7

I am looking at traveling to Italy for a week stopping in Rome, Florence, and Venice. I would like to find out what wifi options there are and if there are decent free options. I found This blog post which refers to this free wifi project, I was a little concerned about the requirement to give a credit card number (mentioned on the blog post but I could not find this info on the services site).

Can anyone provide information about this service or other services? Do McDonalds, Starbucks or similar services have free wifi options?

Some info on speed, coverage, and quality would also be nice if you know.

Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  • In Venice, many bars and restaurants provide the connection to their wi-fi for free. – Filippo Nov 16 '14 at 8:39
11

I am currently living near Pisa, and have spent time in Rome and other cities. The free Wi-Fi situation is... variable. There can be issues and some setup required, but you shouldn't have too much trouble.

Many cities and large shopping centers do offer free Wi-Fi services (There is something called "Wi-Pi" for most of Pisa, and the project you linked to is another example). Most do require some form of verification. This is most often a text message or credit card number.

  • The text message option, as far as I can tell, only works for Italian phone numbers. I tried to use this option using my US cell number and my Google Voice number, and neither was successful. You could of course get an Italian SIM, but that may defeat the purpose of the whole "free" aspect.

  • As for the credit card option, it is usually just for identity verification, and will not actually charge you. Be alert, however. Some of them will charge for usage over a certain time or data amount per day, though the amount you would need to use is usually quite large and I haven't seen this too often. Just make sure you know what you are signing up for.

If you successfully create an account on one of these services, the cool part is that you can use that account at any of the hotspots that are on that service - One that I have an account for works at my local supermarket, shopping center, the airport, and a couple other places around the city.

If one of these larger networks is not in the area, or you can't do the verification, many coffee shops ("bars" in Italy) will have free Wi-Fi available for customers. So you can just stop in for a coffee and ask for the Wi-Fi network.

(Un)fortunately, Starbucks is not allowed and therefore does not exist in Italy. McDonald's supposedly has Wi-Fi but I couldn't get it to work - and nobody there was too keen on solving my problems. Fast food places are also somewhat scarce but in the larger cities you can find them.

Lastly, keep in mind that any of these networks, especially the smaller ones in individual shops and such, may not be functioning that day or may have issues etc. (Italy is notorious for slow bureaucracy and poor infrastructure maintenance. I will even lose cell service inexplicably for hours at a time about once a week).

So if you can't connect or start having problems, you might need to either wait it out or look for a new network. I think this will be somewhat less of a problem in the big tourist cities though.

Speed overall is quite good actually, when the network is functioning, but the larger networks depend on how many people are using them, so I have actually had better luck speed-wise with smaller networks in coffee shops and the like. These will also have less security measures in place, which can be good if you want to download stuff or view content through protocols which might be blocked on the larger networks.

Tl;dr: There is Wi-Fi all over the place in big cities but it often requires validation, payment, or can be a pain to connect to. I would try coffee bars first, especially those that advertise Wi-Fi.

  • Hi Calvin, Thanks for the really detailed response, I will keep the question open for now to see if there are other opinions (I leave in a week). I will probably just hope for the best and I know I can use the credit card system if I really need it. – Totoro Nov 16 '14 at 9:56
  • Sounds good. I also wonder where you are staying while you travel. Most hotels and hostels also have free Wi-Fi for customers, and hosts will usually let you use their network while you stay there. – Calvin Scherle Nov 17 '14 at 8:32
  • According to the itinerary only the Florence hotel has free WIFI but websites seem to say otherwise, I want to plan for all possible situations :) – Totoro Nov 17 '14 at 16:09
  • Yeah that is another thing I learned about Italy. The information online is very unreliable. I think less than 10% of businesses are listed on Google Maps, and finding info about any place online is nearly impossible :P – Calvin Scherle Nov 17 '14 at 16:15
  • 1
    Some notes to add, One of my hotels did not have wifi, one had free wifi and the other had unlimited for 5 euro. Airports had free wifi and the city wifi services required a local phone or credit card (while some were free there would still be a small charge to the card). I used some of the free bar wifi options with mixed results, some were fast, others not so much. – Totoro Nov 29 '14 at 9:12
2

The situation in Italy for free WiFi... is... ehm, how can I say... catastrophic?

I had the chance to stay for 2 weeks in Rome to improve my Italian so I can tell you how the situation is. Essentialy, italians do have free WiFi but it requires an italian number in the registration process: so either you have it (and if you manage to use this free WiFi expect a 2G speed) or forget free WiFi. Bars and Restaurants may have it but most of them are locked and you have to ask for the password: those who have it for free are the most tourist ones (Avoid them like you would with the black death!!!).

The only thing that remains, if you're planning to stay for less than 2 weeks, look for a MiFi charterer: while I stayed in the eternal city my choice ended up in ExpressoWiFi, which I knew for pure accident from its Facebook page (the choice was between this service and taking a SIM from an italian carrier). What pushed me to choose this service is that with something like 6€/day I could use as many GBs as I wanted at 4G speed with an excellent coverage and I could tether as many devices as I wanted.

IMHO, this is the best option until Italy will get a decent broadband that can, otherwhise, offer a good WiFi speed.

0

Unfortunately, a national wifi project is going to start and it has some difficult to work decently. The first italian reviews say that the connection is poor and the coverage strictly limited to some city. I really suggest to rent a pocket wifi by a local provider: in the last year many operators have grown and personally I know WiTourist.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.