What Can You Mail to Italy?

I make no secret of my hate-hate relationship with the Italian post office.

With Christmas coming up, I’ve been getting requests from my friends and family for my new Italian address.  I always give it to them with a little note- “Don’t worry about mailing me anything! It is incredibly difficult to send and receive packages in Italy.”

I don’t think I’m being over-dramatic. The list of things that you cannot mail is quite impressive.  For a good laugh, you can check out the entire list of items you are prohibited from sending to Italy here.

My favorites include:

  • No live bees
  • No hats
  • No photo albums
  • No toys (unless they are made entirely of wood)
  • No shoes
  • No playing cards
  • No typewriter ribbons

That means my friend Andy broke several rules to mail me a package with chocolate AND a toy car:

How this made it through customs will always remain a mystery.

And let’s not forget, you (the Italian recipient) have to pay taxes on any package that has a value of over 40 Euro.  Even though the sender paid to mail it, you have to pay again to pick it up.

So thank you for the thought, but please hold the mail.

43 thoughts on “What Can You Mail to Italy?

  1. Sara says:

    Seriously! I know its really crazy isn’t it! But……here’s a little trick I’ve learned after many years and several lost or incredibly expensive packages; Tell the sender to declare on the customs form that the package is for ‘Personal use’ and is of ‘NON commercial value’ I was amazed at how quickly my package arrived and that I didn’t have to pay un centessimo! True story, my mother sends me packages this way all the time now. Oh they really are so funny aren’t they these Italians?

    • Vichet Som says:

      Sorry to say, it didn’t work for me. I had my sister send me my Stetson cowboy hat from Rhode Island to Little Italy. My sister declared on the customs form that the package is for ‘Personal use’ and is of ‘NON commercial value’ . They sent me a letter stating that I needed the receipt. I bought the hat many years ago and lost the freaking receipt so I couldn’t provide proof of purchase. They sent it back!

  2. Noelle says:

    Ugh. I hate the postal system here. My US priority international mail from my office takes 6 weeks to get here from CA. And, the USPS guarantees receipt to 180 countries within 6 days…..BUT NOT ITALY. Sometimes I feel like I am living in Siberia when these basic services are so unreliable.

    But, don’t fear the list of banned items. We have received a ton of toys, photo albums and hats and they have never stopped it. Why? Because they would have to actually do their job and open the package. Not likely to happen….

    • Ruth says:

      If you are in the military service, just ask your family or friends to send it priority mail flat. Obviously if you are in the military service your APO address and don’t pay anything back there. Is what I do for my girls, son in laws and grandkids.

  3. Mike Mazzaschi says:

    My favorite true story about Christmas mailings goes from Italy to the US. When he was a student in Boston, my Bologna friend Lucio’s mother sent her son a new pair of pants. On the customs form she entered, ‘Calzoni’. The customs officers did what they are paid to do. He got the package after a couple of extra days with an official note say it had been opened for inspection (not mentioning the possible lunch).

  4. Pingback: No stamps, this is the post office «

  5. Annalisa says:

    I am Italian from Bologna. I have been in California for now over 20 years but I still have family in Bologna.
    See that you live in Italy now and are probably more up to date than I am with custom procedures, I have a question :

    Can I send a pound of Starbucks Coffee to Italy…Bologna to be specific. Any information/reccomandation is appreciated.

    Oh by the way I LOVE ROMA!

    • Laura says:

      Annalisa, I see that it’s been a year since your question, but I stumbled upon this post and figured I’d answer you while I’m here. I’m also an American in Italy and have all of my packages sent to me through myus.com. The prices are much lower than mailing through the post office and they arrive in Italy with DHL or Fedex within 4/5 days. Unfortunately, coffee is on the list of prohibited items:

      Roasted or ground coffee and its substitutes; roasted chicory.


  6. David says:


    Why on earth are photo albums prohibited? You mean a person in Italy can’t receive family photos?? That’s crazy! Thanks in advance for your reply.

    • Natalie says:

      Hi David! All the info is from the US postal service… I don’t even try to question why Italy has certain rules any more…

      It literally might be the ALBUM itself, not the photos. You can send photos but not an album. Maybe because Italy has a paper/book making industry that they want to protect?

  7. Luciano Mezzetta says:

    The Italian Post Office is mired in bureaucratic nonsense and its call center is manned by utter incompetents who know nothing other than to get a monthly pay check for knowing and doing nothing.

  8. Jessica says:

    Ciao Natalie!

    I am also an American who just recently moved to Rome. I have been hearing of the unreliability of Italian post and of lost packages… is there a courier you recommend using if someone in the states wants to send me something?

    Also thanks for all your useful information! It was helpful this summer as I was getting ready to move here 🙂

    Grazie mille!

    • Natalie says:

      Ciao! DHL works well but the thing that will hold anything up is the contents! It may be stopped by customs, regardless of the company used. Things have improved recently and most things now arrive (though sometimes with a delay). Be mindful of the declared value – you might have to pay high import fees.

      • Jessica says:

        Ciao Natalie!

        My mom wants to send me a package from the states and I am trying to give her step by step instructions… I read above and told her to mark it as a “Gift/Personal Use/Non-Commercial Value”… Is she supposed to put an itemized list as well of what is inside? Also I know she’s supposed to value it low, but is the cost of shipping included in the overall value of the package that I would be charged customs on?

        Grazie mille for all your tips!!

  9. Angela Puca says:

    I’d like to send 5 picture frames with a family photo inserted, and 6 4×4 notepads, 2 kitchen towels and a 6×6 calendar all to separate destinations in Italy. Should I return everything? I had no idea it was so controlled!

  10. Carmen Repillosa says:

    Ciao Natalie!
    I need to send some Vitamins, Calcium, to my best friend in Rome. I’m living in Texas.
    Do you think it’ll be possible?
    Thank you for your help!

    • Natalie says:

      Hello! It should be possible but there may be an extra fee and a longer control for her to receive health related items, especially now.

  11. Lowe says:

    I want to send some Chinese herbs in capsules to a friend in Piacenza. Total weight is less than 1 kg. Is this possible

  12. Val says:

    Interesting comments….my friend in Bologna just sent me prescription eye drops, $109 at pharmacy here, €10 at pharmacy in Italy, go figure! They made it thru fine, took 5 weeks though. She will not accept payment from me so I wanted to mail a gift….if it’s under €40 then she won’t have to pay to pick it up? What is something Italians would like from the States that they need? She loves to cook.

  13. Lynne Antosiak says:

    No clocks can be mailed to Italy. Why would Italy also not allow toys unless 100% wood? Typewriter ribbon, too? ……..My guess is Italy wants to remain to present itself as ANCIENT, Also with no clocks= snobby!….Of the close to 20 times/locations I’ve been in Italy, I’ve never seen a clock that wasn’t in Roman Numerals.

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