I should confess I’m not entirely sure whether I have successfully done this or not so treat everything you read with a note of caution if you’re trying to buy your own SIM.
So. In England, I think to buy a SIM you’d probably go to a phone shop. In Italy, there’s sort of large stores that sell everything that you can get them in too. Getting an Italian SIM card will mean it’s much cheaper to call and text other people with an Italian SIM card and much MUCH cheaper to use the internet than using your home network provider.
The shop I went to was called Marco Polo. There, you can buy a pay as you go SIM. I went with a provider called “WIND” – they seemed to be the only one that did Pay as you Go (my favourite catchphrase on the WIND website is “passa a wind” – I’ve no idea what that means). Anyway, no doubt this will change in time but as of May 2013, you can get an “All Inclusive” deal which gives you 120 minutes call time free, 120 SMS and internet “illimitato” (“illimitato” is unlimited) and all for 7 Euros per month. BUT it would appear to be that your internet will go slowly, so there’s an option to have it “powered” up to 2GB for an extra 2,5 Euros so that you get 2GB speedy quick, but it’ll slow down after that. So, 9,5 Euros a month and you’re sorted.
But you can’t just buy it there. No, no, no. You have to sort of “set it up” and you have to go to a Tabaccheria (Tabaccheria’s are little shops selling cigarettes and other bits and pieces) to seal the deal. So, having now studied my receipts, I think this is what happens: as a new customer you seem to have to pay 5 Euros for the SIM card itself. But er, you also pay an extra 5 Euros as a sort of down payment for whatever deal you’ve signed up to. So 10 Euros in total at Marco Polo. And to do that, you speak nicely to the people on the buy-a-SIM -card desk, then they give you an A4 print out. Then you take it to the main tills. Then you pay. Then you have to walk back to the desk selling the SIM cards again to actually get your SIM card. Efficient.
If you’re actually following these instructions – well done – you’re half way there. Deep breaths.
THEN, you must go to the Tabaccheria. There are lots of these dotted around places. If you went to Marco Polo by Ancono like I did, there’s one in the shopping centre of amazingness opposite: Auchan. And there, you must say something along the lines of “Voglio un ricarico per , e per and then give them your mobile number when they ask for it. That roughly translates as “I want to put X Euro’s on my phone that uses the x network”. And they’ll give you back a receipt (“Ricevuta di pagamento”) and you should check the phone number’s right and the amount. That money seems to go on your phone straight away and then you should be able to use it!
And when you’ve got your phone and people call you that you know from the UK (or elsewhere), their names don’t come up because they come through with the extra +44 on. Frustrating.
Anyway… Congratulations – what a doddle eh?!
I suggest once you’ve done that, you buy a carton of wine in the supermarket next door (before you do, you might want to read this).