Rumours of Italian bureaucracy have always been rife, so when, in early 2013, I permanently moved from Ireland to Italy, I was mentally prepared for hassles.
However, without any fuss whatsoever, I opened an Italian bank account, bought a new apartment, was granted full residency status, purchased a brand new Fiat 500, got fully comprehensive car insurance and been accepted by the health service. A fair bit of queuing had been involved, but no major dramas or delays. I began to think that the rumours I had heard about the allegedly trundling juggernaut of Italian bureaucracy had been somewhat exaggerated.
But wait please! Aspetta per favore!
I had yet to apply to have the address changed on my driving licence; a relatively simple procedure you might think. After all, I was now a resident, had my own little car and was driving on an EU licence; to my mind I was almost a bona fide Italian!
But here was where I met my Waterloo in the form of the Italian driving licence authorities.
In November 2013, I went to ACI (Automobile Club of Italy), who act as agents for driving licence applications, and applied to swap my Irish address for my new Italian one here in the Veneto.
“Nessun problema! No problem!” the lady behind the counter assured me. I was sent away to get little photos taken, brought back to do an eye test and then I waited. And I waited. And waited…….
After countless visits to see the lady at ACI, Sandra (we were on first name terms by now) discovered the root cause of the long delay. The problem, apparently, arose due to the fact that I had lived in South Africa during the nineties and this had entailed exchanging my Irish/EU licence for a South African one.
On my return to Ireland in 2000, I had handed the green ID book to the Irish licencing authorities and received a brand new Irish/EU driving licence with no trouble at all. However, little did I know that the fatal number “70” was lurking in the column under the heading “Restrictions”. This innocuous-looking number indicated that my driving licence was a substitute licence from a country outside the EU.
On Sandra’s advice, I duly applied for a clearance certificate from the licencing authority in Ireland, which I submitted to ACI. But even this did not suffice and they then wanted written proof that I had actually done a driving test. The fact that I could not possibly have an EU licence if I had not done a driving test was of no interest to them. They wanted proof! Unfortunately, the Irish authorities do not hold records of ancient pre-computer-era driving tests and consider the clearance certificate more than adequate proof of legitimacy. I even produced an International licence, issued in Ireland, dated 1974, as proof that I had been holding a licence prior to my stint in South Africa, but perhaps they didn’t equate the young girl in the photo with the not-so-young woman on the up-to-date one! Who knows, but it appeared to make no difference and, needless to mention, I was incredibly frustrated by this time, more than two years after my initial application.
But Sandra, my over-the-counter friend, kept up the pressure on my behalf. Every time I walked into ACI she threw her hands in the air crying “Aspetta per favore!” Finally she sent my application to Venice, where they, in their turn, got in contact with the Irish Consulate in Rome for verification.
In the meantime I had had enough time, between applying for my new licence and receiving it, to meet and marry a wonderful American gentleman of similar vintage in a full-on Italian civil wedding (read Moving On).
We are currently putting the finishing touches to our newly built home in Puglia, where we plan to move later this year.
Finally, on July 21st, 2016, while my brand new husband and I were wrapping up our honeymoon with lunch in Asolo, I checked my emails only to find that my licence was ready for collection; just two years and eight months after I initially applied for a change of address.
Picking up my brand new Italian driving licence the next day, there was no “Aspetta per favore!” to greet me, just lots of smiles, and I honestly felt that Sandra was even happier than I was. In fact, I’m sure she’ll miss me!