All students must have a working cell phone in Italy. It is best to have one with an Italian phone number. This will be their primary means of communication with program staff, other students, and others in Italy. Even if students plan to bring a U.S. phone with international access, it may still be beneficial (and cheaper) to get an Italian number.

There are a number of ways students can get an Italian phone number. The most straightforward way is to purchase a phone in Italy and sign up for a pay-as-you-go plan from a local provider. Alternatively, students can bring their own phone (if it works in Italy and is unlocked by their provider) and purchase an Italian SIM. Students pay in advance by loading money onto their account and using that until it runs out.

There are also phone rental companies, like PicCell wireless, that will rent the student a phone during his or her time in Italy. Students who choose to rent a phone should be sure to get one with an Italian number, since a number from another European country will do them no good.

Italian cell phone basics

  • There is never a charge to receive calls or text messages on an Italian cell phone, provided that the phone is in Italy.
  • When out of Italy, international rates apply to both incoming and outgoing calls. It is also not possible to add money to the phone account when in a different country.
  • To call an Italian phone from the U.S., the U.S. dialer must add 01139 before the phone number (or +39).

Things to keep in mind

Students may wish to use their smartphone in Italy to stay in touch with their parents and to check email. They may still want to get an Italian phone and number for two important reasons:

  • A primary way that the staff communicates with students during the semester is via text messages. While they will be happy to text a U.S. smartphone number, these texts are notorious for not arriving.
  • Many, many smartphones are lost or stolen while students are in Italy. This can turn into a very expensive option. In many cases, it is smarter and cheaper to leave one's smartphone in the U.S.
  • Students should not get a phone with a non-Italian European number. These have the same communications problems as U.S. numbers.