(I was going to title this one The Italian Bureaucracy Part III, but I figured my readership may fall off sharply with the constant whinging! Anyway, I AM going to write about the most recent episode of the Permesso di Soggiorno right after this weather update 🙂 )
After a few days of no rain and just as we were enjoying the crisp sunny days of winter in Tuscany, there was a big storm last night. The thunder and lightning continued all night. Up here in Groppo, we hear thunder from all around the valley and when it comes overhead it is LOUD! Consequently we didn’t get much sleep last night. We awoke this morning to what appears to be snow all over the ground. Such excitement!!
On closer inspection, I’m not sure if it is actually snow in the true sense. Not being a snow connoisseur myself, I’m hardly qualified to say, however I think it is a bit icier than snow should be. The school bus didn’t show up this morning, so we had to drive the kids down to Bagnone. On the way, it started to “snail”….ie, a mixture of snow and hail. It did not land on the car with any force and seemed like soft ice that you might get from a snow-cone machine. Chris’s efforts with the spatula to remove the snow/ice from the windshield before we left home had been in vain, as it rapidly piled up on the car again. Pretty cool though (haha!), especially for Australians who might go their whole lives having never seen snow.
Yesterday we had to go to the Questura in Massa. Regular subscribers will recall the saga of the Permesso di Siggiorno, for those who are unfamiliar with the story you may read earlier posts to catch up. Anyway, during our last efforts, we were given an appointment to attend the Questura (Police Headquarters) in Massa at 8:42am on the 25th. Italian Melanie (Alice) had kindly offered to take us there, so we arranged to meet in Pontremoli at 7:30am. It was not easy making such an early time, as we had to wait for the school bus to arrive (it was late), see the kids off, then quickly drive to Pontremoli. We were not very late, and Alice was waiting in Lucia’s car to drive us. The drive to Massa is mostly along the autostrada, with the only really fascinating view being the “marble mountains” where they quarry the marble from Carrara. We arrived in Massa with 10 minutes to spare and hurried into the Questura. We were directed to a side door outside the building. The door was locked and the office obviously closed, although we could see staff inside sitting around. We went back to the main building and showed them our documents with the appointment for 8:42am. The man told us to wait near the door until they open (which we were told would be at 9am! Did I mention we had an appointment for 8:42 and had busted our buns getting to Massa in time for it?). So we waited in the “refreshing” sub-zero morning temperature until 9:15am when they finally decided to open the door. It was a good thing we had Alice, as nobody in the “office for foreigners” spoke English. We presented our documents (passports, photos, receipt of forms we had lodged with the Patronato) and waited. The lady doing Chris’s papers did not seem like she wanted to be there, but the lady helping me was quite amiable. They told Alice they wanted to see our other documents (rental contract, proof of income, insurance etc.) but we only had them on a USB stick. We thought it was reasonable to assume that, since the Patronto had taken several copies of every document and included them with our forms AND we had provided them even before that to have our long-term visa granted, we would no longer need hard copies of them (if any copies of them at all). We were wrong. Furthermore, they would not take the documents from the USB stick. It was one of those moments where rapid Italian was spoken back and forth and we had no idea what was being said. Alice got Lucia on the phone (who helpfully happened to know someone) and it appeared to all be OK. We fingerprinted with a little machine, and were told to return at 11am.
(Btw, I’m still genuinely curious as to where all the documents actually went when we packaged them all up and paid for them to be lodged the other week!!??)
With time to kill, we went and had a coffee and pastries and Alice took us to see some sights of Massa. We saw the “Ass fountain” (it’s not actually called that, but the Italians refer to it as such due to the gratuitous display of asses) and the main Piazza called “the orange piazza” on account of the many orange trees planted there.
We returned to the Questura and waited again for our turn. Eventually we were led into another dark smokey office where a very friendly man took our fingerprints again. After doing every finger, the palms of our hands and the lengths of our fingers, we were told that we were all done and free to go. We had expected to get something, like a card, some papers, a set of steak knives…. but apparently we now have to check our status at the Post Office and return in 3 months with our missing papers. Strange, but then all of this is!
I don’t want to appear as if I’m always whinging, but I do want to describe the procedures here if only to make Australians feel better about our bureaucracy. Italy is wonderful in so many ways and we really do love it here, but you would not be getting the full picture if you didn’t hear about the annoying parts too! I’ll leave you with something “wonderful”, a pic of the awesome Franco 🙂