Category Archives: bureaucracy

The City Of Falling Angels

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Usually I read fictional novels, so when a co-worker gave me this non-fiction book to read, I was a bit skeptical. I wasn’t sure what to expect nor what the purpose of the book was. After all, the storyline read like a fictionalized story of the intrigue of Venice, complete with depictions of deceipt and mystery.

The book begins with the author’s arrival in Venice shortly after the devastating fire which burned the world-famous Venetian opera house, La Fenice.  What entails is the investigation into the fire and a determination as to whether the fire was a result of arson or pure negligence on the part of the crew working on the remodeling of the famous theater. The author interviews many members of Venetian society, and soon finds out about all the jealousies and back-stabbing going on behind the scenes. He finds that there are many who could easily be implicated, and some for good reason, into the event. Every one of these players, though, could also prove their innocence.  As a result, the true cause of the fire is never really discovered.                                           

The book is a portayal of the many facets which make up Venetian society…and the pride that the citizens of Venice have for their mysterious and beautiful city. Even though the famous opera house was burned, the aftermath of Venetian civic pride became even more evident and the personal ties involved in Venetian society was interesting to learn about.

If you are interested in a book which delves into the political and social underlyings of Venice, you will like this book. I found it mostly interesting, but I felt it moved a bit slowly and the in-depth character descriptions were a bit over-developed and long.

This book was read as part of the Italy In Book Challenge 2011.

Lucca Lives in Our Memories….and our Pocketbook!!!

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Last September, we were fortunate enough to visit the beautiful walled city of Lucca.  I had never been there, and since we were travelling in the vicinity, we decided to make a day of it.  Entering through the thick walls surrounding the city, we couldn’t believe our luck when we found a great parking space in a small piazza near the center of town.  We quickly glanced at the signage and pretty much figured out that we were safe in parking there.  Happy with our location, we started off on foot to explore the tiny meandering roads and the gorgeous churches and piazzas of this medieval city.  We hiked up the multitude of steps to the top of the Guinigi Torre for a fabulous view.  We admired the wonderful marble facade of the Duomo.  We stopped for a quick lunch at a local trattoria, and sipped on some of the local wine.  We just took our time and strolled through the tiny alleys that serpentine their way through the town, ending up at the gorgeous Anfiteatro Piazza.  Content with the time we spent in Lucca, and because it was getting dark and we needed to still make our way up the coast to the Cinque Terre, we headed back to the car to begin our journey north.  Lo and behold, we found a little blue note on our windshield.  It wasn’t a nice “welcome to our town” note…instead it was a “Preavviso” or a parking ticket!!!  What did we do wrong?  Looking it over, it seemed like we had parked in an authorized only parking lot!  And…they were charging us 124 Euros for this violation!!!  Yikes!!!  Hmm….I hadn’t noticed any signs stating that only authorized vehicles were allowed.  But, then again, it’s hard to figure out the parking restrictions in Italy and I could have surely misunderstood the signs.  OK, now what?  There was an envelope with the ticket, but unfortunately, since we do not have a “conto corrente” or checking account in Italy, our checks, written in US dollars, wouldn’t be very useful. And since it was late, the payment offices were closed, and there was no indication of allowing us to pay this fine by credit card.  What to do?  Well, we decided to leave and that they would eventually find us through the rental car agency and then we could settle the fine.

Months went by without hearing from them.  And then one day, we get a letter from the rental car agency saying that they were advised by the City of Lucca that we had a parking ticket.  They tacked on 30 Euros for their inconvenience in having to contact us to take care of this ticket.  And….they said that they had forwarded our information to the authorities in Lucca and that we would hear from them.  At this point, I thought I would try to call Lucca to see if we could figure out how to pay this fine.  When I contacted them, they informed me that the office I needed to speak to was only open from 9 am to 1 pm…Lucca time!  That is the middle of the night for me.  This was really becoming difficult, so again I just decided to let them contact me.  Several months went by again, and then I GOT IT!  My official statement….with a credit card payment option!  Why didn’t they have this option on the original ticket itself?  This could have been taken care of months ago.  AND…are you ready for this?  They tacked on a LATE charge (of course), so now our amount due is up to 154 Euros!  Our little afternoon in Lucca was quite expensive – to say the least!

