To call Italy from the United States, dial the international prefix, 011; then Italy's country code, 39; and then the city code (for example, 06 for Rome and 055 for Florence), which is now built into every number. Then dial the actual phone number.
A local phone call in Italy costs around .10€ (15¢). Public phones accept coins, precharged phone cards (scheda or carta telefonica), or both. You can buy a carta telefonica at any tabacchi (tobacconists; look for a white T on a brown background) in increments of 5€ ($7.25), 10€ ($15), and 20€ ($29). To make a call, pick up the receiver and insert .10€ (15¢) or your card (break off the corner first). Most phones have a digital display to tell you how much money you inserted (or how much is left). Dial the number, and don't forget to take the card with you.
To call from one city code to another, dial the city code, complete with initial 0, and then dial the number. (Numbers in Italy range from four to eight digits. Even when you're calling within the same city, you must dial that city's area code -- including the zero. A Roman calling another Rome number must dial 06 before the local number.)
To dial direct internationally, dial 00 and then the country code, the area code, and the number. Country codes are as follows: the United States and Canada, 1; the United Kingdom, 44; Ireland, 353; Australia, 61; New Zealand, 64. Make international calls from a public phone, if possible, because hotels charge inflated rates for direct dial -- but bring plenty of schede (change). A reduced rate is applied from 11pm to 8am on Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday. Direct-dial calls from the United States to Italy are much cheaper, so arrange for whomever to call you at your hotel.
Italy has recently introduced a series of international phone cards (scheda telefonica internazionale) for calling overseas. They come in increments of 50, 100, 200, and 400 unita (units), and they're available at tabacchi and bars. Each unita is worth .15€ (20¢) of phone time; it costs 5 unita (.75€/$1.10) per minute to call within Europe or to the United States or Canada, and 12 unita (1.55€/$2.25) per minute to call Australia or New Zealand. You don't insert this card into the phone; merely dial tel. 1740 and then *2 (star 2) for instructions in English, when prompted.
To call the free national telephone information (in Italian) in Italy, dial tel. 12. International information is available at tel. 176 but costs .60€ (90¢) a shot.
To make collect or calling-card calls, drop in .10€ (15¢) or insert your card and dial one of the numbers here; an American operator will come on to assist you (because Italy has yet to discover the joys of the touch-tone phone). The following calling-card numbers work all over Italy: AT&T tel. 172-1011, MCI tel. 172-1022, and Sprint tel. 172-1877. To make collect calls to a country besides the United States, dial tel. 170 (.50€/75¢), and practice your Italian counting in order to relay the number to the Italian operator. Tell him or her that you want it a carico del destinatario (charged to the destination, or collect).
Because you can't count on all Italian phones having touch-tone service, you might not be able to access your voice mail or answering machine from Italy.
The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout Europe. If your cellphone is on a GSM system and you have a world-capable multiband phone, just call your wireless operator and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. Per-minute charges are high -- usually $1 to $1.50 in western Europe.
For many, renting a phone is a good idea. While you can rent a phone from any number of overseas sites, including kiosks at airports and at car-rental agencies, we suggest renting the phone before you leave home. North Americans can rent one before leaving home from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1616 or 905/272-5665; www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also, for free, advise you on whether your existing phone will work overseas.
Buying a phone can be economically attractive, as many nations have cheap prepaid phone systems. Once you arrive at your destination, stop by a local cellphone shop and get the cheapest package; you'll probably pay less than $100 for a phone and a starter calling card. Local calls may be as low as 10¢ per minute, and in many countries incoming calls are free.
Hey, Google, Did You Get My Text Message? -- It's bound to happen: The day you leave this guidebook back at the hotel for an unencumbered stroll through the Piazza de Spagna, you'll forget the address of the lunch spot you had earmarked. If you're traveling with a mobile device, send a text message to tel. 46645 (GOOGL) for a lightning-fast response. For instance, type "la terrazza rome" and within 10 seconds you'll receive a text message with the address and phone number. This nifty trick works in a range of search categories: Look up weather ("weather florence"), language translations ("translate goodbye in italian"), currency conversions ("10 eu in usd"), movie times ("harry potter 40121"), and more. If your search results are off, be more specific ("giorgio armani shopping milan"). For more tips and search options, see www.google.com/intl/en_us/mobile/sms/. Regular text message charges apply.
Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
If you have Web access while traveling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice-Over Internet protocol, or VOIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allows you to make free international calls if you use their services from your laptop or in a cybercafe. The people you're calling must also use the service for it to work; check the sites for details.
Without Your Computer -- To find cybercafes in your destination check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com.
Most major airports have Internet kiosks that provide basic Web access for a per-minute fee that's usually higher than cybercafe prices.
With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, and retailers are going Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), becoming "hotspots" that offer free high-speed Wi-Fi access or charge a small fee for usage. To find public Wi-Fi hotspots at your destination, go to www.jiwire.com.
For dial-up access, most business-class hotels throughout Europe offer dataports for laptop modems.
Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.