The great Italian scavenger hunt

How to enjoy Italian bureaucracy

Fr. Scott Murphy, LC
January 16, 2014

Are you an expat and sometimes get frustrated about the paperwork and procedures involved in the Italian system? You could just continue to gripe about time wasted at the questura, the anagrafe or the department of motor vehicles, but that would be to miss out on a grand opportunity. In a recent bureaucratic adventure, as I held in the volcano of frustration that was flaring up inside, I began to see the light.


Not long ago a DMV employee pointed out that my Italian ID did not include my city of birth. What followed turned out to be quite fun: I made at least five phone calls, visits to four different locations and four payments, all in ten easy steps. Result: two words changed on my ID card and confusion at the questura about whether or not I need to change what is written on my permesso di soggiorno.


Here is the light: Americans and other expats tend to take their legal documents seriously. We should, but if we could only imagine that it is all just a game, everything would change. We certainly do not mind investing time, money and energy in entertainment, even taking off an occasional day of work to do so. Well, the Italian bureaucracy game, it turns out, can be quite amusing! I never could have conjured up a more complex, on-going scavenger hunt if I had tried.

What comes next? That is the big question in any great scavenger hunt. Forget about asking, ‘When is it all going to be over?’ The fun is in the journey, not the point of arrival. Its unpredictability is what makes it entertaining.


So, relax. Enjoy the game. Don’t think that you are wasting your time, money and energy. Look upon at it as The Great Italian Scavenger Hunt. There are many ways to make it all enjoyable. See how many government employees you can make smile or even laugh. Keep track of how many hours you spend waiting in line, how many different offices you get to visit and how many steps it takes to get your documents in order. Compare with your friends and have a good laugh over a bottle of Chianti. Keep a photo album of all the wonderful people you meet while waiting in line. Challenge yourself to talk to people from at least 20 different countries. Create a scrapbook with all the numbers you take while waiting in lines, along with all those extra photos that are not the right size to use for your documents. Draw a map of the various passport photo booths you find all over the city. Make your friends back home envious of all the fun you are having!


Or lose your patience, blow your top, make a bunch of enemies, waste money on lawyers and spread general discontent. It is your choice, but like everything else in Italy it’s better just to enjoy it.


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