Sean\’s Sicily

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Bit of a pause…

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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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Written by seancasaidhe

February 25, 2009 at 1:50 pm

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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Not a total disaster

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Following on from my last post about the murky world of Italian bureaucracy, Sonia went down to the Comune in Catania to ask there – reasonably thinking that they handle more foreigners in Catania than in Gravina, where we are.  And sure enough, while the €5,000-in-an-Italian-bank-account is an unmovable rock, the other “2” in this catch-22 wasn’t – a codice fiscale can be obtained from the Foreigners Office of some vague Italian goverment agency.  So it’s down to them first thing tomorrow morning to see what the story is.

The moral of this story is to not take the word of a single bureaurcrat in the huge system of the Italian state.  Treat Italian bureaucrats like a bad diagnosis – always get a second (and third, and fourth) opnion.

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Written by seancasaidhe

November 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm

It is a disaster!

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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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Smart Car Hating

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Damn I’m starting to really hate Smart Car drivers. You know, in Ireland, it’s a commonly held opinion that BMW drivers are the worst drivers on the road.

Whereas here, in Sicily, it appears that Smart Car drivers are the biggest dickheads on the road, certainly in my experience. Zipping down the emergency lane at high speeds. Insane overtaking on curves, one-lane regional roads, and no-overtaking zones. Overtaking at high speed on the autostrada, only to exit immediately after hard braking. Driving at motorway speeds through residential areas.

Yep, seen all of those. It appears that driving a Smart Car actually makes you dumb. Whereas BMW drivers are all just arrogant wanna-be executives thinking with their dicks.

Written by seancasaidhe

August 9, 2008 at 6:19 am

Jam Biscuits

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Usually when I go into a cafe or bar to get something to eat, I can’t recall the names of the various items on offer. It’s a common problem, I expect. I get by, but a usual conversation might be;

Me: “Two of these please…”
Shop person “What, these sfincione? Anything else?”
Me: “Yes, three of those things..”
Shop person “Cornetti with lemon cream? Ok, anything else?”
Me: “Two of these…”
Shop Person “Grafa with nutella? Is that all?”

so on and so forth. It seems every time I ask for something in any of the myriad sweet things that Sicilians indulge in every day, in any of Palermo’s gazillion bread or sweet shops, it’s got some historically important name and I’m just a stupid foreigner because I don’t know what that name is.

So today I decided to learn something new, and whilst ordering some biscuits with jam on, I asked “Excuse me, but what do you call these?”

And I was met with a blank look; “What, these? You call ’em biscuits with jam!”

I give up.

Written by seancasaidhe

June 5, 2008 at 10:45 am

Mafia on the Mind

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Now the other day I wrote that a friend was involved in an accident and that night had the car burnt out. For me it’s fairly clear – the guy involved is pissed she’s taking action against him, and burnt out her car as a lesson.
Except nothing is ever that simple here in Sicily. The girl lives in a town near Palermo that is heavily controlled by Cosa nostra, and that changes everything.

Take for example Cinisi, the place where Peppino Impastato was born, fought, and killed. He was born into the mafia (father, uncles, all mafiosi for the most part), he fought the mafia all his life (calling the mafia a “mountain of shit” was the least of it), and was killed by the mafia (they beat him to a pulp in a cowshed, stuffed some dynamite in his pockets, took him to a local railway line, and blew him up).

Recently the boss of Cinisi turned, and has showed that the grip on Cinisi is still rock-solid. So that raises a burning question, pardon the pun. Given that her town is under the shadow of Cosa nostra – did her car get burnt with or without the permission of the local men-of-honour?

If not, then that guy is really really stupid, because the mafia really don’t like things to happen in their areas that might bring the attention of the police and provide an excuse for outsiders to stick their noses in.
If he did have permission – then my friend is in a lot more trouble than we thought.

Me personally, I don’t think the local mafia give a flying fck about the whole thing, but then I’m not Sicilian and I don’t understand. Even after a year, I still don’t see the hidden things, and I’ve given up trying, ‘cos I keep twisting myself into knots over what somebody said, what they didn’t say, what might what they said mean, what might what they didn’t say mean, and why didn’t they say it, Why did they say what they said?

To quote Gen McAuliffe in Bastogne – aw nuts!! I’ll just take everything at face value, and more the fool those who think less of me because I’m honest!

Written by seancasaidhe

May 18, 2008 at 5:00 pm