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

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!