A Single Day in Italy

Guest Blogger: Lisa P.

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Brace yourselves for this week’s traffic jam of “A Day in My Life in Italy.” Everything that you are about to witness transpired in a single day as I walk you through a police check, Italian Citizenship document foibles, and visits from neighbors.  Pull up with your favorite crème filled wickedness and a sassy beverage and, let’s go!

  1. Police checks: a forty – five-day waiting game of Cat and Mouse

The day began like most days for me here in Italy, in which the early and afternoon parts of it were spent trapped in the house, because of the police checks. The police check is a requirement when you are staying here for JS or any residency.  The police visit the address of the place you are renting for the purposes of obtaining Italian Citizenship. Once that address is registered with the comune and you receive your “receipt of residency” paper, then the forty-five-day waiting game for the police to arrive begins! They have forty – five days to visit you. Cat and mouse. The waiting, at first, is not too bad because you know the polizia are not going to show up immediately. This is where the “nothing gets done with any speed whatsoever in Italy” is in your favor. But only for about the first week. During the latter part of the second week, a fugue of worry begins to take hold of you, slowly at first… in that you might miss the police check. When you are out on a passagiata or a walk and notice a police car, whether it be polizia municipale, or carabinieri or the little blue state car with the words POLIZIA “screaming” at you in oversized white lettering, you try not to appear suspicious and do a lot of smiling at the car like, Yeesss, is it ME?….could it be ME? That you are looking for?  It is! IT IS ME! I’m right here! As they quietly and uneventfully drive by. If you are heading towards centro storico or city center AWAY from your registered address butterfly’s begin to flutter in your belly; especially if the waiting game continues into its 3rd week. Conversely if you are going TOWARD your residence and spy a police car, your pace quickens in step along with your rising anxiety levels, I CAN WALK FASTER THAN A CAR –  I’LL BE THERE – JUST YOU WAIT – MY PASSPORT IS RIGHT BEHIND THE DOOR!

Well. The Cat indeed at long last found her Mouse. And it was a lovely encounter save for the part where I was not really suitable in appearance to be answering the door, or to be seen in public.  She did look at me rather strangely, at first… in a “what in the fresh hell is going on here?” Kind of way.  However, the Cat was a very friendly and kind police lady who was maybe 5 ft. tall or 152.4 centimeters meters on a solid high heel day. Her height, or lack of it, made me feel awkward and too tall. Giraffe like, if you will. So to compensate I did a lot of stooping to appear more welcoming and less like a hooligan. She had fiery orange hair, bright and cheery blue eyes, and asked me in Italian if I preferred to converse in English or Italian. Italian, I replied, and she proceeded to ask me some questions: how many rooms? Who lives here…anyone besides you? Why are you here? Is this a rental or did you buy? Do you plan to stay in Italy? I apologized for the casino, the mess in Italian and at the questionably habitable disaster area that had become my kitchen table where I write these entries! She laughed, which was a nice ice breaker. The questions were imparted to me gently and even with a hint of redress.  This was not an interrogation and she re-assured me that this was it; BASTA. No more bother from the police, and that she’d turn my police check papers into the comune today. My check took only 18 days, which is quite fortunate, yet it was a LONNG 18 days.

Pro tip: if you are waiting on a police check make sure that you have NOT brushed your hair, or are in the PROCESS of brushing your hair, and that you’re clothing is not suitable for public viewing.  If you follow these steps, the police will now visit you with all speed!

  •  Document shambles: a fretful chronicle of yet another waiting game for a single document to arrive and in time for a comune appointment!

A different sort or waiting game for a critical document that was located here in Italy, obtained by my former legal team has yet to arrive, and my appointment at the comune to turn in my documents for Jure Sanguinis is tomorrow, 22 February!  Of course I sent them my full Italian address on the 5th of February and let them know of my upcoming appointment. Yet they waited until the 17TH of February!  Before putting it in the mail AND they gave me the wrong tracking number.  After the police check, as you can imagine, I really wanted to get away for a while but since there was a remote chance that this one document might arrive, I stayed in. Waiting…I also emailed the former legal team, yet again, requesting the whereabouts of this document as well as, an explanation as to WHY the tracking number led to no-where. They replied, finally, but it was now getting dark outside. The reply explained that it was Poste Italiane, and not Federal Express that was the carrier. I checked the tracking and the document was only about half way to my address. With a very heavy heart I confirmed and shared this information with my current citizenship team. In their expertise it was agreed that although we COULD turn in all my documents tomorrow, it was better to wait for this one congruence paper. The latter was requested from my Grandfathers home town attesting to how his name appears across my collection of documents. Sometimes he is Salvatore Clemente. Other times he is just Clemente or Clemente Salvatore.

