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 .20€ (30¢). 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€ ($8), 10€ ($16), and 20€ ($32). 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.
Purchase international phone cards in Italy at a tabacchi (tobacco) store. These cards give you very good rates for calling long distance within Europe or to the US/Canada. On the back of the card you will find the access number to call and, under a "scratch off" area, your PIN for the card. You do not need to have the actual card with you -- just the access number and PIN -- so you can share one card if you want to.
Use these international phone cards from public phones, from your cellphone, or from your vacation rental or hotel phone. The prices vary and some cards have very cheap per minute rates.
The back of the card gives you local numbers to dial from several Italian cities, plus the numbers to use from public phones, cellphones, and for instructions in English.
When you are dialing a toll-free number, there is no extra charge for the call from a land line, public phone, or cellphone. But if you are calling from a cellphone, you do not get as good per minute rates using the card as you would from a land line.
To call the national or international telephone information (in Italian) in Italy, dial tel. 1254. It costs .40€ a call plus .10€ per 2 seconds.
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 (.31€), 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).
For calls to the United States, the U.K., or Canada, there is a surcharge of .18€ per minute.
The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobiles), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use. In general, reception is good. In Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM, and all Europeans and most Australians use GSM. Per-minute charges are usually .10€ to .40€ per minute.
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 or 703/222-7161; 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 62€ ($100) for a phone and a starter calling card. Local calls may be as low as .05€ (10¢) per minute, and in E.U. countries incoming calls are free.
Internet & E-Mail
With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, cafes, and retailers are signing on as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) "hot spots." Mac owners have their own networking technology: Apple AirPort. T-Mobile Hotspot (http://content.hotspot.t-mobile.com/AssetProcess.asp?asset=com.default.main.001) serves up wireless connections at coffee shops nationwide. Boingo (www.boingo.com) and Wayport (http://aws.wayport.net) have set up networks in airports and high-class hotel lobbies. IPass providers also give you access to a few hundred wireless hotel lobby setups. To locate other hot spots that provide free wireless networks, go to www.jiwire.com.
For dial-up access, most business-class hotels offer dataports for laptop modems, and a few thousand hotels in Italy now offer free high-speed Internet access. In addition, major Internet service providers (ISPs) have local access numbers around the world, allowing you to go online by placing a local call. The iPass network also has dial-up numbers around the world. You'll have to sign up with an iPass provider, who will then tell you how to set up your computer for your destination(s). For a list of iPass providers, go to www3.ipass.com and click on "Individuals Buy Now." One solid provider is i2roam (tel. 866/811-6209 or 920/233-5863; www.i2roam.com).
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 to guests.
Without Your Own Computer -- To find cybercafes check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com. Cybercafes are found in all large cities. But they do not tend to cluster in any particular neighborhoods because of competition. They are spread out.
Aside from formal cybercafes, most public libraries have Internet access. Avoid hotel business centers unless you're willing to pay exorbitant rates.
Most major airports now have Internet kiosks scattered throughout their gates. These give you basic Web access for a per-minute fee that's usually higher than cybercafe prices.
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.