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Getting online in Rome isn't difficult: public Internet stations and Internet caffè are common. Prices differ from place to place, so spend some time to find the best deal. This isn't always readily apparent: a place might have higher rates, but because it belongs to a chain you won't be charged an initial flat fee again when you go to a different location of the same chain.
There are several Wi-Fi hotspots around Rome. In fact, many bars and caffè around the city will let you connect to their wireless network for free if you purchase something. Alternatively, if you have an Italian cell phone number you can sign up to access free Wi-Fi in select public spaces and parks such as the MAXXI museum, Piazza di Spagna, Bocca della Verità, Ponte Milvio, Villa Ada, and Villa Borghese. Register in English by accessing https://wasp.provinciawifi.it/owums/account/signup. Then every time you enter one of Rome’s free Wi-Fi hotspots, it should automatically pop up on your smart phone or computer screen. Another service, Roma Wireless (www.romawireless.com) gives visitors free Wi-Fi access for up to one hour a day in various spots such as Campo de’ Fiori, Largo Argentina, and the Trevi Fountain. At one of these spots, the Roma Wireless network should pop up on your screen and prompt you to register with the site in order to access the network.
Some hotels have free Wi-Fi or in-room modem lines, but, as with phones, using the hotel's line is relatively expensive. Always check modem rates before plugging in. You may need an adapter for your computer for the European-style plugs. As always, if you're traveling with a laptop, carry a spare battery and an adapter. Never plug your computer into any socket before asking about surge protection. IBM sells a pea-size modem tester that plugs into a telephone jack to check whether the line is safe to use.
Cybercafes. Cybercafes lists more than 4,000 Internet cafés worldwide. www.cybercafes.com.
Mail Office (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 274/a, Navona, Rome, 00186. 06/68192051.)
Pantheon Internet Point (Via di Santa Caterina da Siena 40, Pantheon, Rome, 00186. 06/69200501.)
TreviNet Place (Via in Arcione 103, Barberini, Rome, 00187. 06/69922320.)
Caffè with Wi-Fi
Friends Café (Piazza Trilussa 34, Trastevere, Rome, 00153. 06/5816111. www.cafefriends.it.)
The Library (Vicolo della Cancelleria 7, Piazza Navona, Rome, 00186. 333/3517581 or 06/97275442. www.thelibrary.it.)
The good news is that you can now make a direct-dial telephone call from virtually any point on earth. The bad news? You can't always do so cheaply. Calling from a hotel is almost always the most expensive option; hotels usually add huge surcharges to all calls, particularly international ones. Calling cards usually keep costs to a minimum, but only if you purchase them locally. In Italy, you can also place international calls from call centers. And then there are mobile phones —as expensive as mobile phone calls can be, they are still usually a much cheaper option than calling from your hotel.
The country code for Italy is 39. The area code for Rome is 06. When dialing an Italian number from abroad, do not drop the initial 0 from the local area code.
The country code is 1 for the United States, 61 for Australia, 1 for Canada, 64 for New Zealand, and 44 for the United Kingdom.
Calling Within Italy
For general information in English, dial 176. To place international telephone calls via operator-assisted service (or for information), dial 170 or long-distance access numbers.
Phone numbers in Rome, and throughout Italy, don't have a set number of digits. All calls (except for cell phones) in Rome are preceded by the city code 06, with the exception of three-digit numbers (113 is for general emergencies). Emergency numbers can be called for free from pay phones (if you can find one).
Throughout Italy, long-distance calls are dialed in the same manner as local calls: the city code plus the number. Rates vary, depending on the time of day, with the lowest late at night and early in the morning.
Calling Outside Italy
Hotels tend to overcharge, sometimes exorbitantly, for long-distance and international calls. Use your AT&T, MCI, or Sprint card or buy an international phone card, which supplies a local number to call and gives a low rate. Or make your calls from Telefoni offices, designated "telecom," where operators will assign you a booth, sell you an international telephone card, and help you place your call. You can make collect calls from any phone by dialing 800/172444, which will get you an English-speaking AT&T operator. Rates to the United States are lowest round the clock on Sunday and 10 pm–8 am, Italian time, on weekdays.
AT&T Direct (800/172444.)
MCI WorldPhone (800/905825.)
Sprint International Access. From cell phones call 892–176. 800/172–405 or 800./787–986.
When you do run into a pay phone in the city, you’ll find that many no longer accept only coins. Most require schede telefoniche (phone cards). You buy the card (values vary—€2.50, €5, and so on) at post offices, newsstands (called edicole), and tobacconists. Tear off the corner of the card and insert it in the slot. When you dial, its value appears in the window. After you hang up, the card is returned so you can use it until its value runs out. The best cards for calling North America or Europe are the €5 or €10 Eurocity, Eurotel, and Editel cards, which give you a local number to dial and a pin number, and roughly 180 minutes and 360 minutes, respectively, of calling time.
If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies from those used in the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon), you can probably use your phone abroad. Roaming fees can be steep, however: 99¢ a minute is considered reasonable. And overseas you normally pay the toll charges for incoming calls. It's almost always cheaper to send a text message than to make a call, since text messages have a very low set fee (often less than 10¢).
If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (note that your provider may have to unlock your phone for you to use a different SIM card) and a prepaid service plan in the destination. You'll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy a new cell phone in your destination, as the initial cost will be offset over time.
Renting phones may seem like an inexpensive way to go, but in the end it could cost you more than using your own cell phone from home. The per-minute rates tend to be higher, and a lot of times there are hidden costs. Usually, companies ask you to leave a credit card number when renting the phone, which can be iffy, as hidden costs sneak up onto your bill at the end of the month after you’ve left the country, making it harder to dispute the charges.
Cellular Abroad. Cellular Abroad rents and sells GMS phones and sells SIM cards that work in many countries. 800/287–5072; 310/862-7100; 800/3623-3333 toll-free within Italy. www.cellularabroad.com.
Mobal. Mobal rents mobiles and sells GSM phones (starting at $29) that will operate in 140 countries. Per-call rates vary throughout the world. 888/888–9162. www.mobalrental.com.
Planet Fone. Planet Fone rents cell phones, but the per-minute rates are expensive. 888/988–4777. www.planetfone.com.
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