Dreaming In Italian

Finally some photos

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

I’m just about done with the bureaucracy and certainly tired of complaining about it. Sooner or later it will all be settled and now I’ve got some photos – yeah!  Mostly this is just random stuff that I hope that you find interesting.

A little well organized street art. It says “point for the collection and distribution of used alibis?

Not everyone is as enamored with Italy as I am. There certainly are economic and government issues which I am largely insulated from.

A typical beach scene. This is Pesaro in the Marche region of Italy. I went there just for an overnight stay. Almost all of the beaches are private. Perhaps you can go to this beach if you stay at the hotel that owns this stretch without paying anything but my guess is that you must pay for a “lentino” (little bed) and an “ombrellone” (beach umbrella). I think it costs about 5 or 6 euros a day.

There’s a park near where I live and I happened to notice the name. It was renamed in honor of the victims of the twin tower attack in New York. Like most of these signs it also recounts the story of this park. The space was originally a convent, then a tobacco factory (if I read it correctly), then a building that was bombed during WWII. There’s a parking garage underneath and when they were excavating it they found an Etruscan burial ground.

Wild blueberries were available until recently. Note that the spoon is a demitasse spoon.

Mmmm, wild blueberries on my cereal in the morning. Now they have disappeared so it’s bananas probably until spring. But who knows maybe in the winter there will be blueberries from Chile like in the U.S.

On my way to the dentist this week I decided to walk and took a route through streets that I’ve never seen. I thought that these two buildings were pretty interesting and work a second look. I’d say it must be rather old. Note the horizontal wood beam above the pillars.

The one next door. A pretty small one. They both look pretty old and in need of a little TLC.

A poster on the window of a book shop “libreria”. Roberto says “Be happy! And if at time happiness forgets you, don’t you forget happiness”. (at least that’s the best translation that I can do).

Ooh, the circus is coming to town! They’ve erected this big tent in Piazza Maggiore. Well, it’s not really THAT big but I can hardly wait. I need to find out details. It opens sometime next week.

Well, that’s all for now. I have some ideas for new posts. Maybe I’ll show some pictures of my apartment and environs if there is interest. Also some comments on my experience with the bank, credit card, Amazon and the utility companies. Any requests?

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Benvenuto in Italia (Welcome to Italy)

Friday, October 5th, 2018

Whenever I have some strangeness, at the bank, regarding utilities or the bureaucracy here my friend Lia says “benvenuto in Italia”. She had warned me about this when I was here last spring and, yes, I knew that since I never had contact with the bureaucracy here and never paid bills that it would be more, well, interesting. I’ve already written about some of my first encounters with the legendary Italian bureaucracy but this week I had two particularly “special” encounters. I must, like anyone that is not a European Union resident, apply for a permesso di soggiorno to stay here more than 3 months. So as I’ve written before I did all the right things to make the request for the permesso and was given an appointment date and time (believe it or not) for last Monday, the 1st of October. So I duly showed up at the immigration office at the appointed time to find a room full of people milling around, no instruction posted on the walls and no actual person to provide information. I looked up the word for “corral” in Italian (it’s “recinto”) just so I could tell Italian friends later that we were like cattle milling around in a corral. Since I had an appointment I was optimistic that someone would probably call my name after a bit and I would be taking care of the business for which I came (foolish me). I did notice that people near one side of the corral would get the attention of some police person (this office is part of the police department) and ask for information so I did the same and was told that I was to wait until someone came out and called my name. So after 45 minutes someone came out and asked about who had appointments. I and a few others raised our hands. She came over, found my name on the list and said, “hmmm, yes, here you are, just wait in the line over there with the others. So I did and after about 15 minutes I was handing over documents and having my thumbs and index fingers fingerprinted. Then I was given a sheet of paper saying to go to a different part of the questura (police headquarters) the next morning for an appointment at 10:20 for further fingerprints.

