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

Friday, December 19, 2008

Life in Venice- Filing for Residency - part 3

When the doorbell rang at 8 am yesterday morning, we were very startled to find out it was an inspector from the Anagrafe office to do Mike's residency inspection. We had expected to receive a phone call prior to the visit, but we had not yet gotten that call. I had about 10 minutes before I had to leave to catch the bus for the airport, so this actually would work out just fine. And- we were happy to just have this inspection be done with.

It was a different inspector than the man who had come the week prior for my residency inspection. This man sat down at the dining room table, asked a few questions, requested to see my Carta d'Identita, and was done. He played with Leopold, our corgi for a minute, then told us that in one week from that date we could go to the Anagrafe office to pick up the Certificato di Residenza. Bing, bang, boom, finito! The waiting on the residency inspection is maddening, and then the actual inspection is nothing. I think in our case the wait was prolonged only due to this man's illness ( we had been told by the Anagrafe office that the person who inspects in our area of Santa Croce was very ill and had been hospitalized). We' know of another person who had his inspection in 3 days time. As with everything else government related, we've learned to just have patience.

We are delighted to have this phase completed. This means that once we have the Certificato in our hands ( Mike and I will pick each of ours up at the same time next week), we will be able to then have our permanent Tessera Sanitaria cards issued. We were only given temporary Tessera cards until we could produce the residence certificates. This means another trip to another government office, but we're getting good at it!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Life in Venice - A little bit of holiday spirit- Venetian style

This being our first Christmas here, we've been eager to see how the holiday is celebrated. We've noticed that decorations are not "in-your-face" as they are in the USA. Shops are just now beginning to have some Christmas color in their windows, but nothing over the top. We've seen a few homes with twinkling lights on their balconies, and yesterday I found this Babbo Natale. I found myself with a huge grin on my face, wondering what he might be bringing the children at this apartment this year!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Life in Venice- Filing for Residency - part 2

Ok, I'll admit it, I'd been procrastinating on calling this Signore Bovo to ask about when we'll get a residency visit from him. I can only take Italian beauocracy in small doses... spread out, if possible. The gods smiled down on me this time though! Out of the blue 2 days ago Signore Bovo called me!!! And... even better, I was able to understand that he planned to come the next morning "domani mattina", if that was ok. Si, Si, Si !!!

Yesterday, at about 10 am, the doorbell rings and there stands our Signore Bovo. He's in high water boots, a heavy coat and wool cap. The visit didn't take more than 15 minutes, which I sort of expected. He had a form with him, from which he asked questions and noted my responses. I was able to understand and respond to him, and only had to ask him to speak "Piano, piano" once. His questions were things like " Do you own or rent the apartment ?" , " Where did you live before this ?" , "What kind of work do you do ?", and "Who else lives here with you ?". I got through all of those with flying colors.. ..must mean my ramped up Italian studies in the last month have sunk in a bit.

I asked if he also had a form for my husband's residency, he said that he would be returning another day to do that one. He had been sick, and had a list of names he needed to catch up with. I presumed he was going through them in the order in which they applied. at the Anagrafe office. That's ok, we'll take one step at a time. I know he'll be calling the day before he comes, and that he will return in the next week or so. I'm learning patience here.

Progress made. Now, I will have to wait a bit before making a trip to the Anagrafe office to have them print out a Certificate of Residence for me. Then we are done with Anagrafe,- Basta. At least until we move from here, and that not be for at least another 12 months.

Life in Venice - Filing for Residency in Venice

When I was going through the process of obtaining my dual citizenship, I had to obtain residency in Castel San Pietro Terme. Once I became a citizen, I then had to do a similar process here in Venice. I received my citizenship papers on Oct 30, and made my first trip to the Anagrafe office at the Rialto on Nov 3. I prepared for this trip, knowing I would be going it alone, without the aid of any of my immigration lawyer's assistants this time. Pouring over my Italian dictionary I made sure I knew what to ask for before I went in.

Registering your residence is something totally foreign to an American. In the U.S., you can move anywhere you want, every day if you wanted, and never have to register where you lived with any authorities. Here you must register with the city government, and they must validate that you in fact live where you say you live. I think it has more to do with whether you receive any benefits from the city, such as National Health Insurance.

So, I went to where I thought the office was, and was redirected by a nice woman there to another building down the street and around the corner. Once I was inside the Anagrafe office, I easily found the correct counter ( sportello) where I should register my residence in Venice. I managed to make myself understood to the girl behind the glass barrier, and she got started by handing me a long form to fill out. She had to go find another person to help in the dialogue at one point, but I knew when I saw her print out this really huge form that we had been successful. It was the same huge form I saw being used in Castel San Pietro Terme . The woman handed me a printed letter, which she stamped a few times and signed. The Italians LOVE To stamp documents. This indicated that I have applied for residency. The next step is that someone from the Comune comes to the apartment to inspect and ask you questions.

From my experience in Castel San Pietro Terme, I knew the police have 20 days to come do this inspection. In fact, when I went through this before, they came on the 8th day. I began looking for someone to come visit me in Venice, but the days ticked on, and no inspection. This wasn't looking good. It meant I would have to make a return trip to the Anagrafe office.

About 2 weeks after this, we did go back to the Anagrafe office, this time to do the same registration for my husband Michael, who had just received his Carta di Soggiorno. The process went a bit smoother because I had already been through it, and we walked out of the Anagrafe office with another letter, duly stamped and signed, and had been told that someone will come to the apartment.

