Posts Tagged ‘Italy’
Obviously Sonia has already found and paid for her dress. She has to make an appointment for a fitting in April, but she wants to see it sooner so she can refresh her memory and buy all the girly accessories that she needs.
The reception is being held at a place called Villa Mantegna in Trecastagni – these guys have a famed bar in Catania, so they’ve a reputation. Plus, Sonia’s aunt and mum have heard good things about Mantegna, so hopefully all will go down well there! We’ve got a few hundred euro on account, and Ignazio and I will split the final bill based on the headcount.
We’ve completed the hand-made invitations. Ignazio is delivering them by ones and twos to his relatives in far-flung and remote corners of Sicily. I need to figure out how much the invites cost us in the end, but that’s the subject for another post.
The bomboniere have been selected, by Cascella on Via Giuffrida, which everyone approves of, and whilst not Caltigirone (of which we found undeniably beautiful pieces with an undeniably high price-tag) it’s very typical of the Sicilian style and equally useful for our Irish guests as well as the Italian ones. We’ve put down a few hundred euro on account and have to pick them up late in April. We’re splitting that bill based on headcount too – Ignazio ordered up 40 more than Sonia and I wanted, plus another 20 sets of the flower-thingie-with-sweets, to give to relatives and friends who don’t make the wedding.
The florist has been hired, Di Fiore in Fiore. As they are friends of Andrea, they gave us a really good price, plus the security of knowing that we can trust them to deliver. Contact details on the website. We went for a minimal classical package, as the church is really small, so too many flowers would overwhelm everything.
I went out yesterday with Sergio and Allessia to find myself a suit. After humming and hawing a bit, I decided on a suit in Albanese, on Corso Italia – the classic Catanese gentlemen’s outfitters. The other on offer was a Burburry, in Papini, another classic Catanese outfitters. That one I liked quite a bit, but it was Burburry, and it was more expensive. So, um, thanks, but no thanks. I left a few hundred on account with Albanese and have to go back next Saturday for fitting and paying half, then have to pick it up before the wedding and pay the rest.
So now I have to buy shoes, 1 pair, black. Had a look today in Portalis and didn’t find anything I liked, only one shop had anything remotely decent, and they had plastic soles. Um. No thanks.
I did however find some lovely watches for gifts… but that’s another blog too Speaking of watches, Ignazio is insisting on buying me a watch for the wedding, which is traditional here. Insisting, I say, but I’m not protesting too much And that’s another blog – sorry, but I can’t write everything in this blog, can I???
So all in all, I’m nearly done with the wedding prep.
Except that I also have to buy cufflinks in steel, silver or white gold.
And a belt, black, leather. And that’s it…
Oh yeah, rings. Gold. Two. Must get down to DiStefanos again. Um, I think that’s it.
Oops, almost forgot to organise the B&B for the family. Jeez, I’m not nearly done at all! Aiuuuuuuto!
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So anyone who hasn’t realised, Sonia and I are getting married.
That’s the good news. The bad news is now I have to deal with Italian bureaucracy. After two years of successfully (largely) avoiding the organs of State, this is anything but a pleasant experience. For the most part. Yes, there are exceptions, generally speaking the actual clerks and officials are quite nice, but it’s the process that’s long, painful, tedious, and stressful. Especially for Sonia, as she’s having to take care of most of it. Oh the pleasures of being a non-citizen!
Firstly there’s the issue with the Nulla Osta. Italy requires this for non-citizens. Just to make sure I’m not already married in 18 different places. I’m not sure why they care, but they do.
Getting the Nulla Osta isn’t particularly hard, one just downloads the form, sends it off with €20, and the lovely people at the Department of Foreign Affairs take care of everything. Thanks Peggy!
I’ve already written about how extremely lucky we were to find a notaio who actually knew what the law was and what he was doing, and didn’t even charge us for it. It’s Sicilians like him who rescue the reputation of the island, when I’ve had a day full of people blocking paths and behaving badly. So again, thanks to Notaio Vigneri.
So off went the Nulla Osta application, and off went Sonia to talk to her parish priest, Padre Longitano, who promptly informed her that we were already late and he needed the Nulla Osta immediately. Bit of a communication lapse there, because the Irish embassy in Rome issue Nulla Osta one month in advance of the wedding, but usually the Italian guys need it 3 months in advance. I guess most Irish people get married in the Irish collegiate in Rome and thus have an expedited process or something.
Anyway a call to the Embassy soon sorted it out – I sent off the required email, asking them to hurry the process along and send it directly to me (instead of the priest). We even got a call-back confirming all the details before they printed it out and sent it. Great stuff – Sonia remains very impressed with the speed and professionalism of Irish bureaucrats! I said “I told you so!” and left it at that.
