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How to get cellular phone service in Italy ?

What’s the best way to get secure cell service for iPhone 11 in Italy and internet service for iPad?

Posted by
8622 posts

"best way" is pretty subjective. It really depends on what your goals are. I just use the international plan from my carrier (ATT) since the convenience is worth it to me.

If you have TMobile, you probably already have coverage.

Posted by
384 posts

I agree with Carol - depends! Do you need an internet connection, or do you need to make calls? I use whatever internet is available at the hotel for my iPad. For my phone, I have Verizon and use the TravelPass option. It's $10/day but only if you actually use it, and I manage to not use it much, especially if on a tour. Just keep the cellular turned off if you are worried about inadvertently using cell service and getting charged. And there is usually lots of free wifi in cities - find a coffee shop or a museum. If you need more than that, Verizon has an international plan, $100 for a month. Pricey, but easy.

Posted by
11368 posts

My spouse gets an International plan for his phone and I get SIM card for my phone and we have it all covered this way. I make local calls to restaurants, etc. He can call back to US in case of emergencies which we have had.
Internet service? You mean WiFi? Your hotel or apt will have it.
I have bought SIM cards from a variety of companies including TIM.

Posted by
3210 posts

I always get the TIM Tourist sim in Italy. It gives you 200 minutes and 50 gigs for €24.99. And contrary to what was said above, the data plan works in other countries. Last November I visited Italy and France and no problem whatsoever. I always pay for the voucher ahead of time, then go to a TIM store and they know exactly what to do. Just make certain that your iPhone is unlocked. Read about cell phones in the Travel Tips section on this website. If you land at FCO, there’s a TIM counter in terminal 3 near the baggage claim area.

Posted by
1853 posts

I just get a local SIM card once I get to Europe. I believe the iPhone 11 has eSIM capability. If you only need data there are forum posts regarding Airalo eSIM. Sounds pretty easy to set up.

https://www.airalo.com/

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you all for the info
I wanted cell service for the iPhone to text , make calls in Italy and US, use maps,and maybe FaceTime
iPad I can use Wi-Fi at the hotel, but is it secure?
Thank you again

Posted by
384 posts

Texting with an iPhone can be done over wifi. Security will vary - most hotels have secure networks requiring a password, but they also rarely change their passwords, or they are something clever like...the name of the hotel. But unless you are shopping or banking online, I would not worry about it too much, to be honest, assuming your personal security (account passwords, 2 factor authentication) is solid (insert plug for password managers). If you think you will be making daily phone calls, or needing to navigate using maps on a daily basis then an international phone plan or an esim/sim card is probably the way to go. There are LOTS of threads here on cell phone usage, just use the search function...

Posted by
103 posts

My Google Fi service worked just fine from Rome to Sicily. International cell service with unlimited Wi-Fi is included in my plan. There were only a couple of remote locales in Sicily where I didn't at least have good 4G coverage.

Posted by
7447 posts

I have T-Mobile, so I have free texting, free data. In the hotels, I connect wifi for internet and to have FaceTime through my iPad. I like to travel to both the main cities and also much smaller towns. There’s only been a couple of times that my wifi connection was too slow to bring up the FaceTime, so we just texted each other that evening. I don’t access our bank account while connected to the hotel wifi.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks periscope I agree security is key, not that I plan to bank or shop online during vaca
I appreciate everyone s input
Thanks

Posted by
17 posts

Periscope
Where do you get the Italian SIM card?
When you land in Italy?
Is there a particular company preferred?

Posted by
118 posts

Instead of a SIM card, there's a much much easier way:

There is a new technology that's been around a year or so, call an eSIM. You pay a fee for a set amount of time, for a certain region. For example, a month's use in Europe might cost $10-30, and you can use your smartphone, WITHOUT changing the SIM, just like you do now, in the region you're visiting.

For example: we're going on the RSE Best of Tuscany tour in late May; I'll use the app Airalo on my iPhone, and the cost for the month of May for 3GB of data, 30 days, will be a whopping TEN DOLLARS. We're extending our trip a little, so will be in Italy for 18 total days, and I'll spend $10 for the whole time.

The only caveat is that you don't want to watch a bunch of video, or do other things that involve tons of data transfer. But if you want to call home, text your friends and family, upload photos (it takes a LOT of photos to use up 3GB of data), you can get away with a $10 plan.

There are other plans as well: for example, I'll probably choose a 10GB plan for 30 days, and spend only $24.

It's the BEST way to use your cell phone overseas, bar none.

There are other eSIM apps on the App Store, but this one has 12,000 reviews on it, and has a 4.7 out of 5 rating.

