Friday, September 08, 2006


After you’ve secured a visa allowing you to enter Italy for an extended stay, the next step is to apply at the Questura for the Permesso di Sogiorno, or permit to stay. As we’ve written before, we’re extremely fortunate to live in the province or Terni rather than the province of Perugia. Terni has far fewer people applying for these permits so the lines are shorter, the clerks are nicer and even the parking is relatively easy.

We entered Italy with an elective residency visa. This means exactly what it says: we’re here because we chose to be here…not to work, not to go to school, not because we have family here…just because we want to be here.

In order to secure this visa we had to prove (among other things) that we had sufficient funds so that we wouldn’t be working illegally, that we had health insurance, and that we had a place to live.

The first Permesso was good for one year, and in August of 2004 a woman called us from the Terni questura to ask us if we’d like to have an appointment to renew. Additionally she asked us in English! What a surprise! We couldn’t resist bragging about our good fortune to others who often had to get up before first light so they could stand in line to get a number in order to enter the questura.

The first renewal was good for two years, meaning that this is the month we’re due to renew once again. We waited during August, expecting the phone to ring, expecting to be asked to return to Terni at our convenience, but the call never came. Hmmmmm. Maybe the translator is no longer there…perhaps there weren’t enough non-Italian speakers to justify her job.

We called the Terni questura to make sure that we knew exactly what paperwork we’d need for this renewal. And that’s when things got a little complicated. The questura only accepts phone calls on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12 until 2 p.m. We called at the right time and on the right day, but no one there spoke English. Maybe that translator really is gone. We asked about our renewal, and were told that we had to go to the office in Orvieto. We knew that there was an office in Orvieto but had never been there, preferring to stick with the place we knew.

As happens so often when we start a conversation in Italian, somehow we get flustered, get confused, can’t really put our questions into (Italian) words quickly enough, and before you know it the conversation’s over. We still needed to know what documents we needed, and we also needed to know what days and hours we should apply. In Terni, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays were for applications, while Tuesdays and Thursday were for picking up already completed documents.

After numerous calls with no answer, we finally reached someone in the Terni office again. What documents do we need? “Same as before.” What are the days and hours for Orvieto? “Same as here.” What’s the phone number for the Orvieto office? “You don’t need it, just go there.” No really, what’s the number? “Don’t know, look it up in the phone book.”

Now although it’s great living in this little finger of the Terni province that juts up into the province of Perugia, there are some drawbacks. All of the major cities around us are in the province of Perugia. Most of our goods and services come from the province of Perugia….I’m not exactly how all this works, but that’s the way it is. The phone books we receive are all from Perugia; we don’t even have a Terni phone book, meaning that we can’t just look up the number.

An internet search turns up nothing but a nice looking webpage for the commune of Orvieto, but as far as I can tell, no usable information. I can’t find a phone number anywhere. I do find an email address, and in a desperate moment I send an email, in my best Italian (meaning it probably reads like a retarded, dyslexic six year old wrote it) explaining our situation and asking for a list of required documents as well as the days and hours we should bring them. No response.
By this time Art’s getting nervous. He just wants to drive to Orvieto and get the process started, even if it means a return trip the next day. With help we find out where the questura’s located. Amazingly, it’s by the large and (mostly) free parking lot right at the edge of town….a place we’ve parked many times before. This is definitely a plus, since every time we go to Terni it’s still a struggle to find out way to the questura.

Art wants to go on Monday morning, but of course I disagree. First of all, it’s MONDAY! Monday is bad no matter where you go. Secondly it’s also the first Monday of the month, and whether this makes any difference at the questura I don’t know, but why chance it??? And thirdly, it’s the first full week in September meaning that this is the first week many people are back to work after vacation, so I’d expect things to work slowly at best.

