Expat Speaks: The Italian postal system

At the beginning of September I was commissioned by a book publisher from England to write a detailed 38 hotel listing for Sardinia, Italy. I was over the moon at being asked by such a global brand that I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Heck, I even did the happy dance all over the house for a few days as this project was my first real Freelance job, and I was ecstatic!! I’d like to thank The Travelbunny for recommending me. Holla Girl! Grazie.

Source: Wikimedia

I finished the job and handed in the project two days before the scheduled due date. It was imperative that my contract reach London in time, to get paid. I printed two identical contracts, signed both on the dotted line as asked, and headed to the Italian post office in my town. I inquired about a courier service and she told me the price –  €35. I nearly had a coronary. Later, I asked in an Italian expat group – what the mainlanders pay for courier service to England and I was informed –  €15. A staggering difference.

I asked the postal worker if there was a cheaper, still secure method to send these ever important documents to England, and she told me that I could send the documents via a Raccomandata Internazionale – an International registered letter, which I could follow with the tracking number on the receipt. The cost of the raccomandata was €7.00. A huge difference in price, and one that I could easily afford. I filled out the necessary documents and waited, and waited and waited. 

For over a month I followed the tracking number online, to only find the documents forever stalled in Milan. I wrote about my plight in the super group Italian Reflections and someone mentioned I should tweet to the two different postal outlets – Royal Mail and Post Italian. So, I did.

A One day Twitter conversation with Royal Mail

ME: I’ve had important documents lost in your system, tracking number says it’s in London. Italy-UK should not take four weeks. Help!
RM: Can you please confirm tracking number.
ME: Yes, it’s XXXXI♥SARDINIAXXXX. I mailed it Nov. 2 from Sardinia, Italy.
RM: Thank you kindly. We received this item on the 07/11 but have no update since then. Can you provide the address you sent the item to please?
ME: Certainly. 1234 Book Publisher, London, United Kingdom. I appreciate your prompt reply & help. Thank you.
ME: Good morning, any luck with my documents?
RM: I’m sorry, we have no new information. If the item remains undelivered, I suggest an enquiry is started by the sender in Italy. Kind regards.
ME: Okay, thank you. I appreciate your prompt replies.
ME: I have taken your advice and contacted The Italian Post Office. They have confirmed the package is in the UK. This is your responsibility now, no?
RM: It is our responsibility to deliver, however due to the time that’s elapsed we’d ask the sender to make a claim at the point of posting.
ME: Thank you kindly.
RM: It’s been a pleasure. Happy Holidays.

Gosh, they are so wonderfully polite.

A Three Four Six Seven Eight Nine Twelve Fourteen Sixteen day Twitter conversation with The Italian Post

ME: Good morning. I sent registered documents to London on 2 Nov. It arrived in London on 7. Nov. Royal Mail cannot track this package as it’s still in your system.
PI: Send tracking number.
ME: Ok. XXXXI♥SARDINIAXXXX. I sent the documents on 2 Nov. from My Town, Sardinia, Italy. I hope to resolve this soon.
PI: We will verify the tracking number soon.
PI: The tracking number states the documents left Italy 06/11/2013.
ME: Uh, yes, this I am aware of. Now, where are the documents?

24hrs later …

ME: Can you not offer me a better explanation? The documents are missing!
PI: Destination of the documents?
ME: United Kingdom.
PI: To verify this matter further we need more information: name, last name, address, destination address and phone number.
ME: Jennifer Avventura, 4321 Sardinia Lane, Sardinia, Italy. Book Publisher 1234 Book Publisher, London, United Kingdom. Phone number.
PI: We are doing the verification on case nº123456789. We will let you know as soon as possible.
ME: Thanks.
PI: We are here for you.

HA HA!

ME: Good morning. Do you know where my documents are?
PI: We will verify this soon.
PI: About case nº123456789, tracking number XXXXI♥SARDINIAXXXX, our offices need more information: how much was the registered letter and what are the contents?
ME: It cost €7.00 and there are documents. Thank you.
PI: We have given your information to the area office to verify your registered letter. We will let you know as soon as possible.
ME: I hope to resolve this problem as soon as possible. Thanks.
PI: We will let you know after the office has verified your case number.

ME: Good morning. Do you have any news on my documents?

ME: Good morning. Do you have news on the whereabouts of my documents? Thank you.
PI: Hello. We can’t see the preceding messages from you, can you send tracking number, case number, address, destination address, phone number.
ME: XXXXI♥SARDINIAXXXX. Case nº123456789. Thanks.
PI: We are in contact with the English postal service to verify the whereabouts of your documents. When we have more information we will let you know.
ME: Thank you. I hope to resolve this soon.

El grande sigh …

ME: Good morning. Do you have any information on case nº123456789?
PI: Expect to be updated soon.
ME: Thank you.
PI: Should you need anything else, we remain at your disposition.

At my what?

ME: Good morning. How many days do I have to wait to hear something?
PI: We will let you know as soon as possible.

It seems asap means sixteen days in Italian.

ME: Good morning. Do you have news on my documents?
PI: Hello. Tracking and case numbers. We can’t see any of the preceding messages.

Say WHAT?

ME: XXXXI♥SARDINIAXXXX  case nº123456789. Thank you.
PI: We will be with you shortly.
PI: Your documents are still in the process of the postal system. We will inform you as soon as possible. Have a nice day.

HAVE A NICE DAY? HAVE A NICE DAY? Say WHAT?

ME: Good morning, can you tell me where my documents are? Case nº123456789. I have waited for 6 weeks!
PI: The moment we know something we will let you know.
ME: I hope you can find these documents soon. I would like to resolve this problem as soon as possible.
PI: As soon as we are provided with more information, we will inform you right away. At this moment we ask for your patience.