So the next morning I was sure to be on time because I wanted to get this all out of the way and stop by a store and buy something before going to do some volunteer work at the library. What was I thinking? I was like Charlie Brown and the Italian bureaucracy was Lucy with the football. I found the address and from across the street I saw probably 20 people clustered around the door – uh, oh – here we go again. No information on display, nobody official to ask about what to do. Fortunately I heard a couple of students speaking English, one was from Wisconsin and the other from Russia. They said, when the guy comes out to the doorway to call out a name, give him the piece of paper that you received yesterday or else you could be here for hours. So again, the appointment means exactly nothing. Apparently your place in line is determined by when you hand over your appointment paper. After almost an hour and 20 minutes I decided that I needed to be a little furbo. That’s an Italian word that really doesn’t have an adequate translation into English. Basically it means telling a little white lie or whatever is required to turn a situation around. So, the next time the guy popped his head out I said, “Wait, I have an a doctor’s appointment in 15 minutes for my eye and besides I’m a senior and the poster says that seniors have priority.” So he said, “OK, you’re next”. I was done in 5 minutes and made it to my appointment at the library almost on time. When I told this story to some Italian friends they said that I’m definitely becoming more Italian. I’m trying to qualify for my furbizia (perhaps “craftiness” is a good translation) merit badge.

So now the application is in process. All of the paperwork has my residence address, my email address and my phone number. One would think that it would be reasonable for someone to send a message through one of those communication channels to let me know that the permesso was available. Ha, ha,ha. What a foolish thought. I was told that the permesso would be issued sometime within 3 months and I needed to go to a website periodically and check to see if it was ready. Benvenuto in Italia!

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Third week and counting

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

As I wrote in the previous post I was considering joining the SSN (servizio sanitario nationale – Italian health service). Since I’m outside of the european community I have to pay based upon my income. The advantage of that is that it is only based on income and not age as most private insurance is and based upon my research is certainly less expensive. I was pursuing a possibility of a private policy with Marco’s brother but the brother turned out to be quite a flake and never gave me any details about this supposed policy. Time is running short so I went with SSN since I know that will fulfill the health insurance requirement for the permesso di soggiorno. The disadvantage of the SSN is that that one always pays for a “solar” year, i.e. from January 1 to December 31 and it is not prorated. So if I pay now, for instance I pay for a year although the insurance will only be valid for a little over 3 months and that it makes it quite expensive this year but it will cost basically the same next year and will be reasonable.

So I have a piece of paper that shows that I am enrolled in the system. I also have a page attached for my GP (medico di basa) which was selected for me and is quite close to where I live. I hope that he’s good. I asked friends for recommendations, as I would in the U.S., and they all said just get one close to you since they are all good. We’ll see. I plan to go for a visit next week.

The document showing enrollment in the SSN

I also have my new washing machine installed. It’s a nice one since the son of the owner (Lorenzo who lives just upstairs from me) is a sales representative for Whirlpool. The handyman came and installed it last Monday along with another thing that he helped with. Besides the washing machine I didn’t mentioned that the chairs that went with the dining room table were incredibly terrible. They are (well, were) quite uncomfortable and falling apart.

Would you want to sit in this chair? Very uncomfortable.

I knew of a store for used stuff so I went there and found a nice table and 4 chairs and the landlord agreed to pay for them (only 200 euros – cheaper than IKEA) so Monday morning Carlo (the tuttofare “handyman”) met me there with Lorenzo and his little van and moved the chair and table to my house and took the old stuff away.

The new chairs and table. AND the table has leaves, i.e. it’s extendable. One of the chairs is elsewhere.

Things are coming together. There was a microwave on the kitchen counter taking up space better used for food preparation so I found a little stand on Amazon at a reasonable price and bought it. That and a rug to go in the kitchen, a magnetic knife rack and a clock for the living room and I just about have everything organized the way I want it.

The little cart that holds the microwave and a few other items.

The knife rack where the microwave was. A much better arrangement for cooking.

Amazon deliveries are a little more interesting here that they were for me in California. What do you do if you live in an apartment building for an Amazon delivery. Leaving it just outside the door would be insanity because of the likelihood that it would disappear almost immediately. So there have arisen startups here to resolve the problem. There are bars (coffee shops) and tabaccherie (tobacconists) just about everywhere. So these are registered with a startup and for a relatively small fee (3 euros) you can just have a packaged delivered there and they call you to come pick it up. The service is imperfect but seems to work reasonably well and there’s a neighborhood bar very close to where I live.