Anyway next stop, Padre Longitano again, who took all the forms (my long-form birth certificate, the Nulla Osta, the certificate from the Pre-Marriage course, an inspection of my passport and €10) and gave us two notices to hand out, one for the local priest where I live, and the other for the Commune.
The local priest was a doddle (the church is in fact a donated villa and very plush too, thank you…) and the Commune wasn’t much harder, despite this bitch who asked Sonia questions and them promptly jumped the queue. Anyway once I’d satisfied the clerks that I understood Italian, and that Co. Roscommon and Co. Galway were proper places of residence (here they use the city or commune) they where happy to proceed. And they promptly found that Galway was already registered on their system as a place of residence, as apparently there’s another Irish bloke here in Catania that married a Sicilian girl. Wow, I’m not all that unique so??
So now we have to go back to both the local church and the Commune on March 10th, get receipts to say that they’ve published the notices for the required two Sundays, and we can go to Padre Longitano and he’ll give us something to take to the Curia. And then on April 26th we can attend the Commune with witnesses to do the civil ceremony, and that’s that.
Except for the big white wedding of course.
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Wow, it’s been a bit of a pause – sorry to all my fans who must be very dissapointed that I haven’t written anything – all 2 of you Hi Mom!
Writing today to complain a bit more about Italian bureaucracy, namely the process of getting a passport. Sonia doesn’t have one, not being necessary until now. An Italian can get about Europe quite easily with the national identity card. So paying out €86 for a passport, and going through all the hassle, just isn’t worth it.
My big bug bear – having to buy a stamp for €40 in the tobacco shop, and then having to go to the post office to pay another €44. So that’s two seperate payments for a passport. And why isn’t in one single payment? Who the hell knows. That’s Italy, babe.
For anyone who want’s to know, to get a passport in Italy you need to get yourself down to the Commissioner for Public Security (or, if there isn’t one near you, the Carabinieri) and get the form, then you’ll need two 4x4cm photos (full face & shoulders as per usual), the stamp from the tobbaccio, a receipt from the post-office, and 10 days or so of waiting. Easy enough, really.
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One of the perils of living in Italy is the endless beaurocracy. The lines. Taking a number and waiting your turn. The paperwork. The forms. The lines. The correct way of doing things, and the quick way (if you know the right people).
Getting married, of course, is no different. One of the many forms I have to produce is the Nulla Osta, saying that I’m free to get married (not already being married to some other unlucky lass). Which is easy enough, I just download the form from the Department of Foreign Affairs at home. I even have the name of the extremely helpful lady in the department who looks after these things (here’s a shoutout to Peggy Dingley!). There is a catch though. Of course there is!
The form comes with a statutory declaration, which needs to be authenticated. In Italy that means a Notaio. But does it? Sonia had her doubts. So I called up the Embassy and got a call back from another helpful lady (what is it about Irish civil servants and helpfulness? Are they insane? They clearly went to a different orientation class than their Italian counterparts!) who explained that an Italian notary is perfectly acceptable. Except…
“Most of them won’t do it because the form is in English”
And in fact we called up a local notary who refused point-blank to authenticate anything in English. The secretary did however point us to a notary in Catania city centre who might help.
So Sonia and I went along one rainy evening to Via Carcaci and ended up in front of the very same crumbling palace where recently we’d been to a food exhibition. Deja Vu! In fact I’d noticed a sign for a notary public there and thought “jeez, that guy must be around for decades!” and had visions of an ancient guy behind a huge desk, with towers of dusty paperwork files all over the place, like a film noir.
Anyway the office of Notaio Vigneri were nothing like what I’d imagined. After waiting an age for the secretary to finish on the phone, she informed us that the notaio would authenticate a foreign-language document, that we should complete it and return when we were done. So Sonia (clever Sonia) asked “So if we complete it now, could Notaio Vigneri look at it today?” Of course he could! After another short wait we were introduced to Notaio Vigneri, a very distinguished looking gent about 60, who readily agreed and thus we were escorted to a beautiful library filled with at least 20 years of bound records.
Meanwhile I started thinking “Hang on, how much is this gonna cost?” I was thinking €50, or maybe €60. Sonia laughed. She was thinking in the hundreds. Hundreds of euro for a signature?? I coulda got a plane to Dublin! I should have gotten a plane to Dublin! Damn.
Notaio Vigneri took us into his office, a big room full of dark antique furniture and a massive desk. Not a dusty pile of paper in sight. He read the document and fill out his part and give it to another secretary to type up. As he went out of the room, this second secretary asked me to look at what she had typed to make sure it was ok. I gave it the once over and scratched out a line (“or has been identified to me by ___ who is personally known to me”), but Sonia admonished me “No, he left that in, so leave it alone!” Oh, ok.