On Dec 2, I made another trip to the Anagrafe office to ask what the status of our apartment inspection was, as no one had come yet. First, I studied up on , learning the correct sentences to say before I went. This was getting a bit easier.. and I was very happy that the woman in the Anagrafe office actually understood what I was asking!! I had to ask her to speak slowly to me, but I, in turn, understood most of what she was saying in response.

She made a few phone calls, and finally turned to me and said she was sorry, but the man who does the inspections for Santa Croce, where we live, had been in the hospital. She didn't know when he would be able to come, and gave me his name and phone number. Basically, I was supposed to handle everything else on my own.

I went home happy, on the one hand, that I was able to navigate this whole episode with the Italian government on my own little ability to speak and understand the language. On the other hand, I was not looking forward to having to deal with someone over the phone who I knew would not know one word of English when I faltered. I needed a few days rest before I tackled this call!

Life in Venice - A reminder of better weather.....

We're having lots of rain, cold, and Aqua Alta here this week. Winter is upon us!!!! It's snowing alot to the north of here too. As I was browsing pictures last nite I came across this one taken in late September. For me it's a great reminder of some perfect days.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I think I've died and gone to Cannoli heaven

I'm a cannoli addict, I won't deny it, always have been for as long as I can remember. I've done the cannoli tasting of every pastry shop in Venice. Rizzo Pane over on Strada Nuova in Cannaregio makes my favorite. That is--- until I had some of these bad boys at the pastry booth in the Christmas market. I will not be able to resist these. I just know I'll be finding excuses to go have cannoli's every day.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Life in Venice - The Christmas Market 2008

For as many years as we have been coming to Venice, this is our first December.There are so many things we've been looking forward to, especially the Christmas market in Campo San Stefano we had heard so much about.

The market opened up on November 29, and will remain open every day until December 23, from 10:30 am till 7:30 pm. I watched them setting up the market during the days just prior to November 29, which was enough to really whet my appetite for the real deal when it opened up. I've been through it three times already, and I am sure I will find excuse after excuse to be back there many more days before the end of this month.

This is the entrance to the Christmas Market as you enter Campo San Stefano coming from the Accademia Bridge. It looks as if you have stepped into a little winter village up in the mountains with all these little alpine huts!

Each hut is filled with with delightful surprises...Christmas ornaments, gifts, jewelry, wines, cheeses, candies, meat...

The smells coming from this little shop is just too heavenly. I must go buy one of these citrus hanging things.

Meats and cheeses from various areas of Italy are mouthwatering to taste.. and take home!

If you are in town during December, here'a link to more information about what's going on every day at the market: http://www.nataleinlaguna.com/
Buon Natale!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Aqua Alta today right outside our window

The sirens went off about 6:45 am today! Last time, it was at Level One, indicating water about 110 Cm. Today it was a Level Three warning- about 20 cm higher! By mid morning, the sirens went off again, with an update to the highest level. Normally when there is high water, we don't see anything in our neighborhood.. but today is a whole new ball game. We have very high water here... even several inches into the foyer !
I've just seen people go by that have soaking wet pants as high up at their rear ends. We'll be going out to buy hip waders!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mike's Carta di Soggiorno

Now that I am finally a dual citizen, Mike is eligible for a Carta di Soggiorno. This Carta is for people who are allowed to stay in Italy indefinitely, such as anyone married to an Italian citizen. The card is good for 5 years and can be renewed after that. Once you have the Carta di Soggiorno you are then eligible to sign up for the National Health service. I will have to blog about that experience as well.

We knew we had to go to the Questura to apply for the Carta, but weren't sure of exactly what kind of documentation was required. To be absolutely sure we were following the correct procedure, we made an appointment at the Immigration office here in Venice.

The man at the Immigration office provided us with a list of documents we'd need to produce:

--My Carta d'Identita
--My certificate of Residence here in Venice
--Our new Italian marriage certificate
--Mike's US Passport
--Bank statements indicating we had sufficient means of support
--A declaration made by me indicating Mike was my husband and that the purpose of the request for the Carta was to keep the family together ( this declaration was a form provided by the Immigration office)
--4 photos

With the required documents in hand, we set off for the Questura in Marghera. We don't live far from Piazzale Roma, so that was an easy walk to the bus station. We knew which bus we needed ( the 6/, same one we take to go to the Panorama), but needed to have the bus driver point out the correct bus stop to get there. The driver called out the stop, and we, along with about 15 other people, got off the bus. Fortunately for us someone in the line had obviously been to the Questura before, so we were able to follow them as they made their way in and out of a few streets.

It was 8am and raining. Already there was a long line waiting at the Questura. Well, not quite a line, more like a mass of people. There's an unusual procedure to get people into the place-- you wait in this first line, until 8:30. At 8:30, they open the gate, and people begin pushing like crazy to get into the next line. I've never seen anything like it. It was as if none of these people had any concept of personal space. And we were all in a line which was only going one place. Even if we all had 6 inches to ourselves ,it wouldn't have amounted to any difference in the time it took to proceed in the line until we got to the front.

After making our way to the front of the line, it's your turn to talk to the man at the intake window. He reviews your documents, determines if you have the correct items, and hands you a number. This number determines your position in the next queue. Then you go inside the Questura and wait until your number is called. We got in the building at 9 am, and it took until almost noon for us to have our number called.

Our number was 34, in the yellow queue. There were several other queues, all different color codes. While sitting in the waiting room, a little boy about 5 years old ,who was sitting a few seats from mine, threw up. If that were my child, I would have made a mad dash for outside, or the rest room. I was horrified that his parents didn't move a muscle. And they only cleaned the mess up after someone else nearby yelled at them to do it. I felt sorry for the man sitting next to me. He obviously couldn't take that, he had to hide his eyes and turn away. Oh,the joys of waiting at the Questura!

