Everything you need to know about mobile phones in Italy

If you’re planning a trip or a move to Italy and want to stay connected, you may be wondering about how to set up your mobile phone to work once you get there. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to have working cell phones around the world.

Whether you’re moving to Italy or simply visiting for a short time, there are plenty of options for you to have access to text messages, phone calls, maps, and the internet.

How to prepare your phone for use in Italy (short visits)

1. Using your US network on your phone

In recent years, American companies partnered with Italian cell phone providers so you can easily use your phone when traveling abroad. Here is how international plans work for the major cell phone providers.

AT&T and Verizon – You can use your phone plans if you set up each company’s travel pass for $10 a day, which works for most countries in Europe. Verizon also has an additional plan that allows you to pay a flat fee that may save you money depending on how long you’re staying abroad.
Sprint – Plans from Sprint already include international coverage, for the most part, though the internet speeds are pretty slow.
T-Mobile – Another company that provides automatic connection to phone service in Italy, T-Mobile also offers international packages for better deals.
Google Fi – Google has recently gotten into the cell phone industry, including plenty of plans that can be used in 200-plus locations without additional charges.

2. Getting a SIM card from Italy

If you’re planning on staying for longer than two weeks, it might be a better idea to purchase a SIM card from an Italian company while you’re there. This can save money in the long run, mainly because Italian prices are much more affordable compared to the US’s. 

First, you’ll have to make sure your phone is unlocked. This comes standard for phones made after 2018, but if you buy your phone directly from your network provider, it may not be. Give your company a call and double-check.

When you get to Italy, you’ll be able to choose from three types of SIMs:

Prepaid SIM: This is best for shorter-term stays. These come with a set amount of gigs for data plans and minutes for phone calls within a certain timeframe. Usually, these will be around €25, last a month, and give you ten or more gigs.
Postpaid SIM: These monthly contracts may include credit checks, but they usually offer more gigs of data, international calls, and more.
Data-Only SIM: If you just plan on using the internet, data-only SIM cards offer a much cheaper alternative to the others. These SIMs are perfect if you need directions, to look up things to do, or message through WhatsApp.

You can get these SIM cards from kiosks at whatever airport you’re landing in, or you can wait to visit a physical store if you have a particular brand you’re loyal to. However, if you don’t speak Italian, it’s probably best to get this done at the airport.

You’ll need your passport in order to purchase these SIM cards. Also, companies will charge you an “activation fee,” so be sure to factor this into your budget before landing.

Always be on the lookout when you visit these companies in person, as sometimes you may have additional unnecessary items added to your plan. Double-check the prices online before paying the full amount, and read the details on your receipt before paying. You can download Google Translate’s Italian database on your phone before getting to the country.

Purchasing a phone plan from an Italian company (moving)

If you’re planning on spending an extended amount of time in Italy, you should consider getting a phone plan from an Italian communications company. Compared to companies in the States, phone plans are much more affordable in Italy. 

For many companies on our list, you’ll need both a permesso di soggiorno, a residence permit, and a codice fiscale, or tax code document, to purchase a phone plan. 

These were huge bureaucratic hurdles that I had when trying to sign up because the United Nations offers UN-specific visas that act as permesso di soggiorno. However, many companies’ “systems” did not recognize the documents.

TIM was the easiest company to deal with, only requiring a codice fiscale as far as documents go. However, if you have a permesso di soggiorno and are looking for a deal, you can sign up for phone service at Post Italiane for as low as €4 a month.

The top companies are below:


Sample phone plan from TIM

Unlimited minutes
70 gigs of data
1000 SMS
Around €11 

Conveniently, these companies also offer high-speed internet, and you can bundle packages for tons of savings.

Does Italy have 5G?

Italy has embraced the 5G revolution with enthusiasm. 5G, or the “fifth generation” of wireless technology, promises faster internet speeds, lower latency, and the capacity to support an array of innovative applications, from smart cities and autonomous vehicles to augmented reality experiences.

Italian telecommunication companies have made significant progress in rolling out 5G networks. Major players like TIM (Telecom Italia), Vodafone, and Wind Tre have been investing in the infrastructure to ensure that major cities, as well as many smaller towns and communities, have access to 5G services.

To use 5G in Italy, you’ll need a 5G-enabled smartphone or device, a compatible SIM card, and a mobile plan that includes 5G access. Be sure to check with your mobile service provider to ensure that your device and plan support 5G, and ask about any additional costs or requirements.

Unfortunately, 5G will cost extra if you want to include it in your phone plan. However, as previously mentioned, the price is much more affordable in Italy compared to the US.

Can I keep my phone number if I move to Italy?

There are several ways that you can keep your phone number if you move to Italy.

If you’re from the States, you can link your phone number to a VoIP, or virtual phone service provider. Google Voice is one of the best VoIPs because it does not charge you for calls within the US, and you get free text messages through their app. This way, if you cancel your phone plan you have with an American company, you’ll be able to keep your phone number on the Google account.

You can also make phone calls from around the world, but you’ll be charged for the call. However, you can avoid this by using a VPN and connecting to a service in the US since calls are free from the States.

What happens when I go back to the States?

If you’re using a SIM card purchased in Italy, simply remove the SIM you purchased in Italy and replace yours. On the other hand, for those who kept their phone plans from the States, generally, there is nothing for you to do, but you may want to check with your phone service provider just in case.

However, if you’ve moved to Italy and have a phone plan with an Italian company, you can purchase special passes for traveling abroad. For example, TIM offers the “Viaggio Pass,” which gives you ten gigs of data, 500 minutes of calls, and 500 SMS for €20. This works in other European countries, Brazil, Canada, and the US.

Final thoughts

You’ll have plenty of options for phone service in Italy, whether you’re visiting or are moving there for the long run. The best part about getting a plan in this country is that you can do so without breaking the bank.

For those visiting Italy for more than two weeks, the cheapest option for you is to purchase a SIM card and short-term plan when you get to the country. However, always be aware of extra fees, like activation costs, etc., when visiting stores in person. 

The post Everything you need to know about mobile phones in Italy appeared first on Moving, living, retiring abroad.

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