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Italy - Phone, the adventure of calling in Italy

The adventure of choosing a phone in Italy

A little bit of history to explain how phones work in Italy

Italy had a state monopoly on telecommunications until the mid 1990s. That meant that if you wanted a home phone you had to pay a monthly fixed amount (today about 15 EUR) just to have a land line. They billed you for every call with a connection fee and then more for as long you were on the line. If you were on a public phone you had to have tokens or coins and hope that no one had vandalized the phone.

Today the situation differs a lot. The number of providers is very long and it's a real challenge to understand how and who will offer a better service and lower prices.

The first thing to do is to understand what are your needs.

If you just need a phone number, a cell phone is probably the smartest and cheapest thing to do.

You can get a GSM phone and rechargeable Sim card for as cheap as 70 EUR. If you already have a phone you just walk into a phone shop and get a Sim card. No fixed costs, you pay as you go. You can recharge the card easily in most shops (phone shops, supermarkets, tobacconists, newspaper stands), at ATMs, on the net. Your phone and number can work in Italy and abroad (if you set it up with a credit card). And keep in mind that in Italy you're not charged when someone calls you. That means that if you're calling a cell phone you know it (all cell phone numbers start with +393------) and you're paying for it.


  • you must have a tax id number (codice fiscale),

  • when you're abroad, the fees can get quite hefty,

  • you get charged a fixed amount- usually 5 EUR- every time you recharge,

  • your credit lasts 12 months - meaning that if you don't use it you lose it

    and after 13 months

  • you also lose the number if you don't recharge-

  • and most annoying, you tend to keep your phone on all the time!

The cell phone providers are:

Tim : part of the Telecomitalia group

Vodafone: the largest mobile phone group of the world

Wind: the first operator to provide integrated mobile/land line/Internet services

3: but that's only for UMTS and that's another story

Calling from public phones

It seems the easiest thing to do, and up until some days ago, I never realized that if you're not Italian, it can get complicated.

Public phones are not that common. Public phones that work with coins are rare. Public phones that work with coins and not have been vandalized are very difficult to come across. If you're on the go in Italy, you don't have a cell phone and you want to use public phones you better get a calling card, they're easy to buy (tobacconists, newspaper stands, supermarkets, phone shops) you can get them from 5 EUR up. Just don't forget it in the phone once you're done. 99% of public phones in Italy are owned by Telecom Italia. If you want to call abroad with a credit card you will find white phones with the CCC logo but only in airports or train stations. I hope I don't have to remind you that calling anywhere from a hotel phone is a big no no.

Calling from home

If you decided that you want a land line and possibly also hook up a PC or more, then you must deal with one of the many providers available in Italy.

First of all, if you're moving into a house that already has a phone and the contract is not in your name, you will be stuck with the fixed 15 EUR a month from TelecomItalia.

To establish what is most convenient for you, you must first elaborate your profile: find out which numbers you're calling most often- local, national, cell or international. Then you establish how long is your average call, the connection fee is around 7 cents. Last but not least you decide at what time of the day you're going to be calling most often, calls between 6.30pm and 8.00am are usually cheaper. Calling out of the established profile is not prohibited but if it happens often it can result in higher costs than not having any kind of subscription.

Don't be fooled, if you're calling a cell phone the only cheap way is through another cell phone.

If you're stuck with TelecomItalia you can get a subscription contract with a phone provider such as TelecomItalia, Teledue, Wind-Infostrada, Tiscali (local, regional and National there is a list of more than 100). According to where, when and how long you're calling there is a different operator/provider that offers the best deal.

Local /National calls

Unfortunately it has become almost impossible to create a table with the different costs. Each operator has different variables and options (if you speak Italian and you want a clue go here: or here even if they haven't updated the tables it gives a good idea). I admit to be partial to Wind-Infostrada, I'm lucky I don't have to pay the fixed cost to TelecomItalia, I don't pay any connection fee (ca. 7 cents) and for 14.5 EUR a month I have 400 minutes of calling time locally. If your calls are usually around three minutes long you're best shot is Teledue or Tiscali. If you have a teen in the house, chatting away for hours with friends, then stick with TelecomItalia and set up one of the options on the “teleconomy” deal.

International calls/Internet connections

If you're calling abroad and you're paying for it, your cheapest option is to get a PC and call VoIP. This is what I use, it's convenient, with no connection fees and it doesn't expire. The negatives are that you must use Internet Explorer and you have to set up a PayPal account.

If you don't have or want a PC, there are calling cards that make life easier.

