Wednesday, September 28, 2011


During August I received two rather confusing communications from the local refuse collection office:  the first was a letter [addressed to me personally at my home] informing me that they did not have my address to send me any bills [although these have been arriving regularly ever since I have been here] and the second, which appeared the very next day, contained the latest bill.

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"Curiouser and curiouser", thought I, especially when I read the first letter more carefully:  it required me to fill in an enclosed form which asked for all kinds of complicated information about which I have no idea such as the distance, in square metres, from my apartment to the nearest communal rubbish containers.  Now, I was never a dab hand with a ruler at school so the thought of using some kind of surveyor's contraption outside with any success defeated me totally and I knew that I would not be able to present this information in person, as requested.

Nevertheless, the deadline for the return of the letter having already expired, I decided this morning that the only thing I could do was to throw myself upon the mercy of the good folk at the office, which is situated in the town hall in Modica Bassa.  I was rather hoping it would turn out to be one of the small offices at street level outside the main building but, having been told that the person I needed to speak to could be found in the second office in the row and then the fifth, I soon resigned myself to climbing the steep, marble staircase in the imposing edifice itself.

Inside, you are usually greeted by a friendly pensioner who directs you to the office you want - or somewhere within a few hundred metres of it - and as you walk down corridor after corridor, you encounter a rabbit warren of cupboard-like apertures in which legions of clerks are busily ensuring that Italy's bureaucracy will survive for at least another millenium.

Finally, I was directed up a further flight of ancient stone steps to a row of offices so small that I was convinced only miniature rabbits could inhabit them and, when I knocked, found not one but four people typing away inside.

"Ah", said the clerk when I explained the reason for my errand, "we must have sent the letter asking for information after we sent the bill."

"So I can tear it up, then?" I asked hopefully.

"Oh, no, signora, we have to give you a receipt to prove that you have come here and then you must keep the papers together.  But you will have to wait a few minutes, signora, as we have to find the computer programme that will produce the receipt."

Not for nothing have I spent six years coming to terms with the workings of the Sicilian post office, so at that point I settled myself in a corner with the book I had brought along for just such an eventuality.  After half an hour, I resisted the temptation to utter,

"Oh, my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!"

I must admit to becoming a little peturbed when the gentleman dealing with my query had to unplug his printer, connect it to a colleague's computer and then start the programme all over again because his own printer was "not compatible" but  I assure you, reader, that I did not bat an impatient eyelid.

At last, the document was printed and I was ready to leave, but not before it had been literally rubber-stamped with much noise and embellished with both my own signature and that of the clerk.

"It takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place", I remembered as I left.

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Beyond Survivor said...

Oh my....... I had heard that Italian bureaucracy was bad!

I hope you treated yourself to a Gelato after all that!

Hugs, Hugs, Hugs

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, it's every bit as bad as you've heard, Jan. I certainly did! Hugs to you, too. x

Patricia said...

Only in Italy! One of my cousins actually works at the municipio of his village in Sicily and another works in the postale. I wonder how efficient they are??? I remember when I took my first Italian class here in the States from an instructor who was originally from Naples. He often spent much time discussing "the Italian way." He said that no matter what people do...from the man who dons an official looking hat to watch your car when you park it in a parking area, to the man who dons an official looking jacket to sweep the street...they are all the "king" of their little kingdom...and you, the petitioner, wait... :-)

Whispering Walls said...

Bureaucracy across cultures must be the next blog off

DayDreamer said...

How hilarious that you were prepared with a book to read :) You certainly know the system out there.

Italian beaurocracy, whether it's banks or local councils are so meticulous, yet can be so un-technology minded.

LindyLouMac said...

Just another typical day then Pat :)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Patricia. Oh, I think they are quite efficient - it's just all so time-consuming, as you say. That's a great idea, WW. Hi, Daydreamer. Yes, I am terrified of being stranded somewhere in deepest sympsthy without a book. They have the technology all right - but they meticulously do the handwritten records as well, in many cases! You could say that, LindyLouMac.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Oh my...I had such a good chuckle reading this, Pat! Bureaucracy is found everywhere in the world but it seems Italy has its own special version.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Pat. In Italy bureaucracy is an art form!


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