How to get an Italian driver’s license

How to get an Italian driver’s license

After going through the labyrinthine process of getting your permesso di soggiorno, carta d’identità, codice fiscale and health card, (congratulations, by the way) the next step in your integration into Italian society is get your Italian driver’s license.

You’ll find lots of posts on the internet about people’s experience how to get their driver’s license in Italy, but since I’m going through the process right now, you may want up-to-date info. In this post, I’ll go through in detail the following:

  • The law about driving in Italy
  • Driving school
  • Theory lessons and exam
  • Driving lessons and exam
  • Driver’s License
  • Resources
  • My experience
Continue Reading ->
10 Years in Europe. Happy Anniversary to me!

10 Years in Europe. Happy Anniversary to me!

Wow wow wow. Ten years ago today I got on a plane with three suitcases and left my home in New York for London and now I’m here, 6 visas later, living in a little yellow house in Ischia. The plan back then when I first started was to study in London for a year and then move to Rome and see how long I could last there.

Continue reading “10 Years in Europe. Happy Anniversary to me!”

My 29th birthday and saying goodbye to New York and my friends. I was so excited to move to London and be closer to Italy. That’s my friend Phillipe on the left and my cousin Marina, laughing gloriously, on the right.  New York, August 2008.

There were so many moments during those first years in which I felt like my nerves were stretching like piano strings while I flew back and forth between Italy and the UK playing the visa game, keeping up with friendships and trying not to fail and move back to New York. Immigration laws and visa woes drove me crazy and created oceans of anxiety. Also the solitude, isolation and loneliness from living abroad and in new cities. The unrelenting effort to start a new life from scratch in all of these different places. The insecurity of learning and speaking a different language. All the unsuccessful job interviews and having to navigate through low self-esteem.

Sometimes it felt like no one understood what I was trying to do and the things I was doing to make it happen. While people could understand the effort and ambition you need to go after a career, trying to live where you want to live isn’t really recognised as something commendable (just look at all the anti-immigration rhetoric that’s dominating politics). I mean no one was giving me a high-five as I filled out applications and went to visa appointments and immigration offices. Most of the time, I felt like I was a brat for wanting something that I couldn’t have.

Me in class getting ready for a class trip to the Venice Biennale. London, June 2009.

I could have stayed in the US and gotten a career in something and become a professional who wore nice clothes to work and felt like I could take care of myself. Instead I threw myself into uncertainty, cobbling together jobs and studying for two more masters, walking the streets a perpetual over-educated and underemployed non-EU citizen hoping that something would turn out in the end.

Me in my kitchen in Rome wearing an apron from Ischia. Despite the solitude and heartache, I loved loved loved Rome so much. Rome, August 2010

When I moved back to London, I had a bed, Ikea furniture and 11 boxes of stuff that I put on a truck. Everything arrived 3 weeks later. A lot of those things came back with me when we moved back to Italy. Rome, February 2011.

10 years on, I’m still here and it’s turned out pretty good. I’ve slowly learned how to deal with the uncertainty and not treat the set-backs as a reflection on my character. I’m proud that I made it this far. Looking back, I would have done some things differently (like study in Rome instead of London), but then I might not be sitting here today, writing this post from my home on an island in the Mediterranean where I live with Marituccio. I’m stronger than I was 10 years ago, have met amazing people along the way, especially artists and writers, developed strong friendships that can withstand the distance, and created a new way of living in different cities, languages and accents. I’ve had tons of jobs and learned new skills. I’ve worked in art galleries, an auction house, and a bakery. I’ve been a private English tutor, a translator, and freelance writer. I’ve written, performed and published poems and essays. I haven’t made a lot of money or stock-piled a nest egg, but I did manage to fill up the pages in my passport and had new pages put in.

