Well, we weren’t quite back to square one after striking out on the first apartment we had planned to rent. At least we knew we had chosen the right town, so no more need to inspect accommodations in nearby towns.
Our relocation assistant found lots of apartments to look at, but the more we looked, the more we knew we wanted to be in the Centro Storico (historical city center within the fortified walls). So picturesque. So charming. So full of arched stone vaults. We really felt like we had stepped back in time. Charm galore. Our assistant reminded us of the drawbacks in living the Old Town–high humidity, old buildings, old and possibly undependable infrastructure. Yes, yes, we understand. But we were undeterred. We wanted Centro Storico, by golly.
We took a second look at a house in the old town that we had previously dismissed as being too dark and dingy. Second look said it wasn’t that bad really. We took a 3rd look and now it had possibilities. By the 4th look, we thought this was The One.
Our assistant, ever the realist, reminded us that the landlord lived in another town so wouldn’t be available in case of emergency (prophetic), that there were better value apartments available, etc etc. Nevertheless, we entered negotiations, all was well, and we thought that now things would go quickly since we had the codice fiscale and could sign a contract.
Wrong again. The boiler had to be checked first. huh? Well, the boiler is the hot water heater, and it has to be certified by a Boiler Man who submits the certification to the authorities. Yes, truly. We had never heard of such a thing. Not only that, once it is certified, it must be re-certified every year and signed off and re-submitted to the government or hefty fines or maybe thrown out of your apartment. Not sure of the consequences, but I am sure they must be dire because it was impressed on us again and again in no uncertain terms that we CANNOT LOSE THE CERTIFICATION!!!
So, as eager as we were to vacate the hotel and move into our own little place, we had to wait for the Boiler Man. That took five precious days. But hurrah, Boiler Man issued the certification! So, we can move in now, right? Haha, nope. Guess again.
We now had to await the Official Signing of the Contract. Now, since we had received a contract to read/review prior, my naive idea of signing a contract was to, well, sign the contract. Oh no.
On a Monday, we were informed that the realtor would bring the contract for us to sign on Friday. Why wait? Well, just because, that’s why. Friday comes, and we’re eager to get this piece of paper signed, but we get a phone call. No meeting to sign the contract. Why, pray tell? Well, it is raining. Uh, what does rain have to do with signing a contract? Well, the realtor didn’t want the contract to get wet. I kid you not. I said, don’t you have a plastic bag you can put it in? Apparently not because we had to postpone till the next day.
The next day it was still raining, but no phone call to postpone the meeting. Yaaay. So we met at the apartment–me, my husband, our assistant, the realtor–but before we could sign the contract (yes, more steps), we had to inventory everything in the household. I mean inventory everything, replete with descriptions and photos. That took hours and hours. Then another list had to be constructed of all the inventory with their current condition, whether new, in need of repair, broken, etc. That took another hour. This all took the better part of a whole day–and I thought we only had to sign a piece of paper! What a fool.
After noting which things were broken, service men had to be called–electrician, plumber, handyman. Their names and phone numbers had to be recorded with multiple copies handed out to everyone.
Finally, we signed the contract! However, to make it legal, we had to mail by certified mail our signed copy back to the landlord for his signature, then mailed back to us, then mailed to the Comune to be registered. That took a couple of weeks.
Finally, though, we thought (accent on ‘thought’) that armed with a signed, registered lease we could go to the Comune and petition for the permesso di soggiorno.
We went to the Comune and showed a copy of the lease and asked for the paperwork for the permesso. The clerk’s first and second questions: “where is the landlord’s hospitality certificate? Where is the certification of habitability?”
Once again, we were baffled and stymied. So the landlord had to submit some sort of hospitality certificate. Well, it seemed to us that whatever that certificate was, he should have gotten it before he rented out an apartment. And the certificate of habitability? A certificate that says the place we rented was actually safe living conditions?? I mean, really. How can you rent out an apartment before certifying such a thing–shouldn’t the landlord have already taken care of this?
Apparently not. We were told that it was the renters’ responsibility to get that certification. Huh? Why is that our responsibility? If it wasn’t habitable, why did he rent it? But as my husband was fond of telling me, ‘don’t ask why; it just is.’
So, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we needed to get these two documents before we could fulfill the requirements to petition for a permesso. Sigh. Once again, before you can do this, you have to do that. And before you can do that, you have to do this, too.
So, we and our relocation assistant traipsed all over the three floors of the Comune to find out how we get the apartment certified to live in (and my mind had already jumped to the possibility that it wouldn’t be certified and then what would we do–start all over again?).
We found a man whose head was vigorously shaking no (we were getting used the no-headshakes by now) as he explained we needed this habitability certificate. I could understand enough of the Italian to know he was explaining that his office was super busy, blah blah blah. Finally, he turned to us and said, “domani”. Tomorrow? Awesome!
We went back to the apartment for some thorough cleaning as we had no idea what the inspectors would be inspecting.
The next day came, the inspectors inspected, and they gave us the thumbs-up sign. Whew. They said certificate would be ready in 3 days.
We thought we finally had it together. Not quite. We went to the Post Office (which we have still not figured out how it works–another blog post) with our trusty assistant, and thank the Lord, she had the documents and explained that we were applying for the permesso.
Not so fast. The Post Office clerk handed the documents back to us. Of course there was a problem. Of course. The garbage clerk had written a wrong digit in the codice fiscale on our garbage contract, and so nothing could be processed. We had to go to the Garbage office across town, get the codice fiscale digit corrected, and head back to the Post Office. Another hour. I was ready for a nap and a good cry.
What was supposed to happen at the Post Office was that we would mail, certified, our application for permesso di soggiorno, and we then would be given an appointment to appear before the Questura (police headquarters) for fingerprinting, etc. Need I say that didn’t happen?
The ordeal was just beginning, and we had to constantly remind each other, ‘”why are we doing this? remind me again?” The point, we reminded ourselves, was to establish residency here, submit documentation and application for recognition of dual Italian citizenship, and bypass the years it would take to do the same thing at a Consulate in the USA. We kept hold of that thought to get us through even more bureaucratic obstacles.
In the meantime, we enjoyed the simple local lifestyle of passegiata and gelato which was in stark contrast to the frustrating and (to us) nonsensical complexities of Italian regulations. Here’s a pic of my husband discovering how a cold Aperol Spritz on a warm, sunny day erases your worries.