When it was our turn, we were interviewed by a guy behind a counter. He took all our documents, and also asked for the Permission to Stay document Mike had gotten when he first arrived in Venice. That's the one you must get within your first 8 days here. Fortunately I had that in my folder also, cause I would not have wanted to make a return trip. I think we were in there with this man about 10 minutes. He stamped alot of papers, stapled Mike's photos to them, and told us to go 2 doors down to the Fingerprint office. That 10 minutes was pretty incredible, as we were seeing wait times of up to half hour for each person going into that office. Wow, this was almost too easy!

At the Fingerprint office, we waited in another line. This took forever also, but only because everyone working in that office went out for a cigarette break for about 20 minutes. Once they came back from the break, things proceeded quickly. Finally we were done. I looked at my watch as we boarded the bus back to Venice and it was almost 1:30.

If you need to go to the Questura, I highly recommend you get all your documents in order before you go, and be prepared to sit for a long time. Next time I will bring a book. And yes, there will be a next time. Mike was granted a temporary Carta. He must return in 3 months to pick up his permanent one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

San Martino Day

We started seeing horse cookies in the windows of all the bakeries here a few days before November 11th, which is San Martino day. We knew very little about what the day was all about, so I had to go look it up. Here's what I found......

In the 4th century, Saint Martin met a starving, freezing beggar at the gates of the city of Amiens. He cut his cloak in two with his sword and gave half to the man. For that reason, Martin is a saint associated with the poor. It is also said that at the moment he tore his cloak, the sun came out and that is why an Indian summer here is known as an estate di san Martino.The 11th November is the festa of this favourite saint and traditionally the day when the novello [new] wine is opened.

Here in Venice, on San Martino day, we saw children parading in the streets in small groups with their parents. They all had red capes on, and wore paper crowns. It looked like they had some art project in school that day to make their crowns. All the children carried pots, pans and wooden spoons, and as they went along they banged on the pots and all sang a song. Our favorite was a little boy who had the lids of two pots he was using as cymbals! The children stop in at all the shops to collect candies- a little like Halloween in the U.S.

Here's a group of red caped crusaders stopping in at Tonolo- a local bakery near Campo San Pantalon:

This cookie is about 2 feet tall.. WOW!!!

Each horse cookie was a sight to behold, one more beautifully decorated than the next.

I've never seen cookies quite like these before. I'm already looking forward to San Martino next year!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Life in Venice- Transportation Strike on Monday, November 10

I just read that all transportation in Italy will be on strike on Monday... buses, trains, and in Venice, I think that means Vaporettos also. Just a forewarning if anyone is planning to use those on Monday. Plan instead to get creative! Here in Venice, that just means expect to walk!!!!

Happy Monday-- gotta love the Italian strikes. Thankfully they typically last only the one day, as is reported will be the case this time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Living the dream- Get out and Vote!!!!!!

I have a personal rule to avoid politics and religion as topics of discussion. It's just easier that way. That rule has been harder to follow during the current Presidential campaign in the US. However, I am making a small exception this year with this blog.

Everyone in Europe wants to know what you think about the election, and they all have very strong opinions. It's been a very interesting campaign to observe from my new vantage point across the Atlantic. I've been able to keep up with daily events via news on the internet, even the Saturday Night Live skits in the last few weeks!! Yes, I even know who "Joe the Plumber" is.
(Hmm... that could be a blog topic....)

I could go on and on and on about my personal choice for President, but I won't. What I will do instead is urge everyone who has stumbled across my blog today to get out and Vote on the 4th.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life in Venice - Aqua Alta on November 1

Yesterday at about 9am we heard a loud siren. At the first blast, I knew right away what it was.. the signal that high water was coming. I listened for more... there were 3 additional blasts... 4 in all. From what I had read, that meant significantly high water.

Oh boy.... we'd been coming to Venice for 6 years now, and had never heard the sirens. How exciting!! We quickly made plans to go to St. Mark's Square to see what it would be like. Unfortunately, neither of us had anything we could wear on our feet that would handle water higher than in inch or two. I had snow boots, however, they had zippers up the side, and water would slosh right in, I thought. Our first mission was go out and find Wellingtons!

There's a little shop not far from our apartment that sells them, so Mike ran over. They were closed for All Saint's Day ( Nov 1). Next stop was Campo Santa Margharita to see if any shops there had boots. Mike came home with a pair of green Wellingtons, for 17 Euros, and the news that the calle between San Barnaba and Santa Margharita was flooded. Also, he suggested I get Wellingtons as well. We both got ready, grabbed our cameras, and headed to San Barnaba.

By the time I got to the boot shop, the women who run it had figured out they had a little bonanza going on and raised the prices to 25 Euros. There were no green Wellingtons left in my size, nor any black ones, so here is what I came away with. Now I was all ready!!! ( I love them, btw!)

Water was definitely up in San Barnaba, but we were anxious to see what was going on in St. Mark's Square. It's the lowest point in the city, so usually gets the highest water.
As we entered San Marco from the molo, the water was up over the edge of the canal. We couldn't wait to see what was going on just around the corner!

The duckboards were set up just as you enter St. Mark's and snaked around through the Piazza. Here the water was about 2 inches above my ankles. With boots on, I waded right in.

A little water doesn't stop anyone here...... there's always time to stop at one of the cafe's in the square to enjoy people watching!!!

And here's a couple who found a way to traverse the high water!

Mike's new Wellingtons getting their first workout!