Italian Citizenship and the Apostille

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What the heck is an apostille, you may be asking, and I assure you, I felt the same way before I started this whole dual citizenship process.  Well, here is my answer:  it is an official way of verifying that American documents are the real thing!!!  Birth, marriage, death certificates as well as other “official” documents require an apostille to authenticate them and the signatures that are on them.  Local documents, such as those issued by the counties, cities, and states are “apostilled” by the particular state that the documents are from.  So, in my case, all of my documents had to be “apostilled” by the California Dept. of State.  Now, this is different that the State Department – that is a federal office (the one that Hilary belongs to).  This can get very confusing when you are speaking to the Consulate office and asking for help – you need to be really careful that you are meaning the correct one!  I speak from experience 🙂

Anyway, apostilles are needed when applying for Italian citizenship – you need them on birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, and in the case of Citizenship by Marriage, on police record reports issued by the Dept. of Justice.

The process of obtaining an apostille is really very simple once you have the correct documents.  The documents must be originals with the signature and the stamp of the issuing office.  These documents can be obtained from the County or City Records department for a fee.  If you are obtaining the Police record report, you must submit fingerprints to the Dept. of Justice and then request that the report include the stamp and signature of the State official (currently Kamala Harris).  Once you have the correct documents, you can mail them to the California Secretary of State….or you can just take a drive to Sacramento and present them yourself!  This was the path I took…and it was painless!  The process took about 20 minutes total!  They take your document (and a $26/document fee) and staple a pretty official looking paper to it which contains a beautiful gold seal of the Golden State!  Voila!  This part of the paper gathering trail is all done and really very simple to do!

Black Friday in Italy…

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…is not a good thing like our Black Friday!! In Italy, it is indicative of a day of  sciopero (strike) !!  Italy is used to strikes – someone always seems to striking for one thing or another.  Most Italians shrug their shoulders and say “ci arrangiamo” (we’ll get by and make it work). 

Tomorrow, March 11th, has been designated as a strike day for the transportation sector.  Trains, planes, busses,  metros…and even naval transportation all plan to be affected.  Even the fire department and some medical personnel are taking a break!!!  Everyone will be incrociando le braccia (folding their arms).  This strike is meant to disrupt business as employees are going to find it difficult to get to work.   What they are striking for isn’t completely clear to me, but it looks like they want to make sure that big business and government treat and pay their employees fairly! 

Even though Italians may be used to these inconveniences, major havoc can ensue in the big cities…and the poor traveler, not used to these things and who may have made arrangements or reservations, may get a bad taste in their mouths for Italy.   As I used to say to my kids when they were little:  It’s a good thing you’re cute!!!  Italy is the same….it’s a good thing it’s so beautiful that it allows forgiveness for some of its misgivings!!!

Today I will wake up and strike!!

Oh, Silvio….You Should Be Very Worried

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Sig. Berlusconi says he’s not worried about his upcoming indictment, but I think, this time, he is in for a big surprise.  Every time in the past when he has found himself in hot water for one scandal or another, he has been able to wiggle out of it.  His far-reaching influence (whether it be business or financially related) has been able to pull those all-powerful strings to get him out of trouble.  But his luck may have finally run out with this scandal! 

The problems stem from the scandal involving a Moroccan girl whom the media has nicknamed Ruby.  You can see my previous posts on Berlusconi\’s scandals and Rubygate for some history on this…but in a nutshell, he is facing two charges:  paying for sex with a minor, and using his influence to cover it up!!

Paying for sex with a prostitute is not a crime in Italy…but if that prostitute is a minor, watch out!!!  For this crime, he could get up to 5 years in prison.  But, ironically, the worst offense comes from his cover up of the scandal.  This is a severe charge, and it could actually hold more jail time for the convicted.  In reality, he will probably never serve the jail time because of his age, but his political career would be finished (along with his reputation).  His indictment will be on April 6th before three FEMALE judges.  Conan O’Brien joked last night that Berlusconi was high-fiving his lawyers telling them that “he had this one”.  I guess he thinks that he can   use his charms to woo the judges to his side (um, Silvio, have you looked in the mirror recently?  Surely your looks will not win you any prizes!!!).  In my opinion, having female judges will be a catastrophe for his case.  Females all over Italy are fed up with the Premier’s degrading view of women….and I’m sure these judges share those views!