During these years, I’ve seen this tide against migrants and refugees swell across Europe and I’ve been caught in the changes in laws as conservative governments have come into power. And it’s really ironic, that now as an immigrant married to an Italian and having had to go through immigration in Italy, I feel more welcomed and legally accepted than I ever did in the UK (even before Brexit). I’m painfully aware of the disgusting racist rhetoric against immigrants coming from the government and Italians on the street, this perpetual blaming the other, as if kicking out immigrants is going to automatically make life beautiful for those that were born here. The irony, contradictions and awareness of my privilege is something I deal with every day especially when I get into an argument with someone over immigration and I hear them say something offensive about immigrants. ‘But Giovanna, I wasn’t talking about you.’

I sometimes still struggle with the idea that I could have stayed home and I question myself wouldn’t it be easier to move back home and establish a career, buy a house, start a family, save money for retirement? But the longer I’m here, the less I ask myself that. Moving back to Italy is definitely not the way to go for job and life security and who knows what I’ll be able to achieve here, but living in London and going through Brexit taught me that there is no single place or career that will give you security. Something will always happen that will change everything you planned for, so why not just follow your heart and do what you want to do?

My favourite job was at Christie’s in London. This was my last day at work hanging out in the post room with the boys. London, July 2012.

Learning how to make pasta. That’s my mother-in-law in the background. Venice, August 2012

Me and Marituccio happy, tired and drunk on our wedding day in London. August 2013

I don’t know what’s next in store for me and I don’t have that dreamy eyed excitement of starting a life abroad as I did 10 years ago, but I’m still certain that this is where I want to be. I’ve applied for Italian citizenship (which will probably take years to come through, I’m not holding my breath), so one day in the future I won’t be considered an extracomunitaria but an Italian and EU citizen. Something I’ve wanted ever since I was a little kid. When that happens, will that change how I feel about who I am and where I belong?

Doing chores at our first place in Ischia. December 2017.

Speaking at a round table discussion during La Palabra en El Mundo Poetry Festival in Venice. I was terribly unprepared, but I pulled myself together and spoke in Italian about culture and identity. Ca Foscari, Venice, May 2018. (photo by Alexandra Mitakidis)

When I was little, Italy was where I had family that made me feel loved and welcomed and I wanted to be with them and live where they were. Despite being a foreigner, I didn’t feel out of place here. Of course, now that I’m an adult and live here, it’s a bit more complicated, but it still feels like home, even though the longer I live here, home is a harder place to define. But I think the biggest thing is that while for decades, home and Italy felt like a childhood dream, a magical place, now that I’m here, I realise home isn’t a perfect place. But it’s where I want to be and I’m finally allowed to be where I want to be, so  I think that’s good enough.

PART 2: Getting a Permesso di soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)

PART 2: Getting a Permesso di soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)

After 8 months and 7 visits to the Questura di Venezia, I finally have my Carta di Soggiorno. What, you ask? Weren’t you applying for a Permesso di Soggiorno (PdS)?  Yes! I was expecting to receive a PdS (with a shorter expiry date) because that was what I’ve read online and what I applied for, but I was given a longer-term residency permit (valid for 5 years) because I was a family member of an EU citizen.

You can read about how to apply and the documents that you need in Part 1.

To explain it all, I’ll give you a timeline of my experience since there is so little information out there and up until I finally picked up my permesso/carta, I had no idea what to expect.

Continue reading “PART 2: Getting a Permesso di soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)”

My experience

November 2017: I moved to Italy from London. We were going to live in Ischia, but we stopped in Venice, where Marituccio is from, so we can do our paperwork, establish residency and get enrolled in the Italian health system.

I went to the Questura di Venezia the day after I arrived and applied in person and without an appointment. According to the Italian consulate in London (read no. 3), you don’t need to apply through the postal kit and wait for an appointment, you can go directly to the Questura and apply on that day.

