The Italian mail system has improved tremendously with the introduction of a two-tier postal system. A posta prioritaria (first-class) stamp within Italy costs €0.80; to EU destinations, it costs €0.95 and usually guarantees delivery within three days. Mailing a letter or a postcard from Italy to the United States costs €2.30, and delivery times unfortanately can vary widely. When you mail letters, pay attention to the mail slot on the mailbox. The red mailboxes have two slots: the slot on the left is for Rome mail, and the slot on the right is for all other destinations (tutte le altre destinazioni), including abroad. Blue mailboxes are for foreign (estero) mail only.
The Vatican postal service has a reputation for efficiency, and many foreigners prefer to send their mail from there, although recently this has proven to be more myth than fact. It's not advisable to send anything valuable through either service. Even Vatican stamps can't guarantee that your mail won't get lost. You can buy Vatican stamps in the post offices on either side of Piazza di San Pietro, one next to the information office and the other under the colonnade opposite. During peak tourist seasons a Vatican Post Office mobile unit is set up in Piazza di San Pietro. All letters with Vatican stamps can be mailed only from the Vatican Post Office or Vatican mailboxes located near San Pietro.
Letters and postcards to the United States and Canada cost €2.30 for up to 20 grams and automatically go airmail. Letters and postcards to the United Kingdom cost €0.95. You can buy stamps at tobacco shops.
If you can avoid it, try not to have packages sent to you while you're in Rome or in Italy. Packages sent from abroad are notorious for being stopped by the Italian Customs Office, or Ufficio Dogonale. If your package gets stuck in customs, not only will you likely have to pay hefty customs fees but it could also take weeks for you to receive it. Sending medicine and even vitamins through the mail is highly inadvisable, and, if discovered, your package will be held up in customs for inspection.
Poste Italiane (Main Post Office). Piazza San Silvestro 19, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Latium, 00187. 06/69737216; www.poste.it.