TPO -> Italy TPOs

Italian TPOs - 'Ufficio Ambulante'

By Tony Goodbody

TPOs made their appearance in Italy in about 1861. The Italian name for a TPO is ufficio ambulante (travelling office) and all Italian TPO postmarks incorporate the word ambulante or an abbreviation of it. Postmarks with the terminals specified with or without the term messaggero or an abbreviation thereof are from mailguards. These will be dealt with below.

The earliest postmarks were of the double circle type; see for example figure 1, the postmark of which reads AMBTE VENTIMIGLIA-GENOVA

Fig. 1: Early Italian double ring type TPO postmark

The early double circle marks were followed by single circle types such as the example shown in figure 2 for the Milano-Torino route.

Fig. 2:  Italian single ring type TPO postmark

The squared circle type seems to have been used on relatively few routes, see for example figure 3: AMB. SIRACUSA - REGGIO CALABRIA (Sicily).

Fig. 3:  Italian squared circle type TPO postmark

From 1914 TPO postmarks began to include the route number in the cancellation. For example the cancellation on the cover shown in figure 4 reads AMB. CUNEO - TORINO 166/ (C). The route number is 166 and 'C' is simply the index letter for the postmark.

Fig. 4:  TPO postmark with route number in cancel Fig. 5:  Italian  TPO postmark with route number in cancel

Figure 5 shows a relatively modern mark with route number: AMB. BOLZANO - BOLOGNA 281.

Figure 6 shows a postcard with the international TPO postmark AMBTE MODANE - TORINO. It would have been posted in France and franked perfectly properly with a French stamp which, however, the Italian TPO clerk studiously avoided cancelling.

Fig. 6:  Italian international TPO postmark


The Italian name for a mailguard is 'messaggero' and mailguard marks may be found with or without the word messaggero or an abbreviation of it. Thus figure 7 and figure 8 both come from the route MILANO - CHIASSO worked by a mailguard.

Fig. 7:  Italian  mailguard mark Fig. 8:  another Italian  mailguard mark

Similarly figure 9 is also a mailguard cancellation from the route ROMA - PISA.

Fig. 9:  another Italian  mailguard mark

Fig. 10:  mailguard postmark indicates work shift number on route PIACENZA - ALESSANDRIA (MESS. T 4) A new feature is found in the postmark shown in figure 10. "T.4" stands for TURNO 4. The word TURNO means turn or shift.

Fig. 10a: SYRACUSA-MESSINA  TURNO 4A Similarly, the word "TURNO" in full appears in the SYRACUSA-MESSINA (Sicily) cancellation struck in purple ink and shown in figure 10a.

Fig. 11:  postmark indicates work shift number on route MILAN-SONDRIO - MESS. (messaggero) TURNO 80 More recent mailguard postmarks contained only one terminal and it is not possible to work out the route from the postmark alone. The postmark shown here is, of course, philatelic and some kind person had written the route on the envelope. Thus figure 11 is from the route MILAN-SONDRIO & vice versa.



There is little written in English but the article by R.A. Dehn and published in TPO Vol. 37 No.2 pp 44-48 and TPO Vol. 37 No.3 pp 60-70 is of great value.

Accessibility Page Top

Website created by TPO & Seapost Society

Last updated June 2007

Valid CSS Valid XHTML 1.1

Hosted by Local 2 Ltd