In the center of the square, the water was much higher... about 8-10 inches! All of the street vendors were selling these plastic boots in assorted bright colors. Here's a blue family!!! What a sight! All over town we saw remnants of these boots in trash bins as the water began to receed.

And this man gets my award for most creative solution of the day... multi colored plastic bags duct taped around his ankles! Perfetto!!

Dual Italian Citizenship - It's Official, I did it!!!!

Here it is--- I received my dual Italian citizenship official documents.!! Now it's time for that happy dance!!

Finally, after many many long months and a very arduous journey, I have my brand new Italian Carta d'Identita in my hot little hands! It's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.. the Holy Grail!!! To all of you who have been reading my blog and sending emails , many thanks for all the support. And to Mary, my dear dear friend in San Francisco, you have been a beacon of light along the way. We've been able to laugh together through the darkest moments. I cannot wait until your journey is also completed- we'll be lighting up the skies with fireworks for both of us!

It took about 5 months to receive the fax back from the Italian consulate in the U.S. indicating that they had no record of my ever having renounced Italian citizenship. I have no idea why it took so long for this little one line of faxed information, but , it was a major hold up. Being past that hurdle, I thought it would only be a matter of a week or two to complete the rest of the process. Ha, ha! The fax from the U.S. was received in the Comune on September 1. It's taken 2 more months to register my documents in Italy. Luigi, my immigration lawyer here in Italy would email me every few days saying "Any day now!".

And- finally, "Any day" arrived. I received a letter from the Comune indicating they had completed everything and it was time for me to come in person to sign papers and pick up my Carta d'Identita. Luigi confirmed everything was in order, and we made plans for me to take the train to Castel San Pietro Terme on Thurday, October 29. The big day!

I should have known from the way the day started out that it was going to be one of those days. At 3am that morning, we were woken up by incredible rain storms. We ran around to batten down the hatches and put down old towels, as rain was spilling in under the two back doors of the apartment. All I could think of was how miserable the walk to the train station was going to be at 6am in this kind of rainstorm. Fortunately for me, by 5:30 am the rain stopped.

The train from Venice to Bologna went off with out a hitch, but the connection to Castel San Pietro was delayed 20 minutes. That wasn't too bad. I was able to call Luigi's assistant Daniella, who was waiting for me there and let her know. When the train arrived in Castel San Pietro though, I discovered there was no way to get into town. There was no bus running at least for another hour, and no taxi cabs in sight. Fortunately, Daniella offered to come pick me up. She found me easily--- it's a very small waiting room at the train station and I must have looked like the only American! Danielle has been tasked with helping me obtain all the documents I need today, and submit my passport application.

Things are looking up- but only momentarily. First stop is the Anagrafe office, where we discover the city is without electricity, they will not be able to print out any documents. We must wait. Daniella and I go to the Tabacchi shop to buy the marco bollo I will need later for my passport application, however they too are with out power and cannot sell anything. They tell us to try the Post Office. We go to the post office-- same thing. No power, they cannot work. Just as we are leaving the Post Office, the power returns, so we can do part of the necessary paper work we need to do there. This step of the Passport process costs 47 Euros. We return to the Tabacchi, they have power also, we hand over 46 Euros and change for the marcobollo. Ok.. so we're making progress.

Back at the Anagrafe office, power has also been restored. The girl there is beginning to print out the papers that I need to sign for the Carta d'Identita and Certificate of Citizenship. It is then that I discover all my documents have been done in my maiden name! Ey Caramba!!!!! I was completely taken by surprise, I expected my married name would be used. The women in the Anagrafe office tell me this is the Italian law, and if I want to be Italian, it has to be this way. By the looks on their faces, I could tell that they meant business. Daniella makes a quick call to Luigi, who apologizes for not telling me this would be the case, and says I have to have it this way. I wanted to put my foot down and insist on my married name, but it was quickly becoming obvious that would never happen. I needed this done now, I decided to go with whatever the Italians wanted to do.

I signed a few copies of the Certificate of Citizenship, and in a minutes time my brand new Carta d'Identita was in my hand. I wanted to jump up and down and shout with joy right there in that office. The girl in charge there gave me another document which includes my Certificate of Residency and we are off to the next office- Status Civilie, to collect an official copy of my new Italian birth and marriage certificates. Just as we open the door to leave the Anagrafe office, the power goes out again!!!! This just cannot be happening today of all days!

The Status Civile office is just around the corner, and fortunately the power was only down a second. Getting the birth certificate was easy, but the marriage certificate threw a monkey wrench into everything. The girl in this office could find my marriage certificate data in her computer system, but was getting an error message every time she attempted to print it. She called out the Direttore, the woman I had met 8 months earlier, on my first trip to the Comune. She looked in this huge book, found something, and had a look over the shoulder of the girl at the screen on her computer workstation. Ah... that must be it.. we want the certificate of the second marriage., and voila, the certificate is printed out! Mission accomplished. As we are gathering up our belongings, this girl looks at me and asks " Why do you want to be Italian??? We all want to be American!". Oh, the answer is easy-- I'm living my dream !!!

By now, the Questura is closed, so Daniella and I take a cab into Bologna to the Questura there to submit my passport application. The traffic jam in Bologna is unbelievable, but aside from that, the passport submission went very smoothly. I should have my passport in about 10 days. I was able to catch a train back to Venice and be home by dinner time.

