Sanbapolis (or “Sanba” as everyone calls it) is the biggest student dorm at the University of Trento. It hosts more than 500 students and is a little bit outside of the city. If you’re lucky enough to get a spot here it’s overall a great choice and a relatively cheap place to live for students. However, you probably have a lot of unanswered questions before you commit. Unfortunately, neither Opera nor the University offers a ton of information, especially not in English. I lived in Sanba for a year and so did most of my friends so I am happy to share my first-hand experience.
What does Sanba look like?
Is Sanba worth it?
If you move into Sanba you should expect to pay around 330€ per month for a room (for some people with a scholarship it’s 220€). Most rooms are around 15m2. There are a few apartment-style rooms where you share your bedroom, but for the most part, the rooms are private and have an en-suite bathroom. You share a kitchen with your floor. Depending on which block you live in you might be sharing that kitchen with roughly 10 to 20 people. In blocks A and B you share with more people. The E and F blocks share with fewer people. You generally need to sign a contract for a year, but you can terminate it earlier. Sanba definitely has its problems, but overall it is definitely worth it. It can be really difficult to find an apartment in Trento, especially if you want a private room, expect to pay under 400€ per month, and plan to stay less than one year.
What’s the downside to living in Sanba?
Sanba definitely isn’t a paradise. There are lots of things to complain about.
First of all the kitchens are a mess. As I wrote earlier you may end up sharing a kitchen with one fridge and one stove with 19 other students. You won’t have much space to put your groceries (just one little Tupperware which is provided by Opera). At mealtimes, it’s packed and you are fighting for stove time to cook. Even though the kitchens are cleaned daily people leave dishes out. Dried food is often stored on top of shelves and people don’t throw it out even when they move out. Each floor needs to get their own pots, pans, plates, silverware etc. so you usually have a random assortment of poor-quality cookware. People often steal food from each other’s fridge spaces (I left a birthday cake in the fridge once and found it eaten the next morning!). The kitchens are generally infested with ants.
Secondly, it’s loud. People obviously are staying up late, listening to loud music and everything else you would expect from students. This can be a lot of fun at times. But when you have an exam coming up or just want to get some rest it can be really obnoxious.
Third, Opera conducts monthly room checks. This is a total invasion of privacy in my opinion. They come in and check not only that you haven’t destroyed the place but check for items they consider unallowed including banal things like heaters, coffee machines, etc. They also check the cleanliness of rooms and if you fail you might get fined. It feels like being 13 again with your mom looking over your shoulder and telling you to clean your room.
Sanba is also quite far from the center. It’s about a 40-minute walk to the Centro Storico and you should expect to do this way more often than you think when you’re moving in. There are 3 bus lines serving Sanba and a train station especially built to serve the dorm. However, these all stop running by 11 or so. Also, they are super unreliable: always delayed or even not running at all.
Finally, your experience in Sanba really depends on your floormates. You might get lucky and get really cool nice floormates who all get along. Alternatively, you might not. In my experience, it was a bit of both. I met a ton of really nice people in Sanba and got along with lots. However, it also sometimes felt like it was Italians vs. Internationals on my floor. We had fights about food being stolen and cleanliness.
What are blocks? Which is the best?
Sanba is divided into 5 blocks: A, B, C, E, and F. Do I know what happened to D? Nope, no idea. In the picture below you can see where each block is. The blocks were constructed in alphabetical order so the F block is the newest and A is the oldest. The E and F blocks are therefore the best ones. They have a completely different design than the older ones and they optimized a lot of things. You have more storage space. The design is much more modern and the kitchen sizes are smaller. The C block also isn’t bad these are private apartments. Having lived in B we always said E was called that because it’s extravagant and F stands for fancy.
What do I need to bring when moving in?
The rooms are fully furnished so you don’t need to bring much. While the kitchens technically aren’t stocked, generations of students have brought kitchenware and left them so if you’re fine with sharing you don’t really need anything in this department either. Opera also provides a bedding kit with a pillow and blanket as well as sheets. The blanket they give you is a scratchy wool blanket with an unfitted cover. I suggest you bring your own duvet and cover. Cleaning supplies, especially a vacuum is another thing I would recommend. If you need any specialty items in the kitchen like a blender, scale, sharp knives, etc. I also suggest you bring these. Otherwise you don’t need much.
I mentioned “Opera” already a few times. Opera is just the company that built and runs the dorms. I don’t know if they are a company, company since they seem to be publicly funded, but whatever they’re the guys in charge of the dorm. They are the enemy for all students living there.