*Part 2*

We were on the cusp of getting our new residency cards. The Kit had been submitted in early August … it was now late December. I had originals and copies of the required documents and originals and copies of documents I thought they might want. The whole Kit-and-kaboodle. I had spent a lot of time and energy … and worry … about what paperwork we would need. Because I knew there’d be a surprise.

Our appointment date arrived.

Appointments at 8.08 and 8.11. We parked the car and as we turned the corner to the Questura, we were perplexed. But. There. Was. No. Line. It was surreal … was it closed? The officer at the desk near the front door checked our names off the list and gave us numbers … B031 for David, C027 for me. The line, noticeably shorter than in the past, was entirely inside … waiting at Sportello 1. Ah, Sportello 1.

With no B, no C on the Bingo Board, we began our wait. Finally, numbers appeared in our categories … B17. Soon after, C11. We continued to wait, bing by bing.

It was about an hour later … a record! ….when David’s number binged. We rushed to the window. David showed the guy his number, and I said I hoped he could help me at the same time. “Oh no,” he began, in a tone like I had ordered veal in a vegan restaurant. “You’re a C. They’ll call you.”

I pulled David’s papers from my canvas tote … originals and copies … while David slid his IDs through the opening in the plexiglas. Slowly the guy started to work, looking and typing. Let’s call him George.

Then C27! I looked at David, motioned to his papers “copies [patting one pile], originals [patting the other].” And I hurried to my window, a few yards down the row.

I smiled at the guy and said buon giorno. I like to be upbeat … since these agents have a job dealing with people who speak varying amounts of Italian, and at every visit we’ve made to the Questura, there have been people confused or frustrated or unsatisfied or angry with their time at the window. Sometimes those people have been us.

I slid my IDs through the opening in the plexiglas. Slowly the guy started to work, looking and typing. Let’s call him Jeff. I had my documents, originals and copies, ready when he asked for them.

And then he walked away, into the hallway at the back of his work space, and through a door. Into the abyss. I waited nervously. (Without getting into TMI territory, I am a person who does not perspire very much. Not even in zumba … it’s a joke with the girls.) But here, the rules seem to change. I could feel myself start to sweat …

Jeff came back with a “file.” Not what you and I imagine, a manila or pale green folder made of sturdy paper with prongs inside, a tab along the edge with the name neatly typed (color-coded tabs optional). An Italian “file” means a rubber band around loose papers. My name probably appeared on the top page. Just in regular pen … nothing high tech like, oh, a marker that would make the person’s name stand-out. As an extra help, I would use red for women, blue for men. (And I suggest this because Italy embraces color-coding at an early age. Nursery school kids wear smocks … yep, pink for girls and blue for boys.) And written thus … LAST NAME, First Name.

He went back and forth, picking up a paper or two, then returning into the abyss.

Above the other voices, noises, sounds in the large room, I heard David said, “I studied Italian at scuola media.

Jeff returned. “I need one more thing,” he began, “plus the fee of 100 euros.” I chuckled, and told him I knew there’d be a fee. Last time it was 50 euros … and I said that when I got to the window, I saw the sign that the fee is now 100 euros. He nodded.

Please show me your income, said Jeff. I slid the copies through the slot, originals on standby. Monthly statements of our American income and annual Italian tax returns. He glanced at them, and went back into the abyss.

He eventually came back, with George in tow.

George turned to me and asked for David’s originals. I assured him the originals were there … and lo and behold, as he flipped through the papers I had organized for David, there they were. Now it was Jeff’s turn … and he wanted our American income tax return. Because that would show our annual income. I said that the papers, copies and originals, were monthly … multiply by 12 for that answer. Yes. But no. We need your most recent income tax return. Translated and authenticated by an Italian Consulate in the U.S.A.

Sweating.

Or … Jeff began … if you can’t get it translated/authenticated, you can take the tax return to the American Consulate here in Florence, and get it apostilled. Not translated, not authenticated … the Consulate will simply apostille it and you can bring it back here. With the receipt that the 100 euros had been paid. Easy. That was Jeff’s word … easy.

Even if I had thought of our tax return, I would never have guessed apostilled.

Jeff and George talked amongst themselves and David came over to my window. The guys said that all the stuff they told me applied to David, too. I said I understood … both of us understood … though when I explained to David about the tax return requirement, I knew his head would explode.

Jeff printed out the paper that said I would come back to Sportello 1 (ah, Sportello 1) with the receipt and our American income tax return that had been translated and authenticated by the Italian Consulate OR apostilled by the American Consulate. Jeff added that while the paper says to come back within two weeks, that timeline is flexible. Never come on a Monday, he said … and Fridays are the least busy.

I asked his name, but he wouldn’t, couldn’t tell me. I thanked him and told him he was very nice. We were done at the Questura. For today.

We walked into the Florentine morning, two hours after we entered … a record. David said that instead of rushing back home, we should go to the post office to pay the 100 euro fee. The post office near the station where we went, with Roberto as our guide, on our first trip to the Questura six years ago.

Unfettered and alive.

Going through the station is always a flashback … a flashback to the times during my well-spent youth visiting Europe when I traveled by train. Eurail Pass … buying a box lunch that had a piece of chicken and a sandwich and some fruit and a cookie and a bottle of water … one large suitcase … writing postcards … Kodachrome.

… to be continued …

MOCHA SWIRL CAKE

2 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1-¼ cup flour
1-½ tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
¾ cup sugar
⅓ cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup milk
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
1 Tbl. ground coffee or espresso

- Butter and flour a 9-inch round pan. Preheat oven to 325° F (160° C).
- In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
- In a large mixing bowl, whip eggs until they start to thicken … then slowly pour in sugar. Continue to whip until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.
- When thick, whip in oil and vanilla.
- Fold in flour (in 3 additions) alternating with milk (in 2 additions).
- Pour about ¾ of the batter into the prepared pan.
- To the remaining batter in the bowl, stir in the melted chocolate, chocolate chips, and coffee.
- Spoon/dollop chocolate batter over the center of the batter in pan
- Bake for 20–25 minutes until the center is barely set … it should be fudgy and pudding-like.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan.
- Serve at any temperature … preferably warm.
Enjoy!

Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.