Friday 8 March 2013

Postcards from Italy

The times we had
Oh, when the wind would blow with rain and snow
Were not all bad
We put our feet just where they had, had to go
Never to go

The shattered soul
Following close but nearly twice as slow
In my good times
There were always golden rocks to throw
at those who admit defeat too late
Those were our times, those were our times

And I will love to see that day
That day is mine
When she will marry me outside with the willow trees
And play the songs we made
They made me so
And I would love to see that day
Her day was mine

Yesterday, I heard a song by Beirut called "Postcards from Italy" and it made me feel like to write this post. What I am going to share here is not related to the song at all, however, it is about my experience of sending postcards from Italy. 

Well... not Italy, but Vatican to be exact. 

I signed up for Postcrossing in March 2011 and I have become an avid postcrosser since then. I am pretty sure that the conventional snail-mail still has an ability to bring greater sense of intimacy than what the technology offers through email, Facebook or Twitter. It is very easy to type "I miss you" or "Wish you were here" to someone's wall on Facebook. But, a postcard? It absolutely needs more time and efforts in order to make it arrive safely to your beloved ones. I know that not everybody enjoys and appreciates this old-fashioned stuff like I do, though. But I keep sending postcards to those who I remember about, simply because I love to do it. It makes me happy.

When I had a trip to Italy, I managed to send postcards to my parents and friends. I bought some stamps and postcards in Rome. Unfortunately, the officer at Postal Office near Roma Termini knows very limited English. He could not comprehend my request to get new Italian commemorative stamps. I was also very surprised that Italian postage rate for sending a postcard abroad, except EU countries, is so expensive, 2 EUR each. In Sweden, a first-class overseas postcard only needs a stamp valued 12 SEK, equal to 1.44 EUR. Italian postage is way too much. Moreover, the service is broadly known to be slow and unreliable.

Because of the stereotype of Italian erratic postal system, I thought a possibility to send those postcards from Vatican City. I know it sounds strange since Vatican has an independent postal system separated from Italy's. But I believed it's worth a try. So, on the day we went to the Basilica of St. Peter, I paid a visit to Vatican Post Office. I bought two stamps for postcards to my mom in Indonesia and to a pen-pal in Germany. Postage rate for postcard delivery within EU is 0.75 EUR, and 1.5 EUR to the rest of the world. It is still too much, but of course, cheaper than Italy. Then I asked the officer whether it is possible or not to put postcards with Italian stamps in Vatican mailbox. He answered, "Yes, you can." And I did it. 

I didn't think too much about those postcards until I read some articles on the internet, such as this and this. It drove me to panic. I couldn't accept if all of my postcards with Italian stamps were undelivered because I was one hundred sure that the officer said yes when I asked him. But what if he was wrong or misunderstood? Thinking about that really made me fret. Then I tried to find another way to send postcards with "Italian touch". I used postcard applications for iPhone and I uploaded my own photographs. I knew it would work well, my friends will receive glossy card with Italian city-views and a few messages from me on the backside. However, they will not receive authentic ones with stamps and hand-writing.

Surprisingly, a month later, my friend, Ita, informed me that she had already received my postcard from Italy. Yes, the stamped and hand-written one. I was really glad to hear that news. Afterwards, other friends one by one told me the same thing. They have received the postcards that I sent via Vatican mailbox. Eventually, some friends got more than postcards, the hand-written and electronically-typed ones (which I ordered through iPhone apps).

I asked some of the receivers to send me a picture of the cancellation mark. The fact was very surprising. Apparently, the Vatican Postal Office forwarded the postcards to Italian Postal Office in Rome, because the cancelation marks of postcards with Italian stamps and the postcards with Vatican stamps were different. One is read as "Roma " and the other one is "Città del Vaticano". So, all in all, it is possible to use Italian stamps for sending postcards through Vatican mailboxes, but don't expect they will arrive fast.


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