Thursday, August 28, 2014

No Wi-Fi For You!

I need this.  I really need this.

"Technology offers us a unique opportunity,
though rarely welcome, to practice patience."
~Allan Lokos

Two days into my no-internet-in-the-apartment saga (last Saturday, to be exact), I caved. 
A little background: Mike and I were using Skype and Viber to communicate. Both of them are internet-based programs that allow subscribers to call or text free if they are in a Wi-Fi area. Since the apartment Wi-Fi went down Thursday morning, I had no way to communicate with him (or anyone else) unless I found one of the free hotspots in Bologna. Before I left the States, I read that there was free Wi-Fi in the piazza about a quarter of a mile from my apartment, so I thought I would be okay.  Silly me.  Silly me.

No free Wi-Fi for you!

There very well may be, but I have yet to find it, and I walked the entire piazza trying to see where it was hiding.  The only thing close to a connection that I found were two phone booths that actually work (See photo below.)

The do still exist.
 I decided to head to Piazza Maggiore—about another quarter of a mile away—to use the city signal there. As I walked down a little alley, I noticed I had a pretty strong signal from an unlocked connection.
While I was more than grateful to mooch someone’s free Wi-Fi, I tired of it quickly.  In the first place, I wasn’t wild about the looks passers-by gave me, the noise and fumes from Vespas that cut through the alley, and the little gnats that thought my ankles looked like a tasty meal. The worst thing, though, was that any slight move on my part could throw a huge wrench into our ability to hear one another.

My alley

“I can’t hear you,” he often said. “Don’t move. I can hear you perfectly well now. Wait. Did you turn your head? You’re cutting out.  I can’t hear you any more.” I was getting irritated with him. If anyone should complain, I thought, it should be me. I was the one who was sneaking around Bologna in search of a connection while serving as dinner and entertainment for the masses while he was comfortably ensconced on his La-Z-Boy.

So, I caved. I found a 3Italia store (a cellular provider) Saturday evening and bought a sim card for my iPad. It cost me 8 euro (about $10) for 3 gigabytes of data.  Compare that to the $30 AT&T wanted for a lot less data, and I think I got a deal. I don’t use it for everything since Skype does use a lot of the data, but it gives me peace of mind and allows me to talk from the relative comfort of the apartment.

What the card doesn't do, though, is allow me to download things I have to edit as I need the program on my laptop.  And, I can't talk very long via Skype with Mike because Skype uses a lot of megabytes.  After five days, I'm through more than 1/3 of my card's allotment. So, I need to find cafes with "Free Wi-Fi."  As with the free Wi-Fi in Starbucks, it comes with a price (See photo below.), one that I'm willing to pay since I need a daily infusion of caffeine.

Cappuccino and brioche=Free Wi-Fi
The hitch is that the connection is slow and takes me forever to download or upload anything.  So, while I'm not complaining, I am pretty frustrated.  I understand that things move slowly here, and being as I am not a patient person, that is hard for me. I like to think that a company in the US would have fixed the line problem already, but who knows?
A less famous tower in Bologna

Giovanni, the owner of my apartment, had his employee come to check out the line Saturday. (That is a long story set for the book, so I won't tell it here.) Suffice to say that he didn't fix it because the problem is with the line.  On vacation in Greece, Giovanni assured me that the internet provider would work on the line Monday and hopefully fix it.  Of course you know they haven't.  He also allowed me to go to the B&B he owns to use that internet connection.  ZZZZAAAAPPPP.  If one line is broken, they all are.

Yesterday, the owner/director  of Cultura Italiana, where I took Italian classes, offered me the use of a "key," a USB drive that is like a mobile hotspot.  Massimo and his wife have become friends, and we've had coffee and conversation a few times. (Bright Spot Side Note: I can understand about 90% of what they say.) I took in the laptop this morning.

"Oh," Massimo sighed, "it's Epple. I don't know if it works with Epple."  It didn't, but not because my computer is Epple. I think it had expired as he told me he hadn't used it in over a year. The keys work on a monthly basis.

So, I continue to search out free Wi-Fi where I can actually sit to work.  I head to the alley around 4:00 to talk to Mike. I know the gnats and tourists are glad to see me.

Fiore for sale a few blocks from my alley


  1. Chris - I feel your pain! When I was in South Korea, I thought Internet access was a no-brainer but not in the area where we were. It was a constant hunt for Internet cafes in each town we visited.

  2. Ahhh, the familiarity of all of it. Searching out WiFi is part of my travel ritual, especially on cruises where you have to pay big bucks for access, and then that's iffy. Your story reminds me of one time in Avignon. Our little hotel was supposed to have wifi, but it was sketchy, so I found a corner of the nearby park where I sat madly posting my travel journal online before it became too cold and dark. Fun memories.