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TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

To become an Italian citizen, you may need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

An Italian flag in Italy
Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

From being able to confidently order a gelato to total fluency, there’s a huge variation in the levels of Italian attained by foreigners in Italy.

But there are certain bureaucratic processes that require formal qualifications. When applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residency, you must prove proficiency in the Italian language at B1 level or higher.

EXPLAINED: The three ways to apply for Italian citizenship

There’s no language requirement when applying for citizenship via the ancestry route – although this could change in future under a proposed new law.

In most cases, applying for a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno) involves no formal language requirement, though for permanent residency permits some non-EU nationals need to sit a language test at the lower A2 level. Read more about that here.

This article relates solely to the language testing part of obtaining citizenship; the application process has various other requirements depending on which route you take. Read more about these here.

So what does B1 mean?

A B1 level certification is a lower intermediate level and means you are proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).

This level of proficiency allows you to “communicate in most situations that arise while travelling” and to understand topics “regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

So there’s no need to write with perfect grammar, have an extensive vocabulary, or be able to recite Dante’s Inferno in the original language – but people at this level should be able to make themselves understood in most everyday situations.

QUIZ: Test your Italian language level on the A1 to C2 scale

It should also be enough to follow most conversations and TV shows or get the gist of what’s in Italian newspapers.

If you’ve lived in Italy for a while, there’s a good chance you’re already at this level or close to it. After all, a decent grasp of Italian really is necessary for everyday life in the country outside of the main city centres and tourist hotspots.

If not, it might be time to sign up for Italian language classes – if you haven’t already. 

If you want to check, there are numerous Italian language level tests available online. You can read more about testing your Italian language level here.

What does the B1 language test involve?

The exact structure of the test varies between the four administered by educational institutions approved by the Italian Education Ministry or Foreign Ministry.

They are: The University of Siena for Foreigners (CILS); The University of Perugia for Foreigners (CELI); The Dante Alighieri Association (PLIDA); and The University of Rome 3 (CERT)

These tests can be taken at language schools around Italy and abroad. If your language school advertises B1 testing for citizenship, make sure they are accredited by one of the above institutions.

The structure of the test also differs depending on whether you’re taking the B1 cittadinanza exam or a regular B1 level Italian language certification.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy’s language test for citizenship

Could you pass an Italian language test at B1 level? Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Both tests involve answering similar questions at the same level, but the B1 cittadinanza is essentially a shorter version which costs less to take. The downside is this certificate can only be used for your citizenship application and not for other purposes, such as for university applications.

And though it’s shorter, it may not actually be easier to pass; if you fail on one section you will have to retake the entire test (as opposed to just retaking that section under the standard B1 level tests listed above.)

If you’re fairly confident of passing and don’t need it for anything else, it may be the more convenient option.

In any case, the test will involve at least four sections; a written test, reading tests, listening test and an oral test where you have a conversation with an examiner.


For this section you will have to listen to two recordings; one of a conversation, and another of a short monologue.

The format varies and each section will be played at least twice.

Here is a sample question from a past paper, after the candidates had listened to a short clip of someone talking about the southern region of Puglia – click here for the audio and transcription.

Ascolta il testo. Poi leggi le informazioni. Scegli le informazioni presenti nel testo (3 per testo).

A) Il programma radiofonico riguarda la cucina tradizionale italiana.
B) Gli ascoltatori partecipano a un quiz e possono vincere un viaggio.
C) La regione Puglia ha ricevuto un importante premio.
D) Questa estate in Puglia è diminuito il numero dei turisti.
E) In Puglia ci sono paesi tranquilli dove ci si può rilassare.
F) La Puglia offre un’ampia scelta di sistemazioni turistiche.

Reading and grammar

This section involves reading two pieces of text, testing your reading comprehension and grammatical knowledge.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, relating to a report about new public services from the regional government in Tuscany.

A) La Regione Toscana vuole migliorare i servizi online per i cittadini e i turisti.
B) Attraverso un numero verde i cittadini possono segnalare difficoltà, chiedere informazioni, dare consigli sui trasporti pubblici.
C) L’attivazione del numero verde ha lo scopo di limitare i danni ai viaggiatori nell’ambito del trasporto locale.
D) Il numero verde 800-570530 non è attivo il sabato e la domenica.
E) Se il numero verde riceve una telefonata di protesta su un servizio deve informare la ditta responsabile di quel servizio.

See the text and further questions here.


For the writing test, you’ll need to choose between two prompts and then write 80-120 words.

In this example, you’re asked to write to your landlord to tell them you’re moving out because you have problems with the neighbours.

You’re asked to explain the problem and ask what you need to do, and whether you need to pay rent for the next few months.

Hai dei problemi con i vicini e hai deciso di cambiare casa. Scrivi un messaggio al proprietario del tuo appartamento per chiedere cosa è necessario fare. Spiega perché vuoi trasferirti e chiedi se devi pagare l’affitto dei prossimi mesi.

Do you understand the prompt? Now you need to prove your ability to get the double letters and accents in the right place when writing.


The speaking section is in two parts.

