The state-run Telecom Italia is the largest telecommunications organisation in Italy and its orange public pay phones are liberally scattered about the country. The most common accept only telephone cards (carte/schede telefoniche), although you will still find plenty that accept cards and coins. Some card phones accept credit cards. Among the latest generation of pay phones are those that also send faxes.
Telecom pay phones can be found in the streets, train stations and some big stores as well as in Telecom offices. Some of the latter are staffed and a few have telephone directories for other parts of the country. Where these offices are staffed, it is possible to make international calls and pay at the desk afterwards.
You can buy phonecards at post offices, tobacconists and newsstands and from vending machines in Telecom offices. To avoid the frustration of trying top find (fast disappearing) coin telephones, always keep a phonecard on hand. They come with a a value of €2.60, €5.15 or €25.80. You must break the top left-hand corner of the card before you can use it.
Public phones operated by the private telecommunications companies Infostrada and Albacom can be found in airports and stations. These phones accept Infostrada or Albacom phonecards (available from post offices, tobacconists and newspaper stands), which come with a value of €2.60, or €5.15. The rates are slightly cheaper than Telecom's for long-distance and international calls.
Rates, particularly for long-distance calls, are among the highest in Europe. The cheapest time for domestic calls is from 10pm to 8am. For internatinal calls, off-peak hours are 10pm to 8am and all day Sunday.
A local call (communicazione urbana) from a public phone will cost €0.10 for three to six minutes, depending on the time of day you call. Peak times are 8am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturday.
Rates for long-distance calls within Italy (communicazione interurbana) depend on the time of day and the distance involved. At the worst, one minute will cost about €0.20 in peak periods.
If you need to call overseas, beware of the cost - even a call of less than five minutes to Australia after 10pm will cost around €3.80 from a private phone (more from a public phone). Calls to most European countries cost about €0.60 form a public phone.
Travellers from countries that offer direct dialling services paid for at home-country rates (such as AT&T in the USA and Telstra in Australia) should think seriously about taking advantage of them.
Telephone area codes all begin with 0 and consist of up to four digits. The area code is followed by a number of anything from four to eight digits.
Area codes are an integral part of all telephone numbers in Italy - even if you are calling within a single zone. So any number you're calling in Florence will start with 055, in Venice with 041, Naples 081 and Milan 02 regardless whether you're in that place or another part of Italy.
Mobile phone numbers begin with a three-digit prefix such as 330, 335, 347, 368 and so on.
Toll-free (free-phone) numbers are know as numeri verdi and usually start with 800. National call rate numbers start with 848 or 199.
For directory enquires, dial 12.
Direct international calls can easily be made from public telephones by using a phonecard. Dial 00 to get out of Italy, then the relevant country and area code, followed by the telephone number. Useful country codes are: Australia 61, Canada and the USA 1, New Zealand 64, UK 44. Codes for other countries in Europe include France 33, Germany 49, Greece 30, Ireland 353, Spain 24. Other codes are listed in Italian telephone books.
To make a reverse charges (collect) international call from a public phone, dial 170. For European countries dial 15. All operators speak English.
Easier and often cheaper, is using the Country Direct service for your country. You dial the number and request a reverse charges call through the operator in your country. Numbers for this service include:
Australia (Optus) Tel: 172 11 61
Australia (Telstra) Tel: 172 10 61
Canada Tel: 172 10 01
France Tel: 172 00 33
New Zealand Tel: 172 10 64
UK Tel: 172 00 44
USA (AT&T) Tel: 172 10 11
USA (IDB) Tel: 172 17 77
USA (MCI) Tel: 172 10 22
USA (Sprint) Tel: 172 18 77
For international directory enquires call 176.
Italy has one of the highest levels of mobile phone penetration in Europe, and there are several companies through which you can get a temporary or prepaid account if you already own a GSM, dual- or tri-band cellular phone. You will usually just need your passport to open an account.
Both TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) and Omnitel offer prepaid (prepgato) accounts for GSM phones (frequency 900 mHz), whereby you can buy a SIM card (€51.65) for either network which gives you €25.80 worth of calls. You can then top up the account with multiples of €25.80 (plus a €5.15 service fee) as required. There are TIM and Omnitel retail outlets in virtually every Italian town. Calls on these plans cost around €0.10 per minute.
The dual-band operator Wind works on frequencies of 900 mHz and 1800 mHz and also offers prepaid accounts. You don't pay for Wind's SIM card but calls are more expensive than Telecom and Omnitel - around €0.25 per minute for the first three minutes, then €0.10 per minute. There are Wind retail outlets in most Italian towns.
Always check with your mobile service provider in your home country to ascertain whether your handset allows use of another SIM card.
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