Keeping in Touch in Italy

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No matter where you are in the world, you’ll always want to keep in touch with the people back home. If not to catch up on how everyone is then at least to gloat about all the amazing experiences you’re having.  

In Italy, family is the centre of life, whether that be the one you were born with or the one you’ve made in the years since then.
For that reason, Italians demand an open and varied communication network that makes keeping in touch in Italy really easy.

Landline telephones in Italy

Telephone representing keeping in touch in Italy
Telecom Italia is the undisputed king of Italian telecommunications. The  former state-owned company once enjoyed an absolute monopoly in the market, and while it now has some hard-fought competition, it’s still very strong.
If you want reliability then go with Telecom Italia. The company owns almost all the hardware in the country, so if something goes wrong with your landline, you’ll probably get help sooner than if you were with anyone else.
That said, Telecom is not always the best or cheapest provider. This depends on where you are in Italy. Regional areas are not as well serviced as the cities and that can limit your choice and impact your bill. So can the type, frequency and duration of the calls you make.

Like anywhere in the world, it’s important to do your homework. On, it’s possible to compare rates for your location and specific phone needs. If you know someone who speaks Italian, ask them 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 Infostrada, BT Italy, Tiscali and Uno, but these don’t all offer English services.

Finally, when choosing a landline it’s important to consider whether you also need Internet or a mobile phone. In Italy, it pays to get all your telecommunications needs in one place. Every company offers all-in-one bundles that can mean big savings. Some even have special packages for customers who make frequent international calls.

Installing a landline in Italy

Most companies have two landline plans to choose from: 
  • The fixed-rate plan (piano): A fixed rate per minute at all times of the day. With this plan, you only pay for the calls you make.
  • All-included rate plan (forfeit): A standing charge each month . With this plan, you pay the same amount every month as long as you don’t exceed the set amount of minutes.
Once you’ve made your decision, setting up a landline in Italy is surprisingly easy. Your chosen company will take care of all the details. All you have to do is go into one of their stores. Just remember to have your tax number (codice fiscale) and your address with you at the time.

Having a landline in Italy is no more or less expensive than anywhere else in Europe. The average local call will cost around 0.15 euro per minute. There are peak and off-peak call times, but this will depend on the rate plan you’re on.

If making international calls, you don’t want to be using a landline. You’re much better off either buying a phone card or using an internet call service like Skype.

Mobile phones in Italy

There are some familiar names in the Italian mobile phone market, including Vodafone, which has a comprehensive English website, and 3, or as the locals call it, tre. The other two major players are Wind and, surprise, surprise, TIM or Telecom Italia. 

While you can use your existing mobile phone in Italy, you will need to buy a new SIM card. To get your hands on one of those you’ll need:   
  • your identity documents,
  • an Italian address, and
  • a tax number (codice fiscale)
Expats can choose from a fixed contract (abbonamento) or pre-paid credit (ricaricabile), both of which are available from all providers.

For prepaid, recharge vouchers (richariche) are available at supermarkets, tabaccheria, phone shops, over the phone and online.

Remember to have a good look at all the packages on offer. Almost all the service providers will have packages with unlimited phone calls, Internet usage or messaging. TIM even has a special package for people who want to make a lot of international calls on their mobile phone.

Internet connectivity in Italy

Internet url representing internet in Italy
Italy has a pretty reliable and fast Internet network. Most of the country is serviced by ADSL broadband, which costs between 19,95 euros and 40 euros per month, with speeds ranging from 640 Kbps to 20 Mbps, depending on the company.

Skype is the expat’s saviour when it comes to calling home from Italy. If your loved ones are internet savvy, they can download the program and chat to you for free. While if you buy Skype credit, you can call any landline or mobile anywhere in the world for a very cheap rate.

If you don’t want Skype, you can try Google Talk, VoxOx or VBuzzer. They all work equally well in Italy and offer varying rates for PC-to-phone calls.

Obviously, the quality of a call when using these programs will depend on your Internet speed.

Once again, Telecom Italia (under the brand name Alice) rules the roost here. Tiscali, FastWeb and Wind are other choices for broadband in Italy.

If in a remote area, dial-up or ISDN (faster than dial-up, but still fairly slow) from Alice and other smaller local providers is generally available.

One of the biggest benefits to Italian Internet is that there are no download limits, so you can surf and chat for as long as you like without worrying about your speed being reduced.

If you don’t want to get Internet at home, Internet cafés in Italy are widely available, but they’re not all reasonably priced, so shop around.

Other ways to stay in touch in Italy

There are no major censorship issues in Italy, with censorship limited to some gambling, pornography and peer-to-peer sites. There has been some recent uproar over the government’s attempt to gag bloggers, but this has largely been focused on those writing anarchistic entries in Italian and reaching huge audiences.

All the social networking sites are available, as are all the smart phone chat apps like Blackberry Messenger and Apple Facetime.

Postal services in Italy

For more traditional forms of communication, the Italian postal service is typically lackadaisical. Expats should avoid sending valuable items by normal post. Italian customs can be nonchalant, but if they do decide to stop your package, you may never see it again.

When posting a letter in Italy, the correct format is:
John Smith
Via Dolce Vita, 6
00010 Roma (RM)

English media in Italy

All the major English and American newspapers and magazines are available in most good city newsagents (giornalaio). You can also pick them up at English bookstores. English online news publications are also widely available in Italy.

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