The detested, necessary evil, part of living in Italy

Once a year, expats like me must go to the police station, or the Questura, in order to maintain the privilege of living in Italy. One is required to visit the police station to submit passport pictures, sign a form, and have your index finger prints checked against the full set of your fingerprints that were taken the first time you applied for a Permesso. I love Italy. I hate the Questura and Italian paperwork.

All of this is to get a renewed “Permesso di Soggiorno,” which is my permit to reside in Italy. It is good for one year and must be renewed annually. If you fail to renew and you get into any kind of trouble in Italy (car accident, etc.) things could get serious. You will probably have to leave the country, post haste, and, unthinkably, they could revoke your privilege of ever returning to Italy even as a tourist. Horrors!

Things get very Italian even once you have a renewed Permesso. For example, my “current” Permesso, which I picked up in person at the Florence Questura last summer, after standing in line on a July morning and afternoon for 6 hours straight in the summer sun (and I am not exaggerating), expired in October. You got that right. I picked it up in July and it expired in October. The same year.

So, before the end of October of 2020, I had to start the process over again.

This is a 3 part process and can take almost a year to fulfill.

  1. You start with paperwork that you can only get from one or two particular post offices in Florence. Sometimes they don’t have the paperwork available. Honestly. It has happened to me. You wait and keep trying.

When you finally score the correct forms, you fill them out in black ink only, go to a tobacco store (seriously) to buy a special stamp, then go back to the particular post office and submit the form, along with some fees. They give you a receipt and you must carry that around with you, along with your expired Permesso, in case you get into any trouble.

2. The receipt you are given at the post office, which was in October in my case, gives you a date on which you must show up at the Questura to present these 2 passport photographs of yourself, supply your new signature, and have your fingerprints tested. Why you couldn’t just submit the extra photographs when you submit the form at the post office, I will never understand. The fingerprints, I get it, but really, couldn’t they be tested at visit 3?

In my case, I told you I submitted my newest application for my renewed Permesso in October of 2020. Can you guess when my next appointment, Step 2, was for? May 3, 2021 at 11:38 a.m. That’s deeply ironic as well. I arrived at the Questura on May 3 at 10:30 a.m. because this ain’t my first rodeo. The 11:38 time reservation is just a vague suggestion. I got my number for entering the actual building of the Questura at 12:30 and I was seen at the window for my actual appointment at 1:45 p.m.

But, that’s right, it took 7 months from step 1 to get to step 2, for a Permesso that is only good for 12 months to begin with!

3. Then, sometime later you will receive a text or an email telling you the date on which you must return to the Questura to pick up your new Permesso. For me, it will probably be sometime this summer and the new one will probably expire again in October of this year, and then I get to go through the whole rigamarole again.

We all hate it. The Questura is chaos. Confusion reigns. No-one seems to be in charge, although the police that stand outside the doorway are technically in charge. They seem to hate their job. They are gruff and short-tempered, but they control the numbers that you will eventually get, and they allow you into the building on their own schedule.

Here is the questura once you get inside. You watch the red lighted board for your number. They are on A070 as you can see.

Here’s my ticket. A092. It will be a while before I get to the window, to be mistreated by an irate clerk.

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