The Italian mail

The Italian postal system and how to send letters and postcards from Italy that will get home before you do

A typical Italian mailbox. A typical Italian mailbox. The slot on the left says "Per la città" (for the city). The slot on the right says "Per tutte le altre destinazioni" (for all other destinations). Unless you happen to have a friend in, in this case, Bologna, you always want to use that slot on the right.There really is quite little to say about the mail in Italy—except that you should call it "la posta."

Where to find stamps in Italy

You can get stamps (francobolli) not only at post offices, but at most tabacchi (tobacconists—any shop marked with a white-on-brown "T" sign), and many newsstands.

If you're in a major city or touristy area, they'll all know just exactly how much it'll cost you to send a postcard or letter to your home country. Just hold us your five postcards and say: "To USA?" (or wherever).

How much does it cost to mail a postcard or letter from Italy?

It costs €0.85 to send a postcard or standard letter from Italy to the United States or Canada (or anywhere else in the Americas; also to Africa or Asia); €0.65 to send letters from Italy to Europe and the UK; and €1 to send letters from Italy to Australia or New Zealand. (See box for more details.)

Italian postal rates*
• To elsewhere in Europe: €0.65
• To the Americas, Africa, or Asia: €0.85
• To Oceania: €1

* For postcards or letters weighing up to 20 grams. Add about €0.80 for up to 50 grams.
How long it'll take the get there, on the other hand, is a different story.

The famously slow Italian postal system

Though things are a lot better than they were even ten years ago, when it wasn't uncommon for mail from Italy to America to take six weeks, the post can still be mighty slow, especially to our modern culture increasingly conditioned to the near instantaneous satisfaction that e-mail can provide.

Figure on letters and postcards sent from Italy to take 3–5 days at best, a week or two on average.

How can I receive mail in Italy?

If you need to receive mail in Italy, have it sent to any local post office in Italy (find addresses at www.poste.it) addressed to your name followed by the words "FERMOPOSTA." They'll hold it at the main post office in town for up to 30 days (then send it back if unclaimed); you'll have to pay a small fee to pick it up.

American Express cardholders can get a similar mail holding service free of charge if there's an AMEX office in the city you will be visiting (www.americanexpress.com).

Tips & links

The Vatican post office is faster
If you're in Rome, use the Vatican post office. Prices are the same, but it's been know to be a bit speedier than the Italian postal system (Plus, they give you cool Vatican stamps.)
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