Adventures in Certaldo Part 1: Permesso di Soggiorno

My journey to obtaining my Permesso di Soggiorno began the day after I arrived in Certaldo. The Italian government, while not consistent on many things, was insistent that I apply for my residency permit within nine days of arrival.  With my passport, visa and loads of documents in hand, I began my quest.

My first step was to obtain the assistance of a local.  My Italian is very limited and the conversations I was expecting were going to be far more complicated than I could handle.  I found a university student that was studying Linguistics at a school in Siena that was willing to help for a modest hourly rate. From everything I could gather, the first step was to obtain a “kit” at a post office.  It is a package of forms to be filled out and sent into the local city that handles / processes them.  In my case, Empoli.

When the post office gave me the kit, they recommended going to the comune to assist with the correct documents required to send in with the kit.  In Certaldo the comune consists of three different offices and as best I can tell, they never, ever speak to each other.  One office sent us to another office that said we needed a third office that sent us back to the first office.  By then the person I spoke to in the first office (are you keeping up?…) said to go the police office for assistance.

On to the police station.  There are two separate police departments in Italian towns, the municipal police and the Carbinieri.  The Carbinieri handle crime and municipal police handle parking tickets, paperwork, things the Carbinieri wouldn’t want to get involved in (me). So I started at the municipal police.  Closed.  Yes, the police department was closed in the middle of the day.  I took a shot at the Carbinieri next door but through my interpreter, I could see it wasn’t going to be a helpful visit.  Hopefully it’ll the first and last time I get to work with them.

Now the next attempt was to make an appointment at the CGIL (The Italian General Confederation of Labor).  The CGIL is an office to assist union workers and I was told my several locals that they could not possible have anything to do with a Permesso di Soggiorno permit.  Well as it turned out, they were the most helpful office I have dealt with so far on my journey.

At the CGIL, I handed over the kit that I had been holding onto for dear life for the past four days.  She took the packet, set it aside and started filling out a form online.  She had clearly done this before.  She asked for document after document which I proudly produced and she began entering the information online. I gave her my passport with visa attached, my one year lease on my apartment, my Codice Fiscale (Italian tax number) document showing I had registered with the town; proof of medical insurance coverage from back home; bank information. (I had opened a bank account and had to show proof of funding it).  I supplied copies of all of these documents.

She printed the form, took out all of the paperwork that was in my kit leaving an empty envelope. She put her form and my copies  back in the envelope and said to go back to the post office to mail it. She then tossed all of the original contents of the kit into the trash.   This actually made sense to me later… there must be multiple was to get from A to B.  If I had filled out the forms and sent it in, someone would have done the same thing she did. She had just done the work while I was there.

Back to the post office.  I expected this to be a simple process of mailing this but I had heard somewhere in all of this that I needed to get a receipt form the post office. (Remember the part about only having nine days?  You get a receipt while the folks in Rome process my request so in case one of the police departments asks me about my status, I have proof I’ve started it.)   At the post office, I handed over the packet.  The woman got someone else who in turn got a third person… now there were lengthy conversations between my interpreter and the three post office folks but eventually they came to a consensus.  They went through the forms and all of the documentation several times and eventually gave me the bill for the endeavor.  The also gave me an appointment for six weeks into the future for a meeting at the immigration office in Florence where I will bring my four passport photos and I believe there I will be fingerprinted.

Hopefully, after that step, I will receive my Permesso di Soggiorno.

Documenting this was a lighthearted attempt at explaining the process.  It is also somewhat cathartic.  Doing this back home would be frustrating enough.  To do it in a country where I am missing most of the conversations and seeing bureaucracy in progress “Italian-style” was… interesting to say the least.  And not for the feint of heart. Getting it all out helped me.

Mike D. relocated from Florida to Certaldo, Italy in 2022. He blogs about his experiences with the challenges of Italian bureaucracy. You can read his other posts here.


  1. Ann D’Ambra

    Counting the days until our visit with you. So looking forward to sharing a brief portion of your adventure. Keep the posts coming as I am enjoying them

    • Michael D'Ambra

      And I hope you enjoy the visit as much as I am enjoying the journey


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