A Christmas present. I just checked the Polizia di Stato website and our Permessi are ready!!! We applied to renew them in early February. And here it is, only TEN months later and they are ready! The old ones expired in June. So I told Luther, when we go to collect them we’ll thank them and say “OK, see you next month!” Which is about right to start the process all over again. 🙄
I have been a very bad blogger! A quick catchup!
Way back in November we were invited to another Thanksgiving extravaganza hosted by our good friends Susan and Gary at Calagrana. Ely outdid herself preparing a 15 kilo turkey, or about 35 lbs. Twas excellent.
We all brought side dishes and got totally stuffed. There were 14 of us.
We have a new American in town named Jennifer. She is here without a car which is challenging given our lack of convenient public transport. We decided to a girls day out with three of us taking a bus to Città di Castello. It was quite quick and comfortable and we learned something useful. We also visited an art museum while there and had lunch.
But there is good news about the train that used to connect Perugia, Umbertide, Città di Castello and Sansepolcro. This train stopped running about two years ago because of track issues and lack of funding to fix them. A bus nominally is filling in. Well, UmbriaMobilità has gone belly up and the rail system was taken over by TrenItalia. This is good news. And sure enough crews are hard at work pulling up the old tracks, grading beds, laying new track and the concrete ties. Right now they are going north from Umbertide. In the past Umbertide was on a main line from Perugia to Arezzo. And now it looks as though we will be again!
Still working on our Permessi. Lots of new monkey wrenches in the works this year.
Last weekend I also made a US style turkey dinner with all the trimmings for our friend Vera and her family. The little girls were agog at an entire turkey cooked and on the table. This is not done in Italia. Turkey parts, yes, but entire birds, no. And this morning Luther took the carcass outside to the feral cats in the woods behind us and we watched from our apartment as the feast ensued.
More big news came out over the weekend. There seems to have been a coup and the entire town council resigned and the mayor quit. So we are leaderless until the spring when special elections will take place. Unfortunately we have heard this will impact public works projects and we are crossing our fingers they will finish the outside work on the Comune. The men are still working so that’s a good sign.
Umbertide has its share of people who have physical and mental disabilities. They are accepted as part of our town life and people watch out for them. One that we see often stops by the bakery every morning and they give him a roll. He happily munches on it as he walks back to the Piazza or Bar Mary. This morning Luther was returning from his jog and this fellow flagged him down as someone he recognized and reached in his pocket and pulled out a watch. Luther thought he was going to try to sell it to him but he motioned that he only wanted Luther to put it on his wrist for him. Luther came back and told me about it and said it just a funny thing that happens in small towns. He said, “no one ever asked me to put his watch on for him before”.
When we last checked in on the drivers license issue we had returned from Rome with our Attestizione affirming we were us, even though our documents didn’t exactly match. Errand to Rome.
Our next visit was to the Comune where we had the very helpful lady in the Records office affix our photos to a paper which stated we were, indeed, us! Who knew they’d have a form all ready to do this? Strano!
We took these new documents back to the nice lady who’s helping with all this and she looked very pleased. She had to go, with this enormous pile of accumulated documents, to the equivalent of the DMV in Perugia. She called them pazzo, which means crazy. We had read the reviews on the web for this place and I’ve never seen such! Like the third circle of hell. She told us she’d call after her visit. Which she did and had good news! We were to come in and see her doctor for a cursory exam and we should be good to go.
We returned to her office and went in to see the doctor who asked me to read maybe four letters from an eye chart and 25€ later (each) we had his certificate of approval. What a scam. She told us to come back the following Friday. Oh and we had to pay 300€ to her, the first she’d asked for, for her services rendered. This was quite a bit but she had paid for our stamps and fees so I think it was worth it.
Yesterday was the big day! We hoped to actually pick up our licenses… well, we sort of did. We went back and she gave our German licenses back and a sheet of paper for each saying we had applied for the conversion. She said, depending on which bureaucracy got the job we would have the plastic card in a month or two, or four…who knows? Anyway, we are done except to wait for her call that they have arrived. I am SO glad this is done!
I have not written about the ins and outs of obtaining an Italian Driver’s License. Our situation is a bit different from most Americans because back in the 1990s we lived in Germany and, at the time, we could obtain a German license easily and still retain our US ones. These licenses never expire(!). All EU countries and many non-EU countries have agreements where you can exchange a license for one in another country with reciprocity. We are trying to take advantage of this by exchanging our German licenses for Italian ones.
The United States does not have reciprocity with Italy. The main issue is that America does not have a country driver’s license. Each state issues their own license. When we move from state to state in the US sometimes we even have to take the test to get a new one depending on the rules of each state. So this means Americans can drive legally in Italy using their US license for one year after they become residents after which time they need to take the tests for an Italian license. Many Americans are under the impression that they can obtain an international license from AAA and drive legally on that, renewing it yearly. This is not true. You can drive on one of these for only one year before having to take the tests. The penalties are onerous if you don’t get an Italian license after a year. Fines and worse than that, your auto insurance will not cover you in the event of an accident.