Posted by
118 posts

That's unfortunate; after you posted that, I did a quick Google search, and found this:

"All of the major mobile device manufacturers have eSIM phones, but not all models are eSIM compatible since this is newer technology. Apple iPhones including iPhone XS and newer, Google Pixel devices, the Motorola Razr 5G, and Samsung Galaxy devices are all eSIM enabled."

I'll be using an eSIM in Italy in May, will be sure to post a report on how it works on that trip. We're also doing a river cruise in Germany in October, so I'll get a 2nd chance to try it out as well.

Posted by
118 posts

That's unfortunate; after you posted that, I did a quick Google search, and found this:

"All of the major mobile device manufacturers have eSIM phones, but not all models are eSIM compatible since this is newer technology. Apple iPhones including iPhone XS and newer, Google Pixel devices, the Motorola Razr 5G, and Samsung Galaxy devices are all eSIM enabled."

I'll be using an eSIM in Italy in May, will be sure to post a report on how it works on that trip. We're also doing a river cruise in Germany in October, so I'll get a 2nd chance to try it out as well.

Here's a list that I found of compatible phones:

Apple
iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Max, iPhone 12 Max Pro
iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max
iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max
iPhone XR
iPhone SE (2020)
iPad Air (3rd Generation), iPad Pro (3rd Generation), iPad Mini (5th Generation)

Samsung
Galaxy Fold, Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, Galaxy S20 ultra, Galaxy Z Flip, Note 20+
Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ 5G, Galaxy S21+ Ultra 5G
Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, Galaxy Z Fold3 5G

Google
Pixel 3 & 3 XL, Pixel 3a & 3a XL
Pixel 4 & 4 XL, Pixel 4A 5G
Pixel 2 & 2 XL
Pixel 5, Pixel 5a
Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro

There are more; the article I referenced can be found here:
https://www.usmobile.com/blog/list-of-esim-compatible-devices/

Posted by
7011 posts

eSIMs are great if you have an unlocked phone and your phone is compatible, but keep in mind that most eSIM data plans do NOT include phone usage (and that includes Airalo). If the OP needs a phone (I don't, but that's me) then I would suggest an Orange eSIM plan, which will give you a French phone number to use.

Posted by
7011 posts

There’s only been a couple of times that my wifi connection was too slow to bring up the FaceTime, so we just texted each other that evening.

Jean, I've found that if the wifi connection is weak, you can usually still use FaceTime audio and talk to the other person without video. I did that several times in Germany when I called family back home.

Posted by
118 posts

I just found this online:

"Currently, TIM Italy, Vodafone Italy, Wind Tre & Iliad offer eSIMs to prepaid customers."

I guess I'll find out when I get there, but here's the site, in case anyone is interested:

https://www.phonetravelwiz.com/airalo-eurolink-italy-esim-review/

In the review of Airalo, he points out that if you're about use up your data, you can top it by adding more data; so, in my case, I'll probably start with the 30-day 10GB plan at $37, and then if I see that I'm using it by sending my photos to iCloud (which I will definitely be doing), I'll add another one. Still cheaper than other options, especially AT&T's international roaming plan that kicks in automatically (and which I plan to disable).

Posted by
118 posts

Mardee, if one has an unlimited-calling plan (as I do), would that not be an issue?

Posted by
118 posts

Well, I've been doing some testing with an eSIM, and have some observations:

  1. It's only for data, not for phone calls (but there's a workaround for that).
  2. It's easy to set up, but there are things to consider before you set it up.

Here's how you can have an eSIM, use it for both data and phone calls:

  1. Download Hushed, which is a service that allows you to have an additional phone number. For $4.95/month, or $47.95/year, you can have a phone number in an area code that you can select.

  2. Set up a new phone number, and write it down. You have a 3-day trial period, when you can test if you wanted to. This is what I did.

  3. Now, go to Airalo and buy an eSIM of your choosing.

  4. Setup is fairly straightforward; they caution you to not disconnect during the process, and to be sure you're on a good wi-fi network (which is required).

  5. Once it's done, specify which is your primary (your existing SIM or your new eSIM); in this case, you want to use your SIM as the primary, so you make phone calls using it.

  6. Now, in your Cellular setup, select your eSIM (whatever you named it) for your Cellular Data.

OK, at this point, you will be able to use your existing phone line for phone calls, and any data that you do (web browsing, iCloud uploads) will be done using the eSIM. So at this point, if you were overseas and never used your phone for anything but uploading photos or using Apple Maps (or Google Maps), you wouldn't be charged anything from your cell provider. The great thing about this is that you can use your phone for iCloud or for Maps, on a cell network, but without paying your existing cell provider.