Listening to the indictments against him

My Dual Citizenship – A Lesson in Patience

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A few years ago, I discovered that I could claim Italian citizenship, as well as retain my American citizenship.  You can imagine my pleasure at receiving this news!  I quickly set about gathering all the information and documents that I would need in order to prove that I truly was eligible for this great honor.  Evidently, since my parents were still Italian citizens at the time of my birth (they were naturalized a few years later), I was an Italian citizen by birth rite (or juris sanguinus).  This was wonderful news…

The decision then came of what I should do first – should I gather all the information needed prior to making an appointment with the Citizenship office at the Italian consulate in San Francisco, or should I make the appointment first and then gather all the information?  I decided to have everything in my possession first because what if they could get me in REALLY soon to present all my documents!  You can imagine my shock when I was told that I would have to wait 9 months in order for an appointment!  “Everyone wants to become an Italian citizen,” was what I was told when I called!  Yikes!  Why such a popular thing to do, I wondered.  So I began to research the benefits of holding dual citizenship (granted, I only wanted mine because I wanted to connect further with the land of my heart) .  The benefits were numerous and quite impressive.  Primarily, as an Italian citizen you also become a member of the EU.  Therefore, working in the EU becomes much easier if you hold a passport to any country that is part of the EU.  Therefore, if an American employer has an office within the EU and they are looking to transfer one of their employees to work in Europe, the one holding citizenship has an advantage because they do not have to get a work VISA for the transfer.   This was all fine and dandy, but it didn’t really affect me much because I wasn’t planning on working in Italy!  But, it did impress me for the benefit of my children – this might come in handy for them as they begin their careers.  The other benefits include free medical care and free education.  Again, these could be very beneficial for me and my family if we ever found ourselves in Italy and in need of care (or if we get the urge to take some classes at the University!)  But, for me, the most valuable benefit included the purchase of property in Italy!  Evidently, it is much easier to purchase property in Italy if you are a citizen, and the tax implications are very much reduced.   Even though, I don’t own any property YET, this is always in my dreams…therefore, now I can say that I am ready when the opportunity arises!  I subsequently also found out that you cannot purchase a car in Italy if you are not a citizen.  This seems a bit harsh and am not really sure if it is true. 

OK, so after waiting the obligatory 9 months (and the whole time worrying if I had everything in order…and not really being able to contact anyone at the consulate because they only do things via email, and even then, will not respond to any questions if they feel that the answer can be found anywhere on their website), the big day arrived.  I arrived at the beautiful ornate mansion that sits on top of a hill in Pacific Heights and waited for  my interview.  I was thrilled when I found out that I had everthing I needed!  My information would all be sent to the town in Italy that I chose as my “birthplace” and I would be OFFICIAL!  Interestingly, I could choose between my father’s birthplace and my mother’s birthplace to register as my own.  My Italian cousins think that I am truly spoiled – imagine, being able to choose your birthplace!!!  Within two weeks I received my citizenship!  And with it was the application for the passport!  Yahoo!  My very own Italian passport.  Promptly, I filled out the necessary application, took some horrid passport photos, and sent in my fee!  Again, everything arrived promptly and I was thrilled as punch.  Not too difficult, I said.

This all happened in 2008!  And now, I’ve decided to request citizenship for my daughters (which I was told was fairly simple since all the necessary documentation had already been submitted with my application).  The only things I needed were their individual documents (birth certificates, etc).  Thankfully, I find out that I would be dealing with another office at the Consulate and not the citizenship office.  This office was much more ammenable to e-mail correspondence and I could therefore get much more information about the items needed.  I was assured that all I had to do was bring the necessary documents for presentation and voila` – instant citizenship for my daugthers!  A little bit of information we forgot to discuss was that  THEY NEEDED TO BE PRESENT!!!  You can imagine my disappointment, and also frustration, when I found this out.  My daughters are away at school and work and therefore organizing a day or time to visit the consulate is going to prove to be a challenge!  We are SO close…I only hope that we will be able to finish this process soon. 

Almost my entire family will be taken care of except for my husband!  His citizenship request is a bit more complicated since he must do a couple of extra steps to insure that he is worthy of Italian citizenship – he must get clearance from both the State Police as well as the FBI!  We will now have to figure out how we go about getting these clearances since we’ve  never really had need before to contact the FBI for ANYTHING!!!