HERE IS OUR LATEST “CURIOSITIES” BLOG POSTING
ITALIAN POST OFFICE
(Otherwise known as: Poste Italiane or PT (poste/telegrafia)
Despite what you have heard, the words Italian and Post Office are NOT mutually exclusive. There is indeed an Italian Post Office, and while it sometimes does not function as efficiently as all would like, nonetheless it holds a place in my heart. This version of “Curiosities” will acquaint you with this multi-faceted institution which provides many financial, banking, correspondence,
Let’s start with the name – most post offices as well as vehicles (trucks and motorcycles) are signed with the familiar yellow sign Poste Italiane, however some of the larger and older ones have a huge sign on the roof, “PT”. This translates to Poste/Telegrafie which as you can see by the name goes back a long way to the time when messages were frequently sent by telegraph. During those early years PT also provided radio communcations and simple banking facilities to the general public. This was changed in the 1930’s to the Ministry of Communication, under a modernization program, part of which was the idea to consolidate all communications. Such centralization mostly disappeared after World War II with the advent of the mass dispersal of communication methods such as radios, telephones, televisions and most recently computer and digital communications. Today, the Post Office retains traditional and online banking, bill paying, investments and loans, cellular phone services, in addition to correspondence, packages, speed mail. The Post Office is also an important conduit for government services such as pensions, passports and other social services. Whew – the Italian Post Office really does a lot!
So…..how do you access this center of everything important? The neighborhood PT’s are all over Italy, in large and small cities and villages. All services are provided in every center. Provision of services has really improved over recent years, with differentiated, number-driven lines instead of the unitary one which at times was so long that social groups grew up with friendships formed, bagged lunches carried in! Elderly persons arriving to collect pensions were given seats and their place in line was informally held. You learned never to get behind a pension collector in those lines, as that tended to be V E R Y slow. Additionally, the heat was good in the winter and the airconditioning welcome in the summer. I even learned some rudimentary Italian and got lots of advice about life in general while waiting.
That social milieu has been overtaken by efficiency; although some prefer the old times. Now, you come in, press the service you want at the access machine, have a seat and wait for your sector and number to come up – I no longer have to take a book. Extra added attraction – the staff are efficient, knowledgeable, and (especially if you ask for it) super helpful.
As for specific services, we will skip detailed descriptions of usual post office duties since they are what you would expect. Let’s jump over to the financial area. 1) paying bills. Check payments do not exist in Italy. What to do? You can pay in cash at the PT, just bring or fill out the payment coupon, take a €ticket and you are in business. If you have a PT account you can pay with your debit card, if you have a PT non-account card you can pay with that, or use a major credit card. Many people recently have chosen to arrange automatic debit (especially utilities) or to use their PT online account from mobile phones. 2) traditional or online banking. Both types of accounts are available at PT, as well as a major credit card. 3) financial services. You can do various types of investments at PT, along with accessing loan services. Traditional and online accounts are general “catch-all” ones, since there are no checking accounts (for obvious reasons). 4) cellular mobile phone services. Cutting edge services, local and international, as you would expect in this day and age, with or without the purchase of an actual phone. 5) Citizen services. These can range from applications for passports and immigration status to distribution of pensions to reception of completed tax forms.
What does all of this mean to a prospective expat property owner. To be truthful, an enormous amount. The PT was, and is, my primary financial hub. The reason is that, although I did have an additional private bank account for a while, it became superfluous since PT provided all the services I needed. The PT hours of operation are full time with no stop for lunch, as compared with private banks with their half day operations. The Italian Post Office is not perfect but, considering all services provided and the manner in which they are provided, I am not their only satisfied customer. Even if your Italian is not the greatest, (I didn’t speak a word when I first went in), communication somehow gets done. They service such a variety of clients that they are used to “Ital-English” or “Englitalian”. That is not always the case in other businesses.
So, go for it. Try out the PT and see if it can answer your needs. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.