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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Technically "Venetian"

For those of you who have read my blog from the beginning, you may recall the momentous occassion towards the end of 2008 when I received my dual Italian citizenship.  Of the many official documents I received that day, the one that has been most important, besides my Italian passaporto, is my Carta d'Identita.  This special document is probably comparable to a Social Security card in the USA. Here it's used for identification purposes, all over the place, even for boarding planes between EU countries.

Each Carta d'Identita has a unique number, and inside contains information such as your date of birth, place of birth, country of citizenship, address, height, weight, and eye color.On mine, the address is the address of the apartment I had to rent out in Castel San Pietro Terme while I was going through my citizenship process. Since the card is good for 10 years, I have just used it whenever needed and don't give it much thought. Until recently.

Living in Venice is everything I ever imagined it would be- and much more. However, as grand and glorious as it is to be walking these calle day in and day out, that pleasure comes with a downside- a high price tag.  This is no surprise to us, we planned for it. We are fully aware our rent here is much higher than it would be if we lived outside the city anywhere else.  We know that when we buy groceries or clothes or a bottle of wine here in the city, it costs more than it would out on the mainland. There are very few discounts available for residents of Venice.  And herein lies the subject of my blog today. .

Besides our resident discount for the vaporetto, residents of Venice can get into certain museums free on certain days of the week. We can also get into certain churches free by producing documentation verifying they are, in fact, a resident of Venice.  Here's the catch: the documentation necessary changes, depending on who is working the booth at a church on any particular day.  Certain churches will accept my health card, which contains my current address in Venice. Others will accept my Residence permit. A Carta d'Identita would always be good, but it must have a Venice address on it. Mine does not.  Over at the Miracoli church, they used to let me in with my health card. There is a new guard in the booth now, so that isn't good either. They will only accept my Carta d'Identita. Or I have to pay the entrance fee, same as a tourist. Not what I want to be doing on a regular basis. Mind you, there are over 100 churches in Venice and I have a tendency to pop in  any number of them with regularity.

I needed a solution to my little problem. The answer was quite simple- go get a new Carta d'Identita at the Anagrafe office here in Venice. Sounds simple. In reality, it never is.  Dealing with the Italian bureaucracy is such a pain in the behind I can come up with every excuse in the book to avoid it like the plague.  And so, even though it sounds like going to get a new card is simple, I have avoided it. Until now.

I steeled up my nerves, collected all the documentation I could possibly need and more, studied my Italian books  and made notes on the conversation I would need to have with some agent at Anagrafe.  Ok, I was ready. I thought.  I even knew what hours on which days of the week the Anagrafe is open. I marched myself down there, prepared to take a number and queue up in a line for however long it took. I just needed to get this done.

To my great surprise, when I arrived I was the only one in the whole of the Anagragfe office.  I took my number, and still had to wait.  Another lesson in Italian government for you-- there is always, ALWAYS a line, and you will wait. Even if you are the only one there. So I waited patiently.   It was only about 5 minutes waiting, but it seemed like an eternity. It was just enough time for my stomach to begin to tie in nots and the nerves to set in. My number comes up on the big electronic board in front of me announcing which sportello (counter) I am to report to. I walked over and took up my place. Let the nastiness begin, I thought to myself.

I made pleasantries with the gentleman behind the big plexiglass divider, and announced I needed a new Carta d'Identita.  He looked at my document and said "No, it's not expired, you have years left".  I proceeded to exlain I needed it to have my Venetian address on it. He appeared to understand.  He did not ask for any of my documentation. He took my current carta, did some typing on his computer,  and requested I verify my current address. Then, he asked for the three photos which I was prepared for.  I handed over my photos.  He printed a bunch of papers, stapled a bunch of stuff together, then did the ritual stamping of the official stamps with great vigor (that's another thing Italians love to do- stamp the crap out of everything).

I handed over the fee- 59 cents- and he handed me my new Carta.  Well, what do you know! All the Italian lessons and hours of studying are paying off, these visits are becoming less painful.  I stowed my new Carta in my wallet and was about to leave when I realized I hadn't taken  back my old Carta.  I stepped  to the plexiglass divider once more, and asked the clerk for my old Carta d'Identita.

"No", he said.  What???  I wanted that Carta. I am not sure I can even describe to you how important that card is to me. It's symbolic of one of the most important events of my lifetime. It means I am finally Italian. I did not want to part with it, no matter what.  And how was I going to explain that to this man???

Somehow, I did manage to get my meaning across to him, because he cracked a smile, and proceeded to do something I am sure he doesn't do very often.  He pulled my file back out of his stack, unstapled my old carta from the form, and walked over to his copy machine.  He made a copy of my old Carta, then returned to his desk and re-stapled everything back toether.  He handed me the copy, smiled, and announced that with my new Carta, I am Venetian.  Oh, how I wish.   But, on a brighter note, I will be getting those discounts in the churches from now on.


Anonymous said...

This is good news, I am very pleased for you.

