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