Rick Steves Advises Tourists To Avoid Mailing Things Home From This European Country

Rick Steves, America's most trusted authority on European travel, is full of travel hacks. One of Steves' biggest tips is to pack light. If you travel like Steves and hop on trains and buses or wander along cobblestoned streets to find your hotel, you don't want to drag a 50-pound bag behind you. In fact, a quote on Steves' website reads: "On your trip you'll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had."

But Steves is also a realist. He knows it's easy to pack things we never use and pick up souvenirs you feel like you should get (and maybe some you really shouldn't). Steves' solution for that, as he writes on his blog, is to mail a box of your things home during your trip. This way, you'll rid yourself of a bunch of weight and be able to continue traveling fancy-free (and be able to pick up more souvenirs). But there's one European country from which Steves would never mail his precious cargo home. Italy, with its notoriously unreliable postal service, is a no-no.

No Poste Italiane

In a 2018 post, Rick Steves writes that his Italian friends avoid using the country's national postal service at all costs, even preferring to take their mail across the border to another country. It's not just Steves and his friends who think Italy's postal service, Poste Italiane, offers poor service. It has a 1.2/5 rating on Trustpilot, with 94% of reviewers giving it one star (in fairness, USPS has the same rating). Recent reviews include gems like "downright atrocious postal service," "they stole almost everything out of my package," and "Italian postal service is the worst I've ever experienced." Ouch.

We have to be fair here, though, and note that not everyone has a bad experience with Poste Italiane. Several brave souls on Reddit's r/Italian forum write that they haven't experienced problems with the carrier. It seems like sending a package via Poste Italiane is a bit like playing roulette with your goods. Like Steves, we'd probably avoid it if possible.

So what do you do if you're in Italy and suddenly find your bag has become a deadweight? If you're on a multi-country trip, you could wait until you've left Italy. Swiss Post has been named the world's best postal service seven times in a row, so perhaps posting from Switzerland will yield better results. (Curiously, Swiss Post has pretty terrible reviews on Trustpilot, too, though, so who knows?)

How to mail your things home safely

If you decide to unburden yourself, packing and labeling your goods with care can make a big difference in whether they arrive. Before you even start to pack your box, ensure you're allowed to send your goods via mail. Banned items vary by country and carrier, so it's best to ask at the post office. For example, USPS and most other mail services worldwide do not permit you to send alcohol or perfumes containing alcohol. (These seem like the more probable things you'd want to send back from Europe. We assume you won't casually purchase ammunition or explosives during your vacation.)

Alright, your old hiking boots and that hefty book about the Vatican are good to go, and you're ready to pack. On his blog, Steves recommends putting everything inside a plastic bag for weatherproofing before putting it into the cardboard postal box. He also reinforces the box with duct tape and then writes his address in several places. He also puts his address somewhere inside the box.

Finally, the post office will give you a customs form to fill out. Remember, you may have to pay duty on items you ship to the U.S., though new items valued up to $200 are exempt from duties at the time of writing. Never, ever mail anything you can't bear to lose (your favorite jeans, your passport). May your bags be light and your souvenirs arrive home safe and sound.