Finally, finally, finally, I have been recognized as an Italian citizen. Every bit of this has been absolutely worth it. Yes, we are doing the happy dance!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Living the dream - Festa del Redentore

Every year on the third weekend in July, Venetians commemorate surviving the Plague of the mid-1500's by staging a very big celebration. The celebration has been the same ever since the first one held way back when the Redentore Church was completed. A pontoon bridge across the Giudecca canal is put in place, linking the Zattere on the edge of Dorsoduro to Guidecca Island, ending right at the steps of the Redentore church. This church was built as a thank you for ending the plague.

There is plenty of excitement building up to the beginning of this Festa. We walked down to the Zattere on Friday nite, and could see that bright yellow lanterns had been strung along the street on both sides of the canals, and the cafes and restaurants were colorfully decorated. There was even a live musical group at one of the cafĂ©’s on the waterfront. Then we walked down to where the pontoon bridge was, and could see that the center portion still had to be moved into place on Saturday.

The bridge opens up at 7pm on Saturday, so people can make their pilgrimage across to the Redentore. Venetians in boats get into position in the lagoon between St. Marks and this makeshift bridge, waiting to partake in the festivities. We had done our research and knew that the fireworks would begin at 11:30 pm, and we wanted to get there early enough, but not too early. At about 7pm we could hear crowds of people moving past our house, which is not far from Piazzale Roma. Clearly people were arriving from outside the city, making their way to Guidecca for the night’s partying. We got ourselves ready and headed out the door around 8pm to join the crowd as well. Everyone around us was carrying bags of food and we noticed several also had green plants wrapped in clear cellophane and red ribbons. We were eager to get there to experience this special festival for ourselves this year.

I can’t remember seeing this many people in one place. The throng of people moving across the pontoon bridge was incredible- I grabbed out to Mike so not to loose sight of him. It was orderly—but crowed! Luckily we were able to stop a few places along the bridge to take pictures. There were hundreds of boats already rafted up in the lagoon – complete with loads of people already partying! It reminded me of 4th of July celebrations in the U.S.

We made our way across the bridge, and went into the church. Mass is said here over the weekend and people come to pray for the health of their families and friends. I joined in, and also lit a candle before leaving. Outside, there were booths set up selling food, drinks and candy and balloons. Mike and I found a place to sit right on the steps of the Redentore church, which at the time seemed like an excellent vantage point for fireworks viewing.

The crowds continued to arrive across the bridge, moving to the left and the right as they set foot on Guidecca Island. The Carabineri were milling about, so were another branch of police in white shirts, I think they might have been Navy personnel, and we also saw some volunteer firemen- and women. About 11:15 these various police units shut down traffic on the bridge. And at 11:30, right about on schedule, the fireworks began! Unfortunately, our position on the steps didn’t turn out to be the optimum for seeing fireworks, so we had to get up and move down into the crowds and watch standing up. The Italians have an incredible talent for fireworks- this display was one of the best I have ever seen. Sadly my photos don't do it justice.

Fireworks over, the police re-opened the bridge and we became part of the masses walking back over to Dorsoduro to get home. We watched boats start to disperse, some heading home, the rest heading over to the Lido where they will all gather for a breakfast at 6am, part of the traditional celebration. Maybe next year we’ll find a way to be out there on a boat.

On Sunday, there are boat regattas for several classes of rowing boats, including one for gondolas. At 7pm Sunday night, the Patriarch of Venice says a special mass at The Redentore church, and that concludes the weekend festivities.

Dual Italian Citizenship-- the Acceptance letter has arrived!

I have been purposely quiet on the status of my dual Italian citizenship for months now-- for several reasons. The biggest is that I just didn't want to jinx anything!!!! It's been a long and windy road--- with many ridiculous twists we didn't ever plan on.

So here we are, 7 months since I began the process in Castel San Pietro Terme. I was told the whole thing would take 2-3 months, tops. In a previous blog I even started a happy dance when my Immigration lawyer told me the final information needed from the Italian consulate in the US had been received. Turns out what he meant to tell me is that the request for information had been SENT, not received. Following that, there was a 4 month wait for the Consulate to respond with the correct letter. That happy dance was premature, unfortunately.

More waiting, more waiting, more waiting. Since the beginning of September there have been many emails telling me "Any day now", and my patience has been wearing very thin. And, all this week I have heard "Any day now" every day. I honestly was beginning to give up hope. I'd been lighting candles every day here... I needed some divine intervention!!!

Last night at 6pm I received a phone call from Isabella, one of the girls who went through the residency with me in Castel San Pietro Terme. She had news that two letters arrived for me yesterday from the Comune. Of course, I had her tear into them ASAP. The first letter informed me that my citizenship process had been completed, and I could go to the Comune to receive my Carte d'Identitie.!!!! Oh happy day!!! This letter is going to be framed for sure!!! The second letter contained a request for me to bring my Codice Fiscale information with me to the Comune so that they could get a new one issued for me which will indicate I am an Italian, not a foreigner.

It took quite awhile for this news to sink in last nite. I did it!!!! What an amazing process!!!! The dual citizenship has finally been completed!!!!

So.....although I do not yet have the precious Carta d'Identita in my hot little hands, and have yet to do the application for my Italian Passport, I have the letter from the Comune which tells me I'm in!!!

We're beginning the preparations for the celebration!!! I need to figure out what day next week I can get out to Castel San Pietro Terme to collect my Carta d'Identita and submit the application for my Italian passaporto, and when I return to Venice the party will begin in earnest. I plan to be dancing on a few tables!!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Living the dream- My Grocery Cart

Living in Venice requires a bit more stalwart spirit than I have been used to…. Or, perhaps I should just say I have had to learn to be much less spoiled. Yes, I wanted, craved the simpler life, and now I have it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining one bit. Merely explaining how I have had to adapt, and in doing so, give up some of life’s little conveniences.

