Learn all about TV and radio stations in Italy and discover all the best things to watch and listen to in your new country.
Watching TV or listening to the radio in Italian can bring a glimpse of a new culture and teach you a new language. You can also keep up with the latest news and follow any political developments. Although Italian television can be thoroughly entertaining, if you’re missing home, you might want to watch content in your native language, too. Thankfully, Italy has many national and international channels to choose from, and it’s simply a matter of knowing where to find them.
To help you find what you are looking for, read on to learn the best tips and tricks for TV and radio in Italy, including:
- Watching TV in Italy
- Terrestrial TV in Italy
- Italian satellite and cable TV
- Streaming services in Italy
- Listening to Italian radio
- Useful resources
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Watching TV in Italy
Italian television went digital in 2012, which means that those with older television models need a decoder to access the channels, although most modern televisions already have it built in. The good news is that Italy is moving to a higher quality TV (in Italian), providing a better watching experience, but you might need an external decoder (in Italian) if your television is a few years old. The decoders are also known as DTT decoders or set-top boxes and are widely available on the Italian market and at big stores, such as MediaWorld.
According to Confindustria Radio Televisioni (CRTV, link in Italian), the association of Italian radio and television broadcasters, there are over 200 free channels available to watch, although an annual license is required to watch TV in Italy to support the national channels. Some of these free channels include Rai 2, Canale 5, and Real Time. If you are a cinema or football aficionado, you might need to pay for a TV subscription service such as Sky, although big football tournaments such as the men’s World Cup are free on Rai 1.
Getting an Italian TV license
Like many other European countries, Italy requires its residents to pay a TV license to help subsidize the multiple public television stations such as Rai 2. Anyone who owns a TV or screen where you can watch TV needs to pay this license, Canone Rai. You only need one license per household, so flatmates and families don’t have to worry about paying this individually. However, if you run a business, you will need a separate license fee (in Italian).
The cost increases yearly, and in 2022 it was around €90 per year. Paying Canone Rai is quite straightforward – the license is directly included in the electricity bill from January to October. Therefore, you pay the cost over several months rather than in a lump sum.
Terrestrial TV in Italy
There is no shortage of TV channels available in Italy. More than 140 of them are terrestrial channels and can be easily accessed through any modern TV or using a simple set-top box.
National Italian TV channels
The most popular television channels belong to a few national TV groups. Some of these include:
- RAI – this public broadcaster accounts for over 37% (PDF in Italian) of the prime-time audience. Some popular channels include Rai 1 to 5, which are primarily focused on entertainment, Rai News 24, and Rai Sport.
- Mediaset – this private group is a close second in popularity, with over 35% of the prime-time audience. Mediaset provides entertainment for all age groups, with Italia 1 primarily aimed at younger people featuring animated and international TV shows, and Canale 5 is widely known for its reality TV shows.
- Discovery Italia – accounting for 6% of the audience, this Warner Bros. local subsidiary brings niche channels to Italy for every taste. This includes Real Time for reality TV, Cartoon Network, and Eurosport.
When watching the news in Italy, it is good to be aware of biases. For example, the Gasparri law allows the Italian government to have a say in the direction of the RAI group. On the other hand, while Mediaset is unaffiliated with the government, its founder is former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose family remains involved in the holding company.
Regional TV channels in Italy
You can also find a wide offer of regional channels which bring you news and information relevant to your Italian city or region, and these remain popular with thousands of viewers monthly. To make local content more accessible, the national channel Rai 3 also has a regional edition (in Italian). You can find it on channels 801–823 of the DTT, depending on the region of your residence. For example, people in Milan can access it on 804, Florence on 812, and Rome on 815. Some other well-known regional channels are Telenuovo in Veneto, Antennatre in Lombardy, and Videolina in Sardinia.
International TV channels in Italy
If you are looking for international TV channels, you might need satellite access, such as Tivùsat (in Italian) and Astra (in German). These are both freely accessible as long as you own a satellite dish. Tivùsat provides access to many channels, such as Euronews in English, France 24 in French, and Al Jazeera in Arabic.
