Stupidaggine is an Italian word I have come to know and love. It means stupidity, foolishness, silliness etc etc. It applies very well to the process of acquiring a licence in Italy for so many reasons.
Before I describe the hideous business, firstly I will tell you why I am now in this position. Because we are in Italy for several months of the year we thought it would be a good idea to buy a car. Hiring a car, particularly an automatic, which I prefer here, can be expensive, reinforcing our decision to buy.
To do this we needed to get a Carta di Identita – a kind of residents’ permit. As usual there is really nowhere to find out how to go about applying for this in logical order. Mine took roughly 2 years to get as there was much to and fro between Italy and Australia. From my experience this is the order in which you need to do things.
1. Get an extended stay visa in Australia. The details of this are shown in another blog – January 2010.
2. Apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno within 8 days of your arrival in Italy. To do this you can get the necessary forms from a Post Office, usually the main one in a large town like Lucca. Smaller branches don’t know about them. You will need help to fill out this complicated form. There are offices designed to do just this in most towns. Alternatively, you can go direct to one of these offices and start from scratch here.
3. Take the form with the stamp duties – there are 2 fees, one payable at the post office and the other can be bought at a Tabacchi – to the post office, lodge it and pay the next lot of fees. Keep the receipts you will recieve, you will need them when you get your appointment with the Questura. You don’t really get an appointment. You are given a time and date, but then you just go in and stand in line with everyone else.
4. Wait. When it is your allotted day you go to the Questura, take your receipts, passport with visa, 4 photos, proof of financial status and proof of ownership of a residence here, or where you are staying. You will be fingerprinted, photographed and sent on your way.
5. Wait. Eventually your Permesso will be ready to collect.
6. With your Permesso in hand, go to the local Comune and ask for a Carta di Identita. Be prepared to be shouted at. Stand your ground. If you are lucky your paperwork will be processed and a couple of weeks later a member of the Polizia Municipale will visit your home to make sure you actually live there. The one who came to visit me was very nice.
7. Wait. With a bit of luck your Carta di Identita will be ready in a few weeks provided all your paperwork has been correct.
Had I known the order of the procedure it may have taken less than 2 years. Anyway, once I had the Carta di Identita I was able to buy our Toyota Corolla, which we are most happy with.
The next piece of information filled me with horror. Once in possession of the Carta di Identita I had one year to get my Italian licence. I didn’t have time to do this last year when we bought the car so I started the process when I arrived in Italy in February. There was another stumble when I found out I had to get another Permesso before I could proceed with the aquisition of the licence, but once that was taken care of I was off to the driving school.
The lessons are conducted in Italian. My Italian is fine for everyday stuff, but not sufficient to understand the theory of driving here. Fortunately, there is a book of instructions in English and Italian. It took a week to arrive. Once I looked at it, my heart sank. I have never seen a more complicated, ambiguous, ridiculous book – ever! Stupidaggine!!! It is full of translation errors, large and small, but even without these it takes a great deal of patience and perserverance to navigate. If I don’t pass my test this time I will look for a school where English is spoken. Had I known how difficult it would be I would have searched for this prior to starting. I’m not even sure if such a thing exists.
I have been attending lessons and studying the book for about 5 weeks. This has been stop start as we have been trying to fit in a bit of sightseeing and doing all the wonderful things we come to Italy to do. For the last few days I have been practising the exam questions on the computer at the driving school. This has given me a little confidence as I have been getting most of the questions correct. It all depends of course, on the type of questions on the day. I have been dreading questions about 3rd Party Insurance and whether your licence can be withdrawn immediately, withdrawn, suspended or revised and the reasons why. I am also shaky on signals made by a policeman and whether a sign is regulatory, hazard, information etc, etc. It isn’t enough to know what the sign is telling you, you must know what type of sign it is. The positioning of St Andrew’s crosses at level crossings has me confused, and is there a flashing light at a crossing with or without gates? It is in the lap of the gods as to whether the questions are easy or not.
This morning (Friday 7th May) was the day of my driving theory test. I was up bright and early and having a last look through the theory book. I arrived early to meet my instructor who took me to the place where I was to take the test. There was a group already installed in the room doing their test so I waited.
Soon it was my turn and I was ushered in with a group of about 10 others and were shown to our computers. I am so glad I was able to have a bit of practice and knew what to do as all the instructions were in Italian.
The test began and the first question was about a particular give way sign. Of course, there was one of the dreaded questions. Was it a regulatory sign? I said yes, but I was far from sure. Next question, sure enough, 3rd Party Insurance and a really complicated one. Then came “What type of vehicles can you drive with a type B licence?” Surely that is written on the licence. Fortunately, the right of way question was fairly simple and there were a couple more I was reasonably sure of and before long it was over and I had to confirm my amswers. I counted in my head at least 5 answers I was not confident about – more than enough to fail.
We were ushered out of the room to wait until the test results were collected. Soon we were called back in and one by one called up to the desk. The rest of the group pushed their way in front of me so I arrived just in time to hear my name called. I had no idea whether I had passed or failed as I couldn’t understand what the woman said. I asked if I had done well and she sort of said yes. I couldn’t tell from the piece of paper she gave me as it was just marked in one place and signed. I looked through my theory book and found that I had got the sign question and the 3rd Party question right so I started to get a bit of confidence. I didn’t really know I had passed until my instructor came back to pick me up and he looked at the form.
I have never been so relieved in my life!!! I didn’t even care when he told me I can’t do the driving test next week as they are booked out. I will have to come back in September before my learners’ permit runs out to do that – something to look forward to.
If you ever have to do this, allow yourself plenty of time, get help from someone who has done it and try to find an instructor who speaks at least some English. Good Luck!!! Let me know how you go.
I’m sorry there are no photos.