Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World

Italian Bureaucracy


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.



Author: janeelizabethmarko

Jane travels the world with her husband Bob. They are always looking for long-term house sits. Contact Jane if you are planning on traveling and need someone to care for your pets, garden, and home.

15 thoughts on “Italian Bureaucracy

  1. Sounds like a real hassle but you got it done and it gave you confidence. How is your Italian coming along Jane?

    • My Italian SUCKS. I am really good at staying, “No Italiano” and then they slow down, and seem to have a little patience for me.A little pantomime, a few words, and a careful point and I seem to get what I want.

      My better me wants to study more, but my me me, never does. Hmmm. Maybe tomorrow!

  2. Lots of new procedures. Must have been a bit frightful. Hope you are in good standings by now. So you actually moved buildings? Good they let you stay!??
    Excellent to hear from you Jane.

    • All is good now. We have been finger printed twice. I was wondering when they would want a butt print and a toe print. I think all is good now. And I think the police come and visit us too. CRAZY!

  3. So glad we’re on your “Blog List” and sharing in your journeys! Keep them coming …

    • How’s the neighborhood?
      Your grandbabe is bella. (beautiful)

      • Jane, the neighborhood is great. Brian and Stephanie are great neighbors and we have had them over twice for our famous fried eggplant. Their little 14month old Ryker is a hoot! And their boxer Lambeau is the best behaved dog ever. We have yet to hear him bark! Our granddaughter is wonderful. I return to Richmond Oct. 23 for my “Emily fix”

  4. Bello Bello. the flower festival was wonderful Enjoyed the video, it captured the whole experience.

    • Yes, the flowers were amazing. Nothing like my garden in Milwaukee. thanks for liking the video. It’s so easy. Have your students make them with iPads. I am using imovie. They could summarize books or stories or …

  5. I am glad you got through the Italian Bureaucracy. Your Standing in line sounds like the time you stood in the wrong line on some island to get on an airplane. Kip can say the Italian words that you have written. I have to figure out a way to talk to you. Love, Mom

    • Hi Mom.
      Yes, the line was kind of like Antigua, but Antigua was worse. Good for Kip to know the Italian. He’s good with language.

      We will figure out Skype once my internet is more stable. I am using public internet and cafes right now. We should be good after Oct 3.

  6. Hope it works out well. I’ve discovered the best way to embrace a world culture is to hit a traveling snag. Whether or not you get the balloon, be certain that someone will be filled with hot air along the journey. Just arrived in Athens and finally have internet access to enjoy this blog update. Best to you both!

  7. Each day an adventure and new and it all works out – just sometimes the paths are rocky and sometimes they are smooth. Sounds like you balance each other and that will get you thru. Love reading and seeing – thank you so much for sharing!

    • Yes, You could say there’s a balance and yes I’m learning a ton. Thanks for the perspective. I’m loving the sharing. If you have any tech advice or program ideas for me, send them my way. Thanks.

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