Michelle said...

Congratulations my Venetian friend!!!
And Happy New Year to you and Mike.

Rob C said...

Yeh! Congratulations on becoming just a little bit more Venetian!

I'm posting this from the comfort of my own sofa, back in E14, no more Venice for me this year!

Rob :-(

Anonymous said...

When I saw that there have not been any comments for several days, I assumed that everyone is off "doing their thing" and not checking in. I could not allow you to be ignored.
I enjoy all your entries very much and think you are an enormously talented writer. Have you thought of publishing your pieces in book form? Jeff Cotton (Fictional Cities blog) is doing just that, incorporating his entries on Venice and self-publishing.
Now that you have overcome a lot of obstacles, not to say adversity, in your goal of moving to Venice, settling in and becoming quasi-Venetian, I hope you will not stop posting your experiences. It is always enjoyable to discover a new entry.
We stopped going to Venice in December 2009 after more than 40 years. All good things come to an end. We "lived" in the Giudecca so were able to hang on to the realness of Venice longer than in other sestieri.
I admire your faith and optimism in finding an authentic Venetian life.
Perhaps you will branch out beyond Venice, as we did, and visit other places in the Veneto (but it was always wonderful to come back to the centro storico after an outing). One of our favorite jaunts was going to the Prosecco country around Asolo, visiting wineries and enjoying the beautiful countryside. We developed an interest in these outings because of the madness of Venice on Saturdays and Sundays.
Here's wishing you and Mike a wonderful year ahead full of good fortune, good health and everything else you hope for.

Marisa said...

Ciao Karen
Congratulations! What a wonderful story! I felt like I was there with you in the waiting room and I could hear the stamping! It is so true everything that you recounted. Your story reminds me of the book "Italian Neighbors" by Tim Parks. It was written awhile back but it is all about experiences like yours. He is from England and married a woman from Verona. He lives in Italy and has written many fictional novels. "Italian Neighbors" is based on experiences from his life in Italy. It's a great read and for any one who has spent time in Italy beyond the tourist experience, you will say many times while reading, "this is sooooooo true! only in Italy!" He also wrote the follow-up "An Italian Education" based on his life in Italy raising a family. These books are filled with happenings of Italian life. I would love to be a resident of Italy someday. I have an "only in Italy" story for you. On my last trip to Venice in Sept. I went to the local mini market. I grabbed my few items and walked into line to pay. I was the third one in line. In front of me speaking to the cashier was an older woman in her 70s who was beautifully made up and dressed. You could tell she took pride in her appearance (as like most italians do). She was explaining to the cashier how disappointed she was that she couldn't find her usual make-up. She went on to ask the cashier if she thought the one she chose was a good a match. Now, let me remind you, there is only one cashier and now there was a person in back of me waiting to pay. The cashier, maybe 20 years old, opened the make-up, tested it and declared that it was not a good choice. She walked from behind the counter and went to pick out another kind, returned to the counter, opened the package, tested the make-up for the woman (who praised her for her choice) and then finally started to ring up the items. I stood there smiling at this scene and said to myself, "only in Italy." I was amazed that no one in line complained about the wait. It was wonderful. I could only imagin the scene in the States. First off no cashier I have ever encountered would take that much time to help a customer. Lately, I barely get a thank you when I pay. Second, people in line would have asked to open another register or would have commented on the wait. Although there are many things in Italy that are headaches or inconvenient, the customer service is fantastic. It is always refreshing to go shopping. I have never entered an italian shop with out a clerk saying buon giorno and never left without hearing grazie. The workers really respect the consumer. Finally, to get to the end of the story, the clerk went on to tell the woman that she was getting a better bargin and that she qualified for a shopping bag that had wheels and a handle! She then went on chatting while she opened the bag and put the woman's items in. The woman was so happy and complimented the lovely bag and told the clerk what wonderful help she was and the both of them exchanged many good-byes. By the way, everyone in line agreed with the woman what a lovely bag it was. She had included us in the conversation. Unfortunately with the amount I spent I did not qualify for one of the bags. The clerk apologized. Off I went and out on the sidewalk I saw the woman happily telling a friend about her new shopping bag. I smiled and nodded and said (in italian of couse) signora, what a lovely bag, you will be able to do a lot of shopping today. She agreed immediately with a smile and bid me a bella giornata. I walked back to my hotel thnking, I love this country. I hope this story was not too long winded. It is just one of the many wonderful daily experiences that I have encountered while in Italy. I wish more people in the States would slow down and be more polite to each other and take the time and effort to show a bit more kindness to each other in everyday encounters.
Buon anno Karen!
A presto

jane said...

Buon Anno - Happy New Year to you both from Sunny Adelaide Australia - 41 degrees today

Elizabeth said...

Whew, that was a close one!

Dianne said...


I had to grin about your expectations that you would wait and wait for your carta d'identita'. And what a lovely surprise that you did not have to wait long. K love your Italian stories. Please keep them coming. They bring many bright spots into my day!