The Highs & Lows of the Italian Stamp | An Ongoing Series

*Update November 4, 2011

**Original post written on October 12, 2011

The Italian postal system is mystifying, one day it’s black the next white. I wrote a post in December 2010 called How The Italian Postal System Blows My Mind which was an ongoing post about how my mothers packages would arrive via various methods. One day black and one day white, right?

Nothing has changed in the almost four years I have lived in Italy and nothing boggles my mind more than uncertainty. I’m an avid old-fashioned postcard writer, there is something about the ink written word that compels me to continue this olde form of correspondence. Nothing is more frustrating than the Poste Italiane and their stamps, francobolli. Here’s a quick run down from the beginning of this year for your basic postcard stamp.

  • January to July – .85c
  • August 5th – .85c
  • August 6th – 1.60 (Euro)
  • For the rest of August and September the cost was 1.60 (Euro)
  • October – .75c
  • November 4 – 1.60 (Euro)*

Call me crazy, as most do, but doesn’t this seem a little off? How can they charge double the price in August and September? My line of thinking is that those months are high tourist season, the time when hundreds of holiday makers make their way to this stunning island, the time when the tourists get ripped off by the Italian government.

I went into the Poste Italiane last week to mail a few birthday postcards and was utterly shocked when they asked me for .75c. I felt my head spin, I thought I was being taken for a ride. I politely asked “Perché il costo dei francobolli cambiare così frequentemente? Why does the price of stamps change so frequently?” I just wanted to know why, I mean if in October stamps are going to cost .75c then I’m going to stock up for the rest of the year rest of my life. However, I wasn’t ready for his useless pathetic response “Qual è il tuo problema, oggi si dispone di uno sconto. What is your problem, today you have a discount.”

I felt deflated by his ignorant response to a simple question. But maybe to him it wasn’t simple, he probably, like the rest of us commoners have no bloody idea what the government of Italy is up to. I imagine they use this money to pay for some bunga bunga or a flashy new sports car or a case or two of Italy’s finest white prosecco. And all with my double priced stamps. You’re welcome Mr. Berlusconi, I hope you had a good time spending my money.

**This post will be an ongoing series on the Highs & Lows of the Italian Stamp.

November 4, 2011

This morning I walked into my local post office with my birthday card postcards in hand. I hadn’t been in the post office since the beginning of October and was curious what the cost of stamps would be today. I convinced myself that inflation of stamps is just a silly idea and expected to pay anywhere from .65c to .85c for the illustrious Italian stamp.

I was shocked (shocked isn’t the right word, going to the post office in Italy is like playing a game. Guess the price of the stamps today and you win!) when the clerk informed me that the stamp would cost me 1.60 Euro! I asked him the usual questions for which he had no answers. He suggested I buy a .65c stamp and send it anyway, I declined as I want to make sure my birthday postcards to family and friends arrive.

Is it safe to assume that the HUGE debt in Italy is being slowly paid off with my stamp purchases? Is this a way to change the ongoing debt crisis in my new home? Is anyone else as perplexed as I am about the inflation and deflation of the Italian stamp? Or is this just normal life, on an island in debt ridden Italy?

16 responses

  1. Haha i love this! Everything I always think in my mind before, after and during post office visits you put into words. My family gets mad i dont write more often and i tell them, i do actually write a lot, i have lots of unstamped letters laying around the house. Is it hard to get stamps they say. No…not really, it’s just…it’s…it’s just Italy. And you never know what to expect when you walk into the post office. Except the friendly loving face of the italian postal employee eager to help haha. Keep writing. Im an american from baltimore living in milan

  2. I had the same experience mailing to the U.S., was floored when I heard the new price; but I got a very polite response from the guy in the Tabacheria where I bought my stamps: the rate went up. He even showed me the ‘official letter’ announcing it. Your Oct. price was a fluke or an error… or a gift? The 1.60 rate is, I think, only for North America – it’s still .65 in Italy… and maybe the EU? I’m not sure. I still think it’s a bargain to have someone carry something from my house to a friend in the U.S. for only 1.60… http://www.poste.it is a not too bad website which tells all. But I bet you already knew that…

    • I don’t mind paying 1.60 for a stamp, it’s just frustrating that every time I go into the post office the price is changed. There is never an official letter posted explaining the price hike, it seems they just like to change the price to fool people (me). 🙂

  3. Yesterday I asked the man at the coffee shop I visited, “Why did the other, better shop disappear? I went there one Sunday, then it was gone the next!”

    He shook his head and said, “Probably a whole host of reasons, none of which I will ever know.” I appreciated his forthrightness.

  4. At least you have stamps. A few months ago I went to my local post office here in Antigua (a tourist hotspot in Guatemala) several times over a couple of weeks each time being told they’d run out of stamps and new ones hadn’t arrived yet! I guess too many tourists had been mailing postcards! So I had to wait for the new stamps to come in before I could post my letter!

  5. Now that you’ve brought up the topic of Post Offices – that is one of my pet hates in Canada. I cannot believe that it costs more to post a parcel within Canada, than it does to America and often it costs about the same to send to Europe as it does to Canada! I have tried asking the postal staff ‘Why?’ but they don’t want to answer my questions. I don’t think I’d get anywhere complaining to Canada Post either.

  6. The postal service here drives me nuts. I hate the way you have to queue for ages to do a simple transaction. I have spent 1 hour to send a parcel to Australia. Nobody is ever quite sure which forms I should be filling out or what I should pay. People seem quite happy to wait for hours in the post office and then race outside into their cars and pass everything on the road.

    • The only reason people are happy inside the post office is that is provides a place for the towns people to gossip. I really hate going into ours, I get such looks and rudeness from the counter clerks. One morning I went in and asked for a francobollo for my postcard. She said “Beh, francobollo!” I then asked her in my polite Canadian way if that was the correct word in Italian for stamp, and she told me yes, but that they can only issue the electronic stamp. So in theory she was rude to me because I asked for a stamp, not because I asked for something so utterly old fashioned! ha.

  7. Hilarious!

    From my experiences here and in third-world countries where the government is equally untrustworthy, I think the clerk’s response was what I’ve heard, too! The people just get used to illogical/inexplicable change and they don’t really care about the impetus. Too funny though, in the U.S. we’re at least used to some explanation being offered so we can critique its flaws.

    You’re on for Scrabble!

    • The same goes for Canada, that there is always a reasonable explanation and generally without attitude. How can I find you on fb? My name there is Jennifer Avventura. Would love to have a game, Im highly addicted … however my internet ebbs and flows causing a crash sometimes with Scrabble, but if we could have an on going game. see you on the field. 😉

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