Thursday, October 3, 2019

Unfinished business—some we want done, some we hope never finishes

It’s gap time again for Lucy and me. We’ve finished another hectic, successful and profitable summer of work in our Gig Harbor asphalt maintenance business. But we’re not yet ready to return to that other reality, our totally different life in Tuscany. Instead, we’re now spending three weeks on the East Coast, visiting our son and daughter and their spouses and multiple grandchildren.

So I’ll use my free time to record some details about subjects I touched on in previous entries but never concluded: Lucy’s Italian citizenship, the theft of my Italian identity and some difficulties with our Montecarlo home improvements. The reason for my lack of follow-up is that little worth mentioning has happened in these areas.

Efforts to obtain Lucy’s dual citizenship stalled when we found out that by becoming a resident of Montecarlo, she would no longer have to pay her share of property taxes on our home. Italian citizens or residents currently pay no property tax on their first home. I had already obtained my juris sanguinis citizenship, so my share of the property was untaxed, but we were paying twice yearly for Lucy’s share. This would end if she became a citizen.

Lucy and her permesso di soggiorno.
Her route to citizenship through marriage to an Italian required her to first obtain a permesso di soggiorno and then residency, both of which we successfully achieved in 2016. We were in the middle of confronting the bureaucratic obstacles for step three, citizenship, when our tax adviser gave us the good news that her residency status meant we no longer had to pay property taxes. We know we should continue the process, as some day we are certain to find some other benefit for dual citizenship, but just now our lives are too busy to face this hurdle.

I have since read conflicting reports that a new law in Italy will also require prospective citizens to pass a difficult language test. Some sources say yes, some say this law would not apply in our case. It’s not something we’ve had the time or inclination to explore yet. Hopefully when we get around to it, Lucy’s Italian will have improved enough that the test, if required, will not be so difficult. One fine day, we’ll continue this project, but not this year.

As for my identity theft, I have not heard from the Agencia delle Entrate for more than a year. They had written me in 2017 and 2018, claiming that I owed taxes on a cell phone and a car, both of which were owned by an unknown person claiming to be me and using a copy of my Italian passport. I filed two denuncie with the Carabinieri in Altopascio, but the people at the AE had no interest in my offer to give them copies.

The dreaded Agenzia delle Entrate office.
I resolved that I would write a letter to the AE, detailing my whereabouts during the months of the phony phone and car ownership (I was working in the United States during these times), but I still haven’t done it. I’m torn between the idea that sending such a letter would only call attention to the unfinished business of my case, and the competing idea that such a letter would provide convincing evidence of my innocence and cause someone to close the case file. However, it is easier to do nothing and hope that the slow wheels of progress will work in my favor. Maybe my file will be forever buried in the vortex of Italian bureaucracy.

The third non-event has to do with unfinished work on our home, projects we paid our friend and neighbor, whom I'll call Franco here, to perform two years ago. At that time, we discovered that our kitchen sink did not drain into the sanitary sewer system but flowed across Franco's roof, into the rain gutter and then into another neighbor’s little-used garden. Shortly after that, Franco informed us that an empty and obsolete vat in our attic was made of concrete asbestos and should be removed for health reasons. We paid him to arrange for the sewer connection and vat removal, and we were led to believe that both projects had been completed prior our stay in Montecarlo last winter.

I had written to Franco in January of 2019 to ask if the kitchen drain had been fixed, and he wrote back that it was being worked on at that moment. When we arrived in February, I saw that a tube had been added to the kitchen sink drain so the outflow no longer ran across the roof, but because we have no access to the neighbor’s garden, we couldn’t see what happened to the water after that. I finally succumbed to my curiosity, crawling to the edge of the roof and peering over the side—and discovered that the 1200 euros that I had paid resulted only in the addition of a 15-foot long tube that still drained into the gutter.

Around the same time, a technician who came for our annual hot water heater inspection pointed out that a second hot water tank we were paying to keep heated served no purpose because it had no outflow, a relic of time’s past when Franco’s home (which is below us) and ours were shared by a single family. He recommended we turn it off, which we did.

But I made another discovery while hunching down in the space behind the walls of our attic to look at the unneeded water heater: The vat was still there, hidden behind the new sheetrock that Franco had installed for us last year. We had assumed that he had removed the vat prior to building the walls, and I was dumbfounded to see it still intact, moved only 20 feet from its earlier position.

Rather than go directly to Franco to ask what was going on, I enlisted the help of cousin Davide Seghieri to intervene. While technically I had the language skills needed to point out the problems, I knew that our conversation would require a subtlety of expression that was beyond my abilities. On the one hand, I suspected that Franco may have hoped I wouldn’t realize the work was unfinished and thus it would remain that way indefinitely. Yet I didn’t want to accuse him of this and damage our rapport. One of our reasons for living in Italy is to develop relationships, and this is one of our more important friendships. We’ve attended birthday parties for his children. We share the same building and have worked together on improving common areas.

I told Davide that the best possible outcome of our discussion would be for Franco to maintain that the projects were in progress but unfinished, and that Franco had tried to explain this to me, but I hadn’t understood. I said I would accept that answer wholeheartedly and without question. And that is exactly what happened. In fact, Franco was very complimentary of us as neighbors, and he explained that the projects required the work of other contractors, so he had no control over the timeline, but he would make sure that they were completed soon.

So when we arrive in Montecarlo in a few weeks, we’ll be hoping to see these projects finished—and no new letters in our mailbox from the Agenzia delle Entrate.

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