Italy in May 2013 is our first European trip. We usually take car trips where room for bags and souvenirs is "unlimited" so the one-bag carry-on experience will be a challenge. I am wondering about the practicality of mailing purchases back home. I can imagine, for example, wanting to purchase pottery, but not wanting to carry it around for the rest of the trip. Can anyone advise me on the wisdom of this approach and how it can be accomplished? Thanks!
For major purchases, I'd suggest having the merchant wrap, ship, and insure it, so you have some record. I've been advised against using the Italian postal system for packages, so I haven't tried it. Others can probably comment from experience in whether the concern is valid. In other countries (eg, France, Netherlands) I've used the government postal system to ship packages, and it always went well. I've seen Mailboxes Etc shops in lots of towns in Italy. I used them once to mail a collection of books I didn't want to carry. At that time, about a year ago, they had no slow shipping option, so I had to go with fast delivery and it was very expensive to mail a 2 pound box (I seem to remember it was about $100). I also had to send it to a relative's house, because it arrived in the US before I did.
Some friends bought ceramics and had them shipped, no problems. There are also DHL, FedEx and in some cities UPS services.
We have mailed things homje from several European countries. This is how we do it. Go to the post office nearest where you are staying. Buy a shipping box the size you need. Also buy a roll of tape. Post offices in Europe sell these things and more. Pack your stuff in your hotel room, using plenty of packing which is also for sale at the post office. . Take your package to the post office and get in line for the next available customer. The clerk will give you a customs form to fill out, which you do, and give the appropriate sum of money. With that done your task is finished. We have done this in Scotland, Germany, Phillipines, and Ukraine. Nothing has ever arrived damaged, even plates from Ukraine. The Ukraine post office and us engaged in a very interesting international cultural experience. We have also had merchants ship things to us from Scotland. Postage in Europe is considerabley more than here. If you make purchases with a credit card and have the merchant ship the item(s) you will not pay VAT tax which just about offsets the postage costs. Please excuse errors in this missal, I'm using a laptop computer for the first time in my life. </p>
I've used poste italia for several trips now to mail things home. In Italy, it is vital to have the right packaging. If the item is ceramic, my first choice would be to have the vendor ship it home. Your second option is to go to Mailboxes etc. and ask them to pack and ship for you. The post office is another option. In Italy, you have to have patience to mail a parcel. You must have the right type of packaging or the post office will refuse the package. Either buy the right size box at the post office, or go to a "cartoleria", a stationery store, and shoe them what you want to mail. They should be able to provide you with the right packaging. Once you've packaged up the stuff, go to the post office. If you go to a large post office, there may be a "take a number" system. There are many activities happening other than mail as the post office is also a banking facility in Italy. Look at the ticket machine and look for "pacchetti"(packages) or "francolbolli"(stamps) - and get a number for that lineup. Then just watch for your number to come up on the screen and go to the right spot. you will be given customs declaration paperwork to fill out. Sometimes they want you to use an Italian return address, just use your hotel. The rest is the same as here - the package will be weighed and you will pay the postage. I have never in 10 years of mailing packages from Italy, had one go astray. In fact, one year I forgot to write "canada" on the address and the package still arrived. Someone at the post office figured out that Vancouver BC is in Canada and filled in the missing country for me. I actually like going to the post office. I consider it part of my travel experience. Do be patient and smile at the clerk!
Small correction Stamps = francobolli
Thanks, everyone! You have been very helpful. Yet another opportunity to use any Italian I happen to remember by the time we get there! Thanks again!
Take caution, the Italian postal service is notoriously slow and unreliable.