Italian Language Blog

Paperwork – Part 1 Posted by on Sep 19, 2018 in Culture

In my previous article ‘Living The Dream?‘, I wrote about the distasteful subject of corruzione and furbizia, and how these elements conflict with the concept that many foreign visitors have of the ‘Italian Dream’.

Today, we’re going to look into another aspect of Italian culture that tends to leave ex-pats rather exasperated: la burocrazia (bureaucracy). The example I’m going to give you is based on my recent experience of applying for a porto d’armi (gun permit).

My journey begins in the surgery of my medico curante (doctor). Dr. Paolo has known me for over a decade, and is the person best placed to attest to my idoneità fisica e mentale (physical and mental fitness). The certificate which he gives also states that non faccio uso di stupefacenti o alcool (I don’t abuse drugs or alcohol). This should have cost me €50, but seeing as I don’t want a fattura (tax receipt) he knocks it down to €30 … meglio così!

Once I have my certificato anamnestico (preliminary medical certificate) in hand, I must pay a visit to il medico di distretto (district or regional doctor). Unfortunately, il medico di distretto only comes to Pontremoli one morning a week for just 2 hours!
I turn up half an hour early, if I miss this opportunity I’ll either have to wait another week, or drive to another town to track down il medico (the doctor). I sit and wait for a couple of hours, which I pass chiacchierando (chatting) with the others in the sala d’attesa (waiting room). Finally it’s my turn, and ten minutes later I exit holding my ‘certificato medico di idoneità per il rilascio o il rinnovo della licenza di porto di fucile per uso caccia ed esercizio dello sport del tiro a volo’ (medical certificate of fitness for the release or renewal of a gun licence for hunting or for the sport of target shooting). Try saying that lot in one breath!
This costs me €56, plus una marca da bollo da €16 (a €16 duties stamp).

Now, the famous marca da bollo is one of those quaint, slightly absurd Italian-isms left over from the distant past. It takes the form of a fancy shiny stamp that must be affixed to official certificates and documents. The thing is, you can’t simply buy it in the council offices, doctor’s surgery, police headquarters or whatever. No, that’d be way too convenient. You can only buy la marca da bollo at a tobacconists. Boh! come diciamo in Italia.

The next stage is the bit I’m actually looking forward to. I now have to book an appointment at the Tiro A Segno Nazionale Sezione Di La Spezia (La Spezia branch of the national shooting ranges) in order to undertake a two hour course which, if I’m successful, will grant me my Diploma Di Idoneità Al Maneggio Delle Armi (Diploma of ability to handle firearms). Yippee, I finally get to shoot something!

I book myself in for a Sunday morning session. I’m excited and slightly nervous.
I arrive early, but there are already quite a few folk around. Everyone is molto simpatico (very amicable), and I’m quickly at my ease.

We begin with la parte teorica (the theoretical bit). An ex-policeman, with over 40 years’ experience, talks me through the basic functioning of firearms, including correct handling and safety procedures. Then it’s on to the range where I’m required to demonstrate my ability to handle a firearm by shooting at targets with cento colpi di calibro 22 (a hundred rounds of .22 ammunition): 50 on the pistol, and 50 on the rifle.

We begin with the pistol. Now I should point out that non sono novizio (I’m not a novice). Over 40 years ago I was in the British Air Training Corps, and regularly visited the range to shoot a variety of weapons. I even achieved my ATC marksman’s badge! Since then, although I’ve had few opportunities to shoot ‘real steel’ weapons, I have had plenty of practice with both electric, gas and spring powered rifles and pistols due to the fact that I’m part of a gruppo softair (softair group), which meets up every Sunday for addestramento e partite (training and matches).

When the pistol instructor sees that I’m competent with the Colt .22 semi-auto pistol at 7 metres, he moves the target further back to give me a bit more of a challenge. Meno male, ho sparato abbastanza bene! (Thank goodness, I shot pretty well!).