So, I arrived to the Questura, gave the security guard my passport and he told me to go inside and wait. I waited for about 3 hours until someone called my name and I went to a desk. I gave him my documents and he filled out a form and sent me to another room to get my fingerprints. I waited another hour to get my fingerprints taken and then went back to the desk and he gave me a temporary PdS, a paper version with my picture stapled on it that was valid for 3 months. I had to go back in 3 months to see if it was ready and if it wasn’t, they would stamp my temporary permesso for another 3 months.

With my temporary permesso, I was able to go to the comune to get residency, enroll in the health care system, and open a bank account.

Provisional Permesso di Soggiorno they gave me to keep while I waited for my official Permesso di Soggiorno

December 2017: We moved to Ischia in Naples and got a short-term flat so we could get settled and look for long-term housing.

February 2018: I went to the Questura in Venice two weeks before it was going to expire. I was given a number and waited 5 hours to see someone. When I did, he told me I came to early to see if it was ready and to come back the following week. I went back the following week, it still wasn’t ready so I got a stamp that extended it for another 3 months.

March 2018: The local police, sent by the Questura, visited Martiuccio’s mom’s house, to see if we lived there. This is part of the process for the permesso di soggiorno, but I had no idea. I thought the police only come to check where you live when you apply for residency. My mother-in-law told the police that we were living in Ischia, that Marituccio got a seasonal job in a hotel, and she gave him his number.

They called Marituccio and told us we had to go up to Venice so they can come see us. They were nice about it though and let us fix an appointment with them so we could make work and travel arrangements and fly up there the following week . So we did, the officer stopped by the house, took photographs of our ID cards with his camera and then talked for 10 minutes with my mother-in-law about plumbing.

May 2018: I went back to the Questura on a Wednesday afternoon where they only see people who come to pick up their PdS. I waited an hour. It wasn’t ready, but the guy was perplexed because he said it should have been ready by now since the police had visited the house. He extended my permit for two months.

June 2018: On the Questura di Venezia website, there is a page where you can check to see if your PdS is ready. No one told me about this, I just checked and saw it. When I put in my number, nothing would show up so I figured either 1) I wasn’t in the system, 2) it wasn’t ready or 3) you couldn’t check my type of PdS in the system. I checked in June and suddenly it came up that my permit was ready and that I could go to the Questura to pick it up. Hurray! I could have gone up to Venice, but I decided to wait until July when my temporary permit expired because I had been travelling every single month since I arrived in Italy and wanted to take a break.

applying for a permesso di soggiorno as a family member of an italian citizen
I was expecting this electronic biometric card as my permesso di soggiorno. (Which I received the last time I lived in Italy).

July 2018: I took a flight to Venice, arrived late in the evening and stayed in a hotel across the street from the Questura so I could get there extra early and be one of the first people to enter once it opened. I arrived at 645 am and when I arrived up to the security office at 830, he told me that on Mondays they don’t see people who come to pick up their PdS. I walked away crying many tears of frustration. I went back the next day and waited 5 hours. When I got to the desk, he pulled out a big file with my name on it. I was expecting a Permesso di Soggiorno that was valid for two years, but instead he gave me a Carta di Soggiorno, a long-term residency permit, that was valid for 5 years. I checked that my details were correct and signed two copies. One copy they kept, the other copy was for me, a paper booklet. I was completely surprised because I hadn’t come across online that spouses would receive a Carta di Soggiorno. Everything I read called it a PdS. So I left the questura elated because it meant that I probably would never have to go to the questura again (knock on wood). Since I’ve applied for Italian citizenship via marriage, hopefully my citizenship will come through before the permit expires.

But if it doesn’t, then I will apply again in order to receive permanent residency.



applying for a permesso di soggiorno as a family member of an italian citizen
The Carta di Soggiorno for family members of EU citizens.


