It’s a common enough scenario: you come to Italy on holiday stroke vacation, see the sights and want to send your friends and family a few postcards to tell them what a wonderful time you are having in beautiful Italy. But that’s when a minor though frustrating problem may arise – hence this how to post.
Have you tried to buy postage stamps in Italy recently? Well, in this digital age, even if Italy’s not quite yet entered it (fax machines are still relatively commonplace, would you believe), postage stamps for destinations abroad can be exceedingly hard to find. I know, I’ve tried to find them.
If you keep reading, or scroll to the end of this post, you’ll find an innovative alternative to traditional postcards.
Forget Italy’s Post Offices!
“Why not go to a post office?”, I hear you, quite reasonably, cry. Well, you could and after finding one which is open – many post offices in Italy close at one in the afternoon – and once you’ve pressed a little button after working out which little ticket to take (your Italian is very good, isn’t it?!) – you, after what could be a one hour wait, will end up at a post office counter, and, if you got the right ticket, that is, you may well be told, if you understand Italian, that they either don’t have or don’t sell postage stamps. Problem.
Small consolation, I know, but other Italy visitors and residents have encountered the very same curious situation. Post offices in Italy, you see, despite their seemingly self-explanatory names, don’t always have postage stamps or, from what I’ve gathered, don’t, for reasons unknown, like to admit they have them. What next?
Friendly Italians will tell you that postage stamps for postcards can be had in, wait for it: post offices…and in tobacconists. Only, if you didn’t know, Italy has two categories of tobacconists.
Italy’s Category One Tobacconists
First, there are the Category One Tobacconist tobacconists which sell items for smokers and quite a range of other goods including, sometimes, greetings cards and they might even sell stamps. Not all do though. I found one which did and one which did not. You might have more luck than I did.
Category One Tobacconists are generally independent shops though some can be located right next to and accessed via Italy’s ubiquitous coffee selling cafes.
Italy’s Category Two Tobacconists
If you don’t find stamps in a Category One Tobacconist in Italy, you can try Italy’s common enough bar-tobacconists which sell cigarettes, coffee (and tea), alcoholic beverages, candy, and food. These Category Two Tobacconists might even sell postage stamps. Though out of the four I tried, only one did.
Category Two Tobacconists are an integral part of Italy’s bar-cafes and, if they are on offer, you can buy stamps at the same time as you pay for your coffee, lunch, or whatever it was you had. You don’t need to drink a coffee or eat anything to ask for stamps though.
Don’t Buy Postcards in Italy
What might be even more frustrating is discovering that you cannot track down stamps after you have spent your Euros on a few colorful postcards of picturesque Italy. While you could spend the rest of your visit to Italy tracking down tobacconists and bar-tobacconists (and potentially overdosing on caffeine), you probably, and understandably, won’t want to. Don’t worry though, there is something you can do to avoid postcard pain in Italy – simply buy stamps before you buy your pretty postcards. Simple, if a little topsy turvey – such is Italy.
Some shops in Italy which sell postcards may also sell stamps, then again, they may not. If they do not, then don’t purchase those postcards!
By the way, the Italian for postage stamp is “francobollo“. A postcard is “cartolina” but you probably won’t need to know that seeing as you can usually see them and take them to a cash desk. The question “Si vendono i francobolli qui?” – “Do you sell postage stamps” – may elicit a “yes” – “si” or a “no” – “no” response.
Some shops selling postcards in Italy may also sell stamps but you might not know until you utter the magic words: “Si vendono i francobolli qui?“. If your pronunciation is not up to it, you could try pointing at the stamp area on the postcards you are about to buy and looking hopeful.
The Stamp Hunt
As part of my valuable, in-depth, research into Italy’s postage stamp, er, famine, I’ve visited, so far, six tobacconists here in Milan where I live. Of the six, two sold postage stamps which you can use to send “wish you were here” postcards to family and friends. As you may have worked out, one was a bar-tobacconist and the other a tobacconist tobacconist.
I intend to ask in other tobacconists and bar-tobacconists whether or not they sell post cards. If I find any that do in the touristy areas of Milan, I’ll let you know.
I’m sorry, well, not really, but I refuse to visit post offices in Milan: I simply cannot be bothered to queue for an hour just to be told to go to a tobacconists to buy postage stamps.
When in Italy, remember to buy your stamps before you buy a bunch of postcards.
There you go, you now almost know how to find postage stamps in Italy.
Where You Can Buy Postage Stamps in Milan:
For your information, if you are in Milan, Italy, you can buy postage stamps from these two tobacconists:
- Number 27, Via Paolo Sarpi.
- Number 3, Piazza Ercole Luigi Morselli (actually on Via L Canonica).
- The New Smoke tobacconist, number 3, Via Piero della Francesca.
An Alternative – Touchnote
Via @newsfromitaly Twitter follower Kate Dal Forno, I have learnt about the innovative Touchnote app which can be found on Apple’s AppStore and on Google play. Touchnote will transform one of your own vacation photos into a real life postcard which will then be sent to whoever you want. Neat and it neatly bypasses Italy’s odd stamp issues and the rather dodgy postal service too. Pricing is competitive as well.
You can find out more, here: Touchnote