We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dual Italian Citizenship - get ready to do the Happy Dance, we are almost Italians!!!

It's been almost a month since I've come back to Venice from my stay in Castel San Pietro Terme. I figured perhaps there might be some information by now, so yesterday I sent an email off to Luigi in Bologna to see if he had any news for me. I also needed to send him the rent installment for May. Even though we aren't staying there, we still need to keep up the residence for at least 3 months, until all of our paperwork is wrapped up. One one the members of our merry little band of Italian-wannabe's, Isabella, is staying at the apartment for awhile, in between her EU travels.

Right away I got an email back from Luigi, informing me that the Commune in Castel San Pietro Terme has gotten the response from the Consulate in the US confirming that I had never renounced my Italian citizenship. That was the last of the documentation needed. I had been sweating over this one, for several reasons: A) The Italian consulate in the US has not been speedy about anything and B) they are notorious for being unresponsive. I was fearing it would be 6 months to hear back from them, or never. The Commune has been emailing and faxing them, and it worked! And now, my citizenship is being recorded in the Commune!!!

This is just about the end of the process, although Luigi tells me it could still be 2 months before it is completed. I tried to tell him he should get everyone in the office to get up and do the happy dance, but he didn't understand what that meant. I need to really work on my Italian.

The next few months will pass quickly, even though I am so anxious for all of this to be behind us. At least I didn't have to leave Italy while we wait.

So-- if you have been reading my blog....get up and do the happy dance, we're almost there!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

365 Days of Venice - canal maintenance

I am frequently asked all sorts of questions about canals: how deep are they? do they smell? are they ever cleaned out? This picture provides alot of those answers ( except for the smelling part) , and gives an interesting view into how canals are maintained here in Venice.
From time to time you'll walk past a canal such as this one. It has been blocked off and dredged. The process takes weeks, possibly longer, I personally have not yet witnessed this event from start to finish so I can't tell for certain. While the canal is dredged, repairs are made-- it's all a very necessary process. A little sad to see a canal in this shape, because normally they are beautiful, each and every one of them. But- the end result is worth the temporary disruption.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

365 Days of Venice - the Panificio 2 doors down

Every time I pass by a pastry shop in Italy, my heart stops.. and my mouth starts to water. This lovely window full of apricot and raspberry tarts was in the window of the pastry shop just 2 doors down from our apartment recently. Fortunately for me, they also make mini versions of these delicious tarts, which became my evening dolce (sweet). The shop windows change frequently, each one dressed out more like a work of art than a shop display. I could make a career out of taking pictures of pastry shop windows, as one is more beautiful than the next.
Some pastry shops only have pastry and desserts, cakes, cookies and candies, while others also have fresh bread. I have yet to learn the distinction between the two - I have so much more to learn! And the choices I have to make once I step in the door-- should it be a cannoli today? or a fruit tart? or something with chocolate? Will power over desserts has never been one of my strong suits, but I must say I have been able to exercise some lately. The first few weeks here in Venice, I was making a nightly visit to the Panificio next door. Now it's more like once a week.
As I have said over and over since we started dreaming of moving to Italy, the God's have been with me. Once again, here's a little proof---there's is a Panificio just two doors away!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

365 Days of Venice - the white boat

I snapped this shot just the other day as I was walking over the Accademia bridge. Normally the Grand Canal in this location is very busy with vaporetti coming and going, picking up and dropping off people at the vaporetto stop here. And at this moment, here is just this one little white boat all to itself on the Grand Canal. Not one boat moving behind or around it as far as I can see. How incredible is that?

Wondering if the man and his little son down there in that boat understood how special this moment must be, I thought.. they are probably so used to this, it doesn't occur to them they are in one of the most beautiful spots on earth, with it all to themselves. But if it wasn't a special moment to them, it certainly was one for me. To catch this glorious little few minutes, to watch them alone on the Grand Canal, probably rowing home from somewhere, gave me great pleasure.

And today I enjoy it again as I post this blog.

Monday, April 14, 2008

365 Days of Venice - typical afternoon in the neighborhood

This is one of my favorite sights in my neighborhood. It's the perfect example of the very simple lifestyle that exists here. What you don't see in this picture is the groups of people standing outside this local bar/cafe enjoying a glass of wine in the mid-day sun. It's absolutely perfect. What is commonplace for local Italians is new and different for me. It's what I now strive for as part of my new life here in Italy- to somehow magically slip into this comfortable low-paced happy lifestyle.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

365 Days of Venice - finding your way

Here's an example of how houses are numbered in Venice. Looks simple enough, doesn't it? Here's the catch. If you are given someone's address, you get a sestiere ( district ) name and house number, for example San Marco 2231. You have no way of knowing WHERE in San Marco that might be, without also knowing the name of the calle or fondamenta this address is located at. Fortunately, this system only allows a house number to be used once in any given sestiere, unlike in the US where you might find a 10 Main Street and a 10 Elm Street. Here, 2231 could be found once in each district- that's it. The question is always where in that district??? I have no clue how the mail carriers do it. At first I thought the numbers must be sequential, but I have discovered that from one street to the next the numbers might be hundreds apart.
To help me locate places, I've discovered a website called VeniceExplorer which has a cool feature. You put in the Sestiere and number, it pin points the location on a map so you can see the street name. Without this I would be so lost!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

365 Days of Venice - the lone green gondola

Now that I am back home, and am not knee deep in citizenship paperwork, I can turn my focus to happier pursuits---- sharing little bits of Venice here on my blog. Here's my choice for today...

Gondola's in service must be black, so obviously this one has been "decommissioned" and is not used to transport tourists around Venetian canals. It's the only green gondola in Venice- so far it's the only gondola painted anything other than black that I've seen. It's moored on a beautiful canal not far from Campo Pantalon, in an area of Venice which is not on the normal tourist path.

I keep hoping that I will see this gondola being used, quietly gliding down a canal, but I haven't experienced that yet. Everytime I pass this corner, the gondola is in the same place. I wish I knew this gondola's story.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Living the dream- sad news from home

This morning I opened my email to find a lovely letter from my oldest daughter, Shannon, who is back in the states with her husband Sam. Towards the end of the letter, she gives me the sad news that one of our beloved family cats, Meeney, is dying of cancer, and will probably not live to see his 22nd birthday, which is coming up shortly. His brother Miney passed away last year.

