A couple weeks ago, Emily and I had to go to the local Questura (an official Government/State Police office) to apply for her permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay). After receiving a number at the entrance, we waited in line for over 2 hours. After finally seeing our number up on the board indicating it was our turn, we walked up to the sportello (basically, the window where things get done). After 1 minute (keep in mind we were waiting for over 2 hours with all of our necessary paperwork) we were turned away because we didn't have photocopies of our ID's. We had our originals, but we didn't have photocopies of the originals. That's right - we were turned away because we didn't have... photocopies. Only in Italy is an original passport or ID card not considered proper ID.
After tons of frustration, we finally returned to the Questura a few days later with all of our completed paperwork, and this time, our PHOTOCOPIED ID's. Well, we got turned away. They apparently "ran out of numbers for permesso di soggiorno's." I was furious. I wasn't coming back to the Questura a THIRD time just because Italian bureaucracy is more complicated than using Google in China. So, I finally did what many of our friends and colleagues here had told us to do from the beginning - I thought like an Italian.
So, for anyone who wants to avoid the ridiculousness of Italian bureaucracy next time they're confronted with a trip to the Questura or a trip to the Comune, here are some easy steps to make your next wait in line at an Italian Comune efficient.
How To Wait In Line - Italian Style
2. Walk past anyone who looks like they might work in the aforementioned Questura building.
3. When the sign on the wall says Now Serving # 1 (and yeah, it actually will say "now serving" in English), walk up as if it's actually your turn.
4. When the government employee asks where your number is, tell them "I don't have one" and then bust right into what you actually need done.
5. When they say "I'm sorry, you need a number to be helped," simply repeat "I don't have one" and continue explaining why you actually put up with a trip to the Questura in the first place.
6. After talking over the government employee for a few more "You need a number/I don't have one" verbal ping-pong games, they will finally realize that you, in fact, know exactly what you're doing, and that you, in fact, mean business, and that you, in fact, are actually worthy of their assistance.
7. Accomplish what you need done, get your permesso di soggiorno process in the works, and avoid spending 3 hours waiting in line only to be told "Sorry, you're missing something. You shouldn't have waited all that time in line."
And after all that - wait 3 months for the Italian government to contact you and let you know when you can come back to the Questura to pick up your permesso di soggiorno.
And don't forget to bypass that line!