In the US, I would happily hop in my car to go a few blocks to the grocery store, load up the trunk of my car then drive back home. Once home, I’d commence on the “unloading” process- hauling all those blue, white or tan plastic bags, ( most with torn handles) from the car into the house. Yes, this was modern convenience, and I did love it. Was I spoiled—God, yes. There was a grocery store less than a 5 minute walk from me, but the only tim I ever dared walk was in the winter when the roads were bad and I needed some milk desperately!

That being said, you can see by looking at my grocery cart that I am a changed woman. When we were visitors in Venice over the last 6 years, I would see people hauling their grocery carts off to the market, and I would actually wish I could go buy one for myself. Having arrived in January of this year for permanent occupation, one of the few items on my list to acquire (we’re in a furnished apartment, so didn’t need much) was a grocery cart of our very own!

We went a couple of weeks without one, carrying the bags back from the COOP or the Punta over the bridges between the shops and our place. Then one day we actually bought more than just a couple of bags worth of stuff, and it became clear it was time to find our grocery cart. I shopped around- I didn’t need the 100 Euro variety- I’m really not a top-of-the-line kind of girl. I’m way too frugal for that. My requirements were simple: not gaudy, sturdy enough, decent wheels, lightweight, and I had a price range in mind.

Our grocery cart has a place of honor near the front door now. It goes to the market down the street, it goes on the Vaporetto to the Rialto markets with us, and it even goes on the bus to the Panorama when we do a bigger shopping trip. For me, it’s way more than just a grocery cart, it’s a symbol which represents to me that we really live here now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Living the dream- 4 am on Rio Cazziola - part two

I have to say, as annoyed as I have been at being woken at 4am every morning by screaming seagulls, I would never have discovered something else going on here on Rio Cazziola at that hour of the morning if it weren’t for the birds.

I’m not sure why I do this, but since I am awake, I get up out of the bed and go open the back door. The dogs usually run down the back steps into the garden, and I wait for them. That’s how I discovered another early activity here on our canal. There on the back steps I am catching the whiff of some wonderful smells. What can this be? OH MY--- the Panifico just across the bridge and two doors down is baking bread here just across from my back door! Yes, that is what this heavenly smell is.

The scent of freshly baking bread is intoxicating. Every morning between 4-5 am I am treated to one of life’s simple pleasures, the smell of fresh bread floating across the canal and right through my open windows. This might just be the perfect way to start the day. A little early for me, but the trade off seems worth it.

Tops on the con list for keeping the shutters wide open is the luscious smell of fresh bread. There is no dilemma here, the cons win. I tolerate the birds, and waking up early. The birds stop squawking after 10 minutes, and I am left with such a special treat.

We are living the dream here! Not only have we found ourselves dropped into a little slice of paradise right here on the corner of our two canals, we are also blessed with the heavenly smells of fresh bread every day.

Life is good.

Living the dream - 4 am on Rio Cazziola

When it’s not absolutely sweltering, we throw open the windows here in the apartment, day and night. I’m not sure how other Italians manage, because they button up their homes every night tight as a drum. Shutters get closed every evening.

I had my doubts about closing the shutters at first, but now I can see the pros and con’s of it.
I’ve spent several early mornings awake pondering those specifics. I am awake because the windows were wide open, and the seagulls start up their morning racket every day at 4am.

The first time I heard them, I thought someone was being murdered on the street. There was awful, awful screaming. Bloodcurdling noises, actually. I went from window to window seeking the source of the ruckus, and discovered there were seagulls circling a huge tree in our neighbor’s yard at a furious pace, making those screams as they went. It’s their wake up call, it seems, because it is an every morning ritual. I wish they could find something a bit more quiet... an alarm clock perhaps!

I hadn’t heard it before because the windows had been closed all through winter and early spring. That explains it. The next day I tried closing the shutters when I went to bed, and I was not jolted out of my bed at 4am. I didn’t hear a thing. Hmmm--- maybe my Italian neighbors knew something I didn’t, and that’s why they are bolted shut every night.

So now the first item on my Pro list for keeping the windows shuttered every night is “Drown out the seagull nonsense”.

Unfortunately, the top of my Con list contains a much more compelling reason for keeping the windows wide open!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Living the dream- 8 special nuns in Venice

I’ve had other visits from new friends who have found me via my blog besides the ones mentioned in my last entry. Today’s blog is all about a particularly special group of ladies who sought me out when they were planning their first trip to Venice not long ago.

Their email came quite unexpectedly- I opened my inbox to find a lovely letter written by a woman from Amityville, New York who explains that she has been following my adventures in Italy for a few months now, would be in Venice soon and wanted to meet me while she was here. She and a group of her friends will be staying only 2 nights then on to Florence. And she also tells me her name is Sister Patricia, and she is traveling with 7 other friends, also nuns.

I knew immediately that I wanted to meet them as well. There was no way I could let this opportunity pass me by! Sister Pat and I emailed back and forth a few times to work out meeting arrangements. I couldn’t have been more excited at the prospect of meeting this bunch! During our conversations, another interesting fact came to light- the nuns had booked rooms in a convent house here in Venice, Casa Carburlotti, which turns out is located just around the corner from my apartment. It even appears, from the house address at least, that this convent house is on the other side of my garden wall.

Is this coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe things happen and that the people you cross paths with during your life time do so for a reason- something I understood more completely after having read The Celestine Prophesy. I’m meant to meet these eight women from New York, of that I am certain. And how intriguing that of all the places they could have chosen to stay in Venice, Italy, they will be right over my garden wall? I’m thinking there is a divine hand at work here, it isn’t just the Internet Gods at play.

