Does anyone have any recommendations regarding travel sims - I'm traveling from Australia to Italy and would like to know if it's best to purchase a travel sim before I leave home or wait til I get to Rome?
Below is a copy of some notes I have compiled during my planning for my pilgrimage this September. So this does not represent experience, but I hope it helps. Most of the info comes from the tripadvisor site whose URL you see. I also went on-line to the various providers using Google Chrome browser which has a built-in translator to check on coverage. Even in the region of Great Saint Bernard Pass there is basic coverage by all the major services (just not high speed data).
For many, it is sufficient to get a tablet SIM card while traveling, even to put in your mobile phone. This way, you have Internet and can use apps like Whatsapp to communicate.
Should you do this, you should avoid Tre. Their plan looks great - 8 gigs for 10 euros - but is designed to take advantage of foreigners who don't know the intricacy of activation. Once you purchase, you need to wait until midnight to use (unlike other providers) and if you try to use before midnight it works but on a different payment scheme where you're charged by the megabyte. Additionally, ensure that data roaming is disabled. Clients have reported attempting to activate multiple times with zero luck.
Vodafone is also known for engaging in such slippery shenanigans (and they're more expensive - 2.5 gigs for 10 euros). WIND seems to be less so, but naturally all companies here have their own interests in mind. [3 WIND shops in Aosta, some have better reviews than others]
If your SIM card is WIND, it will take about one hour to get activated after purchase. Brilliant for mobile 3G data. 9 Euros a month for 1GB data, plus card costs (around 15 Euros, plus min 10 Euros top up. If in any doubt, get a wind dongle, around 40 euros. Alll software is built into the dongle - just plug it into the USB port.
Many cell phone stores represent multiple service providers, and can offer a wide choice of voice, messaging and data packages, as well as often having relatively inexpensive, basic unlocked cell phones (from €29 on up) to which you can add a SIM from any of the cell companies.
Vodafone has a store inside Milan Malpensa airport's Terminal 1 (Phone Number: 0274867058) and also inside Milan's central train station.
I've been using a TIM SIM card ever since my first trip to Italy almost five years ago, so I think I can share my experience here
TIM is great - they have good coverage (I used this SIM card in Valle d'Aosta, Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Toscana, Sardinia, Sicilia, and Lazio, it worked splendidly everywhere), lost of stores, and the internet connection is fast and stable. I pay 10 Euro per 4 Gb, and it seems fair enough. If you're buying a SIM card, you'll also have to pay for the SIM card, and the card + 4 Gb will cost you 30 Euro (or at least that's what my friend paid last autumn). The 10 Euro fee covers only these 4 Gb of internet - calls and sms are not included.
But here's one thing you should be well aware of: when buying the SIM card or topping up your balance, make it very clear that you need that special option with cheap mobile internet. Otherwise, they will simply top up your balance, and the 10 Euro will be spent in one day, two days tops. And make sure to ask the shop assistant if you can surf the Net right away or you need to wait for a special sms confirmation. Last I checked (and it was last September), it was possible to connect to the internet immediately, but it's better to be on the safe side of things
Since a couple of weeks a new (very) low-cost telecom service provider is in business in Italy!
At the moment they offer a monthly amount of 30 MB, unlimited calls and SMSs for 5.99 €