I know it seems like my life is perfect (and for the most part it is right now – I’m continually pinching myself), however, we do have our share of complications. And they’re complications in Italian which is whole new sphere of weirdness.
We recently ran some errands in the village and decided to pick up some porchetta from the butcher for lunch. For those who don’t know, prochetta is pork which has been cut off the bone, stuffed with herbs, and rolled up with various organs thrown in for good measure, then roasted until the skin is crispy and crackly and the inside is moist and tender. It takes pork to a new level and is extremely hard to duplicate in the US. There is great competition about where to get the best porchetta, but I’m such a novice that it all tastes mighty fine to me. Perhaps at the end of my year here I’ll be one of those porchetta snobs who frowns at sub-standard roasts and will only patronage the best of the best. But for now I kind of like being ignorant but happy. Our favorite nine-fingered butcher cut us some slabs, and we went by the bakery to get some great bread with which to make panini. When we got home, we wanted the porchetta warmed up a little so I put it in a roasting pan and turned the oven on low. Then the power went out. After a Keystone Cops routine of trying to find out where the breaker box was, we got the switch flipped back on. Great. Oven back on, porchetta in, and the power goes out again. Repeat a few more times before we wisely decided to heat the porchetta on the cook top. Our oven and cook top are separate units – gas on top and electric oven. So the burners worked just fine. Oven not so much. Add that to the list to ask the landlord about. Italian power is notoriously finicky and we know that you can’t operate certain things together. Like the electric tea kettle and the washing machine. Or the iron with anything. But I was ready for this and made sure that nothing else was even plugged in near the stove. It’s quite possibly operator error, although I’m not sure how many ways there are to turn an oven on.
One of the things we have to do is obtain a permesso di soggiorno, which is something required by Italy and is in addition to our Resident’s Visa, but is the actual document that will allow us to stay here over three months. We thought we just needed to go to the Questura (the police department) and show our Visa, and voila, permesso di soggiorno. Not so much. First of all, no one at the Sansepolcro Questura speaks English. Nor should they, but this makes it very difficult for us to figure out exactly what we need to do. Finally one of them points to a poster that has a phone number for the Questura in Arezzo and said we needed to call them. Or at least we think that’s what he said. At this point, instead of running on a wild goose chase to Arezzo, we employ the services of our friend Michelangelo who speaks about 59 languages. The man is amazing. And very nice to us. He ends up on the phone for hours trying to figure out what we need to do. Thank goodness he helped with this – no way we would have able to get this information on our own. He made an appointment for us and off we went to Arezzo to get the papers filed. It took about an hour for the papers to be completed, signed, sealed, and delivered. Only they’re not quite delivered yet because for some reason we have to take the whole package to the Post Office and they give us the receipt and tracking information. In Italy, there’s always one more step.
Same kind of thing with the utilities. Since we were here last, we have acquired another property. Our house is actually two separate apartments. We had the bottom two floors and the third floor was rented to someone else. Well, during the pandemic, they moved and it became available. So we decided to take the whole house. Only problem was we had to get the utilities transferred to our name. Sounds simple, right? Well, think again. Fortunately, we know someone who is married to someone who works for the water company. That one was relatively easy, thanks to a couple of Braves shirts brought to their two boys (thanks, Jason!). The gas and electric – even our Italian friends say good luck to us on getting this done. I’ll never understand the Italian love for bureaucracy. I I wonder if it was created after WWII when they tried to employ thousands of people and had to have so many layers that it just became ingrained. But let me tell you, it is alive and well – and not just in government. In every business you can imagine. That’s why it’s good to retire here and not work here – I can’t imagine trying to figure all this out while making a living.
OK, so maybe these things don’t add up to any great impediment to a wonderful life. After all, we’re in Tuscany, in a beautiful house, eating fantastic food, drinking amazing wine, looking at incredible scenery, and enjoying the most pleasant weather imaginable. Maybe our standards are little too high to allow even a little bit of stress to infiltrate our lives. Now that I think about it, shame on us for thinking we have anything to worry about. We’re living the good life and into that life a little annoyance must enter. At least we’re not trying to get our license renewed at the DMV. Oh, driver’s license – there’s another thing we have to do.