27 January 2013

LIFE: This is Me

CHIAVARI, Italy - It’s been a week of one step forward and three steps back.  I’ve been trying to accomplish one thing per day, which has turned out to be an unattainable goal. Part of the problem is even after all these years I still don’t know what documents I’m going to need to do something – something that should be relatively simple like registering as a resident of Chiavari.

Chiavari City Hall
Under Italian law everyone legally living in Italy is issued an Identity Card by the town they are living in. Of course if you are here illegally as I was during my first eight years in Italy, you kind of skulk around and pretend you have just arrived and are still within the three month visa period afforded all tourists. In my case, which was pre-European Union days, it meant traveling to the south of France and reentering Italy every three months for a new entry stamp on my passport.  Hello! Here I am again.

But even in my status as ‘clandestina’, I managed to rent two apartments, one in Genova and one in Milan, open a checking account with one of the largest banks in the country, apply for and receive a social security number and a license to do business.  The only two things I could not do was participate in the national health care system and vote.

 Italian Social Security Card
The barrier to my legal status was that I was not employed by an entity, but worked as a freelance writer/translator. It was a simple matter of semantics. Italians, the Italian government in particular, consider ‘freelance’ as the status of being employed by a company but not having a full time, permanent position, and the question they kept asking me was ‘who do you work for’.

How could I say ‘everybody’ and ‘anybody’ who wants my services?  How do you delicately  say that you provide a service that you then offer to the public and if they decide to buy your service you then do whatever they want – linguistically speaking of course.  You can well imagine the challenge of trying to explain that in faltering Italian to a suited and booted Carabineri with an gold exploding hand grenade insignia on his hat and a Baretta automatic pistol strapped to his body with a big white belt.

See the Hand Granade and the White Belt?

 Believe me, it was easier to go to France.

I always knew that I would eventually become a legal resident, I just didn’t know when or how I was going to manage that. But that’s another story for another day.  Sufficient to say that it did happen and now I too am the proud owner of an Italian Identity Card.  I’ve even used it in the United States and had it accepted as ‘official’ identification.  

 Italian Identity Card

I had been putting off the trip to the Anagraphe or Registry Office to register because I thought I had to bring a copy of my rental contract. But on Wednesday I decided to just go and see if I couldn’t register without it. I have my Identity Card from Saronno, so obviously at some point I’ve provided all the necessary documents to register, so how difficult can it be.

It turned out that it wasn’t difficult at all, except the clerk wanted to see my permanent residency papers and my passport. So much for my one thing/one day goal. I had to dig through the pile of unopened boxes to find what he wanted, but I did, and he was happy.

He was particularly enthralled with my passport and took his time going through the pages looking at the images of America and saying, ‘ma, che bello’ – how beautiful America is. He also gave me a document to take to the National Health Service Office so I could choose my primary care physician.  Perfect. He said that a Vigili, a Municipal Police person would come by my apartment to verify that I actually live there, and she did on Saturday morning.  I don’t get that part, but that must be the reason why they don’t ask to see a rental contract.

 Italian Municipal Police

So now I am officially here, I have a new doctor and there is a huge dent in the Things to Do pile on my table.  Now all I have to resolve is the problem with my telephone, find a store that sells kitchen sinks, buy one and have it installed, buy some light fixtures for the apartment and have them installed and finish notifying all those that I have to notify of my change of address, and that’s it – I hope.

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