In the end Art obviously wins, since I figure it’s better to be safe, and after all, we’re retired, so what else do we have to do? So on Monday, September 4th, bright and early at 7:30 a.m. we leave for Orvieto. I’ve printed out copies of everything I hope we’ll need: we have our passports as well as photocopies of every page. We have a statement of residency from our commune in San Venanzo. I have bank statements for the last five months showing that we have money deposited there on a regular basis. I have our old Permessi. We each have four small pictures taken in the booth down in Marsciano as well as the bollo, the tax stamp that costs about Є14 each. I also decide to bring a copy of our deed, since the other one is in Terni, and it would be insane to think that the two offices would share information.

We arrive in Orvieto just after eight, park the car, and Art asks a woman where the questura is…or at least that what I thought he asked her. She tells him we need to take the bus into the centro, so we figure they’ve moved the office and walk towards the bus that’s just about to depart.

I tell Art to ask the driver if the bus will go near to the questura before we get on, and Art asks him if the bus goes past the commune. NO! Not the commune, we need to go to the questura I tell him. The bus driver looks at us as if we’re crazy, and points over to the place where we both thought the questura was in the first place. I remind Art that the questura and the commune are NOT the same thing. I was relieved that we hadn’t gotten on the bus and gone in search of the questura…I have a feeling that we’d probably still not be speaking.

So we walk to the questura….and there’s no one there! No one as in…not one person in line! Nobody sleeping on the ground or in their nearby car, no hoards of people pushing against the door, no one crowding the walkway. No one!

We walk up to the door to read the posted hours and see that they’re open every day from 9:30 until 1:00, and one day they even reopen in the afternoon for two hours! And so here we are…first in line, with only an hour and fifteen minutes to wait! Art goes to buy a coffee at the bar and comes back with a copy of the Herald Tribune. At least we’ll have something to read to pass the time.

Eventually another couple shows up around nine, expecting that the questura would open at nine. Another couple arrives a few minutes later, then a group of three people. And when the doors open at 9:30, that’s it…just nine people waiting to go in. On top of that, inside we find that there are TWO windows open. What service!

We tell the woman who waits on us what we need and show her the documents we have. She tells us that we need more copies. We need three copies of some things…one to go with each of our folders and one for the office apparently. She examines everything and tells us that she only needs the first three pages of the house documents I’ve brought, then she tells us that we can go around the corner, past the Chinese restaurant, and make the needed copies. She tells us that while we’re gone she’ll fill out our renewal forms for us. She even smiles!

As we walk to the copy center we wonder: is this still Italy? Has a month’s vacation so relaxed and refreshed this clerk that she now treats people with patience and kindness? Or have we just stumbled into the best questura in all of Italy???

After making the copies we return to the questura. We didn’t have to wait at the copy place, and since the clerk had very kindly noted how many copies of each document she needed, it was a simple procedure. But….we had forgotten to ask the clerk if we should stand in the line again, or if we should just go back inside. The office is quite tiny, and only the people who are being waited on are inside…those waiting must do so outside. (Meaning that we should remember not to go there on a rainy day)

As we’re standing outside wondering what to do, the clerk sticks her head out the door and tells us to come inside. This upsets the five or six people who’re now waiting in line, but she explains that we were there earlier.

We give here all the copies which we’ve now separated in two piles…his and hers. She gives us the forms she’s filled out while we were gone and we each sign. She gives us our receipt…our proof that we’ve applied for our permessi. On the receipts she’s written October 30 as the day we should return to pick up our new permessi, and she’s thoughtfully included the phone number. I tell her that we leave for the United States on the first of November, and she tells us to call to see if they might be ready before the expected date.

And at 10:10 we were in the car, heading home. So much for my theories about Monday being a bad day. So much for our theory that Terni was the best questura in Italy. Ladies and gentleman, we have a new winner!


At 9/09/2006 02:45:00 AM , Blogger Dr Satori said...

I'm reading your blog with great interest. ~ L Murray, Padua

At 9/09/2006 10:29:00 PM , Blogger Bob and Rosemary said...

Hey! I see that you are accepting comments on the blog again! You can see that I am having one of my sleepless nights and I am having fun reading your blog! Your writing is always so entertaining.

Congratulations on getting the Permessi!!! Bravi!

We miss you guys!


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