I made my own invites using an image of an engraving of our church from the 1700s. (Curious which of the bazillion churches in Rome it is? See if you can guess by looking at this.) Since I put so much time into them, I wasn’t about to trust them to the dreaded Poste Italiane, the Italian mail system. Granted, most people in Italy have no other choice. But blessed are those who live in Rome, because they can go to Poste Vaticane.
That’s right, Vatican Mail. Oh, how I heart them. So friendly, so efficient, so…. so not Poste Italiane. Let’s not even get into that today. Suffice it to say that I finally gave up on them when a package arrived from my mom with a small box of Godiva chocolates. Lovely, no? Not so much when you find one, just one, eaten, leaving of course the other three to enjoy. As if. Per favore! (Yes, I am convinced it happened on this side of the ocean, and no, I don’t need proof. I am shamelessly prejudiced against the Italian postal system.)
No, no, Vatican mail is blessed by the hand of God, indeed. In my experience, the price is pretty much the same as Italian mail; what makes the difference is that Vatican mail is all sent directly to Switzerland for distribution to the rest of the world. The tiny Vatican post office next to St. Peter’s is a tourist hub and melting pot of world cultures, all passing through to mail their postcards from the smallest country in the world (.2 square miles).
I had 40 invites to mail. When I got to the window (no line, by the way!) and explained this, the man working the window next to me saw my envelopes and said, “Who’s getting married?” (What is this now? Friendly banter at the post office? From a postal employee?)
“That would be me,” I say. “After six years in Rome, I guess it was about time.”
“Marrying an Italian?”
“Romano di Roma,” I say, a phrase to indicate a “Roman from Rome.” “Trasteverino.” Ale was born in Trastevere and Romans generally agree that being from Trastevere is about as Rome as one can get. Trasteverini take a lot of pride in being from the neighborhood, especially since nowadays there are so few left who actually still live there, as it has become affordable pretty much only for rich foreigners or people who have lived in the neighborhood for generations and passed down property.
“Well, well, then! Auguri e tanti figli maschi!” He sends me “best wishes and many male children.”
“Well, children in general would be fine by me,” I say.
“You know what happened to me when people told me ‘tanti figli maschi’?" he asks. "I have three sons! So I wish you tanti figli maschi, just so long as they aren't Romanisti.”
Romanisti are fans of the Roma soccer team, one of Rome’s two rival teams. When someone asks which team you are a tifoso (fan) for, it's a pretty critical moment here in Rome. Luckily Ale is a diehard fan of Lazio, the opposing team.
“Oh, no worries there. We’re a strictly Laziale household.”
You should have seen the sheer delight on his face. It’s funny when you find Lazio fans, they get so excited to know you’re on “their side” against the evil forces of Roma.
“Well then, I wish you tre figli e tre figlie!” (three sons and three daughters).
I guess being a fan of his team bought me some bonus offspring.
“That way we can bring them all to the stadio together, right?” I reply.
Delightful, am I still in the post office? I ask the man at my window if he has any nice stamps by chance, since I don’t want my wedding invites stamped by a machine.
“Just for you, since you’re marrying a Romano, Trasteverino, here’s what I’m going to do…”
He manages to find three beautiful stamps that equal the exact amount I have to pay per envelope. (Did you know that it's possible to go to an Italian post office to buy stamps and be told they don't have any??) There’s a large table where I can sit down, with a damp sponge I can use for putting the stamps on the envelopes. As I spread all my stuff out and get to work, I feel like I’ve died and gone to postal heaven. I realize this may sound ridiculous, but perhaps you have to have some experience with the Italian postal system under your belt to truly appreciate this.
Just under 40 envelopes and nearly 120 stamps later, I’m on my way, and so are my invitations. Buon viaggio!
An automated stamp machine outside the post office for when it's closed. I've never seen an automated Poste Italiane stamp machine...have you? Hmm, must be too convenient.
Inside the post office, with a big table and chairs for tourists to write their postcards. On the left is the numismatic shop, where you can buy commemorative stamps, postcards and coins. (Can you spot the picture of the pope?)
The post office is located directly to the left of St. Peter's Basilica. There are two yellow mailboxes out front. Mail must be sent from here. You can't buy stamps here and then mail things from an Italian mailbox, just as you can't mail anything from here with Italian stamps.
Hey, turn around, I think I see something behind you...