Hallelujah. We were finally in our own little apartment with my own little kitchen and our own little bedroom. After one full month in a hotel (and I had naively thought we could lease an apartment in one week–ha!), I was more than eager to start cooking meals and settle into a normal life.
Well, as normal as it could be considering we were still in the throes of filling out paperwork and submitting documents. For the next full month, submitting documents took the better part of our days. Were we tired? You bet! And we couldn’t have done it without our trusty relocation specialist.
We knew Italy was a foreign country–don’t laugh. But I didn’t think it would be foreign in every respect. Even something that I thought would have been simple such as setting up utilities. Nothing was simple.
She took us to the Garbage office to set up an account. That took about a half hour with passports and codice fiscales being handed over, documents signed, all while our assistant was translating. One problem, which we didn’t realize at the time, is that my husband’s last name begins with a W. What’s the problem, you say? Well, there’s no W in the Italian alphabet so it stumped the clerks everywhere. He couldn’t change his name just to make things easier for the clerks, but wrong misspellings have haunted us to this day. A favorite was to convert the W to an N.
After setting up the account at the Garbage office, our assistant drove us to the outskirts of town, almost to the next town, to actually pick up our garbage bins. They don’t deliver them to your house; you have to go to the Garbage Yard to get them yourself.
The fellow at the Yard turned out to be Italian but was born in Brooklyn and so held dual citizenship. Our assistant chatted with him for a bit (at this point our Italian consisted of ‘come stai’ and ‘come vai’–limited applications!
There were no garbage bins to be had. All gone. But, since we were Americani, he found some old bins in the back that we could have. Hurrah!
Back to the apartment to drop off our garbage bins. Four all together. One for organico (organic), one for vetro (glass), one for carta (paper), and one for indifferenzia (everything else). Taking recycling to a whole new level. Now the question was where to store these four bins since we’re in an apartment in the Old Town facing the street (and the bins are NOT allowed to be on the street until it’s time for pickup)? We found a cubbyhole along our staircase, and that’s where they sit, so we get to walk by our garbage on the way to/from our door. Yaay.
There was some confusion whether our street address was a number 3 or number 5. Some documents said 3; others said 5. That took some straightening out to make sure we had the right address.
We were told we had to buy a mailbox since apparently the landlords don’t supply one!?! Ok, so our assistant drove us to a hardware store on the outskirts of town. We bought a mailbox, and my husband affixed it to a nail hanging from the stone wall of our apartment next to our front door, and we proudly hung a number 3 on the front . That lasted one day. The next morning our brand new mailbox had been stolen.
Back to the hardware store to buy another mailbox. This time we hired a man with a drill (my husband has none of his tools with us) who drilled the mailbox into the stone. It’s not going anywhere now.
So, great, we have a mailbox, but we have learned that the postal carriers do not deliver packages! Isn’t that interesting? We had ordered quite a few items online to supplement our meager household furnishings–stuff we couldn’t find locally, and if we had, we had no way to transport it without a vehicle.
We became quite familiar with the postal receipt that said ‘we couldn’t deliver a package’ and to go pick it up. At first I thought it was because they thought we weren’t home to sign for it. But after numerous instances where we were definitely home all day without a peep from the doorbell, we realized that they just don’t deliver packages. You have to go to the Post Office yourself and collect it. But the trick is in knowing which post office has your package!. The one in town or one of the two in the neighboring town?
I was expecting a 6″x 8″ book that they couldn’t deliver. We went to the local post office and were told that the package was too big (????) to be stored there, and we had to go to the neighboring town. We went to one of the two post offices at the neighboring town to show our postal receipt and nope, the package was at the other post office. Off we went to the other Post Office and after waiting 45 minutes for our turn, were told nope, not here; it’s at your local post office. Back to our local post office where I finally retrieved my book.
It’s those kinds of experiences that are so frustrating. Something that I think should be simple and take a few minutes becomes an all day, complicated affair. I don’t understand it, and it tires me out.
Paying bills is another adventure. I had mentioned previously that banks and post offices don’t operate like we’re used to in the US. You pay your bills at the Post Office, not the bank. The Post Office can issue you a credit card. There’s even a special ATM at the Post Office where you can withdraw money, pay bills, or top off your credit card. The Post Office can pretty much do everything except deliver a package!!
