Keeping in touch with loved ones while traveling is a must! I am so sorry that you are having trouble getting in touch with those back in the US. Dialing has never been easier when traveling either. If you are dialing out to the US you will simply dial + 1 followed by the 10 digits US number. The country code for Italy is 39. But you would only need the country code if dialing locally. Also check out any additional concerns here: http://vz.to/1yJ98Lf
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If you needed to call 123-555-6789 in the US from Italy:
Bring up the phone dialer on your iPhone
Press and hold the 0 key until it turn into a +
then press 11235556789 (written more clearly so it is easier to understand: + 1 123 555 6789 )