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There are at least three competing postal services in Italy - the government-ran Poste Italiane, and private duo of Globe Postal Service (GPS) and Friendpost, which primarily target tourist customers.

What should one expect when using their services?

How fast and reliable are they? Are they a borderline scam as some people say online?

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I visited Sardinia this summer and when buying the first batch of postcards, I asked the cashier in the souvenir shop for stamps. He sold me a couple, but when I was sticking them on later, I found that the stamps looked different from what I previously bought elsewhere. I looked online to find some information about them and found that people complain about this service as being extremely unreliable and slow.

When life gives you a GPS stamp, make an experiment, I thought. So I obtained stamps from all three available vendors and sent myself some vacation postcards from Sardinia to Czech Republic. Here are the results together with some notes about each vendor:

Poste Italiane

  • Red mailboxes all over Italy, very easy to find
  • Cheapest service
  • Stamps are supposedly available in tabaccherias, but they are always sold out
  • Stamps are generally not available in souvenir shops
  • Time to delivery: 14 days

Globe Postal Service (GPS)

  • Available in the vast majority of souvenir shops and some tabaccherias, they must have good incentives for the shop owners
  • Service a bit more expensive than Poste Italiane
  • As part of the service you get "tracking", but it only tells you that they handled the postcard. There is a QR code on the stamp which the recipient can open using their mobile phone and confirm receipt.
  • You should only throw the postcards into their own mailboxes, otherwise they will not be delivered. They are very explicit about this, but many people still complain about doing this accidentally
  • Time to delivery: 22 days

Friendpost

  • Rather rare to find, so one should be careful to have the postcards ready to be sent immediately after buying the stamps when choosing this vendor, otherwise it's very difficult to find their mailbox
  • Same as GPS, they are mostly found in souvenir shops
  • Price is comparable to GPS
  • They also have "tracking" like GPS, but without the QR code. Otherwise it works the same
  • What is quite awesome is their Lost & Found service. Not sure how useful this is, but if they could not deliver your postcard, they scan it and put the picture online. It's quite entertaining to browse through the gallery
  • Time to delivery: 32 days

From my experience, none of the services are as unreliable as the people on TripAdvisor say. Friendpost is the slowest, but I think this is because they have a sparse network, so they cannot afford to collect the postcards as often as GPS.

In none of the cases the delivery took several months, although it is slow indeed, especially considering that they were delivered within the EU. I recently received a postcard from New Caledonia, about 6 months after it was sent, so things could be worse than that.

All of the postcards arrived to their destination okay, none were lost or damaged.

  • n is too small to draw statistically relevant conclusions, but nice experiment nonetheless! – Jan Oct 1 at 8:05

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