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Meet Italy’s newest citizen, The Captain, aka Louis Philip Salamone.

The procedure, I can’t call it a ‘ceremony,’ took place in the office of the head of the Ufficio Stato Civile, Dotoressa De Filippi this morning and was more casual than solemn (I would have liked a bit more ceremony, myself). Nonetheless, for us it was the culmination of several years of work and waiting, and we were both thrilled with the outcome and moved by the Captain’s new status.

At first we were afraid we were headed for a problem, one which has reared its ugly head in past administrative wrestling matches.  Whenever one gets a document, carta d’identita, permesso di sogiorno, etc.,  one must put place of birth on a form.  By place of birth Italian bureaucracy means town or city.  The Captain’s U.S. passport lists place of birth as ‘Wisconsin.’  This led to no end of trouble early in our stay here, but for some reason the good Dotoressa merely shook her head and commenced redoing the various declarations (they had to be further altered to correct the Captain’s misspelled middle name).  Then began the ritual ‘signing of the many forms,’ which occurred no fewer than four times.

Somewhere in the midst of the signing the Captain took an oath to uphold the Constitution and the Laws of Italy.  There was  no hand on heart, no holy book, no blood asked for or given, just a verbal promise to be a good citizen.

In the midst of all this the phone rang, and our proceedings were interrupted by a long discussion of what the caller’s daughter had to do to get her passport. 

It certainly detracted from the feeling that ours was a special moment, but we quickly got over it.
  Then the Dotoressa read a lengthy declaration to the effect that the President of the Republic had accepted the Captain as a citizen and showed us the Presidential decree, a photocopy of which was given to us later.

A quick handshake, and the deed was done.

I thought my Captain looked so handsome in his suit – it’s perhaps only the second time he’s worn it in the ten years we’ve been here.  I wish I could fit into clothes I had ten years ago!  He did not have a red, green and white tie, so he chose a green and white tie which we decorated with a bit of red and white ribbon, a not entirely unItalian thing to do. 

Today was the end of a long road that we began in 2005.  The quest began in the office of the very knowledgable and always helpful Anna Maria Saiano, the head of the Genova branch of the U.S. Consulate.  She led us to Signore Bevilacqua (Mr. Drinkwater!) who sent us to Dotoressa De Filippi in Rapallo.  She was disinclined to give the quantity of help we needed, so we returned to Sig. Bevilacqua in Genova, and he got things going for us.

There are many ways to become a citizen, one of the most common being ‘lineage.’  We had assumed this would be our route as both the Captain’s parents were Sicilian, one by birth, one by blood.  However, because the Captain’s father became an American citizen before the Captain’s birth, in effect renouncing his Italian citizenship, it became more complex.  We would have to go back to the grandparents, born in Sicily not all that long after the unification of the country.  Two world wars have had their way with that island – the odds of finding all the requisite birth certificates were low. 

We resorted to a ‘naturalized’ Citizenship, possible after five years of residence if either of the parents were born in Italy.  There are  other routes to citizenship, which you can read about here.  Gathering all the requisite data took some time, but was not especially difficult: 1) the application 2) Marca di Bollo (stamp) for E14.62  3) Income tax returns for three years  4) Father’s birth certificate  5) Captain’s birth certificate  6) FBI certificate / arrest record (done through fingerprints taken in Genova and sent to the US) 7) our marriage certificate 8) residency certificate proving length of residence in Italy  9) Permesso di Sogiorno  10) notarized copy of passport.  All documents in English required  certified translation, which we were able to procure from an office in nearby Chiavari.  The Captain did the translation himself; the certifying administrator didn’t speak English.

What the Captain didn’t have to do, which aspiring U.S. citizens must, is learn a lot of history and take a difficult test.  I’m happy to tell you that the Captain has read the history of Italy many times over, because it interests him, and I’m sure he could pass tests in both language and history.  But isn’t it interesting that in the U.S. there is a test to prove you are worthy, and in Italy it is simply a question of having the correct papers and forms?  Bureaucracy!  Having watched Craig Ferguson’s (The Late Late Show) citizenship swearing-in on TV I was surprised there was not a bit more pomp and circumstance, and at least an upraised hand when giving the oath. 

Once we filed the application and all the attendant paperwork we simply had to wait.  The State had  two years (actually seven hundred thirty days) in which to process the application and render a decision; they didn’t go too many weeks over.  News of our success reached us when we were in the U.S., and a visit to Dottoressa De Filippi was the first order of business when we got back to Rapallo. We were surprised to learn that the Captain was the twenty-seventh new citizen she had processed already this year.

So it was an exciting and momentous morning for us.  The Captain pursued citizenship for several reasons.  In a way it closes a circle that was opened when his father left Sicily for Ellis Island in 1921.  It makes life here much less complicated: no need to be traipsing off to Genova every few years for permission to remain.  Mostly it just gives official confirmation to something the Captain has known all his life: he is Italian.

All that remained for us was a quick celebratory lunch at the delightful Trattoria del Sole across from the petrol stations on Via Mamelli where we took advantage of the daily special: penne with funghi; fried achiuge (sardine-like fish), carrots, potatoes, wine, water and coffee, all for the princely sum of E 8 each (Ligurians have the reputation of being tightfisted with their money – who are we to go against type?).

We hadn’t eaten here before, though the place has been beckoning to the Captain for some time, and were charmed to find examples of the owner’s art and crafts on the walls.

So came to a close a festive (for us) and memorable morning. Viva Italia!