Post Offices in Italy

A trip to an Italian post office can be a baffling experience.  If you can figure out how to get in the door, then you are one step ahead of me.

My first time at an ufficio postale, I could not figure out how to enter the office.  I finally realized that I had to stand in front of a weird looking capsule and wait for a green light.  Green means GO, and if you step forward the doors will open to allow you into the waiting chamber.  I assume this is so someone somewhere can verify that you are abiding by the prominent pictorial depictions that clearly declare “NO GUNS! NO KNIVES!”

After another green light, you are permitted through another set of automatic doors and into the post office.

The post office WILL be packed. It doesn’t matter what time of day you go- it is always busy. Oh, but make sure you go before 2 pm because that is when the post offices in Italy close.

Once inside, do not mistakenly conclude that there is a lot of package-shipping happening in Italy. The percentage of the crowd in attendance to send a package will probably be quite small.  Most of the group is there to pay bills. Electric bills. Phone bills. Bills bills- you pay at the post office.

Since there are so many different services provided by the post office, you have to take a number for the service desk you are waiting for.  Approach the yellow machine and punch the letter that corresponds to your post office needs.  You will get a ticket like this:

Then you wait for the minutes to crawl by until your number is called. Do NOT miss your number. That is your one chance to go to the counter.

In this case, “P” stands for “pagare” or payment.

If you’re there to make a payment, remember to fill out your own receipt, in triplicate, by hand.  The person at the desk will be happy to put an official stamp on it for you.

OH and if you need a Marca di bollo? A stamp? Remember to buy it first at the tabbaco shop, NOT at the post office. That would be silly.

22 Comments

  • Reply Debra Kolkka October 24, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Post offices in Italy are incredibly frustrating. Italians seem happy to queue in them for hours, but put them behind the wheel of a car and they have to be in front of everything. I will never get used to it.

    • Reply JB Spitz October 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks for the heads up!

  • Reply Fem October 24, 2010 at 9:57 am

    My advice is to go to a smaller post office, not the central one. They are usually open only in the morning! and are less crowded. However, post service in Italy is one of the worst in the world! Not only that they dont deliver pacages (they ussualy only leave ”avviso” without bringing package) but some ebay sellers refuse to send in Italy due to unrelaible post service. It would made laugh if I didn’t need items from ebay…

    • Reply La americana October 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

      That’s great advice– I definitely learned to stay away from the large offices when possible. But for certain things, like trying to get a permesso di soggiorno kit, every little post office I went to told me “ha finito.” Of course. Of course they are all out. 🙂

    • Reply Agustin May 25, 2015 at 2:33 am

      I am wondering, as a foreigner ,can I receive a package on a post office. I need it delivered from germany, its not big. I cant find the answer. Thanks.
      A.

      • Reply Natalie May 31, 2015 at 8:47 pm

        Hi Agustin, You can have it sent to a home or business and if you are not present to receive it, they will send it back to the post office. You can then take the delivery notice, and pick it up from the post office directly.

        • Reply Simone July 6, 2015 at 5:57 pm

          Hi Natalie,

          Is the same true for letters? I want to sign up for a Cartafreccia, but do not have my apartment yet. I am moving to Siracusa in October for 1 year!

          Do you have any suggestions on which address to put or how to obtain a P.O. Box? Thanks

  • Reply Pete October 24, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Ha ha! I feel your pain! They’re such confusing places! I don’t understand how they work, but rest assured, they do work, and quite well, you just need to know what buttons to press 😉 The only one is trust is the one on piazza bologna, and that’s only because I’ve learnt how it works. I can’t go to a different one as I’d be completely lost!

  • Reply Tara June 29, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Try the Vatican post office. They are more efficient and nicer. It was always super easy to mail things from there. 🙂 Of course, that was back in 2005 time.

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  • Reply Monaliza August 12, 2012 at 2:13 am

    How can i send package tru post office to united states from italia??? How much will it cost me to send?

  • Reply s e harvey March 27, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Can anyone let me know if the post offices are closed on Good Friday , I have an important document to send and cannot make it to my local one until then…..please advise.

    • Reply L'americana March 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Hi! I have the day off work, which doesn’t bode well for it being open.

  • Reply RANDY FROM LA May 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Went to Vatican on a Friday, 3rd of May and it was packed. Bought some post cards inside then went to Vatican Post Office, bought some stamps and mailed them. Whole time in post office took about 3 minutes at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon. Later bought one at Borghese and they directed me to Tobacco shop for stamp. After reading these posts, will probably leave it at hotel desk since I don’t remember seeing any boxes on street corners or anything. Bone-jurr!

  • Reply Things I didn’t do before coming to Italy | Girl in Florence January 18, 2014 at 11:31 am

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  • Reply Lisa Anselmo March 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    European bureaucracy bewilders me. You really have to laugh to keep yourself from crying. You buy the stamp at the tabac? Something tells me the reason for that goes way back to another era when the tabac dealt in currency or something. Like when the barber was also some sort of doctor. Made sense—once. Heaven forbid they update and streamline their processes. It’s the same story in France (hence my liberal use of the word, “tabac.”)

    • Reply Natalie March 7, 2014 at 1:41 am

      hahah! So true! Our tabacs are “Tabacci e Sale” harkening back to a time when salt was taxed, just like tobacco, and so had to be sold at a separate market.

  • Reply Things I didn’t do before coming to Italy | Girl in Florence March 25, 2014 at 6:50 am

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  • Reply derrick obeng January 2, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    i sent some parkages for someone in sisily

  • Reply Michael Aihoon January 23, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Dear Sir,
    I registered my parcel on 23th December,2016 in Ghana to Malta and up to now the person has not receive the parcel.The tracking numbers are – RG009955668GH.

    I was told that the parcel is in Italy in transit ,pls let me know if you have send the parcel or still in the transit to Malta.
    Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Michael.
    00233 27 27 96 903.

    • Reply Natalie January 23, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Hello Michael! It sounds like it is still in transit, but my apologies that I cannot suggest other ways to confirm. Rather, please be in touch with the service provider through which you posted the parcel.

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