When Notaio Vigneri returned, he scrutinised the secretary’s handiwork – and scratched out the same line! Then he corrected a few spelling mistakes – in English mind you – and grammer errors. The secretary looked at me with daggers in her eyes! Sonia died trying not to laugh – the poor secretary was probably hoping that I would save her from public embarrassment, and I’d failed completely. Oh well.
So the corrected document arrived, got stamped, got signed, all done, thank you. Notaio Vigneri talked to us briefly about why I was in Sicily, work or what? I pointed at Sonia and said “For her” and Sonia melted. I mentioned that the Embassy had said it might be difficult to get a notaio to authorise the document, and he explained an old law meant that Notai could only authorise documents in Italian, but that had been repealed several years ago and now a notaio is allowed to authorise documents in any language, but most notai are still reluctant to do so for various reasons.
After all that, we were again at the reception desk and asked the secretary for the bill. The Notaio popped out of his office in a flash.
“Oh no, I said you could go.” Sonia didn’t quite understand so he went on; “Nothing. Congratulations for your wedding!”
Sonia insisted on paying but he refused. I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I shook his hand, said “Grazie, Notaio”, and scarpered.
Afterwards we spoke to Sergio who confirmed that for something like this, a Notaio could ask for up to €500.
So here’s a big thanks to Notaio Vignere, Via Caraci, Catania. If you need a helpful notaio in Catania who speaks excellent English, we’re recommending him. Because sometimes, when I’m tired of being the stupid foreigner that everyone rips off at every turn, someone like Notaio Vigneri reminds me that the average Sicilian has a huge heart, just like my Sonia.
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Spending a lot of time trying to get the olives in before the roads become impassible. For reasons beyond my ken, Ignazio didn’t get around to organising it for November, the usual time, so now it’s already the New Year and the harvest still isn’t finished.
I’ve been riding shotgun with Sergio up and down the mountains, and one of the things I’m learning is that it’s amazing how little I knew about 4WD vehicles. Starting with “what do 4L and 4H mean anyway?”
For example, it’s incredible how far one can get in 2WD. I always naturally assumed that as soon as one got off the paved road, we’d switch straightaway to 4WD, but that’s not the case at all.
For one thing, 4WD drinks diesel, and even though it’s quite cheap right now, saving fuel is always a good thing.
So Sergio gets quite far on the unpaved road before switching. Somedays, he gets all the way to the farm, before throwing in 4H to make the last 50 meters offroad. Yesterday, for instance, he climbed a good few hundred meters before the hard track became washed out, and only then did he kick in 4H. He made another few kilometers like that until the wheels started slipping in deep mud, and then he switched down to 4L.
Of course, he could have switched to 4L beforehand, but 4L is designed for Low Speed, as a means of getting all the engine power to the wheels without losing traction, so it’d take forever to get anywhere. Thus he uses 4H (4WD-High Speed) to get power to all 4 wheels without loosing the speed.
As soon as we got out of the deep mud, he switched right back to 4H again.
Today, he had to kick in the 4H as soon as we got off the road, because the laste few days have seen a lot of rain. We had one hairy moment when we got stuck trying to get over a rocky bump on the edge of a mud-hole, but changing to 4L and backing up a few meters got us enough momemtum and traction to climb over it.
The next thing I learned is that after crawling through deep mud, when one gets back to the main road, one has to clean the sticky, clinging mud off the brake disks, axle bearings etc. and even then, the bloody fourbie vibrates like crazy because the weight of the mud is throwing the drive train out of balance (or something).
Still, I think I looked cool in my mucky combats cleaning the mud out of the wheels of a filthy 4×4. I looked like I was on a trip across Africa, or something. Or else I just looked very silly.
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So after all that, getting a codice fiscale proved to as easy as something-very-easy-but-tedious-all-the-same.
What you need is to find the Uffizio di Entrata, literally the “Office of Entry”, part of the Finance Ministry, because this is where you get to enter into the Italian system. In Catania there was a “pre-information desk” where a helpful lady gave me the correct form to fill in and pointed me to the photocopier to knock off a copy of my passport.
The form proved easy to fill out, and after waiting almost two hours for my number to come up, we presented ourselves to an extremely nice lady who chattered about Ireland, foreigners in Italy, how sweet Sonia is, and about 10 other topics which had nothing to do with getting a codice-fiscale (if she engaged in similar wandering conversations with every applicant, that explains the long waiting times!). At the end of which, she gave me a print-out with my codice on it!
Wow, that was easy.
