Sending packages home is how we manage to stay light, and usually it is not a problem. China, Vietnam and many other unexpected places make it a smooth, albeit paperwork laden, operation.
In Italy, where some things are so well designed and easy, the postal system seems to be a mess - at least for the traveler.
We needed to send home about 10 lbs of items and, as usual, found the post office near the train station in Milan. After waiting for 20 minutes, they could only sell us an oversized yellow box and the basic direction of another post office where we could send it. So, with our backpacks and a giant yellow box, we walked to the other station and waited again. It looked bad. There were 6 windows all blocked by glass - no place to pass over a big box. With a help of a very friendly Italian guy, we finally communicated that we wanted to send the box to America. At this point, she looked at us like we requested an express package to the moon. Neither post office was set up for sending packages - only items that could be slid under the glass sneeze guard. I wonder how Italians send a package?
When she asked about the contents of our giant yellow box, my translator communicated that one item was pasta. She shook her head and had to look up if it was OK to send pasta to the US. I just wanted to say "We're in Italy right? Is pasta a protected item here? Is the US concerned about ecological effects foreign pasta? C'mon"
After a lot of talking in Italian, it became clear that our 10lbs of goods would cost USD 90 and about 500 dollars of pure hassle. Our translator left us with solace by saying that even for Italians, the post office is always an adventure. Fortunately for them though, they don't have to schlep around 10 extra pounds wherever they go when it doesn't work out. Maybe it'll be easier in France.
The first few hours of driving from Milan were hell. We thought we'd flex our independent wings and dismiss the interstate and sieze the rural roads, where we would surely be winding through tiny Italian villages within minutes.
Four hours later and barely outside of Milan, we realized our predicament. We had not found rural Italy, but industrial zone after industrial zone (or perhaps the same one as we were lost for a while). We did see a farm along the way. Oh, and it was raining the whole time, did I mention that? The lesson is that sometimes interstates are better- and they even have wi-fi at some rest stops!
However all was not lost. The inside of the rental car was quite nice. The rental car place was out of the economy car we reserved (Insert Seinfeld reference here). So, darn it, they had to give us an Alfa Romeo instead. That added some sun to a day of rain.
Once we escaped the industrial zone, we did a drive that was one of the best of the whole trip. Between Milan and Verona, Lago di Garda (a lake) stretches north into the Alps. To finish the day, we drove around the lake and even through the fog and rain it made up for the suffering of the morning.
We're taking lots of pics, etc. but the hotels so far have not had reasonable Internet access. The hotel from last night wanted (USD 1.20/minute). Shyaah, as if.