I am so sad today. The tears just won't stop falling. I know. 21, almost 22 years is a ripe old age for a cat! Although I knew these guys would not live to be 100, it never occurs to me that they will not be with us always. And now the time has come that I have to reconcile that both of them will be gone. Where did those 22 years go??? I distinctly remember bring these little tiny kittens home , they were 5 or 6 weeks old, little scrawny things. They came from the horse farm where I was taking lessons at the time, from a litter of 5: Einey, Meeney, Miney, Moe and Xerox ( who was the carbon copy of his father Ditto). They were in danger of being trampled every day by the herd of horses coming and going, so the owners were trying to find good homes quickly, before some untimely event occurred to one or more of these little creatures. I am not a cat person, but I had 2 little girls at home who needed a pet (that was my idea, not theirs!). So two of them came home with me- almost identical orange tabby little kittens.

Meeney and Miney have been faithful companions to my girls and myself over all these years. When I got divorced 11 years ago, the cats also moved out with the girls and me. When the girls moved to live with their father, they took the cats along with them. There has always been a special quality about Meeney and Miney. I find cats to be aloof, which doesnt suit me, but these two are not. They are people cats, Meeney in particular. Rather than be off on his own, he perferred to lounge around your neck. Or be right with you, whatever you were doing. There were even days when he wanted to drive the car with me. The girls and I often made long trips to our beach house in Delaware, with the cats along in our Dodge caravan. On the first few trips, we took them without cat carriers, loose in the car. Meeney insisted on handling the gas peddle for me. It wasn't long before they learned to make that trip in a carrier - safer for all of us!

And now today I have to face the incredibly sad news that this dear dear family member is suffering from cancer. I'm mad at myself that I am here having the adventure of my lifetime and my pet is dying at home without me. But I have solice in the fact that he has had a long happy lifetime with us, we have wonderful memories of him and his brother, and that Shannon is home with him making his last days comfortable.

Thanks, Meeney, for being a special part of our lives.

Dual Italian Citizenship -Getting the Permesso di Soggiorno

Isabella, Cristine and I took a taxi to the train station in Castel San Pietro Terme, me with all my luggage in tow. The train from Castel San Pietro to Bologna is a local train, costing all of 2.20 Euros. Good lord, I paid almost 50 Euros for a cab to Bologna a few weeks ago. From the train station in Bologna we took a cab to Luigi’s office. By now I know the way- and his street is very familiar to me. I can even rattle off the address Via Degli Angeli ventidue (24) to the cab driver like I know what the heck I am talking about!

Luigi has a staff of 4 women working for him. Every time I enter the office I get big hugs and kisses on both cheeks from any of them who are present, along with an energetic “Ciao, Karen”! Just that makes me feel good. I don’t know whether they sense my concerns, (fear almost), but they always find a way to put a smile on my face and make me feel alright. I am grateful for this small gesture from them. Today is the same- I walk in to smiles,“Ciao, Karen!”, and hugs and kisses from them. If only they knew how much this means to me.

We finally get the forms all filled out for our permesso di soggiorno’s and prepare to go to the Poste office with Silvia (one of Luigi’s assistants) to get them properly filed. The Italians love to put stamps on everything, which you must purchase at a Tabacci shop. Each stamp (marco bollo) costs a different amount, depending on what the stamp’s purpose is. The marco bollo required for the permesso is 14.62 Euros. I don’t understand how they are priced, it all seems very odd to me. I already had the right marco bollo in my possession- Mike had purchased 2 of them on his first arrival in Venice, as we knew we would have to file these permessos. Unfortunately we never were able to get that done- the Italian bueauocracy kept us from progressing very far. So, I had an unused Marco bollo in my wallet ready and waiting. Isabella didn’t know about the permesso paperwork drill, so we had to stop at a Tabacci shop to purchase a marco bollo for her, and bus tickets for our journey to the Poste office.

The permesso di soggiorno filing process works like this: 1) you fill out the form (it’s a huge multi page deal with all sorts of codes you must fill in properly); 2) you attach the required supporting documentation – either a visa or the official citizenship request, along with a copy of every last page of your passport, and put all this in the provided envelope, with marco bollo pasted on the front page of the form. You can only file these at designated poste offices, so you must find the right one. Fortunately for us, Silvia knew just where to go. 3) at the poste office you take a number and wait your turn. When your number is called, the clerk at the window reviews your packet of documents and the form; 4) you must pay another 27.50 Euros for something I am still not sure of, plus 30 Euros for the postage of this envelope. 5) get the receipts! It is absolutely critical that you retain all the receipts you are given from this. That is the only evidence you have that you have submitted the permesso application. Once you have done this, you have proof you have done the right paperwork and you will not be thrown out of the country for being there illegally. That step is now critical to us as there will be a gap between our stay of 90 days on our passports and when I receive the citizenship. These receipts for the permesso will bridge that gap and allow us to stay here legally during that period.

Since I’m on the topic of the permesso di soggiorno, I should mention what happens after you mail the packet off. It goes to the Questura (a division of the police dept). They schedule an interview with you (you must appear at the Questura office). During this interview you are fingerprinted and must provide 4 passport sized photos. If you are approved, they issue the actual permesso di soggiorno (“permission of stay”). In most localities. it is estimated to take at least 8 months for all this to happen. Only since last year is the poste office involved in the process. You used to go directly to the Questura to file the application. I sense the poste office was introduced into the process to eliminate or reduce the long lines of people queued up at the Questura daily to do this task. Now we are queued up at the poste office, and there is an additional 30 Euros coming out of your pocket for the pleasure of standing in this line!

But- that is the system, and you must do what it takes. Luigi reminds me that my citizenship will be completed far before a permesso would be issued for me. I think he is suggesting that I don’t even need to do it, but I insist that it’s necessary. I don’t want anything to muck up the works to our staying here legally while we are waiting for that precious citizenship document in my hot little hands. Not now, not since I have come so far in this.

Finally, I am back at the Bologna train station waiting on a train home to Venice. I get on the 7:40 pm Euro star and will arrive at 9:17 pm. I phone Mike and he arranges to meet me there. I’m tired, exhausted actually, but push through the day no matter what. I haven’t even eaten since morning, but I’m not really thinking about food at this point. What a welcome sight to see Mike at the station! It’s been such an unusual week for me, it just is a relief that I can now say it is behind me. I have missed him. I’m grateful he has been my lifeline over the last 7 days, being as supportive as possible over the phone. We make the short 10 minute walk home to our apartment, and the dogs get to jump all over me the second I walk in the door. I have missed them too!