I can’t speak from experience since I have not taken the test but I do know what it entails. There are two parts; written and practical. You can study for the written test and take it on your own. Once passed then you will need to enroll in an auto scuola to take the practical part. You cannot take this on your own due to a recent law requiring you to enroll in a school. It is a real scam because it costs at least 500€. The written test is all in Italian and extremely technical. There are ways to study for it online or you can go to the school for this too. Here is a first hand account of an American going through the process. It is long but very informative.
Once you are finally able to get your license there are restrictions for the first three years of driving (even though you may have been driving for 40 years!). You may not drive faster than 100 KPH On toll roads and no more than 90 KPH on non-toll roads. For the first three years there is Zero alcohol allowed. And for the first year a limitation on the size of the engine or horsepower of the car you can drive.
This past week we took a day trip to Rome. We are STILL trying to get our German drivers licenses converted to Italian ones. We started this process last year and hit a road block. Italians like every document to match perfectly. In our case our Italian documents say we were born in a city in the US, while our German licenses list our state. Even though we brought in our birth certificates which list both they said no. And we’ve learned two main things here. One, when a bureaucrat makes up his or her mind you have no recourse. And two, they each make up the rules as they go along. We gave up until it occurred to us that we could just try another place and hope for better luck.
So we went to the next town called Trestina. And we visited the little auto services place there. A nice woman is helping us and we took in all of our copies of all of our documents. We waited and she called and we returned. This time the discrepancy was not only our places of birth but Luther’s name. On his Italian documents he is Luther Pearson Hampton III. On the German drivers license he is merely Luther Pearson Hampton. Oh no! So, she explained we had to do an attestazione to swear we were who we said we were even though we were born in different places and had different names. And we had to do this in Rome at the American Embassy.
So we created our attestazione and took the train to Rome. It was a pretty day. It takes about two hours to get to Rome on the train. Then we walked the maybe ten minute walk to the Embassy. They were super nice there. Nothing like the Florence Consulate. We went through the security and the man took our papers and said they get this all the time. We paid $50.00 for each notarization. Cash cow for the Embassy! Another guy stamped and witnessed our signatures. Mission accomplished. We were back home by 6pm.
Next steps, we have to get four photos made. And we have to affix one to a piece of paper stating who we are and our address. Then we have to go to the Comune and get them to attest that we are who we say and that we live at that address. First we have to find that office since all the people from the Comune are scattered around town due to the renovation. I sure hope we can get the licenses after all this!
Well it’s here…March. Meteorological spring. And it shows. The winter wheat is brilliant green. The forsythia is blooming. And I found some new things in the Wednesday market.
First, a picture from my kitchen door. Still wintery mountains but blue skies and the temperatures are reaching the 60s sometimes.
I’ve seen agretti, or monks beard, always the first spring vegetable we see. Since Luther is not fond I don’t buy it but it’s a real delicacy only found in central Italy. This week I found asparagus! The first of the season. I asked the lady selling it where it came from and she said Spoleto which is here in Umbria. So I bought some!
I also found these small cartons of tomatoes. They were grown in Sicily and reminded me of the Cherokee Purple variety. It also says on the carton I can see who grew my tomatoes on their website!
I bought a new camera so I need to come up to speed on it so I can again post good pictures. We’ve also been doing our beginning of the year chores. Signing up for our health care this year was a royal pain. Normally we just take our social security statements in and pay our money. This year they told us they needed our paper to have a stamp on it from our American embassy in Rome. All of the stranieri were scuttling about trying to figure out how to do this but finally, after a phone call we managed to get it sorted. The Social Security section of our embassy has all our records…a surprise to me…so they were able to stamp it and send it to us via the Poste Italiane. So that’s done.
We also are starting to go through the process of getting our Permessi di Sogiorno renewed for the coming year. The fees have actually dropped this year to about 60 Euro each down from about 130 Euro last year. There also seems to be another thing or two changed so we will have to wait and see.
Next week we again are trying to get our Italian driving licenses. This has been an ongoing saga. Stay tuned!
Luther took his A2 Italian proficiency test week before last and got notification a week later that he had passed! This is our (we hope) last hurdle to comply with our immigration agreement.
Today, we traveled again to the Perugia immigration office. We had copies of our house papers, our Italian health cards and our two A2 test certificates. The young woman there filled out all our forms and printed them out. Next she rubber stamped and rubber stamped dated them all. We went to the head honcho’s office and he signed all the forms, individually! And we were on our way. The top form said:
RE: Outcome of the Immigration Agreement assessment: Certified fulfillment.
The next page indicates we have achieved 34 points on the point system they use here. We needed 30. I’m letting out a big breath of relief. A 2+ year effort! And we didn’t have to take the dreaded Italian Civics class!
I just put up a page, accessible from the top navigation, with a summary of information about moving and living in Italy. It is called “So you’ve decided to move to Italy”. I will constantly update it with things I learn that I think will be useful. Go to the page here.
