An Undeniably Italian Irritation

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

There are certain things that any foreigner moving to Italy comes prepared for.

First are the obvious, and undoubtedly most hotly-anticipated: tasty food, extremely quaffable wine, endless degrees and variations on a theme of coffee, a rich history of music and the arts, and vibrant and diverse countryside.

Then come those that many ex-pats secretly hope for: a strong sense of community, warmth and welcome, simplicity, kindness and a zest for life.

Trailing way behind are the distastefully inevitable: unpredictable driving, a frustrating lack of order, and that most dreaded of old chestnuts… bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is, of course, a necessary evil of an evermore chaotic and overpopulated modern world; but in Italy especially, the ranks of box-ticking bureaucrats have grown to wield a frankly Orwellian power.

The slightest change in one’s circumstances, or the need to complete an administrative task of any nature can eat away hour after indescribable hour: visiting Office A to beg for Form B, carting Form B to Office C to purchase Official Stamp D, taking the newly stamped Form B to Office E and waiting for an hour, only to be told that it is Office F you should have been sitting in, and arriving at Office F to be told that they need a signature from Bureaucrat G before they will even consider ticking whatever box needs to be ticked, oh! and have you brought a doctor’s note with that?

Gritted teeth and a vague semblance of a philosophical outlook are the only tools at most people’s disposition to get them through often farcical official procedure, but sometimes even those tools are simply not man enough for the job.

A situation I now find myself only too closely acquainted with, much to my frustration and sorrow.

I managed somehow to keep my calm when neighbours, through suspicious parsimony (despite my already voiced intention to shoulder the bulk of the costs), scuppered perfectly justified plans for a new roof two years ago – forcing me to spend money on a temporary solution that did nothing to insulate my apartment, nor to stop water gushing down newly plastered walls into electrical sockets and pouring onto my bedroom furniture every time the rain stepped it up a notch.

But things are different now.

I am expecting a baby. A baby that deserves to start life in a warm house, without the ever-present risk of rain dripping onto its button nose as it catches forty winks.

So when everyone returned from their holidays at the beginning of September, I began my new roof offensive – quotes all round, neighbours coaxed into making a decision, chosen quote delivered to the geometra, and the initial administrative fee paid.

It would take 20 days to get the quote approved by the powers that be, leaving work to begin around the second week of October – hopefully before the onset of autumnal precipitation.

But when October came without the smallest rattle of scaffolding, a visit to the geometra became necessary; at which point we were informed that sometime between submitting the quote and getting it approved, a brand new law had been plucked from the skies requiring the intervention of yet another office of bureaucrats (who would also have to be paid large sums of money, certo…).

Weeks passed with no news, so the geometra was contacted again. Was there really no way this new office could give an indication of how long we would be expected to wait for their diamond-incrusted tick? Might it be a week? Twenty days? A month? Six months? I am expecting a baby in January, a baby that deserves to be warm and raindrop-free. I need to come back to Italy to be with my husband before I am too pregnant to travel, but we have to know what is likely to happen with the roof on order to decide how to proceed. Help.


And then the ridiculous, almost unbelievable truth began to emerge:

Someone, somewhere, at some point along the line (and nobody seems to know more than that) decided that the new roof requires the builder to knock the top of our walls off and build them up again with reinforced concrete.

Further cost. Nature of the beast. Oh well.

But…. and this is the big butt…. the bureaucrat previously dealing with all matters of a reinforced concrete nature in the provincial administrative offices has recently retired, and his replacement is point blank refusing to take on the responsibility of signing off on works of a reinforced concrete nature.

Thus ensuring that AN ENTIRE PROVINCE has ground to a halt in all construction/renovation matters pertaining to reinforced concrete, leaving us high, dry and without a clue where next to turn.

Our paperwork has been signed off by a role call of various geometra and engineers, but if we got to work without this one last tick, the hounds of officialdom would be snapping at our heels before the first tile was laid – fining the owners, the builders and the geometra, before whisking us all off to court.

Despite the fact that it is they who have put us in this position.

Oh, Italy… 😦

This is Status Viatoris, who would have liked to rebut a recent sarcastic enquiry as to whether there was no bureaucracy in the UK, with a cold and damning stare.



12 Responses to “An Undeniably Italian Irritation”

  1. an admirer Says:

    SV, words fail me! What a complete & utter ****s up! How you deal with such a situation without losing one’s marbles I don’t know but I do so hope things are sorted out somehow so that you can return to Italy and be with your Husband before you are grounded!


