(BTW, I should point out that the above reproduction of Giotto's The Adoration of the Magi from the Capella degli Scrovegni in Padua has nothing to do with this post, except that I love it -- especially the medieval idea of how camels looked -- and will visit the Scrovegni with Girasoli in June!)
I have a love-hate relationship with Telecom Italia (TIM)
Here's the love part: I love having an Italian phone number. It's like holding a wee bit of Italian identity; a toehold, albeit tenuous, in Italy. Actually, now that I think of it, I also have a code fiscale as well, which came with the phone. Surely that means I'm practically an Italian!!
I also love the pay-as-you-go principle applied in Italy concerning cellphones. You buy time as you need it. No monthly rental agreements, no flat fees applied regardless of how few calls or texts you make. Canada should try this. I really hate paying monthly cell phone fees, especially if I barely make a call from my cell.
Here's the hate part of my TIM relationship: dealing with Telecom Italy. More specifically, trying to add credit to my cell phone from North America.
I suppose my struggles with TIM are really supporting evidence of just how Canadian I still am (and Irish, of course, being the proud bearer of an Irish passport. Tho sometimes I cover all of the other letters on the cover and pretend the I stands for Italy.)
Now, as anyone who follows the Slow Travel Italy message board knows, countless anguished posts have been thrown up concerning how to recharge an cellphone registered with TIM. Especially when you're not actually in Italy.
This matters because once you buy a SIM card from TIM (still with me?) your cellphone is registered for use in Italy for one year after you the last time you bought, well, time. If, for some reason, you don't buy any more credit by the time that year elapses, your TIM registration and Italian phone number dies. (There may be an extra month's grace, I'm a bit fuzzy on that detail.)
Anyway, I learned this the hard way two years ago. I bought my first TIM card and at the Florence airport, splashed out on a 50 euro time card. Whoo-hoo! Load up with lots of credit, I thought; and then you and your cell will be set for years. Alas, I was very confused. I mistakenly thought so long as you used the phone at least once per year, the number remained active. (Now, of course, we know you have to purchase credit at least once per year to remain active.)
Needless to say, the TIM registration card expired a year later, swallowing about 40 euro in credit. And then, I had to buy a new TIM and give my friends a new Italian number.
So before I left Italy last June, I bought a 5-euro ricaricard for recharging and brought it home with me. And this morning, heart in mouth, I dialed TIM, punched in the secret code from the card, and promptly got a message back from TIM, essentially acknowledging my Italian citizenship. Yahoo!!! I didn't think it would work, since I'm not active on any Canadian cellphone networks. But I guess business transactions are permitted. How's that for free trade?
BTW, I tried for many hours to do this over the Internet, but TIM IT gods refused to accept my Canadian credit card or Paypal.
My lesson? Add a few ricaricards to the annual shopping list for Italy. Or, visit there more than once a year!