ITALY: STAMPS & POSTCARDS
In Italy, my plan was to go to the post office, purchase some stamps and mail out some postcards. Prior to my departure for Rome, I jotted down a couple of post offices in my neighbourhood, so that I could just enter the address in my phone maps, and I would be taken to the post office. As I had only a few days in the city it had to be planned out a bit, but things didn’t quiet turn out so simple. Purchasing postcards is always the easy part. I found some beautiful ones on my street Via Della Scala. There was a sign in this little shop saying that they sell stamps there, so I went inside and asked for stamps, and they didn’t actually sell them there. Next up, I went to the post office, and both in Italy and Portugal when you arrive at the post office, you have to first pick up a customer number from this machine in the front, that puts you in queue. Finding the post office in the first place, even with a phone map was just a little tricky, because there was no post office at the final destination, but instead it was on the other side of the building behind a restaurant, and I feel like most people wouldn’t even try looking for it there or wouldn’t see it. At the Italian post office, there were 3 options on the machine, and I knew enough Italian to know that none applied to me, but I went ahead and picked up a number anyway. The options available had something to do with paying bills, telephone, bank etc. Even though there were about 3 or 4 counters open, I waited a long time for my turn, and when I was finally up, the lady told me nicely that they don’t sell stamps there and that they don’t mail out postcards. How odd right? I asked her where I can buy stamps, and I she told me in a shop where cigarettes are sold. I’ve heard this one before. When my new camera AA batteries died on me at sunset, at Piazza Cavour, during my first full day in Rome, I had a similar situation to resolve. I texted my Airbnb host that evening and he told me you can find batteries in a shop where cigarettes are sold. Next morning after some delicious food, I was on a mission to find a cigarette shop. Luckily I found one easily in Trastevere, walking distance from my apt. I purchased 2 packs of AA batteries, went back to the apt, loaded up the camera, and with no time to waste headed out for a new Roman adventure. So when I had to look for stamps in a cigarette shop, I went back to the same shop, but unfortunately they didn’t sell them there either. Every time I saw cigarettes in a shop, I went inside to ask for stamps. The reply I sometimes got was, you can find them at the post office. During my last full day in Rome, after all the sightseeing and shopping, on the way back to the apartment, I stopped at one of these newspaper stands (pictured above) and asked if they sold stamps, they did! Not only did they sell stamps, they even had a mailbox for international mail, so this is where my postcards finally left Rome and went into the world!
DOCUMENT PRINTING IN ITALY
I went to Google first, but didn’t waste much time before I contacted my Airbnb host for help again. He let me know of 2 self service Laundry places where you can use a printer to print out your documents. One was just a few minutes away from my apt so I headed over there first. This turned out to be like a Laundry/Internet place. It was a very simple laundry place, quiet small and a little dodgy looking at night. There were about 3 guys in there, at the time, and a girl. Some were doing laundry, some were using the computers and some were talking. I picked a computer, inserted some change in, and went straight to my email. The guy next to me had his headphones on, was listening to music and looking at some semi naughty girl photos. The default language on the computers is Italian, and the warning message that popped up in front of me, told me that I wouldn’t be able to open my email due to security reasons, so I had to do some verification, but no luck. I walked back to my apt, emailed the documents to another email, went back to the laundry place, and had no trouble opening this email. I printed one document, but couldn’t see a printer in sight. Apparently the printer was hidden inside the wall, and it just threw the printed paper out. With all that figured out, the documents were printed and ready for use.
PORTUGAL: STAMPS & POSTCARDS
Since I had more time in Portugal, I didn’t plan anything out. I purchased postcards in Porto during my first full day of exploration, and I also had some little gifts from Italy to send out to 2 good friends in London. Back at the apt, I went to Google, entered post offices in Porto and found one walking distance from the apt. The day I decided to go to the post office, I woke up around 10, and by the time I showered, got ready, had coffee, it was already around noon time. I also planned to grab a giant bowl of Chinese prior to the post office visit, so I thought, well there’s just no way I can eat, top up my metro card and manage to do the post office by 1pm. But then I noticed online, that the post office is open in the afternoon too, after the lunch break. This was awesome! So after delicious Chinese, which I will tell you about later, and metro card top up, I headed to the post office.
This is the one I used:
I arrived at the post office around 1:20pm and the sign on the door informed me that the post office would be closed until 2pm. So the internet lied, their lunch break finishes at 2pm. I sat there and waited and I eventually got a bit cold in the shade so I decided to take a little walk on the main street next to the post office which was lit by the sun. I went up the street and looked at the window displays of shops. At this point, I was searching for a snack, and I came across a delicious window display of a local coffee shop, and stopped in there for a pastry. The girl inside did not speak English but she spoke French and we managed to understand each other just fine. I ordered a Chocolate Croissant and a delicious looking Portuguese pastry which was on sale for 44 cents. Pretty soon, I found out that this was a Coconut pastry and it was so fresh and delicious, I loved it! I finished both before I arrived back at the post office with some time to spare. A short queue formed in front of the post office shortly after with me first in line. A guy parked across the street, stepped out of his car carrying a medium sized box, and asked in Portuguese when the post office will open. I replied “at two” in English with my peace sign gesture suggesting 2pm. He smiled…Then a lady arrived and unlocked the front door for us and took her seat behind the counter. There were just 2 counters open, and a gentleman was already seated behind the first counter as we arrived. I picked up my little customer number at the front, someone behind me actually helped me out and pressed the button for me. It was my turn immediately and I informed the nice lady that I needed to send a postcard and 3 separate small packages. She quickly handed me the appropriate envelopes and I addressed them. Everything was quiet easy and effortless and I felt so happy and relieved when everything went out.