Things I’ve learned through this whole process:

• Be resigned to the fact that there is little information and that you’ll have to find out things as you go along. You can get an idea by reading online or talking to others, but your experience may be different than someone else’s. But still, keep an open mind, be prepared to spend hours waiting and bring with you toilet paper, reading material and snacks. Be positive about it all otherwise it’s just going to be even more painful than it already is.
• Check, double check and triple check the hours of the questura. Read all the fine print because it is there where they will tell you that on certain days they only see people with PdS applications and at certain times they only see people who are picking up their PdS.
• Keep all of your documents (marriage certificates and translations, health cards and tax codes, bank statements, car insurance, documents and letters from the comune, EVERYTHING), both originals and copies, in a binder. Bring that binder with you to every bureaucratic appointment because you never know.
• If they send you away because you’re missing a document or that you’ve arrived on the wrong day, try not to take it too hard. By all means, cry or scream in the bathroom to let it out and then move on. The world is not against you, this happens to everyone, and it’s a part of living in Italy and just think that this is the long process of becoming a part of this country, a sort of initiation.
• Don’t think about the time or money that you’ve wasted travelling and waiting. Just don’t. It’s inevitable.

Next steps: Now that I have my carta di soggiorno, we will change our residency to our place in Ischia. I will also go to driving school to get my Italian driver’s license since my US license is not valid in the EU. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Good luck to everyone and congratulations to everyone who has gone through it.

Part 1: Step by step process of getting a Permesso di Soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)

Part 1: Step by step process of getting a Permesso di Soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)

I had a difficult time getting the exact information of the kind of PdS I needed and how to apply for one and I needed to search tons of websites online in both English and Italian in order to get the correct information. I still didn’t get it all correct as I couldn’t find a complete list of the documents that I needed and I had to go to the Questura twice in order to get it fully processed.

So I thought I’d write it out here in case it would be useful to others in the same shoes.

What is the Permesso di Soggiorno?

One of the very first things one needs to do when arriving in Italy for a long-term stay is apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno, also known as the PdS. This is the Italian residency permit and all non-EU citizens need to apply for one if they are going to stay in Italy (or anywhere else in the EU) for longer than 90 days.

There are a number of different kinds of PdS one can apply for including: study, work, family reasons, minors, medical care, adoption, voluntary work, elective residency, and more.

Continue reading “Part 1: Step by step process of getting a Permesso di Soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)”

How to get a Pds for the spouse of an Italian citizen

This is called Permesso di Soggiorno per coesione familiare (family unification).

Step 1: Entry Visa into Italy or Residency Permit if you are moving to Italy from another EU country

If you’re entering Italy from outside of the EU, you’ll need an entry visa for family reasons and will need to apply through the Italian consulate.

If you live within the EU and already have a residency permit for that country, you do not need a visa. As I am American that lived in London and have a residency permit for the UK, I didn’t need to get a visa. (I wasn’t entirely sure, so I went to the Italian consulate in London just to double check and they reassured me it wasn’t necessary.)

Step 2: Go to the Questura and bring the necessary documents

Once you arrive in Italy, you need to apply to the Questura in the zone where your partner is resident. As both me and D moved from London, he registered his residency at the town hall as soon as we arrived so he could get his certificate of residency.

As a spouse of an Italian citizen, you don’t need to apply with the PdS application through the post office. You can show up at the Questura with your spouse without an appointment and without an application. It seems unreal, but we did it and it worked.

You need to bring with you the following documents:

  • Marca da bollo of €16 (available at any tabaccaio)
  • 4 photos
  • Your passport and photocopy of every page with stamps and visas (no need to photocopy the empty pages)
  • PdS (if you already have one, i.e. you were already in Italy on a different type of PdS and you got married)
  • Marriage certificate and photocopy – if married abroad, marriage certificate must be translated. Both the translation and marriage certificate must each have an apostille for the documents to be valid.
  • Passport or identity card of Italian spouse and photocopy
  • If spouse is an EU citizen, you must have a document to prove that the spouse has been registered at the Anagrafe (registry office)
  • Certificate of residence of the spouse
  • Declaration of hospitality validated by the local Police Department (document signed by owner of the property where you’re staying that declares that you have permission to live there)

If you were married outside of Italy, and you can do it, try to get the marriage certificate and translation both apostilled while you’re within the country of origin. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to do it there. For me, I did it during my last two weeks in London and managed to get the documents certified with an apostille within 10 days.

