April 7 at 9.35am was the appointed time for us to attend the Questura in Lucca to finalise our permesso di soggiorno (permission to stay). We were nervous as we thought getting our Italian visa to live in Italy for 12 months was all we had to do before we left Melbourne in February 2017. No, it appears if you want to do the right thing once you get here you fill in further forms (all in Italian), pay a fee for an application, plus a fee for the postage of the application, plus a fee for a stamp, and get it all lodged within 8 days of your arrival in Italy, you then get an appointment to be checked out by their local police – the “Questura”. We were told just to replicate copies of our Melbourne documents for production at the Questura, plus provide them with 4 fresh photographs and turn up at the allocated time.
Our landlord is a lawyer and although he only speaks Italian, one of his son’s has a good grasp of English so they both kindly agreed to come along with us. We cycled to the Questura from our safe inside the wall, looking like a mini cycling tour as we pedalled along the cobblestones and outside the wall to the big Police Station. Chained our bikes up to each other and went inside.
Pandemonium once you get inside the door with people everywhere. It was like stepping into an episode of “law and Order” with six cage type counters all jam packed with people of many different nationalities. Guess they were all trying to get permission to stay in beautiful Lucca. Anyway, our landlord, pushed through and was told to take us to counter 6 which had a sign that said – “Appointments”. As we stood there a rather anxious Chinese man and his companion seems a little dismayed that we were standing in front of him as he said he was there first. We tried to explain that we had an appointment and this was the line for appointments, but he would have none of it and pushed his way past us to the officer behind the steel bars. So we waited until it was our turn and then our landlord quietly explained why we were all here and asked his son to interpret what was being said so that we could get a grip on what was required of us. The police officer had our folder and wanted my passport first and my photos. No problem. Good, so far. Then he asked for the receipt for the postage we paid at the post office when our parcel of documents was lodged and sent to Rome. I rummaged through my folder and passed it over. The policeman looked at the receipt but queried why my name was not printed on the receipt? I don’t know! Isn’t that the job of the post office? Not good enough he said as he waved his hands to our landlord, who promptly told him that we would provide it to him after our interview.
The policeman stamped various documents and cut my photos to a size he was happy with and then asked me to put my thumb on the fingerprint machine. Easy I thought! Put it on and he waved his arms telling me to do it again, and again, and again!!! I was not putting my little thumb on the machine the way he wanted. Try my forefinger. Still the same. He was getting cross. Called his supervisor, who looked at the computer screen and ummed and arred and told me to start again. What the!!!! It was not going good for me as it seemed my fingers either had no prints (probably because my father scolded me as a child by burning my hands on a gas flame on one occasion – yes he was violent) or their machine was a cheap “dud”. The supervisor came out again and threw his hands up in the air and summoned a good looking young guy who indicated that I should follow him, which I did. Out into an alleyway….. where to…. Into another office where there was a big computer, plus very sophisticated cameras and a chair, plus a big sign that indicted the room was for persons to be identified after they had been charged! I also spied on a shelf, lots of packets of flimsy white rubber gloves (yes I was remembering the episodes of “Law and Order” and ooh I hope I don’t have to bend over!).
I was called up to a desk with a big computer and fancy looking photocopier. The good looking policeman, donned the gloves and asked me for his hands (phew!). He then proceeded to photocopy each of my fingers and then the palm of my hand before he looked at me and said “bene” (good). I was then allowed out of the room back to cage number 6 where I had to quickly sign papers thrust at me one after the other (no time to read any of it) and then be told to come back in 30 days.
That was it? Nothing from the bundle of photocopied documents I had spent hours compiling? I turned to our landlord and he said all they still needed was evidence of payment of the postage and in 30 days I would get an email to come back and get my permesso. Really?
Bob was next – at least he knew the drill and was prepared to be dragged into the room with the rubber gloves and I wasn’t going to tell him why!