Keep us informed, please, Italophile!
There was an earlier city wifi initiative several years ago, which I signed up for but could never get to work. As I said, I've just given up on wifi in Rome, and use 3G. If your phone is a smart phone, you could get a data plan for 2 euros a week.
Yes, well I could do this with the smartphone I brought with me from home. BUT Unfortunately, I did not bring the unlock code that Verizon gave me. So I am stuck with my old Italian cell and wifi on my smartphone.
Oh, too bad.
Great! When you're back home, please update us on how it went all in all, whether you found hotspots easily, whether the speed was reasonable, how difficult it is to sign up for. This is one of the most frequently asked questions on the Rome forum.
The costs below are for TIM, which is my provider. Other providers have similar plans. You can get SIM cards in any phone store, and in many small appliance or electronics shops. TIM, Vodafone, Wind and 3 are the main providers.
If your phone is an unlocked tri- or quad-band phone, you just buy an Italian SIM card to swap out with your US SIM card. The Sim card costs 10 euros, which includes 5 euros of credit that you can apply toward your first week of data service. I would add another 5 euros if you also plan to use the phone to make calls. The limit is 250 mb per week, which should be plenty for a phone. Data service costs somewhat more on tablets, but it's still quite reasonable.
The TIM Card International New Limited is a good option if you think you'll make an occasional call outside Italy. The cost of a call to the US, most of western Europe, and Australia is 20 cents a minute; for many other countries it's even less (as little as 2 cents a minute for China and India). Calls within Italy are 8 cents a minute. There's a connection charge of 16 cents a minute.Edited: 01 November 2011, 15:29
I have to say that the free Provincia WiFi is, IMHO, not a really good substitute for an Italian SIM with a data package. It only works within a block or less of the hotspot. I WAS in a very interesting spot (at the intersection of via della Portico di Ottavia and via di Tempio) and was able to upload some photos easily, and check my e-mail. But less than a block away, no signal. Also, there's a hotspot very near Caffè della Pace (Piazza Navona area).
So, if like me, you get an unlock code for your smartphone and then forget to bring the number with you and haven't yet unlocked it, then the free WiFi is a good choice. Otherwise, not. ;-) You want to be on vacation, looking at the interesting things around you, not stopping to see if you are getting a signal on your phone.
Just for the record...we recently returned from Italy where we stayed in Venice, Florence, and Rome. I took my little dinky $200 Netbook computer (hardly a computer, but...) so we could communicate by email with friends, family, office, etc,. and surf the net. All three of our hotel's WiFi worked PERFECTLY. Didn't need a sim card, modem, TIM, contract plan, phone, etc., etc. Yes, we did need a password...and the hotel gave it to us...it did not cost any extra...and as I said, it worked PERFECTLY for what we wanted to do. I guess I just don't get it, who needs to be sitting at a restaurant or bar in Venice, Florence, or Rome and be on line?
My (locked) phone had an "app" for the Rome bus system, with wait times. Sometimes one changes one's mind and wants to look up opening times for churches or other sites of interest. Also interactive maps with routing. And so on. Things to make life a bit easier.
I'm so old that my first trip to Rome my hotel didn't even have a phone (used the Poste to place calls). But having internet access on the go is a great aid for the independent traveler.