So what’s next??? As far as the citizenship goes, at this point I just wait. All of my paperwork is in order. The last document necessary is one which the Commune requests from the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia, which will verify I have never renounced my Italian citizenship. Once that is received back in Castel San Pietro Terme, my citizenship will be finalized.

I have no idea how the Consulate goes about doing this. I have visions of some little Italian man whose sole job it is to look in a huge old book which contains the registry of every person who has ever given up their Italian citizenship. And how do they know if you have renounced your citizenship? Is it a document you sign? Do they somehow know if you shouted that from a hillside? And who makes those entries in that book? I have more questions about this than would ever be answered. Unfortunately I have had these visions more than once, therefore I even know how this little Italian man looks and what he is dressed like. Ok, ok, that can’t be good! All I know is, this is now the critical item for me, and I hope they don’t find my name somewhere it that big old book of theirs.

I have no doubt this will eventually come from the Consulate in Philadelphia, it is just a matter of WHEN. I have had dealings with them in the past, they aren’t particularly speedy. Luigi thinks it could be as quickly as one month, or worst case 3 months. Fortunately, he says the employees at the Commune in Castel San Pietro Terme are efficient about their jobs, and they will fax the Consulate to urge them along. When that document is received, I will be notified to return to Castel San Pietro to pick up my Carte d’Identitie (Identification card). That little card will be like a treasure for me.

I am relieved, and lucky. Isabella has documents which must be resent from Brazil, ultimately delaying her process some. At least I don’t have that situation. I now have confidence that in a short amount of time (short compared to the 2 years it might have taken me if I processed all this through the Consulate in Philadelphia), I will have my dual Italian citizenship, and we will then begin the paperwork to get Mike his also. We have heard that will be easier.- we can only hope. I joke with him that he must go spend at least a week with 5 unknown other men out in Castel San Pietro Terme. I might just have to set that up myself, so he can experience this first hand.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 8 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Monday , April 7, 2008

I had just had my morning wake up call with Michael when there came a frantic knocking on my door. I almost said “bedroom door” but I’ve been residing in the dining room. It was Maria, my Venezuelan college friend, with the exciting news that the polizia were at the front door. It’s 9am!!! I threw on clothes, ran a brush through my hair, straightened up my bed, and got out into the hallway to find the policeman already seated at the kitchen table in conversation with Maria’s mother, Luisa. Luisa speaks fluent Italian. Not much English from her, but fluent Italian, which turned out to be very beneficial for me in this case.

We had been advised that when the police inspect where you are living, it should at least look like you actually “live” there, and we were coached to say nothing about only being there temporarily while we file citizenship papers. When the police arrived, the little neighbor boy Thomas was out in the front yard playing, and was calling out hello to Luisa as if they were old friends. We thought that could only help us look like we were nice neighborly people.

The policeman at the kitchen table sorted through his paperwork ( here’s an aside for you - there was an oversized document for each one of us- I find paper sizes here in Italy to be quite fascinating. In America it had better be either letter or legal size- here it’s just about anything goes, from teeny tiny to mega size. I don’t even know what size these residency papers were, but they were huge, and when folded in half were still larger than our legal sized documents. ). He had papers for someone who was not in our apartment, so that got sorted out. He asked all of his questions of Luisa, looked at each of us in turn, didn’t go beyond the kitchen and then he left happily. The policeman could see that the utility bill for the apartment was in Luisa’s name, and he knew Maria was her daughter. He asked her who Isabella and I were and why we were there also. Luisa told him that I was a very good family friend she had asked to come live with her, and Isabella was a close friend of Maria’s. He asked if we intended to search for employment there, Luisa said no, we’re just “housewives” and students. He seemed perfectly satisfied, and away he went. Luisa ran to her bedroom to say a thank you to the saints whose pictures she has leaning on the window frame. Perhaps the candles we lit in church on Saturday evening helped. We think we’ve passed this “test” with flying colors.

As soon as he was gone, I phoned Mike. We both said, practically at the same time, we made the right decision about me not going to Venice on Sunday for that concert. If I had, I would have surely missed the Polizia’s visit this morning, and I would have had to wait probably yet another week for them to return for a followup inspection. The Gods again have been with me!

After the police inspection all of us in the house were hugging, laughing, and rushing to call Luigi, our immigration lawyer in Bologna. He told us we were now free to go, but Isabella and I needed to file papers for our permesso di soggiorno, we should first come to his office in Bologna to handle that. We needed that document filed because we both intend to stay in Italy. Isabella plans to be here a few more months, I want to be here much longer. The Venezuelan’s were headed on to Monaco and Nice for a few days, then Maria would return to England to university and Luisa and Andreas were headed home to Venezuela. They didn’t have a need for the permesso.

We all joyously packed up our belongings, threw away excess food from the fridge, and made our preparations for moving on. Isabella and I, along with Isabella’s mother Cristine, arranged a taxi at 1pm to the train station. When 1pm approached, there was more hugging, and tears. We all promised to keep in touch- and talked about how lucky we were to have shared this incredible time. In situations such as this, it’s more likely that someone would be totally difficult to live with. Not the case here. We somehow managed to just click. We’ll carry the memories of this week with us for a lifetime, and hopefully the friendships we’ve made also. The last thing we did was take a picture of the 4 of us in the house who are getting citizenship- Luisa, Maria, Isabella and myself. We should have set a timer so we could have included Andreas and Cristine as well.

The Almost-New-Italians: Isabella, Luisa, Karen and Maria

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 7 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Castel San Pietro Terme - the Clock Tower

Sunday April 6, 2008

When I woke up this morning at 7am, everyone had already left for Florence. I must have been deep in sleep, cause I didn’t hear a peep. That’s unusual for me, I’m a very light sleeper. I’d been up and down several times during the night- not easy to sleep on my 1 inch mattress, it’s already been way too many days on it. But- since I didn’t hear a thing, I was thankful that I had obviously gotten some sleep.

I had a completely lazy day. I did laundry, made a lovely breakfast of fried eggs for myself, caught up on news, chatted with Mike, handled a lot of our tour business, napped, and then walked into town in the afternoon.

This little town is a sleepy little place on a normal day, but Sunday is even worse. Nothing was open. Well, almost nothing. Lucky for me the farmacia was open today, and even more lucky, they handed over my blood pressure medication with no questions asked. Relieved that I had those in hand and did not have to worry about being here beyond Tuesday with my blood pressure out of control, I was able to just have a pleasant walk through town.

