I recently went on a trip to Italy and in order to keep up to date with work I decided to find some prepaid mobile Internet for my stay. I stepped by a Wind (www.wind.it) store in Verona on a friday afternoon. The attendant explained that my best choice would be their "Mega unlimited" offer which included a SIM-card for a total of 30 euros (10 euros for the SIM-card and 20 for the internet). As I have a built in 3G modem in my laptop and a HTC Desire HD smartphone a SIM-card was the only thing I needed. The APN for Wind is internet.wind and the number to dial is *99#.
I was told that I had to wait to the day after until some SMS in Italian had been recieved before I could start using it. Before I left Italy I should also send a text "ESTERO NO" to nr 4033 to cancel the subscription (it is actually a subscription that would cost 4 euros a month after 6 months). So, a couple of SMSes in Italian arrived and off we went! It worked perfectly to surf on the net and check my email and speed was good. A couple of hours later I tried it again. But this time no luck. It seemed that the network wasn’t accepting my SIM-card.
So I moved it from my laptop over to my smartphone and tried it there with the same result. At this point I also could get online temporary on a Wifi-network so I checked the Wind.it website, but there was no means of getting in touch with them by email. Wind has a free customer service number, 155, which can be reached from the mobile. This worked but on a weekend there was nobody speaking english available. I could understand "lunedi" which is monday, so I had to call back after the weekend.
On monday I again tried 155 and now there was a choice in the phone menues to switch to English (which ironically enough was said in Italian but somehow I figured out which dial to press to make the voice switch over to English). Now I could reach an english speaking customer service assistant who could inform me that the reason to my SIM not working is that the account balance is zero. And when it is zero all services are turned off. Trying to explain that I already payed 20 euros for the internet service wasn’t helping. At least I needed to add 5 euros of airtime which can be purchased in any tobacco store or online. Unfortunately she "forgot" to inform me that the smallest online recharge amount is 15 euros. So off to a tobacconist to buy 5 euros of recharge, add it to the account and voila – everything has been working like a charm since.
In total, for 35 euros, I have a month of unlimited mobile Internet in Italy (including the 5 euros of recharge needed, which the attendant in the Wind store in Verona "forgot" to inform me about) which I think is worth the money. When not using it in my computer I put the SIM in my smartphone making it possible for me to have full Internet access all the time. Even though my stay in Italy was only 10 days I think it was worth it. Sadly enough, I could only use it for 7 because of the attendant in Verona who "forgot" to inform me that I had to recharge it with 5 extra euros (which could be resolved on the monday with customer service). But that wasn’t the only thing "forgotten" to inform us about during our stay in Italy. Being ripped off 8 euros per icecream in a gelatteria in Milan just because we sat down and didn’t take them with us is another. And the only prices advertised was the take away prices (of course). But that is another, non-technical story… 🙂
Another small travel tip regarding Italy. Don’t forget power adaptor if you are going to use a grounded power plug (like the ones for laptops for example) since the grounded outlets in Italy is not the european standard. If you forgot the adaptor and are staying at a hotel, check the tv power cord. TVs often have european power plugs connected with an adaptor and choosing between running the computer and watching Italian dubbed tv the choice is easy 😛 Don’t forget to put the adaptor back before you checkout though 😉 Non-grounded power plugs, like mobile phone chargers, etc, will work without an adaptor.