Tuscany - In Touch
Many of you will be visiting Tuscany to "get away from it all." If that's your aim, then read no further. If, however, you want to keep in touch - whether it be to keep friends & family informed; have a means to receive or check for emergency messages; or have a single number even though you're travelling to numerous locations, then choose from the selection below.
Cellular - SMS messages - Internet Point - ISP - Modem settings - Photos, etc. - Low cost phone calls - Faxes
You can rent cell phones in most airports and at the counters of many of the major rental car companies (e.g. Avis, Hertz). If you're travelling to numerous locations, this will make it easy for you to be contacted. If you are US-based and visit Europe frequently, you can now buy GSM phones (or tri-band) from some US providers which will allow you to use the phone to make & receive calls both at home in the US & when travelling in Europe simply by changing the small identity (SIM) card in the phone to the one for your current location (or, if your provider offers the service and you are subscribed to a European roaming plan, your phone will automatically switch to the European network).
SMS text messages to GSM cell phones
Even if you aren't carrying a mobile (telefonino) around, you can send text messages to friends, et al who are. Using a web browser on your own computer or at one of the Internet points, you can send text messages (typically up to 160 characters) to subscribers on Vodafone/Omnitel, TIM, Wind, among other providers.
Send SMS to GSM phones1: www.my-line.ws
Send SMS to GSM phones2: http://www.fotoexpo.net/web/moduloiscrizione.asp?ref= (signup required
More SMS services: www.internetbox.it/sms.htm
Throughout Italy, even in smaller towns, there are numerous "internet points". They may be in a cafè, in a travel agency, or a separate business, and the better ones are connected to the WWW via an E1/T1 line. You will generally pay between 2 and 3 per hour for your usage (more in larger cities). Most will also have a printer, and some will have PCs set up with common word processing and spreadsheet software in addition to a web browser. If the ISP you use at home offers "Webmail" - a means of connecting to your mailbox via a web browser, this is the easiest way to stay in touch without having to carry a computer around and make changes to your existing dialup connection and modem settings. Even if your ISP doesn't offer its own webmail frontend, you can likely access your email using Mail2Web. Following are links to sites which list Internet points or "Cyber Cafes" in Italy:
Internet Cafes in Italy - http://www.ecs.net/cafe/
Cybercafes in Italy - http://www.made-in-italy.com/travel/cybercafes/
Note: if you use one of these public locations to access your email and perhaps financial accounts, you are advised to flush the browser history, temporary internet files, and cookies before you leave the computer since confidential information from your session will remain on the computer when you finish. To do this if using MS Internet Explorer on a PC running Windows 9x, take the following three steps.
From the Tools menu of Internet Explorer, select Internet Options; then click the Delete Files and Clear History buttons.
Open the Cookies folder: C:\WINDOWS\Cookies[Note: for Windows XP it will usually be at C:\Documents and Settings\"user"\Cookies where "user" is the name of the user currently logged on] ; then select all files (Ctrl-A) and Delete them by either using Ctrl-X or drag them to the Recycle Bin on the desktop.
Finally, right-mouse click on the Recycle Bin and select Empty Recycle Bin.