I’ve got all the girls (women) in the house now eating stawberries and whipped cream (out of the squirt can). I have a whipped cream weakness, and it is not unusual for me to skip the berries and just go right for the whipped cream. Last nite I noticed Isabella was copying that bad habit from me, eating just a little bowl of whipped cream. I’ve started something here!!!! The strawberries are delightful- so brilliant red and sweet already, and it’s just the beginning of April. At home we wouldn’t see really good berries until July.

I also have become a blood orange fanatic. I LOVE them. They are so sweet and delicious. I avoid oranges like the plague because I do not like peeling them. Even if someone peels one for me, they are still not on my favorite fruit list. But, that’s changed this week. Blood oranges are heavenly. I’m converted--- only for blood oranges, mind you. Only for blood oranges.

Everyone returned from Florence around 6:30 pm, much earlier than I expected. They had a big day shopping and touring. I had a moment of remorse that I did not go along, because I do love the opportunity to view The David at the Accademia museum.

Alright- we stooped to a brand new low here. We have placed bets on what hour the police will arrive tomorrow. The bet is 1 Euro each- and if the police do come tomorrow, whoever comes closest to the time they arrive wins the pot. If the police don’t come, we will bet again the next day and the next day. If anyone wins tomorrow, they can go splurge with that 6 Euros (well, 5 not counting the Euro the winner had to kick in themselves) and buy a gelato or two. I don’t believe we’ll see the police anytime soon, I’m thinking we’ll have enough cash in the kitty to throw one heck of a festa! This is what happens when there is nothing to do!!!

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 6 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Saturday April 5, 2008

The girls had a little Samba party the other nite to keep spirits up, and yesterday they did a little spa afternoon, polishing fingers and toenails. But again, we’re pretty much out of things to do around here.

I’m able to call Mike, thankfully, to have a conversation now and then. The phone last nite tells me it has less than one Euro left, so this morning I tell him to run to the Vodaphone store first thing to put more money on it. Thank goodness he is available, I cannot imagine what I would do if it ran out of money and I had no way to fix the situation., being confined in here as we are. Between the internet and the phone Vodaphone is making a fortune. But I can’t manage if I am to be without either. I need the internet to work, and without a phone connection to the outside world I’d really be alone out here. I don’t even want to think about that prospect. I’m alone enough as it is. The other's in this apartment at least have each other. I'm sure it's a small blessing to them.

My prescriptions will run out in a few days, I never believed we would be here this long. I’ve had Mike go to the local farmacia in Venice to see if they will take a faxed prescription from my doctor in Baltimore. He has done that and discovered in Italy we don’t need prescriptions for many medications, including my high blood pressure prescriptions. All we need to do is take the chemical name to the pharmacist so they can match the drug. I hopped on the internet this morning and found all that stuff, Mike has already been to the farmacia and has those filled. Now the question is how I will get those here in Castle San Pietro. He could overnight them, but I could be gone from here by the time they come. I will walk to the farmacia in town tomorrow to see if they will give me the same drugs here. I think if they can do that in Venice they can do that here. We’ll soon see.

I’ve already decided if I ever have to do this again I will bring books. And then I think..”What am I thinking??? I don’t ever want to do this again.” But- on the other hand, this has been the only solution to my dilemma. I will have Italian citizenship before too much longer, so this confinement will have been well worth it. There was no other way, besides returning to America and waiting 2 more years. Putting off coming to Italy to live just isn’t in my plans. I have to do this now. Who knows if you will have tomorrow. Perfect example is the email I got just yesterday telling me of an acquaintance’s husband who had a severe stroke, then passed away a month later. See? I have to plow on with the plan, you just never know what tomorrow might bring.

Today at 6 pm we all made a dash for the grocery store, again having the cell phone call system in place in case the polizia decided to inspect while we were out. No worries, they didn’t come. On the way out of the grocery store, we notice a small group of men across the street who are most definitely eyeing the three young women I am with. We decide that perhaps finding an Italian man to marry quickly might be a good route, then we would not have to do this confinement routine- and I encourage the young ones to flirt as hard as they can!!!
Andreas is married and has 3 children, but looks very young. I tell her to flirt anyway and don’t say anything about any children!!

At 7, we all walked into town. The farmacia was already closed, so I will have to try that again on Sunday. It’s a lovely little town, with lots of nice little shops. We just wandered and window shopped. We poked our heads into one of the two churches, and discovered mass was in session . We stayed. When mass was over we all went and lit candles. Can’t hurt. Back out on the street, Maria, the Venezuelan college student, translated some of what the priest was saying at the end. Basically he was giving announcements, saying that tomorrow at 4pm people would be gathering to prepare for a saint’s day coming up, and they would pray for foreign families in the town. That’s us!!! And we need all of their help.

Andreas, Maria’s sister who has been able to get out all week, already knows this town like the back of her hand. She led us to the gelato shop where we picked up a treat before heading home.
We’re back in by 9pm. I had some foccaccia with onion for my dinner, did a little more work and will call it an early nite again.

Tomorrow being Sunday, we are free to leave the apartment! Everyone else has planned to take the train to Florence and leave early in the morning. I originally was going to Venice for the day, as Mike and I have concert tickets at La Fenice Sunday at 5pm, however, after looking at the train schedules back from Venice, have decided not to. There are late trains back here on Sunday nite, but I’d arrive back in Castel San Pietro at 4:30 in the morning. That’s just not appealing to me. If I were to leave at 6am on Monday morning I’d get back here about 9:30, and that’s already too late. I don’t want to risk missing the polizia at any time they might show up. A concert just isn’t worth throwing a monkey wrench into this process. I need to stick it out and be here, no matter what. And I also didn’t feel like a quick one day trip into Florence. I’ve already made 2 one day trips there to have my passport replaced last month, that was plenty. I’m going to have another quiet day at the compound. One more day of the same won’t kill me, and at least I can get into town whenever I want for as long as I want today.

I read in the news today that President Bush is in Croatia this week. 30 minutes by ferry from Venice. I wonder if he plans a little vacation?

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 5 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Friday April 4, 2008

The week has actually flown by. I wake up this morning with a sinking feeling that we won’t be seeing the polizia today either. I don’t have anything to base that on, just a bad gut feeling. Luigi says we also have to be here on Saturday, but Sunday we have “off” and can leave here. However, if the police have not yet made their inspection, we must return for next week also. Technically they have 20 days to make their visit. We could be here quite some time yet. I need to go light a candle in Luisa’s room after Andreas comes back from the COOP with candles today.

