So, I’ve been married to an Italian for 12 years, and we’ve been together for 16. When the EU finally forced Italy to fall in line with everyone else and recognise same-sex marriages/civil partnerships about two years ago, we took the plunge and applied for my Italian citizenship with the threat of Brexit and its implications for travelling abroad very much in mind.
Now, this process is not a straight-forward or a cheap one. I think that to date we have spent around £600 in all the forms that we have had to get officially translated, then notarised, then signed off and the actual application alone is around the £200 mark. We dutifully collected all that was asked for and paid all our fees to the many different bodies and then – nothing. Not one word for two entire years. No way of checking whether the application had been received, processed or where we were in the system. Because that is what Italian bureaucracy is like. Why notify someone of their long-held dreams and do them the courtesy of letting them know the state of play when you can be perched on a Vespa, drinking an espresso and shouting ‘Ciao’ at pretty ladies as they pass by?
In Italy, if you want something expedited or simply DONE, you have to know someone who knows someone whose Father once did a favour for the Uncle of their Father. Otherwise, you wait. And during the 24 months of waiting, I daydreamed. Daydreamed of taking three months off work and out of my life here in London, to move to Rome and wander around the streets without purpose. Perhaps a bit of yoga here, catch a showing of Cinema Paradiso there. No socks will be worn. A crisp shirt each day and a light pullover slung over the shoulders. Breakfast each morning in the same corner cafe. Learning the language in a way the Duolingo app can never penetrate. You get the idea.
Well dear Reader, my dream finally came true and about two weeks ago I received confirmation of my interview at the Italian Consulate which – judging by the wording of the letter – sounds like it will be just a formality.
A mere fortnight on, and the whole of Italy is in lock-down. Every bar, cinema and yoga studio is shut. There are cordons in Pharmacists and Supermarkets to prevent customers standing too close to one another. A coughing Italian is more dangerous than lunch at a Pret A Manger, and everywhere people are suddenly wary of the Romans again. Just. My. Luck.
I wait two years to become welcomed into the country of love and romance, only for it to become the country of fear and pestilence the moment I’m admitted. I may have to start taking this personally.
Ciao, mi amore!