So, now that it’s over, I can let you in on a big secret.
Yesterday, a package arrived, long overdue and highly anticipated. Quite overdue since my estimated time delivery window expired a few weeks ago and usually with Amazon I never have problems with on-time deliveries to Italy. So I opened a troubleshooter email and wondered how I could prove that it hadn’t arrived.
When my package arrived, I had a little surprise waiting for me:
Presentazione in Dogana €2,50
Spese Postali €3,00
Presentation in Dogana?? Postal costs? Tax, on what? I have never had to pay duty on an Amazon package. But I have learned to treat the Italian postal system as a child I’m babysitting – one that has no discipline and will do what they want no matter what you say. Some other expats have reported problems with the postal system and even avoid it entirely and use a “higher” postal system from the Vatican.
Besides the actual mechanism of moving around and delivering the mail, one of the biggest hurdles is actually getting mail into the country. In fact, they have a package graveyard near my house, conveniently disguised as “Dogana” (Customs) where packages go to die (or are “put down” if you prefer that gentler term). If you look closely, there are letters missing in front of Dogana which I believe read “Cimitero” (Cemetary) until angry and grieving package relatives decided to scrape them off. Maybe.
Here are some prohibited items that cannot be sent to Italy – the complete list of prohibited/restricted items is available on the US post office site. Make sure you check it so you can avoid sending restricted items, or at least labeling them correctly as such. Besides the things you’d expect to see on a restricted list such as arms and weapons (check), a few raise eyebrows like exposed photographic and cinematographic films or albums (no family Christmas card, Michelle!)
Some that stand out from the pack, and may have you scrambling to change things last-minute in your packages are:
- Haberdashery and sewn articles of any kind, including trimmings and lace; handkerchiefs; scarves; shawls, needlework including stockings and gloves; bonnets, caps, and hats of any kind. (The fact that they have used the word haberdashery here makes snort)
- Hair and articles made of hair. Guess no sending a hair shirt for a Sweet Sixteen, eh?
- Human remains. But carrying them on a plane is probably fine.
- Live bees, leeches, and silkworms. Can you imagine if the bees got out after being handled by the Postal Service?
- Nutmeg, vanilla; sea salt, rock salt; saffron. Now, this is just unfair. We are stuck with vanilla “aroma” instead of good extract.
- Playing cards of any kind. Vegas can’t offshore their old playing cards anymore – who thinks this is mafia-related?
- Toys not made wholly of wood. This has particular significance for me because I received several care packages when studying in Italy labeled with “wooden toys” on the customs label, stuffed with all kinds of crazy prohibited items like a kilo of saffron. Ok, not really. But they didn’t question.
Now, what you can bring on a plane is apparently different. I “have heard” that people have brought over cheese, toys not wholly made of wood.
So if you made it this far, you’ve realized I still haven’t told you my big secret.
The big secret is, up until yesterday, I didn’t have a single cookbook in my house! Before moving I gave away or sold the few cookbooks I had. I love using the internet to exchange and discover recipes, but I finally decided things are settling down a little for me after four years of living here and I want to start having a “home” feeling again, so I selected a few old and a few new books (including David‘s The Perfect Scoop which I had been waiting for forever) to dip my toes into cookbook water and decide which books will make it into my closely-guarded traveling bookshelf.
Who’s got some other cookbooks to recommend to me?? Or what’s your favorite?? Easiest? Most-used? Put them in the comments and next week I’ll send a random commenter a package of the digestive sugar I recently talked about (and they are GOOD!).