We haven’t figured out the role of the bank here yet. We tried to open an account at the bank (we actually hit all of the banks here) but no can do since we do not yet have our residency card. Same thing at the Post Office–can’t open a “Postal Pay Revolution” account without a residency card. So, for now, we are stuck paying everything by cash.
We received a garbage bill that we could pay monthly or for the full year. Of course we had to pay that at the Post Office. This was when it was discovered that the Garbage office had inputted one wrong digit in the codice fiscale so we had to hightail it to the Garbage office to get that fixed (across town of course). The lady fixed the mistyped digit and I asked–so funny–why we couldn’t pay the Garbage bill at the Garbage office. I’m such a crack-up. Heresy!!! You pay the Garbage bill at the Post Office. Period. But but…if the Garbage office sends out the bills, that must mean they have an accounting department, so why can’t they accept payment for the bills they send out? That made no sense to them. Just not done. You pay the Garbage bill at the Post Office. Don’t ask why. It just is.
When we finally made it back to the Post Office, and after waiting interminably for our turn again, we opted to pay the year in advance just so that we wouldn’t have to go through that rigmarole again. Too exhausting.
Oh, I haven’t mentioned how you enter the Post Office. Don’t laugh, but there is a secure entrance. You stand in front of the door a certain distance, the door senses you’re there, and it automatically opens. You walk in, but not into the Post Office. You walk into an enclosed space. Turn around and the door senses you’re there, and the door to the actual Post Office opens. You’re IN. Yaaay! You made it.
Each person, to go through the first door, wait, and then the second door, takes about thirty seconds. So, when there are, let’s say 10 people waiting to go in the Post Office, you’re looking at five minutes or more to get in. But wait! The people leaving the Post Office have to go through the same door, in and out, so add another thirty seconds each for those people, too. You can see that when you have a bunch of people both entering and exiting the Post Office, it’s easy to get gridlock traffic.
And our first attempt to enter the Post Office, we didn’t realize it was one person at a time. So, my husband and I enter together, and that’s where we’re stuck. An Italian recording came on, but we didn’t have a clue what it was telling us. Neither door opened. We couldn’t get it, and we couldn’t get out. We started hitting buttons. Nothing. I started to panic, wondering how long I was going to be stuck in that space. I knocked on the glass walls of our enclosure, hoping that someone inside the office could give us a clue what we were supposed to do. But they looked at us blankly, and I realize they probably thought what stupid people we were, who couldn’t even figure out how to enter the building. My husband finally used his brute strength to peel open the doors with his fingers. Whew! Back on the sidewalk again in fresh air. We never did make it into the building, but we were glad to be out of that enclosure. We decided to wait until someone could show us how to enter and exit.
That’s the kind of thing I mean by everything is ‘foreign’. Back in the US, I sure as heck knew how to get into and out of a building. But something as minor as entering an Italian Post Office had us stymied.
Did I mention that we pay the man next door for our Water bill? Not sure why. It’s just how it is. At least we don’t have to go to the Post Office to pay the water bill! haha.
Now, not to say that this isn’t the most adorable town. It is! The people are kind, friendly, hospitable, and more than happy to go out of their way to help you.
For example, our electrician drove us to three different post offices (2 in the next town!) so we could pick up a package–it took him two hours, and while we kept saying ‘that’s all right; we’ll take a bus back to town’, he kept insisting he would escort us, no problem. I can’t think of any serviceman we’d hired in our US home who would have personally driven us around two towns out of the goodness of his heart. That kind of hospitality is hard to beat.
An older woman tripped on an uneven sidewalk, and immediately 8 people came to her aid, including 2 cars driving by that pulled over immediately to help.
I ask directions to somewhere, and five people converge out of nowhere to offer suggestions on how to reach my destination, and invariably, one insists on escorting us to make it easier for us.
Walking the streets of our little town is like the opening scene to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I kid you not. People wave out their windows, call out ‘buongiorno’ and ‘buonagiornata’ to us with big smiles. Us, strangers in their midst. We love this welcoming spirit.
The landscape is beautiful and diverse. The sea has the most amazing shades of blue I’ve ever seen, and I’ve spent most of my life on one of two oceans; the sky at dusk has a surreal blue that looks like it’s been photoshopped, and I never tire of these cobblestone streets and stone arches. History and culture everywhere. I really love this town!