a day in Florence

How to explain our experience? It seems that the best way to relay what we step through, is the same way we tackle it: one day at a time.

Today (Wed), for example, was a list of errands for our re-entry into Florentine life. We landed in Italy late Friday (from a 3 week diversion to the states to 1. obtain extra 'residing in Italy' paperwork, and 2. visit family). It was an unexpected trip, but a good one.

Today we stood in a lot of lines, sat in a few offices, and otherwise took a number:
  1. trying to obtain a laminated card much like a social security card (no, that is another office, and you need even more paperwork),
  2. we sat with officials to fill out paperwork for permission to reside in Italy (watching them inefficiently copy individual pieces of paper---a total of around 100---from each of our four folders was painful; meanwhile James ran to a shop to buy specific stamps that cost 14 euros each, for this precise paper-pushing function),
  3. visiting offices re: health insurance which you can purchase here (we asked in 3 places, each of which we were sent to by another, the last of which included having a number and sitting for an hour plus, only to find out that we need another official document first... but here is the form and BTW: you can only purchase it for the calendar year... and its October).
  4. We submitted official paperwork---with Anthony in tow (since he just turned 14 he has to file separately too)---at an office inside the post office (yes: another queue plus fees).
It is humorous, really. And we are learning that each task can take up to four times as long as one might normally expect. Assuming the humor doesn't wane, all should be well... James and I take turns being the one optimist and pessimist.

In addition to those errands, we picked up the last few school books for the boys (James went to 3 book stores a few weeks back to find one where you could purchase both used and new books. The books come in one at a time. (Fortunately, this time the line was much shorter than the previous four visits; the boys have hoards of books).

This is normal, and daily: we visit an office to obtain a specific card, document, registration or the latest is an Italian translation of our marriage certificate (stamped by another office, then returned to a third office with another 4 documents to obtain a specific number...). At that appointed office
, we are sent to another office across town. When you get there you discover it is only open Tue through Thursday mornings---or to field questions via phone from 2-4 every other Wed afternoon. During that special blocked out time, you take a number. When your number is finally called you will either 1. be told you need document A before you can have document B (which is consistently the reverse of what we were just told at another office the previous day), or 2. be given another number for another line in the same office, or 3. have the opportunity to schedule an appointment for another day.

And you thought the day was done?

We also bought the boys their school logo-specific sweats for PE. This is no small ordeal. The uniform store---which we went to a few weeks back prior to school---is a hearty bike ride outside the city. We called them (fortunately having adequate minutes on our phone... because recently we had no internet and no minutes and no way to reload except by going to a store... or rather, James going to a store to gain information to add minutes which has to be done online, which meant finding an internet cafe... etc., etc.). The uniform store pointed us to another sport store, but couldn't remember the name. We went to 3 sport stores (each one recommending the one following) before we found the correct one. We were so excited to finally find the right store, AND the sweats were on hand not needing to be ordered.

The biggest sigh of finding the specific PE sweats, was avoiding the impending doom (in adolescent terms) of the PE teacher herself. She was getting a bit... annoyed that the boys didn't have the right sweats. Can you tell her your parents have to reach stores via bicycle? Can you tell her the store doesn't have the sweats in stock? Can you tell her we have to FLY HOME to the states to worry about things like visas and licenses, stamped bank statements, original birth certificates and health care? Can you tell the PE teacher we just got back, are still adjusting to jet lag, are barely avoiding every available airborne sickness, don't have internet access to locate stores and phone numbers (Misc: when we returned from the US our apt. had no wifi b/c some bill prior to our arrival hadn't been paid... of course we didn't know why it was turned off. Since we had paid for our months' use... which left us with 1. stress, 2. headaches. 3. 12 hours of troubleshooting, 4. numerous phone calls to the internet company---thank GOD James knows Italian, 5. creative wifi finding at nearby cafes...), and then some? Shall I talk to the teacher? Do you want a note? How about a few 'Hail, Mary's?' (Um, no mom. I prefer just to get in trouble).

At this point it is just past noon, and we have an appointment with one of the Madres at the school. We are full of questions: where to leave an extra bag at school for soccer (twice a week the boys have to leave early from school to cycle to soccer, so they have to bring their belongings... should they just take an extra pannier? Do you feel my logistical pain?). Also: who to pay supply money to, do you have a copy of the morning prayer the kids recite in Italian, when is the field trip, what is the protocol for kids leaving early from school, times for teacher conferences, the school schedule (not printed, not online... can you confirm it?)...

Today: we came away with many questions answered, had found the sweats, James had a few successful phone calls, we knew what offices we needed to find and or revisit tomorrow and it was a beautiful day to be on your bike... even if it was in between office visits... all and all, a good day.

Even though James and I stand in line a lot, and are learning the innards of the immigration process, soccer and school re-entry is going well for the boys, for which we are grateful. Caleb sprained a wrist tonight, but only b/c he was sliding for a winning goal (add to tomorrow's list: find a wrist brace in Florence). It was a bummer, but he didn't seem deterred. And now, tonight, we
are in the midst of homework; sadly, I am quite useless when it comes to Italian homework. James has to be 'on' all the time. HE has secondary (is the official on call homework assistant) homework for a few hours each night, thanks to the boys' assignments.

We hope that soon, our lives will shift from this overarching, grinding 2nd gear into a happy 3rd. We will soon be well into the Florentine time zone, enjoying our self-prescribed routine and responsibilities. We should have stood in enough lines to call it quits for awhile; and will have time to visit more sites, see great art, and soak up our Florentine life.


  1. Your experience should be fully documented and made into a book for anyone thinking that just hopping a plane and going to live in Italy for a year is such a romantic and blissful idea. Given the number of times I read that on someone's blog, you would probably pen a best-seller.

  2. I agree with Kate. Just reading today's post wore me out, but really good information. You guys should write a book.

  3. Anonymous31.10.09

    I will 'third' those Comments above! Wow! I'm worn out just reading about it - and truly awed by your perseverance! I love reading about your adventures. Thank you again for sharing your Florentine life with us.


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