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From the Ragazzini/Biagi Concise Italian-English Dictionary: Permesso “(2) m 1. permission; leave.”

It’s also what polite Italians ask before entering your home, as if to be sure that you really did mean to ask them in.

Permesso di Soggiorno – a piece of paper, or this year we hope a card, that gives one official permission to be in Italy.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is for an immigrant to get permission to stay in the United States.  Here in Italy if you ask nicely and can prove that you can support yourself they are pretty good about welcoming you. They let you stay for two years, and then you must nicely ask them again.  Seems fair to us.

Until this year getting our Permessi involved several comical trips to the Questura (State Police) in Genova,  a trip of about three-quarters of an hour for us.  The first trip was the best: that was the one where, after an hour’s wait with a large group of representatives from about half the countries in the world we requested an appointment.  We had to go all that way just for that, couldn’t do it over the phone.  Two weeks later we’d return at the appointed time, wait with the United Nations again, and submit our applications.  In about 6-8 months our Permessi would be ready (that’s not a typo:  6-8 months.) and we would return to pick them up.  Oh well, the system worked, albeit slowly.

This year the application process has been given to the Post Office.  I know, don’t ask me.  But here the Post Office is so much more than in many other countries.  For starters, it’s a bank as well, and I would guess that more than half the people who visit the PO are doing banking business, not postal business.  And now of course they are doing immigration business as well.  Anyway, sharp eyes will pick out

 Louis in this photo, waiting his turn (take a number!) with the grumpy lady who gave us our application packets,  big envelopes full of confusing documents.  Even our friend Graziano, a policeman, was slightly mystified by the array of papers when we asked his advice about the application.

But we did learn something terrific.  This year Louis will have been a resident for six years which makes him eligible, we think, for a Carta di Soggiorno, which is good for six years!  As his wife I may or may not be allowed to ride on his coat-tails.  We’re still trying to find out.  He’s had one appointment at the Patronato office, which as far as I can figure from their website, is a Christian group that assists in ‘weaving the bonds of society’.  There he talked to a very helpful woman who gave him a list (a loooong list) of required documents for the Carta.

One of the documents called for a trip to the Procura at the Chiavari Tribunale (an office, not a newspaper) to get proof that neither of us has a criminal record in Italy.  To our complete and utter amazement we walked out with the needed document half an hour after walking in.  This is unprecedented in our Italian experience, and shows a degree of organization and efficiency that seems, well, un-Italian, no offense meant. It was worthy of a photograph.

We have now acquired most of the documents, pictured below, that we need to submit with our application for the Carta di Soggiorno.  It is simply too exciting.  Will it actually work for us, or will we have to put our tails between our legs and slink back to the Questura?  Stay tuned!