I thought it was just a joke, one of things people always say about Italy, that its bureaucracy is a nightmare, it’s run by the mafia, Italians are so passionate, Italians are so angry, blah blah blah. No, believe me Italian bureaucracy really is a horror story, this is what happened when I tried to post a Christmas present:

I spent a lot of time this Christmas painstakingly making hampers for my family and friends at home. I packed boxes with limoncello, panettone, pasta and other Italian delights, and all in all when I trotted off to the Post Office, (well if I could have trotted lugging six hampers I would have), I was feeling very happy with myself, and excited to send them on their voyage across the seas to take their well earned places under the Christmas trees of the families I thought would be very pleased indeed with the gesture.

This was the first time I attempted to post them. I arrived at three minutes past seven, where I was informed that the post office shuts at seven. With a sigh, I lugged the boxes back home, with a little less spring in my trot than before. But no matter, I would get there earlier tomorrow.

So at 6.30pm the next day, I tried again to post the boxes. After finally working out that I had to get a ticket, and umming and ahhing for a while over which ticket I should get from the machine, I managed to get myself into the correct waiting area. I sat there for half an hour. When my number finally flashed red above the counter, I dragged the boxes up. In my very broken Italian and now quite accomplished mime skills, I managed to convey to him, charades-style that I wanted to send them to England.

I got a shake of the head and a stout “no.”

“Perché?” I asked. The boxes I had used had writing on them, the name of my housemate’s company, who had kindly given them to me for the occasion in a fit of festive generosity. Apparently, this makes posting the boxes impossible. So I asked to borrow some parcel tape to cover the offending text with.

Another hearty “no.” A post office which doesn’t stock any parcel tape.

With a sigh, I once again took the boxes home, nowhere near trotting. I would have to wait until tomorrow to buy some tape to cover the writing.

The next day, I triumphantly marched up to the desk, after a mere 20 minutes waiting, with my fully taped up parcels. After filling in countless forms, I asked how much it would cost. I nearly cried when she said 25 Euros each. I had five of them.

Thinking that I would be rather glad when the blessed things had gone, I attempted to swallow my horror and pulled my card out from my purse. The lady took one look and said her favourite word… “no.” I will no longer find that Little Britain sketch with the computer funny.

I couldn’t pay by card. So I asked if it would be OK if I went to the cash machine to draw the money out (of course using wildly flailing hand gestures). I went to the cash machine to find my card had been cancelled by my bank, on suspicion of fraud. Granted this isn’t the fault of Italian bureaucracy, but it did not improve my mood.

I stomped back and took the parcels back once more to my apartment. At least my arms got a good work out, I won’t have to lift weights for a month.

The following day, I approached the post office rather timidly, not daring to hope that I might actually manage to post anything. When my number, P087 flashed, I took a deep breath and walked slowly up to the counter. I shakily placed the parcels one by one on the counter, with the forms they had kindly let me take back with me.

“Per favore?” I whispered.

When the parcels had gone and I had been robbed of my 125 Euros, I swiftly exited the building as fast as I could without breaking into a run that would no doubt raise suspicions as to the nature of the parcels I had just deposited.

One thing is for sure, my grandparents had better bloody like them.

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