I’ve felt that divine hand several other times since I started this wild notion of mine to move to Italy. I’m not a particularly religious person either. I believe, but I don’t expend any energy towards it. I don’t go to church, but was loosely raised as a Catholic. When I decided I wanted to move to Italy and started putting the wheels in motion, things really moved in the right direction for me. Like I said, I felt that divine hand on my shoulders several times. So now, when 8 Sisters from Amityville, New York are scheduled to arrive in Venice with plans to visit me, I’m definitely thinking this is not a coincidence. I don’t know why our paths will cross, I’m sure I will discover that in time.

On the appointed meeting day, I only had to walk a couple of minutes from our apartment over to Piazzale Roma to meet the bus coming from Marco Polo airport where will I gather up 3 of the nuns. The other 5 arrived on a different flight about 2 hours earlier and had made their own way to Casa Carburlotti via water taxi. We never had any discussions about how we would recognize each other – it just happened. Three women got off the bus and went towards the luggage bin, I looked at one and asked “Sister Pat?”, and sure enough.. it was her. Pat and I shared a big hug, I met Sisters Ginny and Judy, we collected their stuff, and set off to meet the rest of their group.

It took a little bit of doing to locate the right address for Casa Carburlotti. Typical Venice- the house numbering system here in Venice is pretty mysterious. Where 315 should have been, it wasn’t. There was 505 instead. How could the numbers go from 314 to 505, and what happened to the houses in between?? We looked up and noticed a nun in long black habit waving at us from way down the street. That must be it. Maybe we had the house number wrong? I’m familiar with this street, I walk it almost every day. Sure enough, at the end of the street is Casa Carburlotti, at number 315!!! Definitely a case of odd house numbering! Sister Olympia, one of the local nuns in residence, led our 3 nuns to their rooms where we met up with the other 5- Sisters Peggy, Diane, Gerry, Kathy and Eva.

After briefly settling in, I walked them all over to Campo Santa Margharita where I left them to have some dinner. The next morning I picked them up and we made our way first to the train station to procure their train tickets to Florence for the next day, and then we took vaporetto #1 to the Rialto market. We weren’t there 2 minutes when the skies opened up and let loose. We were soaked! What a rough morning for sight seeing. I left the nuns to tour St. Marks on their own in the afternoon, with a plan to meet up for dinner later.

My husband Michael joined us all for a nice dinner at a local place we love, Trattoria alle Burchielle near Tre Ponti. It was good food, good wine, great fun with special new friends. Thanks to Sister Peggy’s parents, gelato for all was dessert. We hated for the night to end, as we were learning so much about these wonderful women and having so much fun!

The next morning I ran over to Casa Carburlotti to say goodbye before the Sisters left Venice. I teased them that I needed them to start working on some prayers to help my house in Baltimore get sold!

The house is still unsold, ladies!!!!

Just in case you are reading - many thanks to my special friends Sisters Pat, Ginny, Kathy, Peggy, Diane, Judy , Gerry and Eva for giving up so much of your precious vacation time in Venice to come find me! Come back soon!

Clearly, I don’t attribute this new connection to the Internet Gods entirely. Somehow I think there are other forces at work, and I am sending an appropriate special thank you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Living the dream - meeting new friends!

I have had a successful professional career in the Information Technology field for many years. Ha, let me re-state that- many, MANY years! And in the course of those years, I’ve had to keep up with and learn all the new technologies. Of all those new technologies, it’s the internet that has changed the course of my life the most, I believe. I say that because of the people the internet has brought into my life. Strangers one day, friends the next- all because of an email or a blog entry. From all walks of life, from all over the globe. How amazing is that!

If you have been reading my blog, you are aware that my quest for dual Italian citizenship opened some interesting doors. If it weren’t for the internet, I would not have found and met Luigi Paiano and his office full of wonderful colleagues who are helping me navigate the tangled bureaucracy here in Italy. But I have blogged about Luigi already. The focus of this blog is on the others who have found me along the vast super highway of the internet.

It’s one thing to read a blog, and then it’s quite another to pick up the electronic pen and send a response off to the writer, because something they have written has ignited a spark for you somehow. On a rare occasion, I have been known to contact someone because of their blog entry. I write a blog, but honestly, I do that for myself. I worry that someday in my crotchety old age, I won’t remember some of the events that are changing the course of my life right now. That’s really the purpose of my blog. I want to be able to re-read the journey… to remind myself when I can’t remember on my own! I never in a million years expect that anyone else is reading along with me.

What I want to focus on here is that statement I just made.. I never in a million years expect that anyone else is reading along with me. Wow. I get emails all the time now from people all over the United States who share my Italian heritage, and are either in the process of their own quest for the dual citizenship or are thinking about doing it. We have an instant bond.. it’s our mother, or our grandmother, father, maybe great-grand father. All these Italians who have come before us link us, like a new little extended family. We have lots to talk about, this email family of mine. Where are they in the process, how is it going, where is their family from in Italy, have they been here yet? We compare notes. We commiserate. We hopefully will one day all celebrate our successes in finally obtaining that elusive Carte d’Identitie which signifies we made it!

So what is even more awesome than the fact that I now have a group of new friends via email who have found me because of my blog is that in the last two weeks I have met two of these compatriots face to face right here in Venice, Italy! Yes, right here, just around the corner from me!

