Wednesday, January 17, 2007

You've Got (Blessed) Mail

As many of you already know, I’m getting married here in Rome in late March. That means, among many other things, wedding invitations to send. Even though I already pretty much know who is coming from the States because by now almost all the people who can manage to make it have already bought their tickets, still, wedding invitations have to be sent out to everyone – can’t skip tradition.

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...


Jul said...

When we got married in Italy, we Fed-Exed the box of completed invitations to my parents in the states to mail out for us - I knew there was no way the Italian post office could manage to get them all to their destinations. Too bad we weren't so close to the Vatican!


Delina said...

You have a civilised post office, which works?? I just can't believe it!! Is this a joke post?! :D

BTW If you do post any wedding invites through the normal post here, make sure you back it up with an email!

mad said...

Oh wow!! It's getting close now, no turning back now that the invites are out. Hopefully they all arrive at their destination in one piece

chris & erin said...

haha! This entire entry made me smile...(and giggle a little about the "bonus offspring") :)

TNP said...

That was the same mailbox we used three years to send postcards back to the States. They arrived two to three months later.

I'll say a prayer!

FinnyKnits said...

I laughed, smiled and rolled my eyes through this entire post. I love Romans - and I love how they are all ready to fold you into their close-knit families as soon as they find out the most arbitrary piece of information about you. Plus, you are such an insider with your Trasteverino hubby - too fancy. :)

Kelli said...

Lookie there. Something in Italy that works efficiently! Other than the soccer schedules and the wine presses. hee hee.
Awesome stamps chica.

Cynthia Rae said...

Shelley, tanti tanti auguri! I DIDNT know that you were going to be married in March! How did that one get by me???? I want to wish you both all the happiness in the world! I would love to hear all about your wedding. It doesn't seem like all that long ago when I was making plans for our Italian wedding!

Seeing the stamps made me think back to our wedding as well. The ONLY job Danilo had was to pick up stamps for our wedding invites. Wouldn't you know that he came home with cartoon stamps! It was the year of the winter games in Tornio and the stamps were those darn characters from the games! They said "see you at the games" on it. I thought I would KILL him! We had spent so much money on them that we went ahead and used them anyway. I told him instead of putting "yes, can attend" or "no, can not attend" that we should have put "yes, will see you at the games" or "no, will not see you at the games".

Wishing you all the best!

Cynthia Rae said...

ps. With all those sons and daughters, you could start another football team in Rome! heeheheehe!

Jane said...

I think the Vatican has one on LA post offices! I have never had such service with a blessing!

Julie said...


abe-hap said...

totally amazing - to learn something new everyday from another country :)

TinkerBlue said...

You made me laugh on a cross and crabby day. Thank you.

One day I WILL get to Italy.

gracie said...

Well, you said nothing new to me! I'm still waiting for something Kelli mailed me more than one month ago!
And I guess you have to renovate your house to make room for three sons nad three daughters!!

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Yes, postal talk can inspire quite a heated discussion...

Jul, this is a great idea, I think had it not been for Poste Vaticane I might have gone this route too.

Delina, can't imagine what it must be like down where you're at... eeek...Naples isn't known for its organization or work ethic, eh?

Mad: I know--no turning back! OMG. Cold sweats. Just kidding.

Chris & Erin: Totally bonus offspring! If you want I'll send one your way...six is way too many for me...

TNP: All prayers are graciously accepted. I gave my envelopes to the guy inside. Do you think that makes a difference? Hope so.

Fin: Well, you should know, 'member how they all fell in love with you at the Peroni Brewery when they found out your name was Jessica? All the waiters in the restaurant running around crazed over it: "Ciao, CHESSEEECA!"

Kel: I know, who woulda thunk it? Not I. 3 of them stamps is headed your way...

Cyn: O.M.G. LAUGHING, but I mean really LOL. This is hilarious. You were such a good sport. The Italian made a bit of a boo-boo on that one. SO funny, your wedding became "the games"--marriage as Olympic sport! Did you win the gold?

Jane: When the pope is looking down over your mail from the frame on the wall, you know it's gonna all be ok... right?

Julie: GRAZIE!

Abe-Hap: And I am going to be relying on you for learning my new technique of fair isle, so don't you worry, it will be a fair trade! :-)

Tinkerblue: Yes you will, Rome isn't going anywhere. You can book one of my apartments and explore my neighborhood--fun!

Gracie: In bocca al lupo for that package. Luckily only one of mine has gone missing in 6 years, but it's always "fingers crossed!"

Expat Traveler said...

wow! what a post! Great information for sure...