The frustration of finding a wireless connection in Italy

So, we’re here in Lucca, in Northern Tuscany. The hotel we’re staying at, a lovely place, advertised that it offers free high-speed Internet access. Apparently someone forgot to explain to the staff how to make it work. (Update: And that “free” part? Gone, apparently.)

We checked in yesterday and I had a comical series of sessions with three different employees, last night, this morning, and this afternoon, all of whom tried their best and were unfailingly polite but couldn’t figure out the new system that was just installed in the past few weeks, replacing what had apparently been your basic router in the back office with free access to patrons.

It’s a pay-as-you-go system, at a fairly reasonable 1-euro-per-hour rate. I was able to get a nice strong connection, and I was able to brush up on my Italian by reading the many error pages and sign-up forms, none of which are in English. Eventually, I figured out what the hotel staff couldn’t, which is that I needed to walk a few blocks away, buy a prepaid Internet access card, and type the 16–digit serial number in the Ricaricati (recharge) page.

The larger lesson is that trying to turn Internet access into a paying business with lots of resellers has the unfortunate side effect of forcing some very nontechnical people into mastering (or not, as in this case) some arcane technologies, like encrypted wireless access points.

Apparently the Sofitel in Rome has wireless access. We’ll see whether it’s free or even available when we arrive there on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Lucca is a charming place, a fascinating old town in a walled city that is still in Tuscany but might as well be a million miles from the Siena-Cortona-Montepulciano region we’ve been in for the past week. Great food and wine, too.

7 thoughts on “The frustration of finding a wireless connection in Italy

  1. “offers free high-speed Internet access.”
    “’s a pay-as-you-go system, at a fairly reasonable 1-euro-per-hour rate”
    “buy a prepaid Internet access card”

    I can’t put my finger on it but I swear one of these things contradicts the other two…

  2. The secrets are:

    “advertised that it offers free high-speed internet access”


    “the new system that was just installed…”

    So, I could spend hours tracking down the management and get them to honor their advertisement or just pay 1 euro per hour and not interrupt my vacation. The hotel is clean and comfortable and the rate is reasonable, so I chose the latter.

  3. usually the lobby of the starhotel italian chain of hotels have free wireless:) sometimes a bar and espresso place too. hmmm, but i dunno about bologna. actually i just googled hotspot bologna and it turned up many likely candidates.

  4. The outside photo of the hotel looks like the hotel from the movie “Only You,” which appears to have been filmed all over Italy, but not Lucca.

  5. And here I am, I just spent 19CHF (about $16) for 4 hours of internet connectivity. And I’ve already been kicked off for whatever. Can’t wait to get home to my cable connection!

  6. Ed, overall internet access in Italy is a joke, like many other things over here in Italy… the best way to get a wireless connection is walk around the town and find some clueless user that has a wifi spot and doesn’t know how to protect it 😉

  7. Ed, did you try an English-spoken conversation with those Italians? 🙂

    Greetz from Holland, Haaglander

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