The Astra satellites also reach a variety of global channels like the well-known CNN, but also German and French national broadcasts, including TF1 and ZDF. For those who don’t mind paying a subscription, the premium satellite service Sky Italia (in Italian) is a good alternative.
English-language TV channels in Italy
There are multiple ways to access English-language TV channels in Italy. Some of these include:
- BBC World News – this British news channel is accessible through Tivùsat, Astra, and Sky Italia.
- Al Jazeera – this Qatari channel can also be accessed through all three satellite services.
- CNN – this American news channel can only be accessed through Sky Italia and Astra satellites.
If you want to watch something other than the news in English, Sky Italia has TV shows in the original English-language versions. For example, Sky Atlantic provides original English-language content with Italian subtitles. It’s also possible to switch the language on regular channels to English, both on satellite and on various DTT channels like Rete 4 or Canale 5.
Italian satellite and cable TV
If you just arrived in Italy and want to access some international content, or if you can’t find what you want in the terrestrial channels, you might be interested in a TV subscription service. These will give you easy access to whichever latest Hollywood blockbuster or international sports competition you’re looking for.
When it comes to premium TV in Italy, 50% of users with paid TV subscriptions with cable and/or satellite have Sky Italia. One way to subscribe to Sky Italia is to get a satellite dish and a Sky TV package (in Italian). The packages include different channels to cater to cinema and sports lovers. Their prices range from €30 to €45 per month.
If you don’t have a satellite dish and aren’t sure how to set it up, you can still get Sky TV through the internet with a Sky Q box for an extra €9 per month. Be careful to check beforehand that your internet is fast enough for this service.
Multiple broadband providers also offer TV with their internet subscription. Some of these packages include:
- TIMVISION – provided by TIM, costs a minimum of €6.99/month on top of your Internet subscription. You can also group it with streaming subscriptions like Disney+ or Netflix.
- Vodafone TV – provided by Vodafone, costs a minimum of €12/month on top of your Internet package and includes access to the Sky Original production shows.
- WINDTRE Super Fibra – gives you fiber internet and Netflix access for €33.99/month.
Streaming services in Italy
The choice for content doesn’t end with terrestrial and satellite, as online services are now widely available in Italy. National Italian channels offer streaming services on mobile for free, although you cannot access them outside of the country.
Some examples include RaiPlay and Mediaset Infinity. These allow you to watch in real-time and on-demand, so you can binge a show on mobile internet or smartphone app. Being able to watch on-demand and on the go means you’ll never miss your favorite show again.
Similarly to other European countries, Italy also has access to several popular international streaming services, such as:
Getting a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming increasingly popular with both expats and locals. They give you more privacy when browsing online and security when using public Wi-Fi across the world. While privacy is the main benefit of using a VPN, it can also provide access to different online content and allow you to access websites and streaming platforms from your homeland.
Some popular VPNs in Italy include:
Listening to Italian radio
If you like to listen to the news or the latest Italian pop song to keep your blood pumping during your commute, you can turn on the radio and tune in to one of the many Italian radio stations. Similarly to television, the Rai group operates the majority of public stations. On the other hand, the other giant broadcaster Mediaset is also a major player within the privately-operated stations, with the fifth-most listened-to radio station in 2018.
Most radio frequencies in Italy are on the FM band, but nowadays, you can also access them via the internet, a phone app, or even your TV. For example, you can listen to Rai Radio 1 online or through the RaiPlay app, while you can listen to RTL 102.5 on channel 36 of the DTT. Some other popular Italian national stations are:
- Radio Italia
- RDS (Radio Dimensione Suono)
- Radio Kiss Kiss
- Radio Deejay
There are also many local radio stations available throughout the country. These can give you more relevant news and, most importantly, traffic status when you’re on the move.
- Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AGCOM) – the regulatory body for Italian communication industries
- Canone Rai – provides more information about the Italian TV license
- Confindustria Radio Televisioni (CRTV) – the association for radio and TV broadcasters in Italy