Springtime in Italy is a season like felt: fuzzy, soft and subtly clinging. Square swatches of Italian felt moments swaddle visitors, quilting memories. Unquestionably, there is something felt and profound, deep and private in a piazza embrace.
Italy must be touched, devoured and savored like a hungry, lingering kiss. History books and travel brochures can’t speak in any language in the ways that wandering the bricked streets will.
Knowing this, I still wanted to mail postcards illustrated with the Adriatic seaside town of Rimini I was visiting. I wanted to express how I felt about Italy. And that led me to the Poste Italiane ufficio postale building near Piazza Tre Martiri in Rimini Centro, mere yards from the Arch of Augustus (27 BC).
The much newer Poste Italiane building was crowded with the business of providing mail collection and delivery, printed matter and parcels, telegrams, express mail and online services, as well as financial and payment services, savings accounts, bonds, national and international money orders and currency exchange.
Once inside, I felt a flashback to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, with crowded, plastic chairs and electronic numbers buzzing above 20 clerk stations. Take a number. Wait. Glancing around, I saw a machine that might just be the ticket, with four categories from which to choose. I punched “filatelia;” it spat out number F076. I milled around in the standing room only, then began having doubts about my ticket selection. I showed a woman my postcards and my ticket. She shook her head, flashing her ticket, a P.
Back at the machine I pushed P (prodotti postali), receiving 224, a worrisome number, since I had a sightseeing bus tour scheduled within the hour. I waited, heart racing and blood pressure rising, as the P numbers advanced, then stalled. How could buying a stamp take so long?
One customer tried for “cuts,” approaching a clerk already engaged in a transaction. A shouting match heated up. Arms flew in volatile expression. The clerk won, frowning as the weary customer shuffled off to the sidelines to wait his turn.
It felt like an eternity before P224 blazed above a clerk. I dashed over and handed my postcards across the counter. I was happy to shell out more than 2.5 times the price of U.S. postage to achieve my mission and go.
Racing toward my tour bus, I imagined an Italian Poste more like United States Postal Service. At home I could puchase my stamps and other postal products at Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Office Depot, the grocery store, or Costco. I’d even pay a whole lot less.
But I wouldn’t have felt time crawl.