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Getting wifi in Europe is easier than ever

Free wifi is already available in many hotels around Europe, but what happens when you head out the door, into the city? Several years ago McDonalds restaurants in France began offering free wifi – a handy place to grab a quick map download or check your email, even if you didn't want to eat there. Many local governments have made wifi available in cities, these often require registering your personal details, and then verifying them through a text message or email, a cumbersome process when you are moving around a lot.

The Italian government recently announced that they will be rolling out free wifi hotspots in more than 7000 piazzas around the country, focusing especially on smaller towns and villages without the resources for their own systems, and all accessible via one smartphone app. No need to register with multiple operators.

RATP, the operator of the Paris public transport system, has vowed to have 100% coverage for mobile networks in the Metro by the end of next year. While not exactly free, for those with a mobile data plan who would like to be able to access the network while traveling deep underground on the subway, this is great news. For the rest of us – who will now have to listen to other people having mobile phone conversations on the subway – maybe this isn't such great news.

Strikes ahead – Italy and Britain

Nationwide strikes have been announced in Italy for Wednesday, July 24 and Friday, July 26. The Wednesday strike will affect all public ground transport, including trains, ferries, buses, and taxis. Strike periods will range from around 4 hours (Rome's public transport) to 8 hours (national rail services) to 24 hours (taxis and ferries).

The Friday strike is aimed at air travel, with airport workers and Alitalia airline staff staging a 24 hour strike.

Scioperi (strikes) are common in Italy and usually announced well in advance. While they rarely last more than 24 hours, they can cause serious travel disruptions. If you are traveling in Italy this week, check with your airline for delays or cancelations, or ask your hotel about local disruptions. The Italian Transport ministry keeps track of announced strikes.

Meanwhile in Britain, the union representing pilots for British Airways voted in favor of a strike. No dates have been announced yet, but this has the potential to be longer and much more disruptive than the Italian strikes. If you are flying British Airways in the near future, check the company's website for the latest news.

Travel Thought for the Week

“I do not hold that a traveler must be born with the urge to wander, or even leave home at an early age. But I am convinced that the impulse for wandering comes effortlessly to the young, and one risks losing it if he or she waits too long to act.”

– Coleman Lollar, American photojournalist

Mona on the Move

Mona Lisa recently took up residence in a new home. She didn't go far, though, moving just about 100 feet from the Salle des États to the Galerie Médicis, both located in Paris's Louvre Museum. The Salle des États, where the painting has been on display for more than 14 years, is undergoing renovation. As soon as work is completed, probably in October, Mona will return to her former spot.

$1000 fine for making coffee is too little

A pair of backpackers hanging out in Venice were fined €950 (over $1000) for making coffee. Thing is, they were making the coffee on a travel stove, while sitting at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal. In addition to the fine, they were also banned from the city.

Maybe the city should have had them spend a day picking up garbage left by other thoughtless tourists.

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