I’m not so much of a tech-lover that I can’t live without most gadgets when I travel. But there are enough travelers in the world now who would rather not imagine life without their iPhones that I thought it would be fun to look at what tools and toys in the iTunes app store might be useful (or just fun) for Italy lovers.
Since there are an ungodly number of apps for the iPhone (not to mention all the new ones that pop up all the time), it’s impossible for me to list all the Italy-related ones here. So this is a collection of some of the Italy iPhone apps that I think are either handy or hilarious. Some are good when you’re actually traveling in Italy (provided you either have a generous data plan or the apps can be used without being connected to the interwebs), some are helpful in learning a bit of the language before your trip, and others are just – there’s no other way to say it – ridiculous and/or amusing but not necessarily terribly useful.
I haven’t tried all of these apps personally (and, for the record, I have an iPod Touch – not an iPhone – so some of these don’t even work for me anyway), but I have played with quite a few of them. And, of course, these are just the ones I know about. You’ll have to let me know if I’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments below.
Since I first compiled this list, I have created lists of iPhone apps for specific cities in Italy – so please see the following lists of more Italy-related iPhone apps that may be helpful on your trip to any of these places:
Best Italy iPhone Apps
Throughout the list below, there are links that will take you to the iTunes store so you can download the apps described.
Italy Travel iPhone Apps
I originally considered an app useful to travelers only if it didn’t require a phone or internet connection in order to work, but I’m starting to let that standard slip a bit. Be sure to check with your provider to find out exactly how to avoid getting hit with enormous roaming charges when you get back from your vacation before you use any of these apps, okay?
Lonely Planet City Guides
Although Lonely Planet’s guide to Italy is still only available in book format if you want the whole country, you can get city guides for your iPhone – there’s Lonely Planet Rome, Lonely Planet Florence, and Lonely Planet Venice. They’re crammed with information – so much so that I find them a little unweildy to navigate, but if you play with them a bit before you really need them then you’ll know exactly where to find what you’re looking for. These apps can give you “location-based navigation” if you have your phone connected, but there are also offline maps you can use along with the usual Lonely Planet travel guide-y stuff you’d expect in their books.
100 Best Places to Go – Italy
So, maybe you don’t want a big guide to all of Italy anyway. Maybe you just want to know what the top places are to go in the country. For that, the “100 Best Places to Go” app for Italy might do the trick. It’s only $0.99, and it includes a description and photos of each place. Don’t expect the quality of information to be the same as an app from a guidebook producer, however. You sometimes do get what you pay for.
GiraCittà Audioguides for Venice, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Lucca, Verona, Bolzano, and Pisa
For those who like the idea of a guided walking tour of a city but who want to take the tour at their own pace, there are the GiraCittà audioguides. They’re offered for lots of cities in Italy, include video elements as well, and are $5.99 each. There is a GPS function with these guides, which you can use if you get lost or offtrack (but that’ll cost you roaming charges).
Alert Scioperi Trasporto
This app is all in Italian. It alerts you to transportation strikes in Italy, including trains, buses, planes, and boats.
You probably already know how useful GPS turn-by-turn navigation can be in a country you’re familiar with, so imagine how useful it is when you’re on foreign soil. TomTom Italy isn’t a cheap app, obviously, so you might not want to spring for it if you’re just going to be on foot – but if you’re driving around Italy, this could be a life-saver (and probably cheaper than renting a GPS unit in your rental car).
CoPilot Live: Italia
CoPilot Live: Italia is another GPS turn-by-turn navigation app, and this one’s more in a price range that you might consider it even if you’re just going to use it in place of folding maps for walking around wherever you are. And with CoPilot Live the street maps are saved onto your iPhone, not downloaded each time you open the app.
Italian Language iPhone Apps
This is probably the category with the most choices, and depending on the kind of learner you are you might have to try a few before you hit upon the one that helps you most. Most of them aren’t free, so that means you may want to read reviews before you start buying a bunch of language learning tools that you won’t like or use.
MemoryLifter English/Italian Basic Vocabulary
This is an electronic version of flash cards. I love that it has so many levels, so it can grow with your vocabulary, and the audio component of each word or phrase is great for pronunciation. It’s a well-designed and well-executed app, but there’s no free version you can test.
WordReference Italian-English Dictionary
The WordReference site is probably my favorite online dictionary, so it makes sense that I’d also love the iPhone app. It does require an internet connection, but if you’re using it for pre-trip learning (or post-trip translations of emails from that new Italian pen pal) then it’s ideal.
This is another flash card learning system, and a few different ways to use the app for Italian language learning. There’s a free introductory version you can download to try it out.
Lonely Planet Italian Phrasebook
This is essentially an iPhone version of the Lonely Planet phrase books that are actual books, so if you like your paper version you’ll probably like this one, too. It has more than 600 phrases that are spelled, written phonetically, and pronounced for you.