Sonia demands that I admit that it was easier than it was in Dublin, where she was actually subjected to some fairly probing questions about why she was in Ireland, which I forgot about when I wrote that post last week.
So here goes – it’s easier in Italy to get a codice fiscale than it is getting a PPS Number in Ireland – as long as you can find the correct office!
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After two years in Sicily, I finally decided to use the opportunity afforded by moving to Catania to sort myself out document-wise with the Italian authorities. ‘Cos I don’t work here in Sicily, I don’t pay tax, don’t need a bank account, etc. etc. I don’t claim social security, I have my own (Irish) health insurance, so there’s nothing I need from the state, and thus there’s no reason to deal with it.
Except for driving. OK, it’s a pain not driving here, because Sonia or her sister have to do all the driving, and it’s about time I got behind the wheel, but for that I need a licence, and for that, obviously, I need to be resident.
So here we are in Catania, need to get sorted anyway for getting married, so let’s sort out this residency thing once and for all, how hard can it be, I’m Irish.
So I pop down to the commune this morning before work – except that the commune won’t be open until 10:00 because they did pest control the place on Friday, left it locked up all weekend, and now the stench of the pesticides has made the offices unbearable. So they’ve opened all the windows and put back opening-hour until 10am.
OK, we grab a coffee and wait. And wait. Around rolls 10am. The guy shows up promptly and we’re first in the queue.
The alarms bells start like this – “Oh, he’s Irish… is Ireland in the EU?”
Is Ireland in the EU??? WTF? Uh, yep.
“OK, he’ll need to show €5,000 to prove self-sufficiency and health insurance.”
No problem, I can get that together in no time. So just need a statement from my Irish bank?
“No no, needs to be in an Italian bank – we’re in Italy here you know!”
So I’ll just deposit the money in Sonia’s account.
“No no, needs to be YOUR bank account as you’re not related to her.”
So I need to open an Italian bank account? For which I need a codice fiscale?
“I don’t know.”
No of course not, he doesn’t work in a bank – however, he is presumably Italian and presumably does have a bank account and presumably could say, in general, if in general one needs a codice fiscale for a bank account. But that’s not his “competency” so he won’t offer any opinion on the matter. Lascia stare, as they say.
But I need a codice fiscale for an account. And I need residency to get a codice fiscale?
Again, no opinion.
So here’s the catch-22 – to get residency, I need to have €5k in an Italian bank account in my name, for which I need a codice-fiscale, for which I need residency…
OK, let’s go and talk to the people at the Questura, the police headquarters, who deal with immigration matters.
“He’s Irish? Is Ireland in the EU?”
After reassuring the sceptical cops that Ireland is in fact a fully-paid-up member of the EU, and not some African backwater, they assure me that if I’m in the EU I have the complete right to live wherever the hell I want and stop bothering them, can’t I see that there’s a huge queue of people who actually need to register?
I decide that no-one has a clue what the hell they’re talking about (a common theme in bureaucracies worldwide) and look up the info on the internet.
The EU directive on the right of residence for more than 3 months for “other EU citizins” dictates that one must have valid health insurance and be able to prove self sufficiency, stating expressly that no state is allowed to set a defined amount but much judge each application on it’s merits.
Which the Italians have intepreted as meaning €5,000, because obviously EU law only applies to Italy when it doesn’t let dirty unemployed furriners into the place.
So now that we’ve seen what the rules are, we’re gonna figure out who to circumvent them.
And for your information, when Sonia came to Ireland, the bureaucracy consisted of;
a) going to correct Social Services office
b) waiting 45 minutes
c) filling out a form
d) guy at counter says “Oh you’re Italian? (checks list taped to window) OK for Italy I need to see a carte identita and a codice-fiscale. OK… *photocopy whirr, stamp stamp scribble* all done you’ll get your PPS in about 3 days, max a week, if you don’t get it you can call this number and they’ll tell you what it is over the phone. NEXT!”
And I thought THAT was painful! :*
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I surprised Sonia when I got back from Dublin – with Erika’s help on the Italian, I’ve produced my very first book on Blurb!
I managed to convince her for several seconds that I’d bought a book in Dublin that had a cover image amazingly similiar to the photo of the old lady that Sonia took in San Vito lo Capo, titled Indietro nel tempo; ecco;
She didn’t even realise that the photo on the back was the one she took in Belfast, which unfortunately isn’t in Flickr, but you can see it on the book preview.
And it was only when she opened the book and saw more of her photos that she copped on. What a fantastic reaction. Made all the sweat worthwile.
Of course then she started pointing out my grammer and spelling mistakes in Italian, so we sat down, corrected it, and re-ordered a few more copies! So go to Blurb and buy some!