Keeping in Touch in Italy
Expats in Italy will be able to keep in touch with people back home easily and efficiently.
Family is at the centre of life in Italy, whether it is the one a person was born into or the one expats make during their stay in the country. For that reason, Italians demand an open and varied communication network that makes keeping in touch in Italy easy.
Internet in Italy
While Italy's Internet is generally reliable, some expats may find it a bit on the slow side as its speed lags slightly behind that of its European neighbours. However, expats shouldn't be too limited by this and will still be able to Skype and watch videos with ease. One of the biggest benefits to Italian Internet is that there are no download limits, so expats can surf and chat for as long as they like without worrying about their speed being reduced.
Skype is the expat’s saviour when it comes to calling home from Italy. Expats with Internet-savvy loved ones can chat free, while Skype credit can be purchased to call any landline or mobile phone anywhere in the world at very cheap rates.
Telecom Italia (under the brand name Alice) is the country's top Internet service provider, while BT Italia, Tiscali, FastWeb and Wind are other choices for broadband in Italy.
There are Internet cafés and WiFi hotspots scattered around Italy but expats may be surprised to find that there aren't as many public Internet facilities as one might expect. This is due to the strict anti-terrorism laws which regulate the sector – WiFi hotspots, for instance, can only be established with the official permission of the police. In addition, members of the public wishing to make use of Internet cafés must be able to produce a valid identification card.
There are no major censorship issues in Italy, with censorship limited to some gambling, pornography and peer-to-peer sites. There has been controversy in the past over government attempts to gag bloggers, but this has largely been focused on Italian anarchist writers reaching huge audiences.
Mobile phones in Italy
The top providers in the Italian mobile phone market are TIM (owned by Telecom Italia), Vodafone and Wind.
Some expats will be able to use their current mobile phone in Italy, although network-locked phones will first need to be unlocked. Expats will need a tax number (codice fiscale) to obtain an Italian SIM card, as well as proof of residence and identification. All providers offer a choice between a fixed, postpaid contract (abbonamento) or prepaid credit (ricaricabile) For topping up on prepaid plans, recharge vouchers (richariche) are available at supermarkets, tobacco shops, bars, ATMs, over the phone and online.
Have a good look at all the packages on offer. Most service providers have packages with unlimited phone calls, Internet usage or messaging. Some also have special packages for people who make a lot of international calls.
Landline telephones in Italy
Telecom Italia is the undisputed king of Italian telecommunications. The former state-owned company once enjoyed a monopoly on the market and while it now has some competition, it is still very strong and is a solid choice for expats who value reliability. The company owns almost all the hardware in the country, so if something goes wrong with the landline, a person would probably get help sooner than if they were with another provider.
That said, Telecom is not always the best or cheapest provider. This depends on where in Italy one goes. Regional areas are not as well serviced as the cities and that can limit a person’s choices and impact their bill.
Like anywhere in the world, it’s important to do one’s homework. If possible, ask someone who speaks Italian for help – phone companies are notoriously confusing. Otherwise, Telecom Italia does provide customer service and support in English.
Some of the other major players in the landline market in Italy are BT Italia, Infostrada and Tiscali.
Finally, when choosing a landline it’s important for new arrivals to consider whether they also need Internet, cable or mobile phone services as well. In Italy, it pays for people to get all their telecommunications needs in one place as every company offers all-in-one bundles that can mean big savings. Some even have special packages for customers who make frequent international calls.
Once a decision has been made, setting up a landline in Italy is easy, since the phone company takes care of all the details. All customers have to do is go to one of their stores with their tax number (codicefiscale), proof of address and identification.
Having a landline in Italy is comparable to the rest of Europe. There are peak and off-peak call times, but these depend on the specific plan.
When making international calls, expats will be better off either buying an international phone card or using an Internet call service like Skype than using a landline.
Postal services in Italy
The Italian postal service is typically lackadaisical and expats should avoid sending valuables by normal post. Italian customs can be nonchalant, but if they do decide to stop a package, it may never be seen again. Queues at post offices can be long as many people pay their monthly bills there.
English media in Italy
Major British and American newspapers and magazines are available in good city newsagents (giornalaio) and at English bookstores. Italian news publications in English are widely available online (Italica and The Local are both popular options) but are hard to come by in print.