I am also just about out of my food stash. Last nite for dinner I ate the pre-packaged lasagna Bolognese for dinner with a caprese salad. I have just a half of the chicken left, and some broccoli. I’m even out of yogurt. The grocery store closes at 7:30 – so I may have to give Andreas a list of things to pick up for me. That will be difficult, cause I don’t know without looking at what is on the shelf at the grocery store what I might want to pick out. I can’t be choosy today, I will have to just go with the flow.

I had a late breakfast- had my last yogurt, the last of my bread, and some tea. I showered and changed, then took a walk around the apartment. I was inside the fenced compound, so that was ok. I’ve already worked several hours today. I’ll continue working this afternoon.

My plan to give a grocery list to Andreas has backfired. She and Cristina, the mother of Isabella from Brazil, have gone shopping in Bologna all day, and then plan to make a stop at Luigi’s law office at 3pm. Aren’t they lucky they can go shop! As always, we are looking forward to the polizia visit before the end of the day today. Crossing fingers and toes, saying prayers to every saint we can conjure up a name for.

Very very uneventful day here at Casa di Cittidanza. No polizia today. Luisa is quite sad that they have not come today, and that seems to have effected everyone else in the house. She’s a bright light, that’s for sure. At 7:00 pm we all made a mad dash to the grocery store and left Luisa with the task of phoning us on our cells if the police arrived all of a sudden. I was just about out of food, so I needed that run. I bought some fresh pasta with and a jar of Mediterranean sauce ( capers, olives, and anchovies) for tonight’s meal. Andreas made a fresh fennel salad and gave me a bowl of that. I loved it. I’ll be recreating that at home soon.

I got work done, and that was the day. I am going to hope for a better result tomorrow. Buona Notte.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 4 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Thursday April 3

It’s sunny today. We aren’t leaving the compound, but I did put a chair on the little balcony outside my door and sat out for a while this morning. Next door neighbors pulled in and got out of the car. We waved back and forth, said Buon Giorno. They have a little 2 ½ yr old boy named Thomas. Cute little guy. For as odd as our existence in this apartment is, life seems a little normal. Here we are meeting neighbors.

The apartment is quite nice. Small but nice. This afternoon the owner has come by again, this time bringing us a gift of more pots for the kitchen. We’ve had to do some creative cooking with just a large pot and a small frying pan. This morning there is a bunch of lilacs on the kitchen table, Luisa has gone out into the yard ( that’s as far as we can get- we can’t go beyond the gate) and picked some for us.

Today Maria , the college student from Venezuela, just stayed in her pajamas all day. She had a good point- why bother, all we can do is sleep. She has brought some homework assignments with her, which she has been working on also. I’m the only one in the house who is working through the day. That has been a godsend , to have activities to keep busy with.

Isabella, the college student from Brazil, has also brought her laptop, however she is not able to get an internet signal. She is just about around the bend on that one. She has her mother here also, who is able to get out of the building, and has sent her into town to research buying a wireless adapter like the one I have. Isabella’s mother met some other Brazilians in town yesterday who are also here in the midst of their citizenship process, and they told her that the police came at 7:30 the night before. So we have now adjusted our daily release time from 6:30 to 7:30, in order not to risk missing the police.

The day has passed quickly, in spite of not having much to do. We’re bored. Luisa has done all the laundry she can possibly do, and has mended a couple of things she had along with her. Andreas, her daughter, is a cleaning freak, so she has bought floor cleaner and cleaned the stone floors, and has gone to town on the kitchen. She says she has run out of things to clean… I told her I would pay her to do my room. She noted that I had my door closed while she was cleaning --- there’s an easy solution.. just knock on the door! She wants the place to look good when the police are here inspecting.

Luisa cracks me up. She has flowers in the rooms and pictures of saints up in her bedroom. We are laughing that all she needs now to be a real Italian is a lot of candles by the saints that we can light up. She says she has no candles…so we have added those to Andreas list for the next day at the grocery store!

I remembered that I have one movie loaded on my laptop in iTunes, so I settle in to watch that before going off to bed. It’s my all time favorite movie with John Wayne and Red Buttons – Hatari. It’s a simple pleasure, but it’s all I’ve got out here. I’m taking it. Buona Notte.

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 3 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Wednesday April 2.

The Venezuelans were up late talking loudly, same as the night before, so it was late by the time I got to sleep. Still I thought I would wake up early. When I looked at my watch and saw 9:30 I was shocked. But there is very little else to do here, it really didn’t matter. I had some work to get sent off to the office, and some emails to respond to so I settled into work. By noon I was finished with all that. Breakfast was yogurt and a blood orange, bread and a few cups of tea. I have some pre-made lasagna I will heat up later on for a late lunch.

Turns out I skipped lunch completely, and for dinner I chose to warm up some pre-cooked chicken and potatoes, also from the COOP, and I made myself a nice caprese salad. I love tomatoes in Italy! They are so sweet. Dinner was good.

By today everyone is warming up to each other in here.. it’s a mini United Nations. Everyone is bored silly, but we have no choice. We’ve been making a list of how this compares to incarceration, and we’ve all decided when we get sprung from here we will be model citizens forever. We are not liking giving up some of our freedoms one bit. It’s a huge eye opener to get a feel for what a controlled existence must be like. Luisa, the mother from Venezuela, says she likes her freedoms. She is also making great attempts to sing “I Will Survive”, with a very strong accent and she can’t quite get out the word Survive.. but we know what she means! She has a great sense of humor.

We’ve had interesting political discussions. Everyone is very keen on knowing about the upcoming election in the US. It’s been so educational for me to learn how the world views Americans, and how much they depend on us being a world leader. It is clearly a bit scary to them, they feel we have lost our place as leaders. I am not happy hearing it, but it is reality. Also interesting to note, unanimously these women feel Hilary Clinton is not the right choice for the next president, they all feel stongly that the only “HOPE” is Obama. Now isn’t that an eye-opener. Hope was their word—and it is the word Obama himself uses as his cornerstone in the campaign.

Right before dinner time Andreas, Luisa’s daughter from Venezuela who is not on lockdown with us and can get out, came in the door. She has some family about 50 km from here in Rimini, and she had gone there by train the previous day. When she arrived, I was in the kitchen. I said “Welcome home, Andreas”.. and she says back “Karen, I missed you!”.

