As unashamed and dedicated followers of fashion, the Bailey family summer holiday this year followed the hordes to Chiantishire during the Blair weeks. Actually it was a couple of kilometres just outside the Chianti region, but it was nevertheless still definitely Tuscany.
Picture this, a medieval cluster of solid stone houses, wooden shutters and terracotta roofs, perched on a hilltop surrounded by forest, approached by a stony driveway complete with the poplar tree guard of honour. Yet, despite being literally miles from the nearest town, and with no pylon in sight, my mobile phone still had the complete set of signal strength bars.
In fact, I can honestly say that I don't remember having the dreaded "no network" message at any time while we were in Italy. It seems that 100% of even the most rural parts of Italy are covered.
Compare that to my "no signal" area where I live in Maida Vale, and that's central London! You have to give Italy its due. This is a country that takes its mobile phones very seriously. I suppose it is because the Italians take their talking very seriously.
Where else has the humble mobile phone be elevated to such a level of pure fashion sophistication? It is no longer simply a convenience in Italy, the mobile is now part of the standard apparel, along with the cool sunglasses and trimly cut black leather jacket.
However, along with brilliant coverage, and the ability to look more chic than anyone on the planet when talking on their mobiles, the Italians seem to have gone further on their mobile service provision as well.
Within 10 minutes of entering the country, I received an SMS message from the Italian service provider welcoming me to Italy. It went on to suggest that whenever I was near a monument, in a Piazza or other place of special interest, I simply dial a three-digit number, it would triangulate my relevant position within the cell and I would hear an appropriate recorded historical information message about the site. Now that's clever.
Andy Bailey is associate director of venture marketing company Interregnum
This was first published in October 2000