Wednesday, February 16
Ari took me to the Questura in Pescia this week to see if I can get an Italian passport. The Questura is a branch of the police that deals with permits and documents for foreigners. I have vivid memories of the Questura in Padova, because in 2001-02, Lucy and I made six fruitless trips to the Questura in a vain attempt to get a permesso di soggiorno, permission to stay in Italy for an extended time. I will write about this struggle on another day. Today begins a new battle.
About ten days prior before we came, I received the welcome news from the Italian Consulate in San Francisco that my application for Italian citizenship had been approved, after more than ten years of efforts—again a long story that I will save for another day.
Today I have in my hands a letter stating that my citizenship has been recognized and my documents have been sent to my nonno’s birthplace, Pescia, to be recorded. The letter further states that I can go to San Francisco to obtain my passport, which will require a photograph and fingerprinting. I don’t have time to fly to San Francisco, so I decide I will see if I can get a passport in Pescia.
I already have an American passport, of course, so why do I even want an Italian passport? Well, I could now work here legally, unlike ten years ago, when I was paid under the table. I have no plans to get a job, but someday maybe my children or grandchildren may want to, so I have obtained my citizenship partly to benefit them. But it would also make it easier for me to buy property or a car here, and those are things that I may want to do some day. And then there is the inner satisfaction of feeling that I belong here, that I am more than just a visitor here, that I am of here. I know I will never speak Italian without an accent, never understand all the figures of speech, hand gestures and customs—but for some reason, deep inside I have always been fiercely proud of my heritage. I don’t really know why, because my dad never made a big deal of it. If anything, it might have come from my sister and brother, who spent their early years living in my grandparents’ house with Nonno, Dad and Mom. Linda and Roger were proud to be Italian, and they had a relationship with Nonno that I had missed out on, which could have increased my longing for this connection.
So here I am at the Questura with Ari, who has lived in Italy since he was thirteen and knows the officers personally. He has brought me here in the late afternoon because he knows they will not be busy, and together they pore over my letter from the Consulate. After a ten-minute conversation, they determine that I am in the wrong place. I must first get a certificate of citizenship from the Comune before I can apply for a passport. The Comune is closed now, but Ari will go there tomorrow and make some inquiries and give me a call. His wife used to work there and he assures me that he knows almost everyone there.
Some of the discussion at the Questura I am able to understand. I find out it will cost about 100 euros to get a passport, and then about 50 euros per year to keep it active. This is why Ari, who is also a dual citizen, only has an American passport. In Italy, he just uses his Italian identity card. Hmm, this sounds like a good idea to me. Can I do this too? Maybe. But to get an ID card, I must have the dimora, proof of residency. An agriturismo is a place for tourists, not residents, so our current address won’t do for our dimora. Do I have some cousins here, one of the officers asks. Maybe I could use their address. Yes, there is Enrico and his family. I don’t truly live there, but if that will be good enough for the Questura, it sounds fine to me. I am definitely in favor of saving money, and the only real advantage of a passport instead of an identity card is that I could go to Cuba with a passaporto italiano. Admittedly it would sound cool to say, “When I was in Cuba last year . . .,” but the reality is I have no desire to go there.
Ari takes me back to my apartment. I have come up empty on my first effort, but it is what we expected—it will take time. The next morning I get a phone call from Ari. He is at the Commune, they have located the documents from San Francisco and it will take about ten days to enter everything into their database. Ari will call me again when that is done, and we will go from there.