You can check the different cards on the internet. The most important things to remember about calling cards are:

  • connection fees (they will vary if you're calling from a landline, a public phone or a cell phone,

  • cost per minute,

  • maintenance fees,

  • expiration period.

TelecomItalia offers a wide range of products, but there are plenty of other deals. One of the reasons why I don't favor TelecomItalia, is that their marketing services do all they can to confuse the customers. The costs in their table are not cents/minute, but the minutes you have available with a 5 EUR card and it's not accurate, considering you have a hefty connection fee of 40 cents if you're calling from a land line. Here you find another company, or just walk in one of the many International Phone Shops and just buy a card for where you want to call. Keep an eye on connecting fees, cost per minute, card maintenance costs and what is their expiration period.

So at last we get to Internet connections.

As of late, having an Internet Connection, possibly DSL, has become paramount if you really want to cut down on your phone bill.

I will not go into the myriad of free Internet dial up connections because there are too many and really outdated.

What you need to know is that email boxes and Internet providers in Italy are free.

With dial up you always pay the call and to ascertain your best deal, you have to figure out which is the land line operator who makes you pay the least, as usual you need to establish when and how long you're going to be on line to establish your cheapest provider.

All landline operators are also Internet providers.

There is a new product, called (France Telecom Group), that allows you to have the cheapest phone bills, at 20 EUR a month all calls, local and national or 30 EUR if you want to call Europe. It looks very convenient, but keep in mind that you must top that off with the cost of a “flat” dsl connection and probably the fixed 15 EUR a month from TelecomItalia. The advantage is that you don't actually need a PC and once you set up their “calling box”, all calls go directly to your phone and not through your PC.

The wonderful life of DSL connection. Beware, parents of teenagers, you wil find the connection busy 24/7 downloading music, movies and more. But it's a necessary evil if you average a phone bill higher than 40 EUR a month in traffic. All providers are now offering 4mega dsl connections. The average price for a flat connection is around 25 EUR plus VAT (20%). Most providers also offer Dsl modems and/or wireless router-modems to rent. To compile a table with prices is not very significant, the following comparative tables are taken from .

Every week someone comes up with a new offer and prices are currently coming down at about 5 EUR every 6 months.

Cheapest Flat Dsl Connections 1/05/2005


Deal Name

Monthly Cost



€ 20,00 + VAT

BBip adsl 1280/256 start

€ 23,00 + VAT


ADSL 640/256 Light 24

€ 23,29 + VAT



€ 24,00 + VAT


TELE2Internet ADSL 1,2 Mega

€ 24,12 + VAT


EnergitADSL 1280 K

€ 24,12 + VAT



€ 24,23 + VAT


€ 24,90 + VAT

Wind / Infostrada

Libero ADSL Flat

€ 24,95 + VAT

Wind / Infostrada

Libero ADSL Affari Flat

€ 24,96 + VAT ADSL economy

€ 24,96 + VAT

NGI Internet

F5 640/128

€ 25,00 + VAT


EnergitADSL 1280 K Pro

€ 25,79 + VAT

ADSL 1280/256 ACTION

€ 25,90 + VAT


Eutelia ADSL Home Mega

€ 27,49 + VAT

Digitel Italia


€ 27,80 + VAT


Highway ADSL Ligth Basic

€ 28,00 + VAT

NGI Internet

F5 640/256

€ 28,00 + VAT

Active Network

Wooow Sprint 1280

€ 28,90 + VAT


Aruba Adsl 1280

€ 29,00 + VAT

Cheapest Pay per Use Dsl Connections 1/05/2005


Deal Name




€ 0,036 / Mb + Vat

Telecom Italia

Alice Time

€ 0,90/hr Vat inc ADSL Tempo

€ 0,90/hr VAT inc.

Telecom Italia

Alice 20 ore

€ 1,50/hr VAT inc.


TELE2Internet ADSL opzione FREE

€ 1,79/hr VAT inc.


Adsl Free 2 Mega

€ 1,80/hr VAT inc.


ADSL Canone zero

€ 1,80/hr VAT inc.


ADSL VISP10 Time 640

€ 1,80/hr VAT inc.


ADSL Time 640_

€ 1,80/hr VAT inc.

Wind / Infostrada

Libero ADSL Free

€ 1,90/hr VAT inc.

Wind / Infostrada

Libero ADSL Affari Free

€ 1,90/hr VAT inc.



€ 1,90/hr VAT inc.(Mon/Fri)



€ 1,90/hr VAT inc.(8.00am/8.00pm)



€ 1,90/hr VAT inc.(post 10 hrs free)

Telecom Italia

Alice free

€ 2,00/hr VAT inc. ADSL senza canone

€ 2,00/hr VAT inc.

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