Tabaccherie (tabacco shops) are the workhorses of Italy.
You can do a lot of useful things in an Italian tabaccheria.
The shops are nearly ubiquitous, identifiable by the black and white (or blue and white) T signs that hang outside their doors.
What are they for? Well, here are 7 things you can do at an Italian tabaccheria:
- Buy cigarettes. Let’s start with the obvious – you can buy your cigarettes at a tabacchi. In fact, unless you pick them up at Duty Free, you have to buy your cigarettes at a tabacchi- they are the only authorized retailers.
- Pay your bills. Having to go to the Post Office to pay bills is something I dread. When they rolled out the technology to tabacchi to handle the payments? Dear Lord, it was a day of celebration. You pay about a €1 more for the privilege of skipping the Post Office, but I. Don’t. Care. Money well spent. (My insane gas bill? Less sure that is money well spent, but I have no choice in the matter).
- Get a step closer to legal immigrant status. Tabacchi are where you can buy the stamp needed to complete your Permesso di Soggiornio kit. Rather than being pre-made, these stamps are printed on the spot so you will need to find a tabacchi that has the machine to create them. Simply ask, and they will direct you down the street if they are not able to print it for you.
- Mail your postcards. Have I mentioned that Italian post offices are a special kind of hell? Luckily, you can skip the impossible queue at the post office by buying francobolli (stamps) at the tabacchi! Many tabacchi even have the red post box directly outside their shop. One side is for Rome, and the other is for everywhere else. Drop the postcards in and get on with enjoying the rest of your day.
- Buy phone credit. Like a lot of Italian mobile phone users, I have shied away from a high bill and longterm contract. Tabacchi sell scratch off tickets of €5, €10, or €20 to recharge your phone. While you can opt to pay as you go, I pay a set rate of €18/month for 1000 minutes, 1000 SMS, and 4 GB of data. Once a month, I pop into the tabacchi to reload, and my phone bill is essentially paid.
- Play the lotto. If you’re feeling lucky, you can pick up a lotto ticket at the tabacchi. I manage to lose every time, but sometimes I can’t resist the brightly colored cards calling to me.
- Get your bus tickets. Most Rome buses don’t sell bus tickets. I know, it’s weird. You should always buy your ticket before you ride the bus, just in case. You can pick up the metro/bus tickets (un biglietto) at any tabacchi and validate them once on board. Most tabacchi can also recharge a monthly pass, if you have one.