I realize at that moment that I am lucky. Yes, the situation is bleak, but I am lucky. This could have been so much worse. Lucky that this bunch of people who have come together quite accidently are exactly who they are. These are bright, strong, educated, women, who fortunately come packaged with a sense of humor similar to mine.

When 7pm rolled around tonight, I had my coat on ready to run out the door, only to discover that a nasty thunderstorm was about to let loose. It was cold and rainy. I stayed in. And no polizia. End of Day 3.

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 2 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Day 2 - Tuesday morning around 10 am a man came to turn on the gas. With that taken care of we could all get hot showers. Unfortunately the stove required a match or a lighter, which none of us had, so we still were unable to cook. By now my craving for a cup of hot tea was beginning to get the best of me. There are 2 women also in the house , the mother of the Brazilian girl (Isabella) and the sister of the Venezuelan girl (Maria) who are not here for their citizenship, just here to keep the girls company. Who in the heck would do that??? Anyway, they are allowed to exit anytime, so they went to the store to find a lighter. Once we could cook, things definitely improved. And for me, I now had access to hot tea. I feel civilized again. If you look at Maslow’s chart of essential items for life ( I don’t remember what it is actually called) - TEA is the basic essential element for me. No doubt about it. It’s Tea.

After lunch on Tuesday the owner of the apartment came with a repairman who spent time on the water heater and draining the radiators. Heat is now good. There are only 2 pots in the kitchen cupboards, it is minimally furnished to say the least. The landlady said that previous tenants had stolen all kinds of things so she was reluctant to put anything else in here. Great.

The day was uneventful- and no sign of any police. Figures.

As soon as the clock read 6:30 pm, my coat was on and I was out the door. First stop was the COOP ( the local grocery store) where I found a small pot perfect for boiling water. With only a large pot and a frying pan ( that is used as lid for the big pot), and these things are in use for cooking meals all the time, there is often no way to make tea, and I need it frequently. The small pot solves that issue. I also picked up some food for Wednesdays meals.

After getting this stuff stowed in the apartment, I went out again to find some dinner. The Venezuelans were making chicken and aspargus and eating in that night, the Brazilians had made a huge pot of some pasta stuff at lunch time so they were also staying in, and I was eager for some fresh air. I walked into the center of the city, which is very close, and took some pictures. I need some “evidence” for the picture albums. Of course I need to document this adventure!!! The city has an old clock tower, a beautiful church, a walled in center of the town, and shops and apartments outside the walled area for a few streets also. When you get beyond the wall on the far side of town, the land drops down sharply, so you can see the town is on a hillside. Beyond all that is just farmland as far as you can see. There is also a nice park down at the bottom of this hill. On the side of town where the apartment is located, it is flat, so you wouldn’t really know you are on a hillside, or so it seems to me when I look down the street from the apartment gate.

I wandered around exploring the streets for alittle while, and decided to stop for dinner at a little trattoria, sadly I forget the name already. I ordered spaghetti Bolognese ( what else would I choose- I’m in the heart of Bolognese territory here!), and a tomato salad. I wanted to try their cassata ( cake filled with ricotta and candied fruit like a cannoli filling), but I resisted the temptation- I had some gelato back in the apartment. It was the best Bolognese sauce I’ve had so far since being in Italy, and I have been doing a Bolognese sauce survey of sorts back in Venice. The tomato salad on the other hand was not so good. But, for a total of 8 Euros, I was ok with all that.

I walked back to the apartment, did a bit more work and called it a night. Fortunately the heat was working well, so no double layers or extra socks needed. It was a comfortable night.

Dual Italian Citizenship -Day 1 in Castel San Pietro Terme

Moving into “Casa di Cittidanza” – Day 1

The two girls from Luigi's office left me with the 2 other girls I'd be sharing the apartment with, and all of a sudden 3 other women materialize. It becomes very clear instantly that all 6 of us were going to spend time together. This is all news to me, and evidently news to the others. Three of them had been in the apartment the night before, so we all walked back to the apartment. Thats when more of the nightmare unravels. A) there are only 2 sets of keys for the apartment, and the other 2 groups have them. no keys for me. b) there are only 2 bedrooms in the place - no bedroom for me. There is a pull out couch in the dining room. Guess where I will be! c) Luigi did not give me any information about the place, and it turns out there are no sheets or towels, or pillow ,and I did not bring any with me. We do find a blanket for me, but no pillow. d) the gas has not been turned on in the place, and won't be turned on until the next day, so we have no hot water and no gas to cook with. This is a complete nightmare. At this point the Girl Scout in me kicks in and I am making do with the situation at hand.

I called Luigi to inform him of the situation and he apologized, and said walk into town to by sheets and to do it right then, cause beginning the next morning I could not leave the place. Thanks, Luigi. Good plan!

After checking out the place, all 6 of us walked to the grocery store, which luckily is very close to the apartment. Since we had no gas, we couldn’t do any cooking. All we were able to buy was prepared foods and salad, and of course essential items like toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap. I looked for sheets and towels in the grocery, but there were none. Later we walked into the center of the town and asked a woman if there was any store that sold sheets and towels. We were in luck, there was one, which we were able to find, and I purchased a set of sheets and the cheapest towel they had in the place. For only 54 Euros I had what I needed.

I stopped for a cup of tea in a small cafĂ© in the center of town before walking back to the apartment to make up the bed. The “bed” consists of a 1 inch mattress on a pull out little sofa in the dining room. Well, my girl scout experience is coming in very handy. I had to take a nasty plastic wrapping off the mattress- I was definitely not going to sleep on top of that and hear the crinkle noises every time I moved! After getting the bed made up, I unpacked my laptop and said a quick prayer to the Internet Gods that my connection would work here. My prayers were answered, I’m good to go. Being able to work from here was critical, so thank goodness that didn’t fall apart on me. So I have commandeered the dining room as my headquarters, my desk area is set up on the dining room table, I think I can make do with this.

The last task for the night was to put our names on the outside doorbell, mail box and the inside doorbell. The youngsters handled that art project nicely. I let it be a bonding experience for them. I did go out and help hold tape for a little bit, just so they didn’t think I was anti-social. They call me “La Signora”, and I am beginning to like it!

