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.

23 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.

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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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