About a month ago, I went to request my Italian passport against all my wishes. Not because I have anything against being Italian, but because quite frankly, I don’t want to deal with another public office in this country if I don’t have to. They’re usually disorganized, complicated and unfriendly. I could only imagine how difficult applying for a passport would be.

When I came back from summer vacation in September, I was going through passport control and I gave the officer my American passport along with my Italian identity card, as proof that I’m Italian and have the right to stay here. He asked me for my permesso di soggiorno, which is basically a permit to stay for foreigners who live here. I said, no, look at the identity card, I’m Italian. He then asked for my Italian passport. Don’t have one of those either. Four years here and out of the blue this issue pops up. After a ten hour flight I’m so looking forward to you breaking my balls, so please continue.

He explained that I was technically ‘illegal’ and could only stay in the country 90 days on an American Passport. Yes, but I’M ITALIAN. Do you sir, need a permit to stay in YOUR country? And illegal! Clandestina, he said. If I’m ‘clandestina,’ why am I on the verge of selling myself in viale Zara to pay your GODDAMN TAXES?

I’m sure had I encountered someone else, this wouldn’t have happened. There’s no uniformity to the rules in this country, it’s a simple luck of the draw. When I first came here I needed to open a bank account but at the time I really was illegal. I hit up a few banks and they asked me for a permesso di soggiorno, which I didn’t have. Finally I caught this one guy who opened my account on my ‘word’ that once I got my permit, I’d bring him a copy. It’s how you get things done here. Push (physically, elbows come in handy), and try until someone says yes.

So, I had to get a passport. I made an appointment and read the list of everything I needed. Of course when I called to clarify one of the things on the list, I was told to refer to the website, before the woman who clearly hated her job, abruptly hung up on me. If you don’t get in what you have to say in 7 seconds or less in this country on the phone, you’re screwed. Of course I get there and they hand me a piece of paper that magically includes two items not on the website. So I have to run out, find a place to buy this 70 euro stamp and another place to make photocopies. 9:30 AM and I was already sweating.

I finally get in there with two police officers, who begin processing my application, and as expected, it was a three-ring circus. They made fun of my accent, one asked when he could take me out on a date. One was from Naples and the other from Sicily, which means I understood about 50% of what was going on. I just smiled my way through it as I do with every situation where I don’t understand what the hell is going on. I left there a big laughing idiot.

A week later, I couldn’t believe it, my passport was ready. That does not happen in this country. Not a passport, never. So I went to pick it up and there was my dear friend, making fun of me and hitting on me all at the same time. He told me to stop by some time for a coffee. I thought, yea ok, see ya never.

Now this next part I want you to imagine in an American setting. One Friday night I’m sitting with a friend and I get a text from a random number.

(translated)

“Hi Anna! My friend has a table tonight at Just Cavalli and I was wondering if you wanted to come out with me. I’ll come by and pick you up.”

Hm. Anna is my middle name and I have been known to use it as my Italian alias to avoid any confusion with the name Heather, which Italians have a field day trying to pronounce. Then I click on the picture to see who it is, because this was on Whats app. Some gentleman with greasy slicked back here, on a beach in a speedo and a big gold cross. Really narrows down the pool of men I associate with.

Well low and behold, it was the police officer. He had taken my phone number, meant for official government purposes, and found himself a new little friend. 

Now like I said, I want you to picture this all in an American setting. How fast would somebody call and complain and get this guy in trouble? Ah, but they have not lived in Italy. You do that here, they’ll tell YOU to relax. Which always begs the question, are we too sensitive or are they just inappropriate? I, for one, was not complaining, now way. In fact, had I been home with nothing to do, I would have been putting in my hair extensions for a Friday night out. Hell yea, I love Just Cavalli.

So I’m going to ride this one out, see where it goes. It’s always good to know a police officer. It got me my passport in a week. Not too shabby for this country. I can add him to the lawyer, the accountant and the dentist I’ve made friends with along the way.