The examiner will ask you to begin by introducing yourself and talking about your work, family or hobbies – the examiner will then ask you some questions about yourself.

It should be a discussion, with the examiner asking questions and giving other responses which you are expected to understand. This part will last 6-7 minutes.

Then you’ll be given a choice of several topics to talk about for 7-8 minutes. These topics can be almost anything; you won’t see exactly what they are in advance, but the examiner should give you some time to read through the options and may help you decide which one to choose.

Your answer should include certain grammar points and involve giving your opinion. Again, the examiner will prompt you with questions and it should become a discussion.

Some examples of topics you may be asked to talk about:

    • Preferisci vivere in città o in campagna? Quali sono i vantaggi e gli svantaggi?
    • Quali sono gli aspetti della cultura italiana che senti più lontani rispetto alla tua cultura?
    • L’assistenza sanitaria in Italia e nel tuo Paese: somiglianze e differenze.
    • Quali documenti ti servono per ottenere la cittadinanza italiana? Quali sono le procedure?


    • Do you prefer to live in the city or in the countryside? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
    • What are the aspects of Italian culture that you feel are most distant from your culture?
    • Healthcare in Italy and in your country: similarities and differences.
    • What documents do you need to obtain Italian citizenship? What are the procedures?

Could you keep a simple conversation going on these topics in Italian? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

These sample questions are from the CILS B1 cittadinanza exam – see more details on the university’s website here. Exam questions will vary and the structure of exams from other institutions may differ.

READ ALSO: Which italian verb tenses are the most useful?

It usually costs €100 to sit the B1 cittadinanza exam, though some schools also add a default charge for a preparatory course, whether you want to take it or not.

Even if you already have a higher level of Italian, exam preparation courses could be useful as they explain the exam structure and likely content.

Find out more about taking the exam in a separate article here.

Speak to your Questura or consulate, or see the Interior Ministry’s website (in Italian), for the latest information on the process and requirements when applying for Italian citizenship.

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For members


How long do Brits in Italy have to wait to apply for citizenship via residency?

British nationals who were resident in Italy before the end of 2021 have kept some pre-Brexit rights. But does this extend to applications for citizenship through residency?

How long do Brits in Italy have to wait to apply for citizenship via residency?

Question: “I have been able to remain resident in Italy under the post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. But does that make any difference to our status when it comes to Italian citizenship applications via residency? How long do we have to wait before applying if we moved here before Brexit – does the EU or non-EU timeframe apply?”

UK nationals living abroad have faced years of uncertainty and confusion about how Britain’s exit from the European Union would affect their rights and status in their adopted countries and how these changes would affect their long-held plans for life abroad.

At this point, the major questions have been resolved: British nationals who moved to Italy before December 31st 2020 have their residency rights protected under article 50 of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), and, for the many situations in which Italian bureaucracy demands all third-country nationals must produce a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno), we have the post-Brexit carta di soggiorno to fill the gap.

But there are some situations in which the rules may remain unclear, and the timeframe for eligibility for Italian citizenship via residency is one of them.

READ ALSO: The three ways to apply for Italian citizenship

EU nationals can apply for citizenship via the naturalisation route after just four years of legal residency in Italy, while non-EU nationals must wait a decade before they become eligible to apply. 

Sadly for anyone who moved to Italy as an EU national before later losing that status, the terms of the WA don’t make a difference in this scenario.

“Unfortunately, any British citizens applying for Italian citizenship post Brexit need to demonstrate 10 years of legal residence and not 4 years as before (as EU nationals),” confirms citizenship lawyer Aleksandra Broom at the Rome-based firm Oliver & Partners.

As The Local reported back in 2020, British nationals became subject to the non-EU requirements for citizenship applications as of the Brexit deadline.

This was due to the fact that citizenship rules are set by each national government and were therefore not subject to the provisions under the EU-wide WA.

Is there a quicker way to apply for Italian citizenship?

While the minimum waiting period for most non-EU nationals hoping to apply for citizenship by naturalisation is ten years, there are some limited exceptions to this rule, including that:

  • Residents who have an Italian parent or grandparent can cut the waiting time to three years.
  • People born in Italy to foreign parents can apply after three years’ legal residency as an adult.

Italy’s laws around naturalisation are complex and eligibility depends on your personal circumstances, so if you think one of these exceptions may apply to you it’s advisable to consult a legal professional.

READ ALSO: What are the benefits of having Italian citizenship vs residency?

Some people may find they are instead eligible for Italian citizenship via marriage, which you can currently apply for after two years of legal residency in Italy; or citizenship via ancestry, without necessarily having lived in Italy at all. Find out more about these options in this separate article.

If other routes aren’t open to you, and your only option is to wait ten years before applying for citizenship via residency, prepare in advance and ensure you’ve got your paperwork ready to go when the time comes: many who apply for Italian citizenship find that gathering the required documentation – including passing a language test – can take several months, or longer, depending on how much time you’re able to devote to the process.

Once you’ve applied, the Italian government has up to three years to approve or deny your request. However, citizenship experts report that there have been cases in which it took as little as one year.

See more information in The Local’s Italian citizenship section.

Do you have a question we may be able to answer? Get in touch and let us know.