30 August 2012

Posting packages from Italy

If you want to send a package from Italy - perhaps you have bought too much stuff on holiday - you'll find it can be surprisingly straightforward and fast. This week I sent a big box of books from Venice to London on Monday and they arrived today (Thursday).

The easiest way to do it is to buy a standard yellow box (scatola) from an Italian post office. They come in different sizes, with security tape and a space for writing the destination (destinatario) and the sender (mittente). I think I paid around €3 for my box.  I put my books in an old pillow case to keep them together and added the destination address to the top of the box in black marker pen.

At post offices in Italy you are usually expected to take a numbered ticket from a machine (for servizi postali) and wait your turn. You'll need to fill in a form detailing what is in your box. For Europe this isn't too demanding, though I did have to guess the number of books I'd packed. If your box is going outside the EU, you'll need to complete further customs declarations.

 For the EU there are two options for sending parcels. The standard service takes 10-15 working days. Quick Pack Europe, an express service, takes 3 working days. Between Italy and the UK there wasn't a big difference in price between the two services, so I paid €50.42 for Quick Pack Europe. As promised, the books have turned up within three working days. At a cost of approximately £39, this seemed a pretty good service.

> Prices for Quick Pack Europe
> More about the service (in Italian)

16 August 2012

Sant'Erasmo - a secret summer refuge for Venetians

Venice in August can be stiflingly hot, and the central areas are overrun by daytrippers. If you are staying in Venice and want to get away from the city, you can do as the Venetians do and head out into the lagoon.

 The green island of Sant'Erasmo is one of the secrets of the Venetian lagoon. A long, thin farming island which once separated the lagoon from the sea, this is where a lot of the fruit and vegetables in the Rialto market are grown. On sunny weekends and holidays, Sant'Erasmo is also a refuge for Venetians. Arriving in their small boats, they moor next to offshore mudbanks and along Sant'Erasmo's beach. Last Sunday there were hundreds of boats bobbing about as Venetian families paddled, swam, walked their dogs in the shallow waters and set up vast picnics on trestle-tables under home-made awnings. Those in need of a shot of coffee or a pizza queued up in their swimming costumes in the bar-restaurant behind the beach. Among the convivial crowds, it was as though the whole of the population of Venice had decamped to the island to enjoy themselves.

You don't need your own boat to join in. A regular ferry, the 13, connects Sant'Erasmo with Venice, though this stops some distance from the beach and restaurant on the island. Even better is my favourite summer boat service, the number 18. This summer-only 'bathing' service connects the Lido with Murano via Sant'Erasmo - and it stops right by the action on Sant'Erasmo, at the Torre Massimiliana.

Last Sunday we took a panoramic cruise down the Grand Canal and out to the Lido on the number 1, changed to the 18, and alighted at Sant'Erasmo. After visiting a free art exhibition in the restored fortress we strolled along the lagoon shore and back, seeing wading Italians and lagoon birds foraging for lagoon delicacies. Past tomato and squash plantations and vineyards, a crowing cockerel, and picnicking Italians, the walk showed my visitors a really different side of Venice. A pizza and tiny glass of wine at the restaurant tables under trees, enjoying the sea-breeze, then it was time to catch the next 18 - its jetty being used for diving practice and fishing - on to Murano. A stroll around the touristy glass-making island and then the express ferry back to Venice ended a good day out on the lagoon.

A trip to Sant'Erasmo is a great way to escape the tourist crowds. Check the boat timetables when you're planning your day out, especially if you want to use the panoramic 18 route, as this ferry only runs a few times a day.

A guide to Sant'Erasmo and the other lagoon islands can be found in the Italy Heaven Guide to Venice.

> Sant'Erasmo
> ACTV (for ferry timetables)