Access to the Internet
By law, all public internet access points must record the websites visited by customers, and even the customer’s ID: Expect to be denied access if you cannot provide ID. Hotels providing internet access are not required to record IDs if the connection is provided in the guest’s room, but if the connection is provided in the main public lobby, then IDs are required.
Publicly accessible wireless access without user identification is illegal. Open Wi-Fi hotspots (e.g. those you would expect to find in a shopping centre or café) all have some form of registration (usually unique).
Some activities on the internet are illegal. Apart from the obvious cases (child pornography, trafficking in illegal products such as drugs and weapons), copyright infringement is technically illegal, even if no profit is made. However, enforcement of copyright laws against P2P users is lax, and warning letters from providers are unheard of, unless you use a university’s WiFi. Some websites (mainly related to online gambling and copyrighted material) have been blocked in Italy following court decisions.
The mobile market in Italy developed long before that of the United States or other countries (as early as 1993), so reception is guaranteed throughout the country, even off the coast, in the highest mountains and in the smallest villages. 3G or HDSPA internet connections are available from all major Italian operators. Be careful though, internet packages are generally much more expensive than in other European countries.
In addition, contracts often contain inconspicuous usage limits, such as a package advertised as 3 GB per month but with a daily limit of 100 MB.
Traders often do not mention these restrictions and are often themselves unaware that they exist, so it is advisable to check on the supplier’s website.
Also remember that internet tariffs generally only include connectivity if they are covered by a specific operator. When roaming, internet costs can be very high. The coverage of the main operators is very extensive, but it would be advisable to check whether your operator covers your area.
Landline and mobile phone systems are available throughout Italy.
Landline telephone numbers used to have separate area codes (prefixes) and local numbers. In the 1990s, the numbers were unified and today, when you call an Italian phone, you must always dial the full number. For example, numbers for Rome start with 06, even if you are calling from Rome. All landline numbers start with 0. Mobile phone numbers start with 3. Numbers that start with 89 are high-priced services. If you don’t know someone’s phone number, you can dial various recently established phone services, the most common are 1240, 892424, 892892, but most of them have high rates.
To call abroad from Italy, dial 00 + country code + area code. The syntax of the local part depends on the country called.
To call Italy from abroad, dial the international dialling code + 39 + the area code. Note that when calling an Italian landline, unlike calls to most countries, you do not have to skip the initial zero of the local part.
In case of emergency, call the appropriate number from the list below. These calls are usually free of charge. Calls to 112, 113, 115, 118 can be made free of charge from public telephones without inserting coins. 112 (the standard emergency number in the GSM specification) can be dialled free of charge from any mobile phone (even if your credit is empty or if you are in an area covered by another operator).
- Emergency number 112 Carabinieri – general emergency
- 113 Police emergency number – general emergency
- 114 Blue Phone – emergency number for children (especially in case of various forms of violence)
- 115 Fire brigade emergency number
- 117 Guardia di Finanza – for customs, trade and tax matters
- 118 Emergency health number – use this number if you need an ambulance, otherwise ask for the number of the local Guardia Medica who will send a doctor to you.
- 1515 State Forestry Department
- 1518 Traffic information
- 1530 Coast Guard
- 803116 A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club)This service provides assistance in case of car breakdown (if you have a rental car, call the number given there). This is a service offered to ACI subscribers or other automobile clubs associated with ARC Europe. If you are not affiliated with any of them, you will have to pay a fee (about 80 euros).
Always carry a piece of paper with the address and number of your embassy.
If you are in an emergency situation and do not know who to call, dial 112 or 113 (outside major cities it is better to dial 113 for English-speaking operators).
There are no more phone boxes in Italy, mobile phones have long since disappeared and there are only a few of them left in train stations and airports. Moreover, some of these payphones only work with coins, some with phone cards and only a few with coins and phone cards. Only a limited number of payphones (at larger airports) accept credit cards directly. Many companies change their customer service numbers to a flat rate number (area code 199). The local rate applies to these numbers, regardless of where they are called from.
According to national regulations, hotels are not allowed to charge extra for calls made from the hotel (as the operator service must already be included in the room rate), but to be sure, you should ask beforehand.
Calls between fixed lines are charged at the local rate or the national rate, depending on the area code of the originating and destination zones; if both are the same, the call is charged at the local rate. Note that local calls are not free of charge.
Italians use mobile phones a lot, though not excessively. The main networks are TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile, part of Telecom Italia, formerly state-controlled), Vodafone, Wind and 3 (UMTS mobile phones only).
The best thing to do is to buy a prepaid SIM card (from 10 euros) and a cheap mobile phone (from 19 euros) to put it in (if you don’t already have a mobile phone you can use). This is much more convenient.
Mobile phones from Korea, Japan and North America do not work in Italy unless they are tri-band.
Almost all of Italy is covered by GSM, GPRS and UMTS/HDSPA. To buy a SIM card, you need to show a valid ID, e.g. a passport or other official ID. If you do not already have one, you will also need to obtain a Fiscal Codice (a tax identification number) – or the vendor can generate one for you from your ID. Subscription mobile phone accounts are subject to government tax, which prepaid SIM cards are not. Hotels sometimes have mobile phones that guests can borrow or rent.
The cost of calls varies greatly depending on time, location, point of departure and point of arrival. Each provider offers a complex range of tariffs and it is virtually impossible to make reliable cost estimates. The cost of calls differs significantly if you are calling a landline or mobile phone. Generally, there is also a difference in cost for incoming calls from abroad. If you have a choice, a call to a landline can be as much as 40% cheaper than a call to a mobile phone.
If possible, wait until you leave Italy before sending postcards, greeting cards and other items to friends and family back home. Italian post is notoriously slow, expensive and unreliable. In towns close to the borders with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia, it may be better to cross the border to send mail – postcards from Slovenia to the UK take just two days, compared to more than a week if sent across the border in Trieste, Italy.
The mailboxes are red and can be found very easily.
There are post offices in every town and most villages – look for the PT symbol. When you enter the post office, you usually have to pull a ticket and wait for your number to appear on the screen when it is your turn. There are different tickets for different services, but to post a parcel, look for the yellow icon with an envelope symbol. Most post offices close around 1 or 2 pm and only one central post office in most cities will reopen in the late afternoon.