The first time we went to the Questura of Venezia, I thought I had all of the documents, but I was missing one thing so had to get it and then go back. The administrator gave me a list of the documents that I needed which I’ll show you here. This is like gold to me! I couldn’t find this listed on any of the sites that I looked at in both English and in Italian so I’ll add it for you here.

List of documents for the Permesso di Soggiorno for the spouse of an Italian citizen

I was missing the declaration of hospitality, so I downloaded the form from the town hall website and then went to get it signed by the local police. Unfortunately, our town no longer has a physical police building, but officers have an office set up at the weekly market. We went there to get it signed and had a nice chat with them about life and they wished us luck.

Questura – my experience

I’ve lived in Italy before and had to apply for a PdS at both the Questura di Roma and Napoli, so I was familiar with the bureaucratic confusing hell of the immigration progress and endless waiting at the Questura. The Questura di Venezia wasn’t as bad as the one in Rome, but I was afraid of going there without an appointment. In the end it was okay. We waited a half hour in a queue outside to get in and I left my passport with the guard and was told to wait inside. We waited about 2.5 hours before we saw someone and then they completed the application for me and I signed the papers and then waited some more to get my fingerprints taken. After that, I received a temporary paper version of the PdS that’s valid for three months. I have to go back in February to get the official version, but in the meantime this will let me sign up in the registry office, get residency, and get an ID card.

As comparison, when I moved to Italy back in 2009, I applied for my PdS at the post office in July, got called to the Questura to hand in my paperwork and do my fingerprints in November and picked up my PdS in January 2010. I wasn’t able to get residency until July 2010 (for other bureaucratic reasons that’s too boring to tell here).

UPDATE (29 July 2018) – Read Part 2 of my timeline experience of getting the permesso from start to finish.

I wish you all who are going through this the best of luck and to have a lot of patience. Bring snacks, a book and crossword puzzle with you to your appointment and some tissues in case you need to use the bathroom and there’s no toilet paper.


Getting Italian Citizenship Through Marriage

Getting Italian Citizenship Through Marriage

UPDATE (on 24 February 2019): As of 5 December 2018, the process for Italian citizenship via marriage has changed in the following ways:

  1. Application fee has been raised to 250 euros
  2. Waiting time to receive citizenship (starting from the date your application has been accepted by the consulate abroad or the prefettura in Italy) has increased from 24 months to 48 months.
  3. Applicants are now required to possess knowledge of the Italian language at a minimum of B1 level (lower-intermediate). You must either have a diploma certified by a state-run or private school in Italy or have a certificate issued by an accredited language institution (belonging to the CLIQ System -currently Siena University for foreigners, Perugia University for foreigners, University of Roma Tre, and Dante Alighieri Society.) See Italian Language Courses Abroad that can issue the relative certificate.

It’s still unclear at what point you will be requested to show your language certificate or if the new language requirement applies to only new applicants who have uploaded their applications to the Ministero dell’Interno website after 4 December 2018, or for all applicants who are in the process of gaining Italian citizenship. I’ve emailed the Prefettura di Venezia for information, but they ignored that part of my question. As the process will take a long time anyway, I will take a language exam to gain the certification just in case.

I’ve recently applied for my Italian citizenship. (Thank you, Marituccio!) And while my application was accepted and I had my appointment at the Italian consulate in London, I now have to sit and wait for maximum of two years to get my letter that says I’m officially Italian.

For those of you who have to go through the same thing, I’m going to tell you how to do it.

