At the Post Office

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Sending and receiving mail should be a pretty standard thing, but it won't hurt to briefly review a couple of items. Here a few bits of information regarding postage that could be of interest to an expatriate.

The sections are:

Zip Codes

The CAP is the Italian postal code. The postal code has five numerical digits. In Italy, the cities in each region have postal codes that begin with the same two numbers, and this numbering starts from the northwest and increases as you move southeast. Piemonte starts out the sequence with 10 ?so all cities in Piemonte start with 10: Turin itself has several postal codes, a town near Turin like Grugliasco would have a number like 10095. To find the CAP for a city or town in Italy, you can go to the Italian white pages, input the name of the town (in Italian) and the system will give you the CAP as well as which province it is in. If the city has multiple CAPs, you will also have to enter the street address.

Writing an Italian Address

When writing an address for delivery within Italy, use this format:

name last name
Corso/Via/etc. streetname, XX
I-CAP cityname (Province)

John Smith
Piazzale S. Farina, 21/6
I-10095 Grugliasco (TO) (This is a fake address!)

Four things to note: (1) you insert a comma between the streetname and the number; (2) the CAP goes before the cityname. You can tag on an I- to indicate the address is in Italy, but is not necessary unless the letter is being sent from abroad. (3) the slash in the civic number generally indicates an "interior" address to a single street address, such as in an apartment building or condominium. (4) the province is generally indicated using the two-letter abbreviation. For a list of abbreviations for province names, see the site of the italian comuni. For cities that have the same name as their province, you do not have to add the province code - like Milano. But it won't hurt if you do add it, so when in doubt, just include it.

If sending a letter within Europe, use the same structure - unless it's going to the UK. That system of addresses is beyond the scope of this site and much beyond the intelligence of this author...!-).

Types of Postage

Within Italy, there is "posta ordinaria" and "posta prioritaria". You can surely guess what each means, I always use posta prioritaria ?it costs only a little more than normal mail, is supposed to take "only" 2-3 business days, and as the Post Office advertising says, it shows your recipient you consider him or her important. !-) The posta prioritaria stamps are golden coloured, have no image, and cost 62 cents. Normal postage is 45 cents.

Posta raccomandata ?this is generally used for letters issues (like sending a payment reminder to someone who is a little slow to pay), and this type of postage is delivered personally to the person named in the address, or their named representative. If they are not present, the mailman will leave a notice telling them to pick it up at the post office, as they need to sign for it. You can also do a "posta raccomandata online" which means you write the content in their internet site, and the post office will print it and get the signature. You may also add on "Avviso di Ricevimento" (confirmation of receipt), which costs an extra 60 cents (prioritaria) / 40 cents (normal) for letters sent to Italy, and for this, you will receive a postcard back confirming when the letter was delivered. You can also use this for letters sent abroad, and it costs 45 cents for European countries and 65 cents for other countries.

If you want rapid delivery within Italy, try "Postacelere" which promises delivery within one working day anywhere in Italy ?and also Saturday deliveries in 750 cities and towns. This for packages that are maximum 3kg and 45,5x32x5 cm.

Mail Forwarding

It is possible that you will want to continue to receive "snailmail" to an address in your home country, such as magazines, bank and other statements, online purchases (especially from those companies that do not do international deliveries - or do it at an exorbitant price), "care packages" from family members, etc. - all received at an address in your home country and then forwarded to your address in Italy. There is apparently the need ?there are services out there that do just that. For the USA, one of the more established service providers is Access USA; If you want mail sent to an Australian address, you can try the service from Continental Relay.

For a quite reasonable price, these companies will provide you with a physical mailing address (not a PO Box), will gather your mail and packages, and forward them to you, and also resend mail for you with a US- or Australian postmark. The service from Continental Relay also provides an untraceable email address and voicemail. They also place a great deal of emphasis on privacy. Could be great fun if you want people to think you are back home, when in reality you took the week to go explore Tuscany...

Stamp Collecting

Fancy name for postage stamp collecting (the word for stamp is "francobollo"). The post office offers several packages for collectors, that you can also subscribe to ?so that the new issues will be sent directly to your address. For more information (unfortunately only in Italian) see the "filatelia" site of the postal service.


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