So life is starting to be more normal. I’ve joined a gym with for an annual membership and started my usual volunteer work at the central library, Biblioteca Salaborsa. And I’ve seen several of my friends; Lia, Liu’, Monica, Marco, Gaudio and Renata, Cesarina and her husband Roberto. I expect to see Paolo, Vincenzo, and Antonella and family before long.

Today I went to a museum of textiles and that will be the subject of another post soon. Stay tuned.


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Oh those forms

Friday, September 14th, 2018

Now that I had submitted my application for the Permesso di Soggiorno I was told that the next step was to register with the city government for a residency document. Everyone who lives must register where they live and provide contact information and the city issues such a document. This is true also for Italians if they change houses or cities. Each neighborhood (which can be a pretty large geographical area) has a separate office where you go to apply for that document. So on the second try I found the place where I was supposed to go. Of course there were forms to fill out but the woman there was quite helpful. It seems that a visa for Elective Residency is quite rare and nobody was sure about what to do about it. But she had a positive attitude and helped with the forms. An interesting thing is that almost whatever you need to do that touches the government in any way requires forms, nothing strange about that, but what seems strange to meet that every form wants to know not only the date of your birth but where you were born. Of course they usually want your codice fiscale (the equivalent of your social security number) but why the heck do they care about your place of birth when you go to pay the fee for garbage collection? Anyway, so after filling out these forms I was now in possession of a copy of the forms declaring residency and the request for permesso di soggiorno and was now prepared to go to enroll my self in the national health service with the acronym of SSN (Sistema Sanitario Nationale). I decided to wait a day and ask friends for doctor recommendation before going to that office so the next morning I went to do my duty to pay the tax for garbage collection. On the way there I received a call from the woman who had helped me fill out the forms for the residency document who said that there was some urgency that I return to her office. But I was at a different government office preparing to do my duty in paying for the garbage. I had made an appointment and had to wait in a line and then was told that I selected the wrong choice when making the appointment and also that I needed to fill out a form. There was absolutely no mention of this on the site of this part of the government. So they gave me another appointment and the form. Then I went back to the office where I applied for the residency document and they said that they had to cancel the stuff that they had given me because with my type of visa I needed to have the permesso di soggiorno first. I did get the feeling that nobody really knew what to do with that kind of visa and rather than get a black mark for making an error it was much safer to just say no. So now, I returned again to the people that helped me in the first place (CGIL). They said not to worry and go ahead and go the office to apply for the health service and take along a copy of the lease for the apartment. If this all seems hard to follow imagine all of the running from place to place all over the city and interacting with bureaucratic officials for days. Some were very nice and helpful and others not so much.

So now it was off the the health service office where a very helpful volunteer looked over my documents and said not to worry then I took a number and waited for about an hour for my number to be called. And lo and behold the woman at CGIL was right. I can enroll in the SSN (remember – national health service). The only drawback is that the enrollment in the health service is always for exactly one year starting January 1st and ending December 31. The service is not free for someone that doesn’t work here and the fee is based upon your income for the prior year. I declared my social security income but it still comes to a tidy sum. It is still less than I paid for medicare and medicare advantage in the U.S. and unlike a private insurance policy there’s no age dependency which is good. Private insurance for an expat can be ridiculously expensive. The brother of a good friend is in the insurance industry here and may find a policy that is less expensive and that I could use to get the permisso and then cancel after the first of the year but the absolutely dead certain option is the SSN so I may just bite the bullet and go for that.

So I’m about done with the nuts and bolts of getting established here. I’ve just about gone through the most important bureaucratic hurdles and the utilities (gas, electricity, water and garbage) are taken care of. I still have the appointment at the questura (police department) for the permesso the first of  October but I think that should go well. We’ll see.

Now I’m spending more energy getting my apartment in order. Oh yes, the washing machine doesn’t work so that will be a starting point for apartment “adjustments” in the next chapter. I’ve also found that I can buy things from Amazon here – of course there are some Italian aspects to that.


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