One of them has come to begin his own incredible journey to obtain his Italian citizenship. Alan and I have been corresponding for a few months now on and off, discussing some of the unbelieveable roadblocks I’ve encountered along the way. I knew Alan planned to be here during the summer but I didn’t know exactly when. A few weeks ago I got a phone call on my Italian telephonino – he’s arrived! A day or so later, I just happened to look up as I was passing an apartment building not far from us and noticed Alan’s last name on a piece of paper taped to the doorbell there. I stopped--. pointed it out to my husband Mike, and exclaimed, “ I bet this is where Alan’s rented apartment is!” Just around the corner and down the street from us. Wow, really small world!

Alan and his wife Gail invited us to dinner a few days later. On that night, we toasted our hopefully soon Italian citizenship. When Gail told me that reading my blog and the story of my experiences inspired them to come here to pursue Alan’s citizenship also, I was blown away. Literally, blown away. As I said, I never in a million years expected to have anyone read my blog, and here is this woman from the west coast of the United States telling me that my story motivated them to get over here with their own stack of documents to deal with the Italian government. I’m honored, humbled, and very, very grateful. AND- I made new friends!!!

Perhaps even more astounding is that in the same few weeks, another of my email correspondents has arrived in Venice. Mary, also from the US west coast, has already submitted all of her citizenship documents to the San Francisco Italian consulate two years ago and is in wait mode—like so many others of us. She and I have been emailing ever since she stumbled over my blog several months ago. We’ve used email to share our stories, and get to know each other a bit. She also loves Venice! Mary and her daughter were going to be vacationing in Italy, with a first stop in Venice. We’ve been planning a rendezvous here at a lovely little bacaro in Dorsoduro, to share a glass of prosecco and some cicchetti and meet face to face.

Finally the designated meeting day has arrived, I am waiting canal-side in front of our designated meeting spot, and over the bridge come Mary and her daughter Christine. Once again, I am so aware that the world has come to me, all via the internet and my blog, and the courage it took these people to step our of their comfort zone to respond to me with an email. Here’s a new friend! I am lucky beyond belief, aren’t I?

Mary and I shared another fun evening dinner together before she and her daughter continued on to other parts of Italy on their vacation. We’re already back to corresponding via emails, but we’ve added the face to face dimension to the relationship. Perhaps some day Mary will also live here in Venice, but in the meantime, we’ll continue the friendship, using the Internet
to connect.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be meeting new friends the way I have been. Not in my wildest dreams!

Thank you, Internet Gods!!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Life in Venice - new experiences - the bus strike!

I had heard about how strikes happen suddenly in Italy, but I must admit that until you experience one for yourself, you just don't seem to "get" its full impact. I now understand. I “got” the complete whammy recently!

Here's my whole sorry little tale:

I had finally gotten brave, found my sea legs, and ventured out of Venice for my first shopping adventure to Panorama. Panorama, by the way, is in Mestre ( on the main land, as the locals say), and is about as close to a Wal-mart as we're ever going to get over here in Venice. We'd been told by our friends Marco and Alice that Panorama was worth finding, it had good prices on food and other items, and they would deliver your purchases to your door in a day or two. That last little feature is a big incentive for those of us who are without a decent means of hauling packages. Without a car, we are limited by what our little Italian grocery cart can hold and what we can reasonably push/pull behind us in that cart.

Buses to Panorama run frequently from Piazzale Roma, which is fairly convenient to get to from our apartment. I did my research, knew which bus to take, got up and out early, purchased my bus tickets, and was on the bus headed to Panorama at 8am. I wanted to be there when they opened the doors at 8:30 am. Great plan. The bus ride out of Venice happened without a hitch. I was so proud of myself for navigating this on my own. What an adventure! I spent about an hour and a half in Panorama, and also took a few minutes to check out the nearby Benetton shop. Having completed my tasks, I wheeled my little grocery cart over to the waiting area for the bus back to Venice.

The bus is scheduled to run every 15- 20 minutes, or there abouts. I waited, the first scheduled bus didn't arrive. More waiting.. the next two buses I would have expected didn't arrive either. At this point, it is apparent that something is not right. There is one bus in the lot, however. I approach the bus driver of that bus, and in my broken English-Italian I attempt to ask him if he knows when the next bus to Venice will be coming. He understood me. "No bus to Venice today", he says. What??? "No, no bus to Venice today. Strike in Venice. "

How in the world did they let me get OUT of Venice and then go on strike so I couldn't get back??? Just perfect. Now I had to figure out what my options were for finding a way back home. I'm running through some possible solutions in my head when the bus driver tells me that if I get on his bus, he will take me close to the train station in Mestre, and from there I can take the train. That sounded complex, but it could work. I went for it. This bus driver was a god-send. When he got to the point where he was as close to the train station as his route went, he stopped the bus, motioned for me that this was the exit for me, then he got off the bus and pointed out the route to the train station. I love this man! I made the left, then right, then right again that he had shown me, and there, sure enough, was the train station. For about one more Euro, I had a seat on the next train from Mestre to Santa Lucia station in Venice.

Back in Venice, with my grocery cart behind me, I decided not to walk the 10 minutes and several bridges back to our apartment. Instead I got on the vaporetto to Piazzale Roma and would walk from there. At Piazzale Roma, the entire parking lot, which is normally packed full of buses coming and going all day long, was completely empty. Not one bus. Yup, there really was a bus strike going on in Venice. This was so out of the ordinary-- it was surreal to see. How would all the people who arrived in Venice for work by bus this morning find their way home tonight?

I am just thankful that I found a way home . And now i have another Italian experience under my belt. Strikes are common, I had better get used to them.

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?