The country code for Italy is +39. Phone numbers do not all have the same number of digits, so do not be surprised when someone gives you a very short number. Cell phone numbers start with the number 3 and always have 10 digits. If you are calling to a land line in Italy the city code will start with a 0 (zero). In case you are calling from outside Italy you will usually have to leave off that initial zero.
Calling within Italy
If you are calling from one land line to another one within Italy you will always have to start with the city code, zero included, even if you are calling within the city.
Calling abroad from Italy
Italy’s outgoing dialing code is 00 (zero-zero) and then the country code of wherever you wish to call to.
The cheapest ways to make phone calls in Italy
What you should not do is call from your hotel phone. Calls abroad are usually expensive in Italy anyway and you can rest assured that your hotel will add quite a bit on top of the cost. Public phones have virtually died out, so if you cannot use your own phone you had best go to one of the small offices that you find especially around Termini and that offer very good rates.
It has become hard to find phone booths in Italy, and even harder to find ones that accept coins, so it is best to buy phone cards, which you can generally get from tobacco shops and newspaper kiosks. Make sure to specify where you want to call to: Certain kinds of cards are better for Italy, others for abroad.
Calling with a phone card inside Italy
The phone cards you use for calling inside Italy cost a minimum of 5 Euros and are fairly simple to work: You put them in a slot and then you just dial the number you wish to be connected to. The only thing you have to remember is to tear off the little corner before you insert the card. Remember that it is expensive to call a cell phone number with one of these cards.
Calling abroad from Italy using a phone card
It is possible to call abroad with the normal phone cards, but this will cost you an arm and a leg. There are special cards you can use for calling abroad. Not all newspaper stands sell them, but the ones in railway stations in big cities like Rome normally do. You can use these with any phone, though it is more costly when using a cell phone. The first thing you do is scratch the back of the card, so that you will be able to see the pin code. Then you dial either one of the 800-numbers or the local code of the city where you find yourself which you can see on the back as well. From here the operator will guide you through the process, but basically the next thing you have to do is dial the pin code and finally the number you actually wish to call. The minimum (a 5 Euro card) will still give you up to 5 hours of conversation.
Calling abroad from an office in Italy
Especially near Roma Termini, the main station, and in areas where many immigrants live, there are a lot of tiny offices where you can make long distance phone calls for very good rates. These often double as internet points.
Bringing your own cell phone
Local mobile phone operators like TIM, Vodaphone and WIND use GSM networks and generally make sure to have roaming agreements with international operators. You should phone your cell phone company before coming to Italy to ask them to have an international roaming facility added to your phone.
Getting an Italian SIM-card
If you are staying longer in Italy you can of course also get an Italian number. In order to do this you need a valid ID, an address and a tax number (codice fiscale), though I have known people to get one without the latter. You can either get a contract and a monthly bill or keep topping it up with additional credit whenever you run out by getting special ricariche at, again, tobacconists and newspaper stands. All major streets have offices representing all major companies.