CoolGorilla’s Talking Italian Phrasebook
If you have no designs on becoming fluent in Italian, or you just can’t seem to make your tongue do what you want it to, then a talking phrasebook is a handy thing to have. You can also use it to help learn pronunciation before your trip, too. The CoolGorilla talking phrasebook has 500 words and phrases.
Odyssey Translators: Italian Book, Italian Business, Italian Pro, and Italian Travel Pro
All of these are audio phrasebooks, but the goofy fun of them is you pick parts of a sentence and string them together with a touch of your finger to create whole sentences. My favorite thing to do so far is make up nonsense sentences. Totally useless, but amusing nonetheless.
If its verb conjugations that really trip you up, then get an app dedicated to them. Italian Verbs is a list of verbs that, when you click on one, gives you every possible conjugation you could ever want. There’s a free version with a limited list of verbs, too.
You don’t have to be a particularly astute spectator to notice that in Italy hand gestures are as important as words when it comes to communication. This app doesn’t cover all the gestures you might see in Italy, but it has quite a few of them, along with their uses and meanings.
Fun & Funny Italy iPhone Apps
I’ll admit that some of these are actually useful, but for some reason they just amuse me. Perhaps it’s their very existence that I find so giggle-worthy. At any rate, I hope you have as much fun with these apps as I have.
Grandma’s Remedies from Italy
Anyone with Italian relatives knows that treating ailments and solving life’s problems are often the Italian grandmother’s reasons for living… So why not have an Italian nonna on your iPhone? This grandmother gives you tips on health, running the household, cooking, and even relationships.
This app is a must for any Italian who wants the Italian national anthem available at the touch of a button. You can hit “play” and then tap “testo” to read (or learn) the Italian lyrics while you sing along.
And what’s the Italian anthem without an Italian flag to wave proudly on your iPhone, too?
I love listening to Italian music on Radio Italia via the web when I’m not in Italy, but this app offers more than just one radio station. It will connect you with 600 radio stations throughout Italy (including the one I love called Radio Italia). This one does require an internet connection, so it’s probably best if you limit yourself to using it in places that won’t charge you for roaming, but it’s fun to have Italian radio right on your iPhone.
This isn’t an Italy-specific app, but it does happen to have several Italian cities on it. It allows you to move around various cities and attractions in them with a 360-degree view. The app also has some travel guide aspects, including some listings for hotels, restaurants, bars etc., and there’s information about each of the sights featured on the 360-degree pictures, too. Included cities are Milan, Venice, Rome, Verona, Como, Florence, Turin, Parma, and Pisa. (Thanks to anitasblog for that one.)
Italian Newspapers: Gazzetta dello Sport, Corriere della Sera, and La Repubblica
FREE to download, require subscriptions eventually
There are a few apps for mobile versions of Italian newspapers. These apps are all free to download, but they eventually require a subscription in order to keep updating or letting you read beyond the headlines. They’re all in Italian, obviously, but if you’re learning the language it’s a fun way to practice.
I’m crazy about Italian soccer, so this app is right up my alley. It covers both Serie A and even the second-level league in Italy, Serie B, with information about games (updated so they’re almost live), upcoming schedules, and the league table.
Italian Baby Namer: Name that Bambino!
“Hundreds of great traditional Italian names organized by gender. Includes search by name and meaning, favorites list, and shake for random name.”
English Yellow Pages
“The English Yellow Pages, partnered with Insiders Abroad, free mobile search app is your source for businesses in Italy. You can search for businesses that speak English in categories such as schools, restaurants, attorneys, and more.”
Want to brag to your friends that you have the Vatican‘s only approved prayer app on your phone? Then you need iBreviary. It’s available in several languages (including English) and although it used to be only $0.99 it’s now totally free. (Hat tip to Zoomata for that one.)
Planning to do loads of driving in Italy, or even getting your Italian driver’s license? Then you’ll need this app. It includes all the rules of the road (in Italian only) as well as a handy pictoral guide to all the various road signs you’ll see around Italy.
Ferrari Envi & Lambo Envi
Car enthusiasts will like these apps whether they like Italy or not, but Italian car lovers in particular will enjoy sifting through all the photos of Ferraris and Lamborghinis on these two apps. They’re web-based photos, so you’ll need an internet connection.
If you can’t stand being without Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s gaffes and verbal snafus for even a few minutes, then you need iSilvio. Only I can’t tell if the creator (the same guy behind iMussolini, incidentally, which was the best-selling app in Italy for some time) is being serious or not with this one. He also created an iGandhi, which confuses me even more. But even though it’s only $0.99, I’m still not buying it – just in case it turns out to be not tongue-in-cheek. (Thanks to OnlyInItaly for posting about that one.)
If you do pick up iSilvio, at least counter-balance it with this app from Italy’s favorite rabble-rouser, Beppe Grillo. It’s all in Italian, with videos and posts from Beppe’s blog.
For more Italy-related apps you might enjoy, check out the list of iPhone apps Melanie of Italofile put together.