|Subject: Shipping (not shopping!) tips|
as the subject of shipping back home your purchases has come out, I'd like to put in some tips on packing and shipping, being in the express courier business since almost 20 years.
Wine and spirits: as from last months of 1999, US Customs are not permitting shipments of wine and spirits, destined to private individuals, into the country. I don't know if this applies to courier services only, but you better check in advance with your local office if you think about buying large quantities of wine you couldn't take with you. Be advised Customs are returning back to origin the non-compliant shipments!
Packing: the manufacturer's packing of wine bottles is insufficient, even if they put it in a wooden box. The problem is producers use boxes and crates with very little internal separation between bottles and sides and between other bottles too. Assume all parcels are usually roughly handled by even the top-rated shipping company, with little respect for FRAGILE or THIS SIDE UP, so do your own packing (bubble wrapping is the easiest, but don't spare it) or appy to professional packing service (MailBoxes Etc is a franchise shop chain in any major town in Italy and they can both pack and ship your goods).
Shipping charges: the cost for overseas shipment is more higher in Italy than in the USA, but the exchange rate works good now. Mail service (no more government-run but nevertheless the cheapest) is reliable for low-value goods or printed matters, but I wouldn't try shipping fragile or valued goods. The many express courier companies, some of them well known in the US too, are reliable and offer additional services like pick-up, toll-free numbers and tracking, but the rates are substantials. Don't look for sea shipping unless you're willing to fill a 20ft container and then wait for some weeks :-)
If someone needs more setails, please let me know.