I approach the 50m rifle range with new confidence. Rifle shooting is generally far easier than pistol shooting, and once again I get good results. I enjoy myself so much that before I knew it I’m down to my last few rounds. And then, sadly, it’s all over. Apart, of course, from the abundant paperwork.

Fortunately, Jessica the secretary, who also happens to be an Italian national bronze medallist with the carbine, is fantastically efficient, and pretty much does everything for me (grazie mille Jessica!). All in, the course costs me €200, plus, naturally, the obligatory marca da bollo da sedici euro. Here’s my certificate, check out the beautiful marca da bollo in the lower left corner …

….. to be continued.

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  1. Rosalind:

    Ebbene, felicitazioni!

    The marca da bolla reminds me of visiting the Museo del mare in Chioggia and I had to go 200m or so up the street to the tobacconist’s to buy the ticket. It was a princely sum of about €3 and I was the only visitor so I can’t imagine there would ever have been great amounts of money involved. Tobacconists are selling ever fewer cigarettes and I suppose it’s a way of giving them some income and keeping them from complaining too loudly.

    • Geoff:

      @Rosalind That’s a good example Rosalind.
      Are they selling less cigarettes though? Smoking appears pretty epidemic here, and wherever we go walking, the roadsides seem to be littered with empty cigarette packets describing all the horrible ways in which they’ll kill you, complete with gory photos.
      As Einstein reportedly said: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m still not sure about the former”
      Personally, I can’t wait until smoking is banned in all public places. It’s disgusting!

      P.S. I hope you’re not a smoker! 🙂

  2. Diane:

    Hi, great post – have you tried buying a bus ticket? We were once sent to 4 different tobacconists none of whom had the tickets. Eventually we bought them at the travel agent but by that time had missed the bus!

    • Geoff:

      @Diane Yes, bus tickets can be a lot of fun! 🙂

  3. Rosalind:

    Non ho mai fumato, grazie a mio padre! 😑 E intorno a me, vedo pochi, pochi fumatori. Mi sembra, e questo è un vero peccato, che fumano molti giovani.

  4. Rosalind:

    Fumino ☹️☹️☹️

  5. Joan Engelhaupt:

    I understand your frustration, and the marca da bolla, as well as the limited availability of the medico di distretto would drive me nuts too, but would that we had such careful licensing of guns here in the U.S. Yet another mass shooting today.

  6. Janna Smith:

    I’m with Joan. I would be so grateful if we had such a careful process here in the U.S.

  7. William Auge:

    Ciao Geoffrey William, dimmi perche si dice sul certificato, ” nato a Gran Bretagna E Irlanda Del Nord”.

    • Geoff:

      @William Auge Ciao Bill!
      Well, I’m just hard to pin down!
      The secretary filled it in for me, and I guess she just copied that from my Italian identity card. TBH, I didn’t even noticed that she hadn’t written my birth town. I think I was too excited about getting my diploma at the time!

      A presto!

  8. Rosalind:

    I think civil servants are often careless about what they write, especially when a foreign language/name is involved. When I got married in Corsica in the late 60s, in spite of having a translated birth certificate, the clerk managed to have me born in Somerset House, London (where all births, marriages and deaths were registered) (instead of Salisbury) and on the date of my arrival in France (though she got the year right! ) .

    These mistakes were on my French id card for many years until eventually I had to go to the Tribunal to get it corrected.

    Enjoy yourselves in the UK, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. You can feast on marmite and fish and chips 😄

    • Geoff:

      @Rosalind Born in Somerset House …how exotic!
      Hopefully I won’t have to do more bureaucracy in order to insert the name of the little town near the tiny village where I was born. I doubt it though.
      Regarding all those names … it’s a nightmare sometimes trying to find the right category on alphabetical forms online as my country may be listed under:
      Regno Unito
      Inghilterra or
      Gran Bretagna

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