    • statusviatoris Says:

      I definitely did lose my marbles there for a short while, until the Mothership reminded me that foetuses need maternal marbles in order to grow big and strong… I would happily torture every last useless bloody civil servant to death, however, and I’m sure sproglet would heartily approve of that.


  2. Helen Devries Says:

    When I next hear Americans moaning about bureaucracy in Costa Rica I will refer them to this post…..makes you want to resurrect the Red Brigade and do a bit of kidnapping…


    • statusviatoris Says:

      I was asked the other day if there wasn’t anyone involved who I could bribe! Not sure I am prepared to spend any more money bearing in mind that the administrative charges involved in getting permission for a new roof are already well into the thousands… I’ll probably just have to sleep with a bureaucrat, although I would have to have a long Dettol bath afterwards to get the stink of entitlement and incompetence off my skin. Yuk.


  3. Gabriele Says:

    Non so esattamente in che termini porlo, perché “divertente” non mi pare appropriato, per cui opterò per “interessante”.
    La cosa interessante, in materia edilizia, così come in altre materie, è che ogni Regione funziona in un modo proprio e ogni Comune ha un suo modo, individuale, di interpretare la legislazione regionale, per cui è sempre una sorpresa.
    Alcune amministrazioni comunali cercano di venirti incontro e di aiutarti nel dedalo di moduli che proliferano come roditori, altre amministrazioni, invece, se ne fregano bellamente di te e ti lasciano in balìa delle loro scartoffie.
    Credo che sia un tratto latino; a noi piace la burocrazia, il nostro è un rapporto di amore e odio, e ci piace produrre “interpretazioni autentiche” e carta accessoria anche nei casi, rari, nei quali la legge è, sorprendentemente, chiara


    • statusviatoris Says:

      Se ho capito bene, in questa situazione non e’ che la legge non sia chiara (anche se hanno aggiunto degli nuovi salti mortali prima di concedere il premio), pero che per i motivi che siano (mancanza d’amore materno? lasciato dalla fidanzata da poco? dolori mestruali?), il responsabile non si sente disposto a fare il lavoro per il quale viene pagato. E così e’ riuscito fermare i lavori di tutta una provincia.

      Quindi in realtà, non e’ la burocrazia italiana che e’ in colpa, ma un solo uomo incompetente! Uffi, che palle 🙂

      Non conosci, per caso, nessuno che lavora nella Provincia d’Imperia, ho bisogno di contatti. In Italia it is not what you know, but WHO you know… 😉


      • Gabriele Says:

        uhm…a Imperia nessuno, ma posso provare ad informarmi; sabato vedo una amica che conosce un po’ di gente.


        • statusviatoris Says:

          🙂 Sei un sole! 🙂


        • Gabriele Says:

          Una cosa che mi è venuta in mente e dipende da quanto tempo siete in ballo per il rifacimento del tetto.
          Avrete, senz’altro fatto una pratica edilizia, e, a sboccio, potrebbe trattarsi di una SCIA (segnalazione certificata di inizio attività); i titoli abilitativi hanno un tempo di istruttoria della pratica (60-90giorni) scaduti quali, si forma il “silenzio-assenso”.
          Prova a informarti presso chi ha presentato la pratica edilizia, perché se è passato abbastanza tempo potete iniziare i lavori con il silenzio assenso


        • statusviatoris Says:

          Ciao Gabriele! Abbiamo fatto lo possibile per capire la situazione, pero sembra che la regola dei 60 giorni non e’ applicabile in questo caso. Non si sa perché. Un architetto ci ha anche consigliato che dato che entra la pioggia in casa, dobbiamo poter andare avanti anche senza “permesso”, pero neanche quello sembra essere possibile nel nostro caso. Ho scritto tre email, una lettera ed un fax alla provincia di Imperia, pero senza nessuna risposta. Tutto al livello cemento armato rimane ancora bloccato. Quindi ci tocca aspettare, solo che non si sa ne perché ne per quanto tempo… 🙂 Uffi 😦


  4. farfalle1 Says:

    Ai yi yi yi. The dark side of Italy indeed. It is so incredibly frustrating that there’s nothing you can do. Can you talk to the mayor, or someone, anyone?? I think the word ‘snafu’ was invented for Italy (situation normal: all fucked up). Hang in there!


    • statusviatoris Says:

      The mayor (who, handily, is also owner of the apartment below) is now on the case, but as it was unfortunately she who recently made the snide remark about no bureaucracy in the UK, I’m not sure how much effort she will be prepared to put in. Unfortunately there is nobody else in the building who either lives under the leaky roof, or who is expecting a baby in January, which leaves me and hubby as the only players in this sorry debacle who actually give a shit!

      Rant over!



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