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Buying a cheap cell phone and SIM card for use in Italy

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We'll be in Italy for 10 days in June, and I'm looking into the best option for buying a no-frills cell phone and a SIM card with an Italian phone number. I could wait until I get to Italy, but it would be better to have it before we leave the States. (We are traveling to a villa in Tuscany with a group of family and friends in different cars, and it would be good to have communication from the get-go.)

I've noticed some rental options, but the total cost of renting seems to be more than for buying a cheap phone that is Europe-compatible and has an Italian SIM card.

Anyone done this? If so, here are some questions: Where did you buy the phone and what kind did you get? Same with the SIM chip. What was your total cost, and how were the per-minute rates? How did it all work out?

A half-hour of web searching has fried my brain with information overload, and it would be great if I could get some no-hype input.

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