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How to Waste Six Hours
(Applying for your Permesso di Soggiorno)

When applying for your Permesso di Soggiorno
you are likely to experience your first dose of
culture-shock and begin to have second thoughts
about staying in Italy.

If you are a British (and therefore
EEC) citizen you will find your national status of no help at all.
Arriving at the Ufficio Stranieri, Questura Centrale is a Kafkaesque
experience as you get your first inkling that Italy is
virtually a police state
. As well as all your other
documents you will need to bring four passport sized
photos of yourself and a good book to read as the
wait can be a long one. You also need to bring money
with you, because the Permesso di Soggiorno, (like
any public service or document in Italy) does not come
free. The cost last time we looked was (sorry we have
to check this, come back in a few days) Also, just like
the mafia, it's best to do it in cash. They probably
will take a credit card, but I'd be reluctant to give
them any excuse to slow up the process,or reject
your application because they can't get approval
on your card or something.

You should get there
to join the ‘queue’ at 7 o’clock in the morning.
What you will discover there though bears no resemblance
to a queue, even though a numbered
ticket system is in operation. You will find a rabble
of people all shouting at a granite-faced civil servant
through a hole in the wall. Try to be nice to the
assistant though. You will find that English civility
still goes a long way. Their job is a hard one and
they appreciate the more genteel attitude of the
Brits more than the berating tones of representatives
from the many other nations you will be squashed
up against the glass with. If you get seen that
day and they take in your application, you will hopefully
be asked to return that afternoon to collect your
very own Permesso Di Soggiorno.
Once you have it, look after it like gold dust.
You must keep it on you at all times as you may
be asked by a policeman or carabinieri to produce
it as ID, anytime, anywhere. However, if you lose
it you are in queer street again, so it is perhaps
best to keep only a photocopy of it with you
and keep the original at home. If the fuzz don’t
like the photocopy, politely argue that it seems
the most sensible course of action from your point
of view. They may (and will!) come to your house
anytime to see the real article. In fact it is routine
for traffic wardens (of all people) to call where
you are staying to see your papers after you have
been in Italy for a few weeks.
You’d better still be living there and have your
papers or all hell will break loose.
Still wanna come and live in Italy?