Pro tip: adopting a “better safe than sorry” approach is your best bet in Italy; especially when dealing with the quirky comune, which is notorious for suddenly “changing its mind.”  I would also advise you to keep your own name THE SAME across contracts and documents. For example, when trying to start a contract for a piece of furniture, the store had problems with locating my name, because on my CF or codice fiscale, my middle name appears and I’d only shared my first and last name. Thus the computer could not “find me” in the system.

  • Pizza, rainy phone calls, and visits from neighbors 

The day proved to be rather eventful with a lot of relief (police checks done!) mixed in with angst (where is my document!) Although it was darker out I took off for city center to get my favorite pizza in the cool and refreshing evening air. But after 20 minutes of walking the phone buzzled and it was an Italian phone number so I had to answer it. Fumbling around in my rucksack I found the sonorous iPhone and answered with a quick, “Pronto?” The person on the other end was returning my WhatsApp message: an inquiry about cars. In Italy we talk on the phone; a lot. During the call he is explaining how his car rentals or car purchases work. All the while I hear what I think is thunder. Ignoring it I continue on to city center dreaming of pizza. Yet the suspicion that I’d tried to ignore, that that was thunder I’d heard became a reality: yes, that WAS thunder as the sky opened up and poured all the rain in the entire world on top of my head.  Once again I’m ferreting through my rucksack but in the rain trying to find an umbrella whilst on the phone explaining to “car happy man” that my current car hire is about to expire, and I need an alternative that would be less costly, per favore. The winds are roaring and finally we hang up the call with nothing getting sorted as I rapidly make my way back to my residence. Famished due to a lack of pizza and soaked due to a faulty umbrella I am a bit overwhelmed. So I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea. Tea is reliable… Tea is comfort… Tea is the nemesis of Italian burocrazia! After making a lovely and perfect cup of tea the door buzzZZes.  Maybe it’s my “lost to the winds” document! But after quickly grabbing the door I’m stunned, because there is a strange man standing there and he is holding in his hand the door or cover to my heating system, which is outside. He tells me quite firmly in Italian that he found it on the ground two or three levels below. The wind was really gusting. So now the cover to my heating system is exposed and I can’t reach up that high to return it to its perch over the balcony. You may recall that I was “giraffe like” approximately a paragraph or two ago, so I’m as befuddled as you are, dear reader! As to why I could not reach up that far. Frustrated, in that I wanted to put the cover back where it should be, I made a note to look for a ladder or ask a neighbor if I could borrow one.

In sum: truly this was a “never a dull moment” sort of day here in Italy. And you, too, will indeed have days like this. It is not uncommon to experience the full spectrum of emotions as life unfolds here, and as you make your way through the maze of burocrazia. The “Cats” such as “amicable Police Lady” that you meet are more welcoming to you, then you may have presumed. For example, I’d imagined a solid and edgy interrogation, along with a full search of my place by at least two people from the police. Instead when “police lady” left I felt sad… We instantly had a connection in that, we could easily have become friends. However, my neighbor downstairs was indeed upset. He was cross. A heavy door flying off a balcony could injure someone. So the next day I bought some heavy tape and secured the door standing on a chair until someone who works in the building, or the real estate agent can come and take a look at it. The cover really needs to be replaced. But for now, I’ll end this week’s installment with some happy news! My rescheduled appointment at the comune to turn in my paperwork for citizenship, is on my birthday, 1 Marzo.  Until next week! Be safe and stay well!

Lisa. P

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  1. Theresa says:

    What a fun story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this crazy, exciting day in Italy from the comfort of my cozy bed. The police woman sounded charming and the thunder was exciting. Thanks!

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