Italian bureaucracy is renowned and it takes a while for us Anglo/Saxons living here to let go of our need for “just in time” results.
You get used to the need to visit any official offices with folders stuffed full of documents; sometimes required, other times not, depending on who’s sat at the desk. You soon realise that a trip to the post office or indeed any sort of office will take at least a morning. In these situations it’s certainly better to go with the flow – best to grab your ticket and then a coffee, read a book and chat to the rest of the queue rather than get wound up by the ensuing chaos.
We’ve survived the trials of becoming residents, obtaining an Italian driving licence and all manner of other significant milestones, such as electricity and Internet connections, and the subsequent drama of paying their bills.
Slowness is compounded by different interpretations of the rules by almost everyone you meet. Having been previously warned by countless expats that obtaining your residency was a Kafkaesque nightmare, we were pleasantly surprised it only took a couple of hours and we didn’t have to jump though any of the hoops we’d previously been informed about. A rather agitated Nordic-sounding chap, however, was told he’d have to return for a third time the following week owing to some spurious sounding reason. Moral…be pleasant and polite at all times when dealing with Italian officialdom.
When we bought our house everyone present advised me that I couldn’t use my married name, even though this was on my passport. Since then I’ve encountered all manner of problems, which only stopped when a kindly soul in the tax office bucked the trend and changed both my tax identification number (partita IVA) and national insurance (codice fiscale) number from my maiden name to my married one.
Whilst we live in Ostuni our house is considerably closer to Ceglie so this is where we conduct most of our affairs. Whilst we shall always pay our bills to Ostuni everyone told us that we would have no problem changing our residency to Ceglie. This sounded too good to be true but would have been useful, if only to be registered with a doctor a few kilometres away rather than 15.
When we tried to change our residency, however, everyone, who had previously informed us that we could change, all said that it was impossible, and what were we thinking? When asked why they had previously told us that it was possible, they all now insisted that it was absolutely unattainable. This included changing doctors, although all advised that we should just visit the local A&E (pronto soccorso) rather than wasting our time visiting doctors.
Living on the boundary of two towns has created other difficulties. Last year recycling was introduced for the first time. Hurrah, we thought, before the farce of moving bins has left the countryside strewn with rubbish. Basically, as soon as someone complains about having communal recycling bins near their property the bins are moved elsewhere until the next person complains. There are currently no bins anywhere near our corner of the countryside and despite assurance from the local council (comune) that they would be returned, two weeks later we are still waiting. As we are resident in another comune, moreover, we cannot register a complaint along with the rest of our neighbours.
As rubbish is foremost in our minds at the moment, this week we thought we’d investigate our lack of bills over the past couple of years. We’ve managed to pay twice before, but since then no bills have arrived. As with much of the countryside, we just have the name of a contrada (similar to a local parish, and in our case just one small lane) as an address, there are no numbers, but it’s not really an issue, as post is not delivered outside of towns. To get round this we have a mailbox in town. Having a mailbox in Ceglie, however, seems to be at the route of many of our problems, as Ostuni council don’t seem to have realised that post can be delivered to neighbouring towns.
So we spent a morning going round in circles, along the lines of, “but we can’t send a bill for Ostuni to Ceglie”. To get round our lack of postal address on an actual postal route some buffoon at the council decided to give us an address in a totally different contrada. Confronting them with the logic that we are never going to receive a letter sent to a mythical address, was dismissed with a “but it is in Ostuni and the postman delivers there” response.
Having got one clerk to change the details to our proper contrada and for the billing address to our mailbox in Ceglie, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the next visit revealed that we were still listed at the mystery address made up by the council. We’ll keep going back, and who knows, maybe one day we won’t live in some forgotten limboland.