by Melinda Gallo

Long, but good day

Today started out early for us. We got up and left the house at 8:45AM. Our first stop was the Questura to pick up our permessi di soggiorno (permits to stay). We had dropped off our applications back in October, but the wait was two months, and the agente (police officer) told us to come back at the beginning of the new year.

Living in Florence :: Long, but good day

I personally have been dreading to go because I never know what to expect. I always hope things go smoothly, but if I ever think they will, somehow they just don't.

When we arrived, the main room was filled with people sitting down and standing. No one was standing at the sportello (window), so I walked straight to it and waited for the agente to look up at me. Out of nervousness, I blurted out, "Buona sera." (Good evening). I quickly corrected myself, and the agente smiled at me. "Deve aspettare, signora." (You must wait, ma'am.), he said to me and went back to looking through the stack of files in front of him.

We stood against the wall. Everyone else was standing up waiting to be called. I realized while we were waiting that they now don't accept applications at the questura on Fridays, which I didn't know. And, supposedly, with the new system where you can renew your permesso di soggiorno at the Poste Italiane (post office), things have changed dramatically. I overheard the agente tell someone that once you file at the Poste Italiane, you receive a letter in the mail telling you when you can come by to pick up your permesso di soggiorno. I had read about the new system, but we couldn't use it because it didn't begin until December last year. It must be fantastic since the Poste Italiane is a private company instead of a public agency, and is open all day and doesn't have odd hours, like 8 to 10AM.

Things were noticeably different with the information line completely inexistent. It was the first time that I didn't have to struggle my way into the main room to get to the sportello.

After an hour of waiting, we were called. Everyone who came after us were called first. Luckily, we didn't arrive that early, but it seems that you're penalized for arriving too early, as you'd be the last ones to get your permesso di soggiorno.

When I was called to the sportello, the blonde woman greeted me with a smile, something that rarely happens at the Questura. She asked me to sign my new permesso di soggiorno and when she handed it to me said, "Buona giornata." (Have a nice day). I responded, "Altrettanto." (Same to you.) and smiled back.

I couldn't believe that at 9:45AM, we were done and had our new permessi di soggiorno.

I decided, because it was still early, that I should go to ASL (National Healthcare Office) to pay for my annual libretto sanitario (health care card). I hopped in a taxi at Piazza San Marco to go to Borgo Ognissanti where the office is. Most of these public offices seem to only work in the morning and usually, I'm not motivated to go, so I procrastinate a lot.

Last year, for example, I didn't pay my annual fee for the libretto sanitario because by the time I had time to go, my permesso di soggiorno was about to expire and it would've been a waste since my libretto sanitario is only valid for as long as my permesso di soggiorno is.

I arrived at the office and took a number outside the anagrafe sanitaria (health registry office). When my number was called, I walked into the office where a smiling woman was sitting behind a desk. I pulled out my old libretto sanitario and my new permesso di soggiorno. She gave me a photocopy of a modulo (form) that I had to fill out and pay at the Poste.

The closest one was in Piazza Repubblica, so I took the modulo and walked to the Poste. When I arrived, I took a number and filled out the modulo. When I was called, I walked up to the sportello. After the man entered the information into his computer, he said that the codice (code) was incorrect. I explained that that's impossible. How could the National Healthcare system not realize the error after all the years that it's been in existence. I tried to show him the photocopy of the modulo that I got from ASL, but he wouldn't look at it. He told me to go back to ASL to find out.

I walked back to ASL, which is about 10-15 minutes away, and took a number. Fortunately, I saw the same woman, who explained that I wrote the number in the wrong box. They keep changing the modulo and I didn't see the difference. She told me that the man at the Poste Italiane, was sciocco (foolish) because he would've seen my error immediately had he looked at the photocopy. She said many times how sorry she was to ask me to go back, but she couldn't do anything else for me.

On my way back to the Poste, I decided to stop for a cappuccino at Roberto Cavalli's Giacosa Bar. I love this place and anytime I go by, I try to stop in for a drink, dessert, or snack. I stood at the bar drinking my cappuccino on which the chic barista splashed a bit of creamy cioccolato (chocolate) on top.

At the Poste, the man told me that I could come back up to the sportello without waiting. But, when I arrived, I decided to take a number just in case he wasn't there. When I walked into the large room, he wasn't sitting as his desk. I filled out the modulo again and when I finished, I saw him walk back to his desk. I rushed up to his sportello before he could press his button to call another customer. I showed him the modulo and he said that he was sorry to make me go back and forth, but he couldn't do anything for me. The last time he helped someone, they reported him.

I walked back to ASL, took a number, and sat down to wait. While I was waiting, the woman saw me sitting in the hallway, and said, "Ce l'hai fatta?" (Did you get it?). I nodded, smiled at her, and said, "S." without being too loud because she was quite far away and a few of the people in the hallway were talking among themselves.

When my number was called, I went in to see the same woman. I said," buffo. Vengo qui tre volte in un giorno e La vedo ogni volta!" (It's funny. I come here three times in one day and I see you each time!) "Ormai possiamo darci del tu!" (By now, we can use the "tu" form with each other!), she said. She said she was so sorry that I made all these trips, so she said she'd try to be as quick as possible for me. She made a few photocopies of my documents and printed up my new libretto sanitario. When I left, I almost wanted to kiss her because I was so happy that I finally got everything.

By the time I finished, it was already 12:30PM. I had to walk toward Santa Croce for lunch with Dave and a couple of friends. I finally relaxed when we sat down at the restaurant for lunch.

My favorite part of the day was when we walked home after lunch. I wanted to take a picture of the piazza because it was such a beautiful day. Some people were sitting on the steps in front of our building basking in the sun. I wanted to join them, but instead we got back inside our apartment and I took a nap. It was a long day, and it was only 3PM! But, I was really happy with all that we accomplished.

Share your comments for this blog post on the Living in Florence's Facebook page. Grazie!