As amazing as our travels have been, we ran into a few complications.
To our surprise, we needed a codice fiscale, a number, to rent the apartment. It’s kind of like a social security number, but not. We were told it wasn’t hard to do, that is, if you can find the building. Bob checked the website, got the address and we were off. We arrived at the building, Bob explained what we needed and the woman quickly explained that we are in the wrong building. The office has moved and it’s too far to walk. Frustrated, we leave and wonder why they can’t update the website. It turns out that our property management lady could get the codice fiscale for us for a small fee. We happily paid.
The other big step is getting our “permesso di soggiorno” — permission to stay. Our visa requires us to check in within 8 days of arriving in the country. We thought this was just a quick stop by the post office to say, hey, we are here, loving it, and thanks for this beautiful town. Hugs, kisses, and smiles… But, not so much.
So Tuesday, Sept 2, our second day, we head over to the post office a few blocks away, easy. We walk in and just like in the U.S., there’s a line – two lines. So the first big question – Which line to stand in? One seemed to be for sending and receiving pacchi –packages, so we stand in the other one. It’s about 15 minutes of hot and stuffy waiting and I use this time to fan myself and observe. It turns out that you can pay your “consumable” – your utility bill at the post office too.
It’s finally our turn and Bob, in his good Italian, explains that we are requesting our permesso di soggiorno, and the woman behind the desk talks a mile a minute, shoves two large packets at us, says a few more things we don’t get and basically wanted nothing to do with us. The only thing we knew for sure was that an office nearby could help.
So, my thoughts of warm smiles, hugs and kisses and maybe even a balloon were dashed.
Now we felt dejected and sat on the bench under a tree to regroup. We were meeting Jan and Dave the next day. (Jan is the woman who wrote the article on Verbania in International Living that inspired us to come here.)
On Wednesday, we spent a delight day of exploring, drinking wine and getting our internet service. With Jan and Dave’s help, getting phones and internet went seamlessly, until we realized that our phones were blocked and could not accept the new SIM cards. We bought a new phone and all is good.
On Thursday, Bob ventures over to the Città di Verbania to discovers that we needed to go to the Ufficio Stranieri – office of foreigners to hand in the forms for the permesso di soggiorno, but they are closed until Tuesday. We were feeling better now because there seemed to be a clear path to getting this permesso thing done.
So as any smart traveler would do, we enjoyed the weekend and what a weekend it was. Once again our piazza did not disappoint. Right in our front yard was the Festival of Flowers. The piazza was turned into a celebration of countries. They created flags of all the countries with flower petals (see the pictures in the movie), bands played each night, and there was a swimming race in the lake from our beach to the islands and back. People dressed up in fancy gowns were all around. We ate the locate fish fry under a tent and Bob stuck up a wonderful conversation with an Italian couple. His Italian is getting better and better.
After a fun weekend of flowers, on Tuesday we both dressed up a bit and headed over to the Office of Foreigners. We found the office on the third floor, again hot and stuffy, and meet the kindest and most highly competent man, Antonio. He looked up the procedure on line, and guided us through all the paperwork. He carefully explained in Italian what we needed to do next (Bob’s Italian was amazing. I just nodded and smiled.)
So, the forms were ready and we needed to go to the tabacchi to pay a stamp tax on the forms. Yes, the same place you buy gum, cigarettes, magazines and post cards, you pay an official tax and get your official stamp. Getting the stamp was as easy as buying a pack of gum, so we cross the street to the Post Office just a tad fearful because this is where the less-than-helpful lady is. Luckily, she is NOT the woman who deals with the permesso di soggiorno. It’s Grace, who is even more kind than Antonio, which I didn’t think was possible.
Grace begins the process of checking the forms almost as carefully as Antonio. She’s smiling, enjoying Bob’s Italian, and basically enjoying the task in front of her. I have to fill out part of a form and she’s as patient as a kindergarten teacher. It comes time to pay big bucks and the credit card machine doesn’t work, so Grace sends Bob off to a Bancomat (ATM) to get the cash.
Forty-five minutes later he returned. The Bancomat was not working and he had to find one that did. While he was gone, Grace worked on the rest of our paperwork, started another project and offered me some crackers. Again, I just smiled a lot. We made a few jokes about where Bob could have gone, and she never once seemed annoyed, and was as pleasant as could be. Bob returns with the cash, we finish up the last details and I’m sure if Grace had a balloon, she would have given it to me.
The final step is to go to the police station on Sept 26, bring four photos of ourselves, and check in. Grace made the appointments for us. We are a tad nervous, but will get it done!
It’s all a bit crazy, but the silver lining is that Bob’s Italian is getting better and better with every conversation. Thanks to Antonio and Grace, we will soon have our permesso di soggiorno.
Meanwhile, we’ve had an amazing week of adventure with the Lucks, friends from Milwaukee. Stay tuned. Coming soon.