I spent the night cold, with an extra sweater and socks on in the bed, praying for daylight to come fast! The apartment actually is quite nice, small compared to what we have in Venice, but new and nice. Mike would like the six burner stove- if only we had gas!

The other interesting thing about this whole situation is that the 4 of us in here who have applied for residency, and ultimately our citizenship, are not allowed to leave the apartment at all until after 6:30 pm each day. We have to be present whenever the local police come to make their inspection of the apartment, and they do not call ahead to let you know a time. Essentially we are on lockdown. What a nightmare! When I described this whole situation to Mike, he said thank goodness there isn’t an ounce of Princess in me. He knew I wouldn’t be doing any crying or demanding to go instantly to a 5 star hotel. I’m here at “Casa di Cittidanza”, as I call it now, hoping these police have a kind heart and come before Friday!

"Casa di Cittidanza"-- our apartment is on the first floor, right side in this pic.

Dual Italian Citizenship - Establishing Residency in Castel San Pietro Terme

Next stop is Castel San Pietro Terme to handle the paperwork to establish residency. We also meet up with the other girl who is sharing the same apartment. What I find out is there are 2 others sharing the apartment, one girl from Venezuela and one from Brazil. Ok. it doesn’t matter to me. I was just hoping there were 3 bedrooms. Luigi had not told me anything at all about the apartment, and at that moment I was kicking myself for being so trusting. When the clerk in Castel San Pietro Terme got to my turn, she had a problem with the stamps in my passport. Thank goodness we had that electronic plane ticket still with us. That appeased her.

The next problem was the name on the Codice Fiscale we just had issued did not match the name on my passport. Oh for goodness sake, I thought we were going to have throw in the towel there. I got a reprieve- the clerk is going to get the Codice reissued for me with a corrected name. That was the first time in all this where someone volunteered to do something nice. I signed a few documents, and we had one more stop to make.

I had to turn in all the original documents to the director here. That was very easy, no issues. . I had a bit of trauma letting go of those documents. I cannot begin to explain how valuable those are to me,and what they represent. Taking my fingers off that folder to turn over the documents to this woman was extremely difficult.. but I knew that it had to be done. Once those were handed over, everyone was smiling and off we went.

Dual Italian Citizenship - The Codice Fiscale

Step 1 – The Codice Fiscale
I arrived at Luigi's office in Bologna at 9am this morning, having left Venice on a 6:43 train. I had very little sleep and this was going to be a long day. Little did I know just how long. The day's events unfolded, one horror after another.

Luigi had asked me on the phone last week if I already had my Codice Fiscale. I had tried to get it in Venice. When I went to the office and applied for it, they told me I needed a declaration of stay, which is issued by the police, in order to get the Codice. I had been to the police for that, but they told me that only the one they issued to my husband was needed, they weren't going to give me my own paper. So, without the declaration of stay, I wasn't getting a Codice. When I told Luigi this story, he said,"Oh Karen, I am sorry for the Italian bureaucracy and what they have done to you!" If he only knew what was yet to unfold!!!!

First, when Luigi saw the incorrect stamps in my passport, I thought that would be the end of the road right there. We printed out my plane ticket from my email just in case we needed some additional documentation. We made a first stop just outside of Bologna to get a Codice Fiscale issued for me. This is equivalent to a tax id. You go into the office, take a number and wait until you are called. Now I have 2 girls from Luigi's office with me, who do all this paperwork for others like me trying to get Italian citizenship all the time, so I was confident this would be easy. HA! When our number was called, the agent at the desk told us the stamp was incorrect. One of the girls tried to explain, but we were told to go to a supervisor and they would make a determination. All I could think of was this was now the end of the road for me. We waited for the supervisor. Finally the supervisor called us into the office. She didn't like the stamps on my passport either. We showed her my plane ticket, and one of the girls from Luigi's office also read her some code ( Italian legal stuff). We actually walked out of there with a Codice Fiscale!!! I was doing a silent happy dance.

Dual Italian Citizenship - and then there is Castel San Pietro Terme

A week later Luigi called to tell me that he had located one small commune in Castel San Pietro Terme, about 45 minutes away from Bologna that thought they could accept my documents. They were asking to see all of the originals. I made a trip to the Commune there the very next day. The woman there reviewed everything and told us that she believed everything would be ok, but she wanted a few days to research a few things. There was also one item I had to handle before they could begin. My passport needed to have stamps indicating I entered Italy stamped in it. I entered the EU in Frankurt, then took a connecting flight to Venice. Upon arrival in Venice, no one stamps your passport if you are entering from another EU country. Luigi had an easy solution: fly to London and fly back, and have my passport stamped upon arrival in Italy. It seemed too good to be true. On March 15, I flew from Venice to Gatwick airport in London, sat for 4 hours, and then flew back to Venice. When I got back home that night, I pulled out my passport to look at the stamps, and realized that the person who stamped my passport in the morning in Venice had the wrong date on the stamp. It showed that I left Venice on March 16 and returned on March 15. All I could think was " Is there anything else that could go wrong???" I figured that this could be explained away as a clerical error since I had a plane ticket to prove what day I flew on.

Venice footnote…

In the meantime, I visited the Commune in Venice one more time, hopeful that they had reviewed my documents and would decide to handle my case. Instead, they told me that my mother's name is Guilia on one document but Guiliana on a second document. Since they didn't match, these documents wouldn't be acceptable. Figures!

The woman in Castel San Pietro Terme took alot longer to get back to us than we expected, partially because of the Easter holiday. Finally we got very positive news, and I was told that I should be at Luigi's office first thing on Monday 3/31 with my suitcase as we would be going to Castel San Pietro Terme to begin the process of establishing residency. Luigi had found an apartment for me to share with another girl who was doing the same process. I would only have to be physically present in the apartment until the local police come to conduct an interview, which Luigi estimated would only take a week to complete.

Dual Italian Citizenship - Back to Venice and on to Bologna

Anyway, the next stop is right back to Venice. By this time ,my husband, attorney that he is, decided we needed to have an Italian Immigration lawyer assist us in moving forward. Even if we actually could get all this done in Venice, he believed we should have someone who is familiar with the system accompany us to each office. We made an appointment with an Immigration lawyer for the next afternoon. This woman reviewed each of my documents, and then told us she would discuss this with a colleague who worked at the Commune in the Citizenship office and get back to us.