Yesterday we went for our interview at the Questera to renew our Permessi. These police are in charge of immigration. They are based in Citta di Castello. They are generally very friendly. For this I am grateful because I’ve heard some are awful. After we got our fingerprints taken and had handed in all of our photocopies and passport sized pictures we thought we’d broach the subject of our Italian Culture class.
More explanation about this is called for. We had to sign an agreement to stay in Italy. The letter we signed is an agreement between us and the “State, in the person of the Prefect of PERUGIA”. We agreed to attend this class and pass the A2 Italian proficiency test. There is a point system. The letter clearly states that we get 16 points up front. If we do not take the class we LOSE 15 points. We need a total of 30 points after two years. I should mention that they did not give us this agreement until AFTER our scheduled class date. We believe they forgot to give it to us when we went in for our initial fingerprinting etc. They told us not to worry at the time. Since then we have been trying to figure out how to take this class with no luck. The two year date for our agreement to expire is September 4 of this year and it says it gets reviewed and we’ll get a letter if we are not compliant and they extend the agreement one more year. Then if we still don’t pass muster they deport us. This week, when we asked the officer about how we can take the class, she said it is not mandatory and not to worry about it. I can’t understand why the Questura told us this when this paper is quite clear. I am sure we have not heard the last of this. Sigh.
Last Sunday we decided to invite our friend Vera and her husband and two little girls over for pranzo (lunch). I made sure she was OK with something ethnic and she said she was. I made tortilla soup with added toppings of crisp corn tortillas, avocado, lime and cheese. Then we had a burrito with chicken with golden raisin sauce and sour cream. Next we had do-it-yourself tortillas. We had a tequila pork sausage with additional condiments of avocado, grilled onions, dressed cilantro, limes, tomatoes, with a mole sauce on flour tortillas. Everyone seemed happy to make their own. Graziano, Vera’s husband, was very adventurous for an Italian. Maja and Desiree who are 6 and 10 ate everything with gusto! And of course Vera, coming from Bosnia and Slovenia was excited to try all the new tastes. She also brought me the biggest chicken I’ve ever seen! And a bottle of Vin Santo as gifts. I should say it was all Italian spoken and I was ok with that. We had a lot of fun. Here we are at the table. Vera was taking the picture.
Today is the Saturday market. We have noticed that both the Wednesday and Saturday markets were very small this week. The big Wednesday one had probably a third of the normal vendors. I had mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to try the gobbi. I have a recipe which sounds pretty good and good for you. Here is the product I bought this morning.
You have to trim the crap out of it. It is a relative of the artichoke family and has some spines that need trimming. I also removed most of the outer leaves. Like celery it has coarse threads that need to be removed. Once trimmed and chopped it looks like this.
Now I need to blanch it until fork tender. The recipe says this removes the bitterness. If you like it bitter boil it less. Once cooked you sautéed some cherry tomatoes in olive oil and add some garlic. Put the gobbo in the pot and sauté until done. Here is a picture of the finished product. The taste was…forgettable. Not worth the trouble.
Finally I bought something I’ve always wanted to have…a lemon tree! Apparently they do well here and can be left out except for a hard freeze which doesn’t happen often. It will flourish in the sun on the terrace. And it flowers and fruits all year. See how pretty!
The early blooming trees are out! I think they must be cherry trees. Pale pink blossoms. Very delicate.
It has not been the most interesting week but some progress was made as well as some non-progress but not for lack of trying.
First, we got our zanzariere installed on all of our windows so we are ready for the warm breezes. Boys, enjoying the view though the screened door.
Second, Signore Tizziano delivered our guest bedroom furniture. I decided to go with a color to liven up the room. Now I am having second thoughts. Oh well.
OK so that was the progress. The two steps back was trying to find out about the Lifestyle class we are supposed to take. The problems all started way back in November when the Questura called us to come sign a form. At that time it was already past the date for our assigned class. We think we were supposed to sign that form when we put our papers in and got fingerprinted but they forgot to do it. Thus, we were too late. So, unable to get anyone on the phone to ask because the phone number on the form is wrong (!) we decided to pay a visit to the office in charge which is in Perugia. We did this. They didn’t know what to do and told us to come back.
The good news is that we were meeting friends in Perugia for lunch so we combined the trips. So at least we had some fun. The weather was spectacular. We met old friends Linda and Ron along with two of their friends who are living in Florence for a year. These friends don’t want to go back but their house in the US has not sold yet. They are also not sure they want to buy in Italy. Now would be the time to do it though! The Euro has dropped around 30% since we came. This is both good and bad news for us. The good news is that our dollars go a lot farther for everyday expenses now. The bad news is that since we bought our house last spring we were at the peak strength for the Euro and it has lost that value, at least in dollars, making our house investment lose in value. All complicated. Luckily most of our assets are in dollars. But if any of you want to buy here, now would be the time!!