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Old 06-09-2012, 02:16 PM   #1
jcb
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Mostly Tech Lessons Learned from Viva Italia

In the spirit of Mike's thread, I thought I would make a few technological observations about our Viva Italia experience.

Electrical Power
Our experience with Italian electrical power was uneventful. Before leaving, I bought two power strips and 2 adapters (and 2 more for Switzerland, which uses a different power outlet). I decided for forego Mike's heavy power strip in favor of a lighter one. While lighter, the spaces between the outlets let me put my several iPad/iPhone power adapters next to each other.

I also bought a smaller one just in case.

Before leaving, I was concerned that the Italian power outlets might not be grounded but I never had any problem with the grounded adapters I bought from Amazon.


I had no issues using any of the devices I brought. The power adapters for all of my devices (iPad, iPhone, Dell laptop, Camera battery charger) were dual voltage.

The only issue I had with the Italian power adapters was that on the train from Venice to Milan (after our adventure ended), the adapters were so wide that it took a little finagling to get the adapter in the plug without tripping the breaker (which was next to the outlet). I didn't have this problem on the Eurostar train from Florence to Venice.

Speaking of power on the train, the Eurostar train from Florence to Venice had Italian power plugs available in first class. All the trains we rode offered power in first or comfort class.

Hair Dryers
My wife's hair dryer wasn't dual voltage so it stayed home. All the hotels provided hair dryers. My wife tells me the hair dryer in Venice was the best but the ones in Rome and Artimino were "ok."

Wireless Internet using a Sim Card
Upon arrival in Rome (and learning our room wasn't quite ready), we walked from the Hotel Bernini Bristol to the Vodafone One store on Via del Tritone. The walk, while a little complex due to Italian roads (and our unfamiliarity with them) was an easy one. Google maps shows the Vodafone store is 500 meters, or less than 1/3 of a mile, from our Hotel.
(This photo of store the store comes from the owner).

Remember that to buy a sim card in Italy (and probably any EU country), you must show your passport. While the clerks were very nice and very helpful, we had a slight language issue in the store. Italians do not natively use a long "I" so until I pulled out my iPad and showed it to them, the store's employees didn't know what I wanted to buy. To them it was an "ePad."

The sim card on my iPad (the "new" 3rd Generation one) is on the side, located next to the paperclip in this photo.

Using the paperclip (the store clerk actually had a device that did this) you can pop open the sim card tray.

You must have the AT&T version of the iPad. This won't work on a Verizon iPad or, for that matter, on a wi/fi only iPad.

The sim card comes in a credit card size package

but the sim card itself is no larger than a dime,

so the card must be trimmed (as in physically cut) to the size needed by the iPad. The store clerk trimmed the sim card to the correct size without me asking her to do so.

The total price was €25 (currently $31.26) for 5 gigabytes of data (or one month of use). As we left Italy (10 days later), I checked my data usage and found I had downloaded and uploaded about 4.5 gigabytes but then I was determined to get my money's worth out of the sim card.

The sim card doesn't work immediately as it apparently takes about 3 hours for the data to be uploaded to the mobile network. My sim card started working in about 2.75 hours. Once it is activated, you will need to enter the pin code which comes with the sim card package (see "codice sim" in the photo above).

After buying the sim card we walked a few more feet down Via del Tritone and found a new TIM store.

If I had it to do over, I would probably have bought a sim card from TIM for the reasons I described below).

You don't have to use these particular stores. They just happened to be closest to our hotel. There were TIM and Vodafone stores all over Rome.

The Vodafone sim card worked well in Rome and Florence. Not surprisingly, I had a very weak signal in Artimino (we were on a mountain, after all). Comments I read, seemed to say that TIM worked better in remote areas.

While I had a strong signal in Venice, I think there were so many people in a relatively small area using their smart phones that upload and download speeds during the day were at a slow crawl. The speeds approved significantly in the evening.

While I had a strong wireless signal in most of Venice, the signal in the Hotel Luna Baglioni was weak to non-existent. It was virtually unusable, at least if you have my level of patience. Those who had TIM cards also reported the signal was weaker but they didn't seem to have the same problems I did.

Hotel Internet
Of the three hotels we stayed in, only the one in Artimino included Internet in the room rate. Internet was a separate charge in Rome and Venice. I didn't ask about the cost in Rome. In Venice, the hotel wanted €15 per day, €10 for 3 hours and €5 for an hour. Sinice I could walk to where I could get a strong signal on my iPad, I decided it wasn't worth it.

GPS Navigation
I have a Garmin Nuvi GPS for my SUV so I took it and bought a set of maps for the Alps for our final weekend in Switzerland. The maps came on a micro SD card which fit my GPS so no installation was needed. Having the GPS tell us where to go saved us several times, though I was also glad I bought a paper map of Switzerland while in Florence, and it wasn't perfect. Following GPS directions is easy in most areas of the US, but on the much more complex and narrow roads of Switzerland, I unexpectedly heard "recalculating" far more often that I would have liked!

I had hoped to use the GPS on Eurostar but could never get it to lock on to the satellites from the train. It otherwise worked very well. I found it more fun to follow the trains progress on my iPad Map app. Again, I was determined to use all 5 gigabytes.
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:33 PM   #2
DSNYDREAMER
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I also had Vodaphone, it worked for a about a day and then I couldn't get anything on my iPad. Matt and John each had TIM and never had an issue. Matt even used his on the train without issue.

Lesson learned, go with TIM!
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Old 07-08-2012, 04:37 PM   #3
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I went to FastWeb for my SIM card. I had asked concierge where Vodafone was located and he recommended FastWeb. They were right around the corner from the hotel in Rome. The charge was only 20 euro. The man at the counter trimmed the card and had it all working within minutes. Great service! Very friendly people.

I had good connections except in the " Tuscan prison"

I would highly recommend FastWeb! My receipt shows website as www.fastwebroma.com
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