It took us 4 months to figure out our living situation here in Italy. It took us 6 months to figure out how to get a proper internet connection. And now after an entire year, we've finally figured out the crazy world of paying bills in Italy. Specifically, the gas bill.
Since moving to Bologna we've been legally robbed by the Italian gas company Hera on a bi-monthly basis. At first I thought - we're not in the US and gas is CAH-RAZY expensive here, therefore I didn't think twice about our gas bills. But after the second and third bills arrived, Em and I realized we needed to be waaaaaay more attentive on how much gas we used. So we did just that, acting like responsible adults (!), and not consuming too much energy. Tracking our conservation efforts, we expected a much less expensive gas bill the fourth time around.
Nope. It was TRIPLE the previous two bills put together.
Long story short, because of our previous experiences with apartment hunting, getting phones, internet service, etc. - we learned that there's the recommended way of doing things... and then the Italian way of doing things. So, I had a hunch that there was something Italians were doing with their gas bills that the guide books just don't tell you about in the How To Pay Bills In Italy chapter.
After a week of asking all of my students, the consensus (more theory than fact) was that Hera has this formula where they work off of the highest gas bill ever paid in the history of your apartment (ours goes back to the 1600s, fyi), and base consumption estimates on that. BUT, and here's where your glasses for reading really fine print come in handy, there's a phone number where you can automatically input your meter usage, and voila! Accurate bills!
I rushed home to Em the night I found out about this to explain what I had just learned. Her response was the stink-eye and incredulity at the fact that the Bologna branch of Hera had never thought of hiring actual meter readers for the city center. After reminding her that we're not dealing with Con-Edison anymore, I tried my hand at this autolettura (literally, self reading). Lo and behold, the wonderful people at Hera sent me my most recent gas bill...
Yup. That is indeed a NEGATIVE 457 euros. Papa's not paying for gas for the rest of the year!
(Fingers crossed, of course).