There are many ways to communicate with the U.S. from Italy:
There are telephone lines at both the Kehoe Center and the Severini School from which you can make local calls, calls to Italian cell phone numbers, and emergency calls. If you wish to use these lines to make an international call, you would need to have an international calling card, or purchase pre-paid phone credit. Incoming international calls can be received on both of these lines.
The most cost-effective and user-friendly option for calling home is a VOIP provider such as Skype (https://www.skype.com/en/), which can be used on any device connected to the internet: phone, tablet, your laptop, or one of the UGA Cortona computers. You will need to set up a Skype account, and since Skype-to-Skype calls and video calls are free, get your friends and family to set up Skype accounts as well. You can also put credit on your Skype account online using a credit card, which enables you to make very inexpensive voice calls to most phone numbers in the world.
When you have access to the internet, such as when you are in the UGA Cortona buildings or in some cafès in Cortona, you can use Face Time, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger from your own device, for free.
Check with your cell phone company before you leave the US – many now have an international plan that they call sell you for a short term stay abroad, with rates that are actually reasonable. Beware of using your cell phone in Italy if you have NOT made such an arrangement beforehand – roaming charges can add up quickly! If you do not make arrangements with your provider to use your phone while you are abroad, it is best to leave it in “airplane mode” for the entire duration of your stay. This will allow you to use the phone with wi-fi, but protects you from roaming charges from your phone company.
If you have an “unlocked” phone, you may wish to remove your American SIM card and use the phone with an Italian SIM instead, which would give your phone an Italian phone number. An Italian SIM card can be purchased for about €10 in the airport when you arrive, in Rome or Naples where the program starts, or in the town of Camucia located just outside of Cortona. The best coverage in Cortona is provided by the TIM company, which offers short-term contracts for visiting foreigners that provide minutes and data for about €15 a month, and low rates on international calls. If you don’t want a contract, there is also a pay-as-you-go option, by which you pay for each call or text you make, adding credit on the phone (“ricarica”) at any tobacco shop. Note that the pay-as-you-go option usually ends up being more expensive than a monthly contract. With an Italian SIM, incoming calls from all European numbers, as well as the United States, cost nothing for the receiving party.
If your phone is “locked” to an American carrier, call your cell phone company and ask if they will unlock it for you to use with a foreign SIM card during travel. Many companies will now do this. If your phone cannot be unlocked, then you may consider purchasing an inexpensive cell phone here in Italy. A very basic cell phone (voice and text only, no data or apps or camera!) can cost as little as €30. You would then need to buy a SIM card for it and pay for calls through either a contract or the pay-as-you-go option.
As in the US, public pay telephones have nearly disappeared in Italy. There is currently one left in Cortona (conveniently located in front of Ristorante Tonino) from which you can make local calls using coins or Italian phone cards, or international calls using an Italian international phone card, prepaid phone credit, or an American international calling card.
- To use a public phone in Italy, you should have an Italian phone card (carta telefonica or scheda telefonica; very few pay phones take coins anymore), available from any tobacco shop in various denominations. Break off the corner, insert it into the slot, and the digital display will track the credit remaining on the card as you talk. When your card is about to run out of money, you will hear a sound warning you of the approaching expiration. You can then substitute another card and continue your conversation. You can make an international call with this kind of card, but it will be pricey.
- A more affordable way to make an international call from a public phone in Italy is to purchase an international phone card (scheda telefonica internazionale) from any tobacco shop. They come in various denominations and work the same way as the scheda telefonica, but give a better rate on international calls.
- To make an international call from any phone, including a pay phone, a cell phone, or the phone in the Kehoe Center, you can use a service called Phone All. Go to the tabbaccheria and tell the clerk that you wish to purchase credit to make a phone call to the U.S. They will ask you the amount of Euro you want to purchase (€5, €10, or €20), then they will use a machine to print a paper ticket for you. The ticket gives you a PIN number that allows you to access your credit, and it has a list of toll-free numbers (in Italian, a toll-free number is a “Numero Verde”). To know which toll-free number to dial, you have to know what kind of phone you will be calling from: “Fisso” means “fixed”, in other words, a land-line telephone; “Mobile” means a cell phone; “Cabina” is a phone booth. Dial the appropriate toll-free number, then enter your code from the receipt, then dial your destination phone number, including the country code (USA = 001). Each carrier sets their own price and so the cost of your international call (i.e., how many minutes your credit will buy you) will depend on the owner of the telephone line you use to make it. In general, calls from land-lines are much less expensive (sometimes half the price!) than those from cell phones. The Phone All service has a website with instructions, and a list of rates per minute by operator: http://www.phoneall.it/index.php.
- You may wish to purchase an international calling card from an American company prior to your departure from the US. Some are pre-paid, and others are billed to your home later. Most long-distance phone companies provide them, and there are now other companies online that sell them as well. You can price-compare them all at http://speedypin.com/.
To make a collect call, you can either dial the Italian service toll-free at tel. 170, or use your American phone company’s access line. (Note: you’ll get better rates by calling a home operator.) If you are using a pay phone, you will need a coin or phone card to get the initial line, but the money should be returned after the connection has been made. Each American long distance carrier has a different access number from Italy -- make sure to get yours before departure. (For example, if you are using AT&T, their number from Italy is 800-172-444.) An American operator will come on the line; tell them it is a collect call and give them the number you are trying to reach. After taking this information, the operator will request that the phone be hung up. The phone will ring shortly thereafter and if the party you are calling is in, the next voice on the line will be theirs, and the operator will ask them if they will accept the charges for your call. If the party is not in, the operator will ask you to try again later.
When making calls, keep in mind that the time in the United States is six to nine hours behind the time in Italy. For example, if it is 1:00 p.m. in Italy, it is 7:00 a.m. in Atlanta, Georgia, and 4:00 a.m. in California.
The customary salutation used when answering the phone in Italy is “pronto!” If you are making the call, ask for the person you are calling by saying, “Buon giorno, è possibile parlare con (name)?”.
If your friends or family need to call you, the best place for them to reach you is the Kehoe Center, either early in the morning or late in the evening.
Make sure your family has the following phone numbers, which they can use to reach you in case of emergency:
- Chris Robinson, Director: 001 39 393 842 5005
- Kris Schramer, Associate Director: 001 39 331 577 8628
- Visiting Artist Intern: 001 39 333 284 7267
- Enza Valente, Business Manager: 001 39 338 479 7786
- John D. Kehoe Center: 001 39 0575 630 275
- Severini School: 001 39 0575 605 074
- UGA Cortona In-Town Office 001 39 0575 603 157