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.

25 thoughts on “Post Offices in Italy

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    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.

  2. Fem says:

    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…

    • La americana says:

      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. 🙂

    • Agustin says:

      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.

      • Natalie says:

        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.

        • Simone says:

          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

  3. Pete says:

    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!

  4. Tara says:

    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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  6. s e harvey says:

    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.

  7. RANDY FROM LA says:

    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!

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  9. Lisa Anselmo says:

    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.”)

    • Natalie says:

      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.

    • Mr. B. says:

      “European bureaucracy” has nothing to do with Italian post offices vice versa.
      French tabacs and Italian tabaccherie are somewhat alike but stand totally apart from the rest of Europe.
      It is, of course, a continent with many countries that differ greatly from each other, way more than e.g. LA differs from NY. If you expect Danish stuff in Spain or Hungarian stuff in Luxembourg you may be disappointed.

    • AJ says:

      What would Italy (or anywhere else in Europe) feel the need to have the same systems as the USA? If you don’t like the systems in another country don’t go, it always baffles me why Americans cannot understand that other countries have their own systems, selling stamps in a Tabac is totally normal, in the UK you can buy stamps in most shops, which is really useful. Having had the misfortune to have to use US post offices several times they are much more antiquated, outdated and frustrating that any European Post Office. Here in Italy the Post Offices operate just fine, it’s only Americans that seem to have an issue with having to wait more than 10 seconds for something and having different counters for different things ie. sending a parcel, paying a bill etc. is great because you get specialist knowledge at the counter, today I will go to the Post Office to pay my house tax, I could do it online but I can ask questions at the Post Office. Also here in Italy they respect the elderly and with the fantastic long lifespans they have here the elderly make up a large part of the population who like (and have a right to have) systems they can understand and use, here in Italy the elderly are not discriminated against by everything going electronic and at breakneck speed, a visit to the Post Office is an important part of their day and I meet and chat with amazing elderly people at the Post Office, perhaps the ‘another era’ you talk about is an era before America was ‘invented’ in 1776! Let’s hope they never ‘update and streamline their processes’ to make a faceless, abrupt service where the counter staff don’t smile but just growl because they don’t like their job like you find in the USA! I hate having to the Post Office in the USA the staff are so unhelpful and rude.

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  12. PF Strong says:

    June 2023 I went to a couple tobacco shops and they do not sell international postcard stamps. They all directed me to the post office. Either I am missing something or the rules have changed. Just mentioning it in case any one else is looking to send postcards back to the US.

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