NOW, TO MAKE PHONE CALLS WITHOUT USING YOUR CELL PROVIDER:

Make calls using Hushed; this will use your DATA plan, which is set to the eSIM, so the call will actually go out using your data plan, but be transmitted over a cell tower.

For my test, I bought a US eSIM, which uses T-Mobile here. I turned off my cellular completely, and was able to call my brother using Hushed.

One thing to be aware of: make sure you set the primary cell provider to your existing provider (in my case, it's AT&T).

A GOTCHA: I tried turning the eSIM off to make sure I could use my phone as I always have, and now it won't turn back on. Waiting for tech support to get back to me... don't think I did anything wrong, but who knows...

Posted by
5687 posts

Download Hushed, which is a service that allows you to have an additional phone number. For $4.95/month, or $47.95/year, you can have a phone number in an area code that you can select.

Or, if you are American, sign up for a Google Voice number and get an additional phone number for free. Use the Google Voice app to make calls and to text. Calls to US numbers are free from wherever you are in the world, though you need WiFi or mobile data to use it. Calls to non-US numbers are a few cents per minute. You can call any phone with Google Voice, even a landline.

If you aren't American, you can still use Skype to call phones for a few cents per minute, though you can't get an incoming local number with Skype in every country.

Posted by
118 posts

Interesting; it's almost free, BUT:

"...all communication information you create through, or add to, Google Voice is collected and processed by Google for their business operations. We just want to make sure that you’re aware of this."

Wow. Not sure I want to do that! Although, considering how often I do Google searches, they probably know more about me than I do myself.

Posted by
38 posts

T-Mobile worked great from Rome to Florence and even in Paris with a little patchiness in tunnels and those old brick buildings without windows. T-Mobile also offers free wi-fi on Delta flights ( transatlantic and domestic), which was much appreciated to keep loved ones in the loop.

What's App is a great way to stay in touch with loved ones back home. Even with free texting, we couldn't send picture or SMS texts, but with What's App we could. We switched to wi-fi whenever possible at the hotel only...I don't trust open cafe wifi.

We appreciated 4G data for accessing maps for bus routes and metro schedules. I seriously cannot imagine NOT having a data plan while abroad. I was so lost when we showed up at Roma Termini. I had a map, but I couldn't figure out from which exit we were leaving, I had no idea where the map with a "You are here" icon was, and the roads outside the station were poorly marked. Had I not seen the Fountain of the Naiads, I don't know how I would have gotten my bearings. I opted for high-speed data ($35 for 10 days). Turns out I had to turn my phone on data roaming, which I thought was unnecessary (but it is very necessary)....and THEN you have to restart your phone. It took me a full day and a panicked call to my husband stateside pleading with him to call T-Mobile and help me figure out what I had done wrong. After I restarted my phone and turned on roaming, I was golden.

Posted by
118 posts

RESOLVED THE ISSUE!

OK, so I've got it all working perfectly; I just had to turn on airplane mode then turn it off again and then restart my phone.

I have my phone set to use my cell service (AT&T) for calls and texts, and I have it set to use the eSIM for data (syncing to iCloud, checking my email). I won't browse on my phone, so that won't be an issue. If I need to use Apple Map when we're walking around Florence, I'll have it available using the eSIM.

To test it, I turned off wifi here in my house, made a couple of phone calls, texted a couple of times, and then went to YouTube and watched a video for a few minutes to confirm that I was actually using the eSIM data (1GB) that I bought for 7 days. IN about 2 minutes of watching YouTube, I went thru 10MB of data.

So this is definitely the thing to do; I'm not going to worry about making calls; if I need to, I'll use AT&T to make calls from overseas, and pay $10 for that day; other than that, I'll just use my phone for iCloud sync, email, and perhaps for Apple Map in Florence. Cost for our 17-day trip: $24 for 10GB of data, which should suffice.

Posted by
17 posts

Just an update friends
I bought an esim card on TIM website the tourist pass, before leaving the states
I thought I’d be able to activate once arriving in Rome.
Unfortunately, after going to 3 different TIM stores in Rome, I was told TIM is having issues with setup of esim card. I paid $35 for nothing . This was a bit frustrating, I had to use a map for a few days lol. No I know why some of us flip out over a cell phone . I was getting a bit anxious 😬. Anyway
I bought an esim card from vodaphone and am up and running .
Anyone using TIM please be aware.
Safe travels

I will be emailing them next.