It’s been a while since I did a good old Italian paper chase. I should have realised I was overdue for one.This morning I failed even to reach first base, but I did get to see a part of the city I haven’t been to in years.
To begin at the beginning: Mr F and I reside here under different sets of rules. I, as a citizen of the European Community, have permanent residence, a tax identity and some voting rights. My husband, an American citizen, has something called a Carta di Soggiorno, a dog-eared document made from cheap cardboard which entitles him to, er, stay here and keep his mouth shut.
His Carta is due for renewal in December and as bureacracy in Italy moves too slow for the human eye we decided to get started on the process. Everyone said how much easier the process has become since we first arrived here. Now you just go to a designated post office, fill in a bunch of forms, sacrifice four pigeons or one small goat to the god of rubber stamps and, Bob’s your uncle.
Mr F brought the forms home and I began studying them. That was when I took the trouble to examine his current Carta more closely than I’d ever bothered before. And that was when I discovered that he had been issued with a permit for an EU citizen, inside which he is described as a US citizen. A true bureaucratic chimera.
First I went to the Anagrafe, an office at City Hall that registers official documents and one of the few faces of officialdom manned by pleasant, helpful people.
‘Take it way,’ they cried, as though I’d handed them a hand grenade without its pin. ‘It’s a monstrous aberration, the handiwork of the devil. You must go to Questura.’
Believe me, the Q word is the last thing you want to hear. The Questura at Marghera is a bus ride away, a place of long, hopeless lines and windows that slam shut just as your turn comes up. But there is a small office of the State Police in the city and that was my next port of call. You have to talk to an armed officer before they’ll buzz you in. So I told him my story while he fingered his firearm and moved the gum around inside his mouth. He leaned forward.
‘Signora,’ he said.’Such things can happen. But only in Italy.’
I said, ‘What’s the answer?’
He said, ‘There is no answer.’
I said, ‘What should we do?’
‘Boh!’ he said. ‘You must go to Marghera. Obviously.’
Exit small, tired woman, whimpering.