Living in Florence Living in Florence

Not too stressful at the questura

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

After returning from the US, I've been putting off going to the questura (police station) to renew our permessi di soggiorno (permits to stay). I don't like procrastinating, but I had a hard time feeling enthusiastic about going to the questura. The anxiety of what could go wrong is high, and being in a stuffy room with hundreds of people is also not a bonus.

I had heard that they were going to allow for renewals to be filed at La Posta (the post office), but when I went to ask the question the other day, the man just snickered. I asked him, "L'informazione Ŕ sbagliata o sarebbe una possibilitÓ?" (Is the information incorrect or could it be a possibility?) He said, "Fra quello che il governo vuole fare e quello che si pu˛ fare, c'Ŕ una bella differenza." (Between what the government wants to do and what we can do, there is a big difference.) I was hopeful that this year I wouldn't have to go to the questura, but there was no way out of it.

For the first time ever, I didn't go a day or week earlier to make sure I had everything I needed. I know that the information line is long with usually ten to fifteen people deep and five to seven people wide. Besides, once you get to the front of the line, you have to squat to talk to the agente di polizia (police agent) behind the Plexiglas window to talk to her. And, at least once in the morning, she'll come out from behind the window and yell at everyone. Today, it was so that the people in line would back up.

My friend Sara went yesterday to pick up a permesso di soggiorno for a man who is staying in Florence, so I asked her if she could get me some information, but she told me that the information window was already closed by the time she got there. I told her that they used to post the information on the main window outside in the hall, but they seemed to have taken it down. I'm guessing because the information was usually incorrect. They also used to have the moduli (forms) to fill out available for anyone to take as well, but now you have to go to the information counter to get them.

This morning, we called a taxi to pick us up and take us there because I get too stressed out about going that I need to relax a little before arriving. After I placed Dave in line, I popped back outside to get a marca da bollo (revenue stamp) at the tabaccheria (tobacco shop) for each of us to pay for our renewal applications.

While I was outside, a guy walked raced toward me and asked, "Scusa ma dove si fa le fotocopie?" (Excuse me, but where do we do photocopies?) I told him to turn left at the next street and the shop is on the right. I know the area around the questura quite well because I've had to do it all: get photos taken, get photocopies done, and buy the marche da bollo.

I walked back inside and realized that I couldn't get the moduli in any other way then to get them at the information desk. After the agente yelled at everyone in line, I felt a little skeptical about asking her for the moduli I needed. I looked back at one point and noticed that the agente behind the window wasn't there, but one woman was standing in front of the window waiting for her. I inched my way in front of her and said, "Scusa ma posso prendere qualche modulo per favore?" (Excuse me, but can I take a few forms please?) She didn't seem too happy about my intrusion, but I didn't want to wait in that line just to get a modulo.

I tried to only get two, but because I was a little scared that I was going to get caught with my hand in the window helping myself to the moduli, I ended up taking a small stack of about eight or so and quickly walked away.

The woman at the front of our sportello (window) came out a little before 9:30AM (which is when they close) and asked who was at the end of the line. I told her it was me and she asked me for my passport. A girl arrived a few minutes later and stood behind me. I told her that the agente had already come out to get my passport to define the end of the line. She seemed disappointed and a little stressed too, so I offered to let her go before me although it was a tough decision because I didn't want to wait any longer. But, because I know what a pain it is to get to the questura and how much mental anguish can be involved with coming here, I let her stand in front of me.

When it was our turn to go, the agente rattled off a document name and we presented it to him. After a long silence, he handed us our receipts and said, "Tornate fra due mesi." (Come back in two months).

Usually the wait is only one month, but I guess things have either gotten backed up or there are more requests these days. Because they'll be closed on Christmas, which is when two months is up, the agente said to come back in January.

Leaving the questura by 11AM was almost surreal because I usually plan on being there all morning. The questura feels like such a stressful place and even though so far things have gone rather smoothly for us, I'm always a little anxious about going there. I must admit that it should be quite easy when I go to pick up our permessi di soggiorno and yet I'm not looking forward to it already.

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