Last Wednesday, I went to the Questura to get an Italian passport.
In the US, when I last renewed my US passport, I’m pretty sure I got some photos, filled out an application, either wrote a check or provided credit card info, mailed everything to New York or Albany with my old passport and waited to receive my new one. Ten minutes to put everything together, maybe, plus the wait for delivery. In Italy, it went like this:
I arrived at the Questura around 10am and took a look around the room to note all the folks who were ahead of me. Once they’d all been helped, I’d know it was my turn.
“Y’know, “ I said to V. “They should really have the applications and the information sheet with what you need out here on the shelf so people don’t have to wait on line.”
“Why? So it could be more convenient for people?”
“And if they just took credit cards, this would take no time at all.”
V. rolled his eyes, weary of my refusal to just accept things in Italy as they are. “They don’t care how long it takes you.”
Thirty minutes later, I walked up to the window,
“I would like an application for the passport.”
The man leaned over, his stick-straight brown hair swinging forward from behind his ears, and he said something very quickly which I didn’t understand. I stared back blankly, distracted by his dress shirt unbuttoned part way down his chest.
He handed me a square of paper that detailed everything I’d need:
- a money transfer payment or “versamento” at the post office, made to the Minister of something for €42.50
- a government tax stamp in the amount of €40.29
- a copy of my identification
- 2 photos
“And the application?”
“When you return, “ the man with the hair responded.
We walked down to the post office. It’s a large one, larger than the one in our town, so instead of the usual “chi è l’ultimo?” they have a number system. A machine dispenses these numbers, based on what type of service you need. I located the button for “versamenti” and waited for my letter/number combination to appear on the overhead screen, worrying that I’d not make it back to the Questura before it closed at 1pm.
Forty-five minutes later, my number appeared and I paid my €42.50 plus €1.30 in “tax” or service fee, got my receipt and headed over to the tabaccaio. Now, the name “tobacconist” is a bit incomplete. Sure, they sell cigarettes, but they also sell lottery tickets, newspapers, magazines, candy, small gifts, the ever important tax stamps and will also send a fax and make a photocopies for you.
At the tabaccaio, I got my “marco di concessione” and a photocopy of my carta d’identita and headed back over to the questura.
The line was much shorter and after five minutes I handed over my marco di concessione, my proof of payment receipt from the post office, the copy of my carta d’identita and the sheet of photos I’d gotten last week from a photo booth at the mall.
The man behind the window handed me the form and I filled out the usual “name, address, birth date, birth place” info required on every single form everywhere in Italy while he entered my info on his computer.
He took electronic imprints of each of my index fingers and told me to come back in three weeks to pick up my passport, handing me a piece of paper to show him when I return.
It only took a little over two hours.