Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Dip into the work of any writer on Italy who has lived here – Tim Parks and Tobias Jones immediately spring to mind – and they will very soon mention bureaucracy, as do all books which give advice about settling here. Therefore I was forewarned about this, but still had to experience it to believe it!

I had found this apartment soon after my arrival, the owner being a friend of a friend, and the paperwork with regard to my tenancy was completed quite quickly and smoothly [though Linda did have to remind me that “Time stops at Messina” whilst I awaited the contract !] The other required documentation, however, was quite a different matter and without this it would have been impossible to move in as I wouldn’t have been able to obtain the contracts for electricity, water, gas and so on.

As an EU citizen, you are not supposed to need any documentation, other than your passport, in order to live here. Ha!! You just try it with only that! What you do need is the CARTA CEE – permission to stay for EU citizens – and the codice fiscale [a sort of National Insurance number] and in that office you will be told that you first have to have the CARTA CEE!

So, a friend having fixed us an appointment at the police station in Ragusa – that is the way things work here – Linda and I began to negotiate the bureaucratic trail last June. I had to take with me my passport plus a copy of all its pages, even the blank ones, photos and a bank statement showing my means of support. I was given a piece of paper proving I had applied for the CARTA CEE and was told to call them in two weeks.

Both Linda and I had understood – she from enquiries she had made here and I from my reading – that, with the above receipt, I could register with the town’s authorities and thus obtain the utilities contracts. Nope! Not on your nonna’s nelly! We were told that I would have to await the “real” CARTA CEE. We begged and pleaded and Linda almost shouted, fearing I wouldn’t be able to get any of the contracts – but they couldn’t help us.

Next we went to the Agenzia Entrate to obtain the codice fiscale. At first the clerk said it was impossible; I wasn’t Italian, I had no right, there was no precedent, etc., etc. I was nearly crying but Linda suddenly seemed to grow about six inches taller, demanded to see a manager and lived up to her surname of Churchill by delivering a speech worthy of the man himself whilst I rabbited on about having given up everything to come to Modica. The result was that they decided the code could be issued and a few minutes later I emerged from the office with another piece of paper displaying the number. I began to feel I existed again!

Armed with this “magic number” [and it really is, for you can do nothing in Italy without it], it turned out that I could, at last, apply for the contracts. For all but the landline one, we had to visit the various offices – the gas one being helpfully located in an out-of-the-way spot unreachable by public transport. You have to fill in miles [I mean kilometres!] of forms and then you receive more weighty documents by post and even the Italians aren’t too sure which bits you have to send back and which bits you keep!

I do have to say that my utilities were connected quickly and efficiently the very next day – though I had to wait till September for the internet connection – and then, at last, I could make arrangements to move in!

In due course, I received the “real” CARTA CEE [which is not a card but yet another piece of paper] and could finally register with the comune – where the clerks were all smiles this time - so that I could have the privilege of being sent a refuse collection bill. Before you are actually deemed to be a citizen of the town, however, you have to await a visit from the police – you are not told when they are coming – so that they can verify that you do live where you say you live and that you are not destitute. [My “visitation” lasted about two seconds.] I originally thought this was ridiculous but have come round to the opinion that, this way, the Italians do have an idea of who is in their country and where they are.

So, dear reader, if you are contemplating moving to Italy, do bring with you every personal document that you have, however irrelevant or unnecessary it may seem, and don’t assume that “because we’re all in the EU” your path will be smooth!

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