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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.