How to Use the Italian Post Office (Poste Italiane)

“How am I to send my postcards,” said a friend, “when I can’t even find the right person at the Italian Post Office to talk to?” Another friend lamented, “I usually send my postcards with ‘I’ll be seeing you before you read this.’” It is true that the Italian postal service, called the Poste Italiane, doesn’t have a very good reputation.

italian_Postal_ServiceOne of the most difficult elements of mailing something in Italy is that the post offices are set up entirely different than those we are used to in the United States. Once you get the hang of how the Poste Italiane works, you may conclude that the Poste Italiane isn’t really all that bad.

When you walk into an Italian post office, don’t look for a line to stand in. Italians rarely stand in lines. Instead, there should be a machine located near the entrance, directing you to push a button and receive a number. There are a number of options, because the Italian post office not only sends and stores letters and packages; it is also where Italians pay their gas and electric bills, among other things. In fact, very few of the people inside Italian post offices are sending mail or picking up packages, which means the crowd may not be as daunting as you think. However, make sure you press the correct button; otherwise, you will find yourself talking to the wrong person. The correct button will say spedizione and will have a picture of an envelope beside it. You will know that you have pressed the correct button if the piece of paper that is spit out has a ‘P’ before the number.

A large board displays the numbers being currently serviced; every time a new number is called, you will hear a loud beep. Make sure to pay attention, because the postal representatives rarely dwell longer than a few seconds on a number if they do not see anyone walking up to their window. The first time I entered a post office, I stood around for 15 minutes before realizing that I needed a number.

poste_italienePostal representatives usually give you the lowest price on postcards, letters, or packages, without offering various methods and rates for sending mail, as they do in the United States. Note, if you want a receipt, you must ask for one.

In my experience, mail going from Italy to the U.S. arrives quickly, usually in 5-10 ten days, and I have never had any of my packages lost. However, the Italian post office is not very capable when it comes to delivering packages sent from the U.S. Packages generally take at least 3 weeks and up to 2 months to arrive, and, as many online horror stories will tell you, packages are often lost. Postcards seem to fall into a different category of priority and take longer to arrive in the U.S. than either letters or packages. Sadly, as things currently stand, you may want to sign your postcards as my friend did: “I’ll be seeing you before you read this.”

Written by Mattie Bamman for

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