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Postal Service and Mail Delivery

Italy - Postal Service and Mail Delivery

The mail is referred to as La Posta in Italy. It is an important mode of communication for people living across the country, especially in the urban areas. Almost every single city, town and municipal commune will have at least one post office (ufficio postale) in addition to several mailboxes placed strategically all around the area. People can look for their nearest post office through http://www.poste.it/online/cercaup/. The normal working hours for the Post Office are 08:30 to 19:00 from Monday to Friday and 08:30 to 13:00 on Saturdays. All Post offices are closed on Sundays.

The postal service in this country is managed by Poste Italiane, which was formerly a state-owned monopoly. In 1998 it became a public company with complete control by the Italian government. The Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance are the only shareholders for Poste Italiane Spa, the largest postal service of Italy, which is headquartered in Rome. The contact details are:

Poste Italiane
Via le Europa, 190 00144 Rome
Tel: +39 06 59581
Fax: +39 06 5958 9100
URL: http://www.posteitaliane.it

The Vatican has its own postal system, with separate stamps.

Though the Italian mail service has improved a lot in the last decade or so, it has a long way to go before it is at par with its European counterparts. It takes about a week or two for Italian mail to get delivered. Unfortunately, people have had many experiences with their cards and parcels being lost in the mail system. Some receive their mail weeks or maybe even months after the expected date. Italians can choose to send their mail through second-class normal post (posta ordinaria) or first-class, priority mail (posta prioritaria). It is best to send important documents through insured post (posta assicurata), registered post (posta raccomandata) or express mail (postacelere), though they cost more.

Expats are generally of the opinion that the delivery of mail is the secondary function of post offices across Europe and especially Italy, as they primarily perform all the functions of a bank. In addition to its regular postal function like delivering letters and parcels, the Gruppo Poste Italiane offers banking and financial services as well as integrated products. It also manages many of the local administrative matters. Many locals have their accounts at the post office, known as Post Office Bank Accounts (conto bancoposta). A majority of the population pays off their utility and other bills at the nearest post office. A comprehensive list of all Poste Italiane’s services can be viewed at http://www.posteitaliane.post/english/index.shtml.

All letters and packages entering Italy from other countries go through the local customs. This is probably why delivery of mail takes longer than usual. Recipients may also have to pay a custom’s fee for the package. Many Italians prefer to have their post delivered to their local post office, from where it can be picked up for a nominal fee within a period of 30 days. If the mail isn’t claimed for 1 month, it is sent back.

People do not have to go all the way to the post office just to post a letter or parcel; they can simply drop it off at a mailbox after making sure that the address and postage stamps (francobollo) are in order. Typically mailboxes are red in color and have two slots. The left slot says “per la citta” and is for domestic mails. The slot on the right says “per tutte le altre destinazione” and should be used for all other destinations.

Stamps can be purchased from the post office as well as any tobacconist (tabacchi) and newsstand. Most vendors know exactly how many stamps are required for sending a letter or card to various international destinations. In case they cannot help, they will ask you to go to the post office to enquire about the cost and stamps required.

The cost of sending postcards and standard letters (weighing no more than 20 grams) to the US or Canada is €0.85 or so. People pay around €0.65 for sending letters within Europe (including the UK) and about €1.00 for Australia as well as New Zealand. The cost increases by about €0.80 for envelopes weighing between 21 and 50 grams.

Italian addresses are written in a specific way:

The surname is written before the first name
The street name precedes the house as well as the building number
The postal code (Codice di Avviamento Postale, CAP) is written before the town name
The two-letter province code is written at the end without any brackets

It is absolutely essential to ensure that the postal code mentioned on the envelope is correct. These codes are 5 digits long; the first two digits are indicative of the town and province while the last 3 digits refer to the street. A list of common Italian postal codes is given on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_postal_codes_in_Italy

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