Currently there are numerous companies in Italy which offer free dialup access to the Internet. Browse their sites to check on POP locations and how to setup your computer to use their services (e.g. access, setting up your email account, etc.). Links to several of the common ones are listed below (one potential drawback - in most cases you will need to know at least rudimentary Italian to complete the registration process):
Quipo - www.quipo.it
Interfree - www.interfree.it
Kataweb - www.kataweb.it
Wind - www.inwind.it
ClubNet - www.Tin.it
Modem Settings (Windows)
If you have one of the "Global" modems, then use the modem manufacturer's software to setup the modem for Italy. But, you don't really need to buy one labelled as "Global" in order to use it in Italy (or for that matter, throughout most of Europe & Asia). Just follow the directions below:
1. Go to your Dial-Up Networking ( Windows "Start" - Programs - Accessories - Communications - Dial-Up Networking). If you already have an account with a nearby POP (point of access) to where you're staying in Italy (be sure you've checked this out and have the number before you've left for Italy - you may even want to create a separate Dial-Up Connection labeled "MyISP-Italy"), then you only need to do the steps below. If your ISP doesn't have a nearby POP in Italy, then you may want to establish an account with one of the free ISPs who have POPS near where you will be staying (see above). Remember that in Italy you pay for any connection that is made on a per-minute or "scatti" basis (no "free" calls in your local "urbane" zone, although that is being discussed by Telecom Italia), and "interurbane" rates to even nearby towns can be quite high (note: Telecom Italia has recently lowered most interurbane rates). If you're dialing to a local (urbane) POP, then generally your cost if dialing on a private line (household) will be about 0.0190 Euro/min. if calling during peak hours (08:00-18:30 Mon-Fri and 08:00-13:00 Sat) and 0.0109 Euro/min. if calling outside peak times (note: there is an additional charge of 0.0619 Euro per call which is applied when the number you call picks up).
Change the phone number (right-mouse click on the connection, then select Properties and enter the phone number in the section on the "General" tab; and
Click on the "Configure" button on the same "General" tab; then select click on the "Connection" tab of the window which opens and deselect "Wait for dial tone before dialing";
Finally, click on the Modems icon in Control Panel (Windows "Start" - Settings - Control Panel) and click on the "Dialing Properties" button and (if you haven't already set up an "Italy" dialing location) click on "New" - give it a name, select "Italy" in the "I am in this country/region" and insert the local area code you will be dialing from in Italy (e.g. for Cortona it is 0575).
Photos & beyond
If you have brought along your digital camera and your computer and want to share your trip with family and friends before you return, here are some tips. Using one of these services, you can upload selected photos to one of the sites and send an email with a link to your pictures (the site will give you the link) which will allow family & friends to view your photos (with comments if you add them) and even make copies of their own should you choose. A few of the many services available are listed below:
PhotoAccess - www.photoaccess.com
SnapFish - www.snapfish.com
"Low-cost" phone calls
Prepaid phone cards ("scheda telefonica") for calling from Europe to the USA, Canada, etc. are available from most "Tabaccheria" and many "Edicola" (newstands) will have phone cards in 5 & 10 denominations (e.g. Vectone's EuroCity card). The 10 ones can provide from 100-330 minutes of calls back home (from wired private phone to wired private phone); note that calls to/from public and cell phones will cut the number of minutes dramatically. But in any case, rates are much lower than the $US1-$US2 per minute rates from Europe to North America that your home long distance provider will charge for using their International Calling Card. Some of the cards also provide ISP, email, and/or voicemail services (some for no additional charge). [Note: If you purchase a Telecom Italia card or other calling card which you can insert in a pay phone, you usually need to bend and remove the marked corner of the card before using it.
Another option - if you have a computer with you which has a microphone & a speaker (most do - but for better sound quality connect a phone headset to your computer) and an ISP connection in Italy (this also works for many other countries)- you can make "low-cost" (i.e. beyond your annual subscription fees you pay only for the local connect charges to your ISP's POP) calls to the US and some other countries via Dialpad.com. Note: if your connection is below 42666 bps there will generally be significant delays in the conversation.
Fax reception (& sending)
Even if you didn't bring a computer, you can receive faxes if you can check your email via the web - you need only subscribe to the free services of one of the companies listed below (Note: the free service usually allows receipt of a max of ~20 pages per month; for a monthly fee an unlimited number of pages can be received). These services assign a personal fax number to you; faxes sent to that number are converted to "TIF" files and sent to your email address as email with an attachment. If you brought a computer, you can also send faxes using the premium services of one of the companies listed below or by using the fax program on your computer (e.g. MS Fax included with Windows XP) or purchasing & installing Winfax or one of the many other fax programs available. Also, in addition to hotels, many tabaccheria and photo shops have fax and copy facilities.
J2 Global Communications (aka Jfax) - www.j2.com
efax - www.efax.com