Our first days in our new country are a whirlwind. Saturday morning we rise early and drink two moka pots of coffee while awaiting Francesca and Giorgio to awake. The air is heavily scented with the honeysuckle and heavy with dew. The garden is wet and pleasant as early morning begins to lift.
Once everyone is caffeinated and dressed, we go to the Polizia office to register as is required, and to apply for our Permesso di Soggiorno, the permit to stay. There were only a few people in line at the Immigration Office, which surprises us, and Giorgio thankfully jumped in to inquire about the necessary documents. I understood not a word as the man behind the glass spoke rapidly into a microphone that faded in and out. They determined what was necessary and we proceed to make the rounds: the office supply store for a document and to make copies; to the post office for official franchibolli, stamps; to a photo booth to have little passport-sized pictures taken; and back to the Polizia to make the official registration. Once that part of the process is completed, we try to return to the Immigration Office but it is now closed for the day; they are not open Saturday so Giorgio and Francesca immediately make plans to stay an extra day so they can return with us on Monday. They have an appointment in Rome at noon, but are sure that we can complete the paperwork early enough.
Giorgio has been cooking for us daily and we feel rather useless as we stand about and watch him work…in the kitchen, around the house, in the yard. He must think we’re imbeciles, but we’re not quite sure what to do with ourselves. We are to live here, but it’s not out home and we don’t want to upset any apple carts or step on any toes, yet we desire to be useful. We occupy a bit of time by putting some things away, but there is not much room for the vast amount of clothing we brought, so we store away the fall items we’ll not need for months and try to prioritize which summer gear we’ll want first.
We walk down to the beach and sit on the warm sand listening to the tide. The sea is rather choppy and the waves break onto the shore with a bang. Salt is in the air. With Francesca we take a long walks on the beach as she points out the Saracen tower, explaining it’s now owned by the World Wildlife Fund, and she shows us where a natural sulpher spring produces a mud that is “very fine for your skin”.
Monday, May 22, we return to the Questura early, about twenty minutes before they open the office for the day and there are about 9 people in line. Once the door is flung open, everyone rushes in to the respective windows. We line up again at the Immigration Office window and wait. And wait. And wait. The official has taken our paperwork and gone into the back with another foreigner. We watch as the line is quickly disseminated by an efficient woman and wonder why we couldn’t have dealt with her. Apparently she only handles the renewals of Permesso di Soggiornos, not primary applications. At length, about an hour and a half later, we are called back. The same official who gave us the list of errands on Saturday attends us brusquely. He staples some of the five photos we’ve provided to the application and gathers information from our passports to input into his computer. He asks my height, but to his annoyance, I don’t know it in meters. Giorgio guesses that I am about 165 metri tall and Bryan is about 175 (both of which turn out to be nearly correct). The applications are printed and we sign them. During the procedure the official gets into a discussion with another employee; Francesca, then Giorgio jump into the fray to our great consternation, because they begin to argue and we hope that the official doesn’t decide to rip up our applications during the dialogue. As he rises, the guy smiles and bids us to follow; apparently political discussions don’t end in hard feelings here.
We are fingerprinted – full hand prints as well as fingers. He sends us on our way telling us that the Permesso di Soggiornos take about two to three months to arrive, that they’ll call us to let us know when they are ready to be picked up. Another discussion ensues, the only gist of which I gather is related to us possibly buying a car, but beyond that I am in the dark. Later I ask Giorgio, who explains that the official said that he is unsure, but we may need a residency permit to buy a car, but that there is an inexpensive place to get long-term rentals in Rome. Given our rather remote location we may have to look into this option. At this point a vespa would be nice, too. It’s been an arduous task to try to figure out the regional bus system to get into town.
We have receipts of our applications, so we are approved for the “permit to stay”, and are officially allowed to be here for the year. I would have thought that the hard-earned visa would be the only necessary document, but Giorgio says, “this is Italia; there is very much burocrazia here”. They calmly explain to us that this is normal operating procedure in Italia. Bureaucracy and lines are a way of life, and that the line in Anzio was actually “non c’e male” in comparison to those in Rome or Florence, so we’re grateful for that, and grateful beyond words that these kind, kind friends went along to smooth the path for us.
copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider