Back when I had a real job, I never had to worry about visas or legal permission to stay in Italy. I had an identity card from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and every two years it was renewed without me having to lift a finger. Nowadays, I have to go line up at the Questura – the special police station that deals with immigration – like everybody else. And that’s what I did today. There’s no need for a visa to stay in Italy for a period of up to three months. After that, you need something called a permesso di soggiorno. There are various kinds of permessi depending on your status. Not wanting to get it wrong, I tossed everything to a lawyer and he took care of all of the paperwork. Once we turned everything in, I was given an appointment to get fingerprinted and have my picture taken at the Questura. The office is about a million miles away – by public transport it requires 2 buses and a metro (I took a cab) – and my appointment was at 8:30 so I had to wake up really early, something I’ve not been doing much lately. A hour later and 30 Euros poorer, I arrived at the Questura where I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of people milling around in front of a tightly locked gate. Eventually, a guard came to the door and let in the 30 or so people who had appointments for 8:30. Then we stood in line for a while. I got to chatting with an American guy who tipped me off on what to expect. Lots of waiting was what I should expect.
Actually, it wasn’t too bad. They let us into the building after about 30 minutes and we trooped up to the third floor. They pointed out which chairs we should sit on and each time someone got called in, we all had to move to the next chair. It felt almost like a kids’ game. After awhile, someone gave me a piece of cardboard with the number ’13’ on it and I went in for my appointment with Agent 13. The next part was a bit tense. The lawyer hadn’t told me what to bring along, if anything and, of course, I hadn’t thought to ask. Nor had he given me a copy of the documents that had been filed and of course that was the first thing she wanted to see. For a moment I thought the jig was up. But then she found my info on the computer, asked me a few questions, fingerprinted me and sent me on my way. Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to stuff my passport in my bag at the last moment. When I left, there were still hundreds of people lined up outside under the hot sun. I think those were the people without appointments. Fingers crossed but it really wasn’t as traumatic as I had been led to believe. Now I wait. And in a few months I should be legal again.
Two buses and a metro ride later I found myself back on familiar turf. On a whim, I decided to hang out in the centre a bit before going home. I wandered around Campo di Fiori and window-shopped with all the tourists on Via Giubbinari. It was fun. I really need to get out more.
On my way to Campo di Fiori, I passed by the Perfect Bun, a little cake and bagel shop around the corner. The cakes are so pretty they don’t even look like food. Nice looking sandwiches too. And our old pal Hello Kitty was there! By the way, you’ll want to check out the Bunga Bunga cake on the website.
That reminded me that the Perfect Bun also has a restaurant across the street. So that’s where I went for lunch. It’s a burger and fries kind of place with bottles of mustard and ketchup on the table, just like back home. Kind of a California vibe (do they eat hamburgers in California?).
I haven’t eaten a hamburger in I don’t know how long and it’s been years and years since since I had one in a restaurant. But the Cindy burger was calling my name and who was I to resist? Maybe it had something to do with me wanting to reclaim my Americaness after a morning spent at the Questura. But probably not. Sometimes you just need a burger. The Cindy burger is the slightly smaller cheeseburger for more delicate (i.e. feminine) appetites. They obviously haven’t ever seen me eat. The burger was excellent – meaty and charbroiled. I swear there was cheddar cheese on top and that’s something you can’t get here. I spent about $50 on cheddar the last time I was at Heathrow Airport. And the fries it came with were crunchy and salty and copious.
I really need to get busy on that diet.
The Perfect Bun Restaurant
Largo del Teatro Valle 4
Rome, Italy, 00186 tel: 45476337
The Perfect Bun Bakery, Grocery and Deli
Piazza del Paradiso 56
Rome, Italy, 00186 tel: 06 45492925