As much as I love Italy, some aspects of the Italian lifestyle are far from efficient. The Italian bank experience is one of these molto difficile situations. For the most part I have used Bancomats (ATM’s) to withdraw money in euros while traveling, but when I was in Liguria, Levanto to be exact, I went into a bank to change two €50 bills for smaller denominations. What I expected to be a simple process turned out to be a production, Italian style.
To enter the bank I stood in front of a circular holding area, with just enough room for one person. An automatic door opened, allowing me to stand inside. I had visions of the old Star Trek series and waited to hear a voice say, “Beam me up, Scotty.” Anyway, once inside, the door closed and a door on the opposite side opened, and I was now inside the bank.
No clients were in this bank, and there were no teller windows, just a few desks with bank personnel sitting behind them. I stood near one of the desks until the man behind the desk indicated for me to come forward. I showed him the two €50 bills and asked for resto, or change. He just looked at me with a blank expression as if he didn’t understand what I needed from him.
I had to mention the name of the denominations, and then he understood what I needed. I had expected him to take the €100 and hand me the equivalent in small bills, but this is Italy, and apparently,that is not how things are done.
He began to type on his computer for at least three minutes, and then he had to ask a colleague for help. Eventually he deposited the two €50 bills into a machine, the €100 came out in smaller bills, and he handed them to me. I thanked him and exited the bank through the same compartment door system. The whole process took ten minutes, yet it seemed like a half hour at the time.
If you are wondering why I did not simply obtain change at a bar, or the train station, the reason is simple. In Italy I have fund that very often the people who work at these places do not have enough cash on hand, and cannot make change for you, even if you are buying something. I have since learned that it is really best to keep a supply of coins and small denomination euro notes.
You have to smile, though, and realize that this is all part of the bigger picture. Sometimes you have to put up with some inefficiency to enjoy being able to spend time i one of the most beautiful places n the world.
Have you had similar experiences at banks or other government offices in Italy? I know many of my ex-pat friends have plenty of stores like this one. I’d love to hear of your experiences, so please share them and leave a comment.
Grazie and ciao.
Have you had a chance to check out my Instagram page yet? Follow me there and see more of my photos from Italy, like this one from Levanto.