My husband Mike also emailed another Immigration lawyer in Bologna because his website had alot of information about the dual citizenship process in Italy. This second Attorney helps alot of immigrants through the complex paperwork process, so we thought we should have him take a look at my documents. By this time, 30 days out of the 90 days we were allowed to stay in Italy on our passports had been chewed up, and I hadn't made much progress. We made a train trip to Bologna to meet with the attorney there the next day. After examining my documents, he and his colleague decided there could be a problem because of a law which said my mother gave up her Italian citizenship when she married an American soldier. I tried to explain that we had already had some information from the Italian Consulate about that. The attorney (Luigi) planned to shop my documents around to some small communes in the area around Bologna to see if any of them would accept my case. If they accepted me, then he could start the citizenship process, which would include establishing residency in that small commune. Once residency was established, and all of my documents were processed, then I would be granted citizenship. This could all take up to 3 months. I left copies of my documents with him and went back to Venice hopeful, but skeptical.

Dual Italian Citizenship- the quest continues....

From Venice to La Spezia--

The next week I boarded a train for La Spezia, 6 hours away from Venice. Fortunately for me, my mother has cousins still alive in La Spezia, and I had met them for the first time just a few months before. My mother's cousin ( who likes me to also call him my cousin) took me to the Commune office in La Spezia where we met with the director of Status Civile, the highest up person we could have handle this. After looking at my documents, this man gave me the sad news that he believed there is a law which says my mother lost her Italian citizenship and became an American instantly when she married my father , who was an American soldier stationed in Italy during WWII. That sounded pretty odd, since I know for a fact that my mother studied and passed the US Naturalization test obtaining her US citizenship when I was 5 years old. This man suggested I fly back to America and have the Italian consulate issue a declaration that says my mother didn't loose her italian citizenship upon marriage. The next morning I went back to Venice.

I wasn't prepared to give up. The Italian consulate is not known for returning phone calls or answering email, but I emailed them to try to avoid having to return to America to handle this situation. Miraculously, they responded to my email in a week's time. They said they would not issue any such declaration, but I should go back to La Spezia and tell them that all I needed was my mother's naturalization papers- and I had to be born before the date on that certificate. No problem. I had all that covered. I was starting to feel better again. Maybe all I was going to need was one more trip back to La Spezia.

The following week, I went to La Spezia again by train. My cousin and his niece who speaks English beautifully went with me again to the Citizenship office at the Commune. I was feeling like old friends with the Director by now. This time, after looking at the email the Consulate sent me, and reviewing all my documents again, he decided that my case was not to be handled as "Juris Sanguis". Instead, since I was in fact born an Italian but lost my citizenship involuntarily when my mother Naturalized, all I needed was a declaration from the Italian consulate requesting that I be allowed to reclaim my own Italian citizenship. There are laws that allow for this, and he gave me the law and section numbers to refer to. My cousin's niece is a quick thinker, and she asked why this declaration couldn't be made by some office right here in italy, since we are already there. The Director thought for a minute, then told us to go have coffee for 20 minutes while he made some phone calls to find out what could be done to help.

I don't drink coffee, but I surely needed a cup of tea at that moment. Every time I am told some different story by the Italian government I can feel my blood pressure creep up the scale. It won't be long before I will probably pop from all the stress. When we returned to his office, he had great news. He had been in conversation with Dottore Parducci, the expert on these kinds of situations. Dott. Parducci had devised a 4 step plan for me to obtain my citizenship, and he was confident I could do all this back in Venice. OK, so I was being sent back to Venice. I knew I should have dug my heels in and demanded this declaration right then and there. I knew that, but that isn't the way anything is done in Italy. I certainly was not going to create a fuss. If I demanded anything, I thought for sure I would never get my citizenship. I needed to have mutual respect and cooperation here.

On our way out of the office we had a good laugh as we envisioned this Director presenting his findings on my case at some National Symposium as he kept saying my case was so unusal and he had spent time researching it.

Dual Italian Citizenship- latest updates

When Italy gives you lemons ....make limoncello.

Lately I have been handed A LOT of lemons by the Italian government. In fact there have been so many of them I have lost count. Any one of these "lemons" hurled at me in the last two months might have been enough to stop me in my tracks, had it been 2 years ago. But today, there are no lemons, or pumpkins for that matter, thrown at me that will deter me from my goals.

Each of these obstacles or roadblocks are directly related to my quest to obtain dual Italian citizenship. I firmly believe that I should be granted dual citizenship by virtue of the fact that my mother is native born Italian, and had not yet become an American citizen at the time of my birth. If you check the regulations issued by the Italian consulate in the United States, those two elements meet the regulations. In my case, because I am a direct descendant of a native born Italian, there aren't any other requirements , except the one that says if the ancestor is your mother, you had to have been born AFTER 1948. I meet that one also. Once you determine that you meet whatever the stated requirements are, you must then gather the necessary documents. Each document must be an original certified copy, accompanied by the Apostille of the state which issued the document, and you must also have a notarized translation of each document into Italian.

I had been collecting documents for a year and a half. Every time I took the set of documents to the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia, they would tell me one more thing I needed to do. It seems the rules change often, and are also up for interpretation by whoever the clerk of the day happens to be. There were several occassions where, having made the 2 plus hour trip up to Philadelphia intending to turn in the set of documents, I turned around with a very heavy heart after having been told more bad news by some clerk in the Consulate office. Finally in November 2007, I had every last possible document. I returned to Philadelphia to finally process this stack of papers, and was told by the Consulate it could take another 2 years for me to finally obtain citizenship. I asked if there was any possbility to expedite the process, and was informed I could take the documents to Italy myself, where it was possible to obtain citizenship in anywhere from 1 week to a few months.

I made preparations to go to Italy, carrying my precious documents in hand. We did try to get the appropriate visa from the Italian consulate prior to flying to Italy, but we were told we didn't have the correct identification for the people who were renting us the apartment in Italy. Again, we had every document we had been told we needed, and now there was one more. There was no chance we could get this new item in the time frame we had left before our flight to Italy, as the landlords were away on vacation. Since we thought we could get citizenship in a few months, we decided to just go to Italy on our passports, knowing that you are only allowed to stay in the EU for 90 days.

On my second day in Venice, I took my stack of papers, all organized and labeled in order in a special binder, to the Commune office. Without even looking at my documents I was told that if my ancestors weren't born in Venice, they would not accept my application. They suggested that I go to the town my mother was born in. That information was not at all in sync with anything I was told by the Consulate in Philadelphia, but these people were not buying any discussion out of me.