Sean\’s Sicily

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How much will an English-speaking Notaio charge for a signature?

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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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2 Responses

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  1. […] 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 […]

    • Thank you so much for this information! I am in need of an “AUTHENTICATION OF SIGNATURE BY A NOTARY PUBLIC” for my United States Criminal Records Request. This post has been very helpful, I just hope Notaio Vignere is still there! This is the last document needed for my cittadinanza.

      GRAZIE!

      jill

      October 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm


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