PATIENCE? Really…oh, no they didn’t … wait! Oh, heck, yes they did!

ME: Why can’t you tell me where the documents are? Why do you need weeks to find them?
PI: We are waiting on the relevant checks from another department.
ME: How long do these checks take? The documents were sent on 2 Nov and I started this conversation with you on 4 Dec.

Another bottle of Cannonau? asked Husband. Oh, hell to the yes!

ME: Good morning. Do you have information about case nº123456789 e XXXXI♥SARDINIAXXXX. This has gone on for too long, if the documents are lost, tell me they are lost.
PI: We will verify this matter now. At the moment we have no new information.
ME: Why? How is it possible that you have no information? This is not right, do you even know what city the documents are in? I am not okay with this.
PI: The documents are still being screened, when this process is finished we will have more information on your case.

And so, after 2 weeks of constant Twittering it seemed my documents I sent to England on Nov. 2 are still in limbo, and who really knows if they will find it!

Until … the BIG surprise arrived in the mail on December 20th.

My second signed contract with the book publisher stating they have received my contract. A huge sigh of relief after seven weeks of baited anticipation, phew, they got my contract.

The rest, well, let’s just say I’ll be opening a bottle of Cannonau and writing all this down for future expats to enjoy.

ME: I would like to inform you that case nº123456789 has been resolved. The destination name received my documents two weeks ago! Thank you for your help.
PI: Please continue to follow us on Twitter.
ME: Hahaha. You’re so funny!

I’d love to hear your stories with the postal system in Italy, share them below.

About Jennifer Avventura

Canadian Freelance writer living in Sardinia, Italy. A serial expat who lived in Australia, England and Cayman Islands. She eats Nutella with a spoon and hides under the bed during lightning storms. When she's not out running 6k you will find her sitting at the computer - writing her novel and searching for worldwide waitress work.
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32 Responses to Expat Speaks: The Italian postal system

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    I absolutely hate even walking into our post office. I know I am going to wait for a ridiculously long time and the likelihood of getting what I want done in remote.

  2. Good one Jennifer. I don’t have any l’Ufficio Postale horror stories to share with you. Btw, did you receive my XMAS card that I sent you in the mail?

  3. Ann R. says:

    Fabulous recounting jennifer. I wish I could do as well in telling the 2-month- long story of trying to get a gifted camera out of Customs in Milan and the “on hold” music was “Father and Son” by Cat Sevens which has the lines “It’s not time to make a change./Just relax, take it easy” etc. etc. Thanks for the link. Ann

  4. nicki says:

    Dangerous subject…how about the box of chocolates that arrived empty and eaten, or the many empty open jiffy bags that I have received or giving up trying to run an online store because so many orders never arrive to the customers… Queuing up for half an hour to buy stamps and being told that the post office doesn’t sell stamps , I need to go to the Tabacchi across the road…I now only use couriers and avoid the PO like the plague and my life is much easier!

  5. Tina says:

    My stuff just doesn’t get here. I told Sis not to send birthday presents anymore!

  6. eloradaphne says:

    Oh Jennifer this one is great! It may even top some of mine! When I was living in Italy the PI was my arch-nemesis – and they still managed to screw up when I LEFT the country! (Don’t ever even think you can trust the seguimi). I’m glad your contract made it there in the end though :)

  7. I have yet to mail anything major from the Italian Post Office, mostly because I have heard of horror stories like this! I have, however, had similar experiences with the Italian consulate…let’s just say there was a lot of wine involved.
    Congrats on your contract! Cheers!

  8. M. R. says:

    It’s all part of the Italian public service, eh? – in which most have jobs they despise. And the others who don’t have jobs despise *them*! Stringer and I were incredibly fortunate, back in 1989: we sent a whole shitload of clothes back home, and they got there! Innocents abroad …

  9. Ali says:

    How about the time I found a birthday card in my letter box? Yeah, that’s right, just the card with no envelope. Explain that one PI!

    I’m reading this while I wait for UK train tickets to arrive here in Cagliari for the final stretch of my homeward journey for Xmas with the family. They are not going to get here. I’m leaving tomorrow. Will have to buy a new one for a cool £85. Was so pleased at having got one in advance for less than half that. Oh well.

  10. How vexatious!!!
    No mail stories to report. But I’m only half-way through life. It’s bound to happen any day now….

  11. chirose says:

    Wow.! That sounds amazingly crazy and very similar to the postal system in Mexico. I guess I have always taken for granted how wonderfully reliable are the American/Canadian postal systems.! Congrats by the way too..!!

  12. colonialist says:

    I was going to say that the system is even worse than ours, but it finally arrived so it isn’t.

  13. Wow you were very composed and polite in you’re twitter conversation. I would have blown a gasket. Glad it’s all resolved though.

  14. 1st of all, congratulations on your extreme patience & utter politeness in the face of complete uselesness. A lot of ebay sellers from UK refuse to send their stuff to Italy…. It gets “lost” too often apparently … They will happily send you anything you want all over the world , even in developping countries but Italy ?? Nope !! Says it all really … Though I must say I personnaly never had much bother …

  15. Expat Eye says:

    I’m sure the Black Sheep has some thoughts! That is CRAZY! ;)

  16. Note to self… :) Thank you for sharing your experience.

  17. Kathy says:

    I send Christmas gifts from America 5 weeks ahead. However, I cannot package them all in one box or my in-laws have to pay to receive them. So, I send in multiple lighter boxes. Well, this is the third year they are missing packages. I should just save them for when I visit. It’s so frustrating.

  18. aj vosse says:

    Makes one wonder? First world efficiency… technology… same day services? ;-)

    How’s the writing going? Having fun with the reviews? :D

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