and the closest place to go clubbing is in Lido (which is a vaporetto ride away). Although this is something very important to some students as part of their university experience, for me, this was actually quite a nice change.
Instead of going to clubs, students go to bars for ‘Aperitivo’ (Italian snacks such as olives, bruschetta, etc.) and the most famous drink of all – an Aperol Spritz. An Aperol Spritz is literally the epiphany of Venice, and is extremely popular across all parts of Northern Italy.
When I first arrived, almost everyone around me had one in their hands so I knew I needed to follow the trend. It’s a bright orange alcoholic drink made up of Aperol, Prosecco and soda water, and usually comes with an olive and slice of orange too. Although I found it quite bitter at first, I am now hooked. Plus, it’s probably frowned upon if you don’t like Spritz (I’m not even joking) so keep trying it until you love it!! The cost ranges between €2.50-€5 (dependent on the bar) which is why it is so popular among students because it’s so cheap.
On weekends, if I wasn’t studying, I tried my best to see a new part of the city, whether this was a museum, a different district or even a different island! Venice has so much history and culture, and you’re able to experience this just by walking down a different alley-way and getting lost. Even though I feel like I know Venice like the back of my hand now, I still probably haven’t seen all of it because there’s just so much to discover.
Before I left England, I signed up and got myself a Thomas Cook Cash Passport, which is essentially a prepaid, reloadable, chip and pin card that allows you to convert pounds into another currency at the going rate. I felt this card was really useful as it meant I didn’t need to open an Italian bank account and could just draw out euros from an ATM when ever I needed it.
When I arrived in September (2016), the exchange rate was awful as it was just a few months after Britain decided to leave the EU. I think the exchange rate was as low as €1.09 to the pound for that month! This is something I really tried to keep track of and when it was a good week (e.g. if the exchange rate was €1.15 to the pound), I tried to transfer as many euros onto my Thomas Cook card as I could!
I paid rent with this card and also used it in supermarkets from time to time however usually I would just carry euros in my purse. At first, it took a while to get used to euros as price tags immediately looked more expensive!
Georgia is a student at the ICMA Centre studying BSc Finance and Management. The degree is a unique three year experience, where students spend their second year at Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice. As the first student from Reading to have completed this part of the programme, we’ve got Georgia to share her experiences during her year in Venice.