Sending care packages can be a great way of letting your child know that you are missing them. And perhaps they have expressed suffering from a bit of homesickness or that they miss some of their favorite foods that are not available in Italy. However, it is not as simple as putting some things in a box and sending them off.
The very worst case scenario is that your package goes missing. If you use a courier service like Fedex, DHL or UPS then you can track your package along its journey. Italian postal services have greatly improved over the years, and delivery times are much shorter than they used to be, but every now and again something can of course go wrong.
The second worst case scenario is that the package is stopped in customs. What does this mean?
1) Your son or daughter will receive a form in the mail (in Italian) that they need to fill out in Italian (usually) and either fax or scan and email back to the customs office together with a photocopy of their passport.
2) As part of this declaration they will need to specify exactly what is in the box and its value.
3) Based on what they write, they will be charged duty or tax on the total value of the items.
Hence your kind gesture turns out to be time consuming and expensive.
To prevent this, you should a) check what the shipping restrictions are for sending packages to Italy and b) never declare the original value of the items. If you are sending clothing, make sure you indicate that they are your son or daughter’s personal belongings, that they are used, and have an insignificant value.
Another favorite is to send American food items. Italy certainly does not have a big assortment of international food brands, however there are a couple of places that students can go to find some of the typical home comforts.
1) Vivi Market – mostly for Asian products but you can find some UK products and importantly Mac n Cheese (for a price!).
2) Pegna Grocery Store – this is where I go when I am craving Heinz or Campbell’s canned soups. Also not especially cheap.
3) Every weekend that your son or daughter travels outside of Italy, they will have access to a much bigger range of international products (in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, etc). When I am traveling I always make sure to go to a supermarket. Something as simple as eating Doritos Nacho Cheese flavored chips can bring an unexpected amount of joy for a very small price!
So what are the alternatives to shipping things from America?
1) Look for something local instead. A tour or travel voucher. A local experience that you can sign up for online.
2) Put some money in their bank account and then send them an email saying “Surprise, we missed you and we wanted you to be able to buy yourself a treat this weekend on us!”
3) Really the only big online shopping website in Italy is Amazon.it but you will have to open it in a browser that does translations as it is all in Italian.
4) Email us and ask us for help! We are happy to help you make a surprise for you son or daughter on study abroad.
By Anna McNiel
Author Bio: Australian, honorary Florentine, and some of my friends even like to make fun of me saying that I am now an American! I came to Florence in 2001, fresh off 6 months of world travel and ready to set my bags down for a while. Little did I know that Florence would steal my heart and that I would end up traveling around Europe with thousands of American study abroad students. 18 years later, I am still in love with Florence and creating amazing travel experiences. There is definitely something special about sharing a city like Florence with a first time visitor. Your amazement and enthusiasm reminds me daily about why I chose to make this place my home.