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.