  1. Collect the documents (see below)
  2. Prepare yourself to spend some cash on translations, certifications, fingerprints, and apostilles.
  3. Submit your application and upload your documents online at the Ministero dell’Interno website (also known as ALI).
  4. The consulate will view your application and either accept it, deny it, or accept it with reservations (which happened to me because I uploaded the documents in the wrong way. Make sure when you upload, keep the documents — such as criminal records – state, FBI, and translations, all in one pdf)
  5. Once the consulate accepts your application you will be called in for an interview to hand in your documents, sign the application and pay for the certifications of the photocopies of you and your spouse’s passports and translation of the UK police certificate.
  6. The consulate will send your documents to the Ministero dell’Interno where they will then process it and then inform the consulate. You will then get a letter that you are officially an Italian citizen.

Time frame – I applied online in Dec 2016 and didn’t get my appointment at the consulate until Oct 2017. In the meantime, I wrote to the consulate numerous times and only when I told them that I was moving back to Italy that I got a response — first they looked at my application online and then they called me for an interview. The consulate has been swamped since Brexit as everyone and their mother in the UK that’s eligible for citizenship is applying and there are only two (TWO) people processing citizenship applications. I feel for them and understand that people in the consulates across the world are overworked. So, be prepared to wait.

If you apply for citizenship within Italy, the process can be a lot faster. Once we move to Italy, I may hear from the Italian government sooner as the answer will no longer have to go through the consulate, but I’m preparing myself for the worst and maybe I’ll be presently surprised.

(While Italian bureacracy is a soul-crushing bitch, after seeing what other friends and family members have gone through, this isn’t as complicated as getting British citizenship or a US greencard.)

Continue reading “Getting Italian Citizenship Through Marriage”

Italian Citizenship through Marriage — documents you need

If you are married to an Italian citizen, you are eligible for citizenship after being 2 years of marriage if you reside in Italy and 3 years if you live abroad. (You can apply after 18 months no matter where you are if you have a child together). If you reside abroad, your spouse must be registered with l’AIRE (l’Anagrafe degli Italiani Residenti all’Estero) at the nearest Italian Consulate where you live. When we decided to get married, I was like to D, “Dood, you gotta do it.” Otherwise anything that he wanted to do he would have to go to Italy (get a new ID card, renew passport, register marriage, etc).

Since I’m an American from New York that resides in the UK, I’m going to tell you what I need to specifically get. Substitute your country and state where applicable.

Documents You Need

    • Estratto per riassunto dell’atto di matrimonio. This is a document issued by the Italian municipality where the Italian spouse is registered and has had the marriage registered. Since me and D registered our marriage at the Consulate in London, we don’t need this form since they already have us on record. *So they say on the website. But they also say to call just to make sure.
    • Full birth certificate. I was born in New York, so I needed to get this through the New York State Department of Health. (Not through the town hall where you were born as I first thought) This needs to be translated and certified in New York State. I also need to get an apostille through the New York State government. More info about the apostille can be found here.
    • Certificate of no criminal records from your country. For those who are from the US, you will need one from the FBI and one from every state that you have lived in since you were 14 years old. So that means for me one from the FBI and one from NY State. (If I had gone to university or lived in another state, I would have to get forms from those states, too.) Each of these documents needs to be translated, certified, and with an apostille. Here are links to the FBI and NY State Criminal sites. You need to get the apostille from the US government for the FBI certificate and they apostille from New York State for the NY police records. These documents are valid for only 6 months, so make sure you don’t get them too far in advance.
    • Certificate of no criminal records from the UK. More info on the certificate is here. This also needs to be translated,  certified, and be legalised. The London Consulate says that they can certify this on the spot when I come in for the citizenship appointment. More info on the British apostille can be found here. Again, this document is valid for only 6 months. The consulate advises you to get this done after you make the appointment.
    • Copy of the applicant’s passport and photocopy of the title page.
    • Copy of the applicant’s UK resident permit (if applicable). The original and photocopy of the title page.
    • Italian spouse’s passport and photocopy of the main pages.
  • 200 Euros.