Burnt To A Crisp – The Italian Post Office, Of Course.

Among my friends and family, they know how much I hate Italian Post Offices. Some have described it as a phobia: ufficiopostalefobia (postophobia (var. Italian)).

The smaller the better
The smaller the better

Actually, it is not the post office building that I object to. There are many incredibly beautiful post offices in Italy.

It’s the people who work there.

The façade hides it all
The façade hides it all

Actually, before the byzantine numbering system was put in place, I disliked everyone I came into contact with at the post office, because when we all had to stand in a waiting line, Italians (men or women) seemed to think the closer they were pressed to the back of the person in front of them (me), the faster they would get to the window.  Or they (mostly the wily pensioners) would cut in front of me with “solo una piccola domanda” (only a short question).

Get your number here
Get your number here

Actually, it’s also that computerized numbering system, now in place in most of Florence’s post offices, I loathe. Because although it has been explained to me that it was the fruit of a scientific study that determined that the pattern of letters and numbers it spits out is the fastest and fairest way to get people served at the post office, I can (in the hour that I am sitting waiting for P178 to appear) unscientifically observe that there are only two windows serving P (for postal) clients, including those with fifty registered letters to have stamped, inscribed, digitally recorded, and sent, and one or the other of the employees behind those two P windows will step away for a pausa (break) at frequent intervals.

Actually, I don’t dislike the people behind the windows (well, except for one or two, and those who live in Florence know to whom I’m referring), I abhor the bureaucratic system in which they have their secure jobs-for-life and I assume they are as unhappy to be there as I am. They sure seem sad. Not a smiley face among them.

Italian postal employeesActually, I didn’t mean to disgorge all of the above because today, I got a present.

But first, a little background. I follow (mostly lurking) the Italian Reflections Group (IRG) on Facebook. It’s a fabulous group of about 1,042 English reading/writing expats living in Italy. About a week ago one of the IRGers posted a diverting story about how on her third trip to the post office to try to mail her EU-bound holiday cards, she was informed that they were smaller than standard size so the postage for these too dainty missives would be 2.50 euro ($3.44) each, instead of the standard rate of 85 centesimi (cents) ($1.16). She, being more polite than me, did not stomp off cursing. She asked if the postage would drop to .85 if she put each holiday envelope into a standard envelope. The answer was “Dipende …” It depended on whether the weight of the combined envelopes and card exceeded the maximum weight for standard postage.

I then told this postal story to Francesca, the Florentine, in an attempt to justify my fobia. She snorted and said, “Well obviously she does not have a “Bustometro.” “Huh?” I said.

Soon after I was the proud owner of the two-sided document seen here:


On this side is the measurement guide so that the sender can verify the size of the “corrispondenza” before she sends it. It’s easy! Just place the envelope or post card on the bustometro so that the right lower corner fits and then find out if it is “normalizzata” or, in other words, if the upper left corner fits inside the area colored red.

Prepare the perfect envelope
Prepare the perfect envelope

If you are still confused, the other side of the bustometro shows you exactly how to use the form, with added info about how to address and stamp your envelope. If that wasn’t enough, there are also warnings not to include keys, pins, and paperclips in the contents of your mailing. (If you click on either of these photos you can see all of the fine details.)

You may not find as much comfort as I do from this gift. (OBTW it was issued in the late 1970s or early ’80s.) But I got a tremendous amount of validation that I am, and always have been, correct about how much joy and satisfaction can be gotten from the Italian Post Office experience.

Italian Food Rules: The BookItalian Life Rules (the book) is coming in Summer 2014. Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Amazon. com (U.S.) eBook for Kindle & Kindle Apps

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Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Amazon.it (Italy)

Amazon.de (Germany)

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Barnes & Noble (U.S.) eBook for Nook

9 thoughts on “Burnt To A Crisp – The Italian Post Office, Of Course.

  1. Brilliant, just brilliant! And you are so right in saying that the office workers never have a smile on their face, yet they have this job that so many other eager smiling people are after! I was just putting the finishing touches on my post about the Italian post, this sure gets us expats talking! 😉

  2. But Jennifer on Sardinia the sun always shines and the postal workers must be whistling a tune every day … right? Love reading of your “adventures” on mysardinianlife.com. Ann

  3. I have a “bustometro” too, somewere. My mother was a smiling one, working at post office, but they were issued in the 80s! The last and least italian boom age…

  4. Knowing you, Paolo, I just know that your mother was always smiling. I wonder how many bustometro cards are still hiding in Italian homes. Maybe … even … people still use them. Thanks for the comment. Ann

  5. I NEVER gave you the bustometro as a present. That is my bustometro. i will never part from it. NEVER!

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