Post Haste

Italian banks generally receive a bad press from ex-pats, largely because of inflated charges, incomprehensible paperwork, haughty staff and frequent bank take-overs causing considerable confusion.

Throughout the ten years that I have used the Italian banking system I have had no particular cause to make complaints. That’s because I opened an account with Bancoposta, the Italian post-office bank, and have stuck with it.

Every Friday, at Bagni di Lucca’s Villa post office it’s possible to book an appointment with a financial advisor who will take the time to look at one’s options, advise on good investments and even reduce any charges one still might have to suffer.

Thanks to this financial advice my current account at Bancoposta has not had to endure charges which could well be in excess of one hundred euros annually with some Italian bank accounts.

How does one avoid charges, which with a UK bank account in credit, would never be imposed? Three things are needed, out of about twelve possible options. I chose to pay a regular monthly amount into my current account, set up a direct debit for at least one utility and open up a regular monthly savings account. I could also have chosen to buy personal injury insurance, use an electronic pass on Italian autostrade, in addition to other options. In this way I have saved on charges which would normally amount to around fifty Euros per annum. Every Euro helps…

Some people might argue why have an Italian bank account anyway? It’s their decision, of course, but I’m quite happy to have an Italian account with the post office since Bancoposta hole-in-the-wall machines are quite common and will not involve surcharges, debit cards can be used in places where credit cards are not accepted (e.g. Lidl), and cell-phones can be regularly topped up without having to buy special cards.

As for investments, I have been pleased with my Bancoposta inflation-linked investments which, though modest, are at least safe.

Some people complain that post office service is often slow and sometimes unfriendly. Of course, this may depend on who’s serving you but if one goes to the post office first thing on Monday morning then clearly one is asking for trouble. Any time after 12.00 AM (the Bagni post offices close at 1.30 PM) may often find one the only customer in the building.

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People living in and around Bagni di Lucca are very lucky with post offices. There are three of them at Villa, Ponte and Fornoli respectively and they are all dedicated post offices.

Let me explain. In my former residency in Woolwich London SE there used to be one main post office and a fine Victorian building it was too. I imagine Royal artillery cadets from the nearby barracks used it to post and receive letters to and from their loved ones, before going on dangerous duties in the Empire.

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Even General Gordon of Khartoum, who was born in Woolwich and was trained at the military school there, must have used its facilities.

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That building has since been demolished (as, sadly with General Gordon’s birthplace in Woolwich – such is the care taken over the past in that part of London) and the only way one can get to a post office is by walking through a large department store which, apparently, has a “post office” section.

Three cheers for Bagni di Lucca’s three post offices,then!

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9 thoughts on “Post Haste

  1. I agree. I abandoned other banks for the Bancoposta. We have a tiny post office, open only 3 mornings a week, on the side of the Comune building,and next to the bar, with just one lovely woman behind the counter who knows all my affairs and does everything to make my life easy..I try to avoid pension payout days, but even when I have to wait there is always someone I know, to greet and chat with.

  2. It is indeed very sad that the Woolwich Post Office is actually no more it is just a green openspace in front of the gigantic Tesco Extra I do wish in fact as do many others that a more central Post Office be replaced for the fair Town Woolwich we have been deprived of this facility and many other sub Post Offices have also long gone!

  3. I agree about the Italian post office. My branch in Guamo has the extra bonus of long hours, until 7 or 8 pm, and open on Saturdays too! As a result, it’s sometimes crowded but the women working there are invariably courteous and collaborative. I pay a monthly fee of €5 but then I never have consulted the investment counselor, which would be a good idea. The Posta Mobile phone service is good too, topped up automatically from my account with them. Whenever I can’t understand Posta Mobile’s messages (sms) on my cell, I just go to the Post to consult with the woman there, who understands most everything. It must be a good, economical phone service because when alternative companies (Tim etc.) call promoting their services, if I mention I have unlimited calls and sms from Posta Mobile, they apologize for bothering me and don’t even propose an alternative.
    I must add, though, that I also bank inside the Walls at Credem, which is the most courteous and helpful bank I have ever known. I once financed a small mortgage through them. It is my family bank; my adult children use it too.

  4. Very enjoyable post about the Post Office. Just one thing, are you saying that if you open an account at the post office in Bagni that one of the options they offer their clients is one of those electronic autostrada telepass thingies?

  5. It’s the postal account called PostaPiù that you need with all the options to save or zero on your bank charges. One of the options is to use the electronic telepass on the motorway at least twice a month. I don’t use this twice a month so I didn’t take this option but chose the ones regarding regular monthly credits and a regular savings account.

  6. Ah ok, now I understand. We drive over in the summer and i’ve noticed that the chunnel and ferry websites are beginning to promote sales of the telepass box that allows you to avoid toll queues in both France and Italy, and pay via your bank account. Could be quite useful in terms of reducing the travel time, and they’re knocking them out for driver’s to hire at very low prices. For a moment when i read your post I thought the Italian Post Office were offering a box in return for opening an account!

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