Last weekend, we visited Carnevale in Venice. I have to say, there was remarkably less public drunkenness than last time, in Cologne, but there were a lot more people. It was like a giant Renaissance Faire style costume party. The costumes ranged from a cheap 5 euro mask, to elaborate home made cosplay level get ups. I couldn’t help but buy a hand painted paper maché mask for myself, while my husband stuck with a cheaper plastic one with the giant plague-doctor style nose.

Venice is such an amazing city– it’s just like in the stories! Tiny streets spider out from the center, alongside narrow canals filled with gondolas and motorboats. Little arched bridges make a criss-crossing latticework over the canals, while constricting alleyways cut between the tall buildings, sometimes passing through low tunnels or under arched building supports. It’s claustrophobic right up until you reach Piazza San Marco, a wide plaza marked by a huge tower, an intricate basilica and a 24-hour Roman numeral clock, and which opens up to the Piazzetta di San Marco, which holds the palace. The Piazzetta in turn opens up to the main thoroughfare of Venice, the Grand Canal, where ferry boats snake their way around the entire city center, bussing people to the main hubs like the Piazza and the train station. There are no automobile roads.

If you had told me all of this, even if you had shown me pictures, I still don’t think I could have properly imagined this intricate city. Visiting during Carnevale was an amazing experience, in particular, as the whole city turns into one joyful party, but I look forward to returning during a calmer time as well, when there’s more time to see the sights.



Officialization 10: Health Insurance

Antifa street art in Bologna.

Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III
  9. Officialization 9: Residenzia
  10. Officialization 10: Health Insurance <– You are here

Health Insurance

I paid for the Italian national health insurance for 2018 when I was first applying for my stay permit. Now that I received my stay permit, it was time to actually sign up for the insurance.

This is done at yet another government office, separate from the others, called the Agenzia Sanitaria. I received a copy of the form called Azendia Provinciale per i Servizi Sanitari, which I had to fill out from the Welcome Office at school, but they neglected to tell me the Italian name or full address of the office. Without the Italian name, I had some trouble googling the location, but I finally found it at Via S. Giovanni Bosco 6 in Rovereto.

Upon arrival, I found the Anagrafe Sanitaria in the Segreteria’s office on the left hand side. It eas good that I came right as they opened because the line grew very quickly behind me. Once I got to the window, the lady asked me for my documents:

  • passport
  • permesso di soggiorno (stay permit)
  • proof of payment of health insurance (long top of a paper from the post office)
  • codice fiscale
  • iscrizione (proof of university enrollment)
  • the name of a local general practitioner doctor that will become your main doctor (if you don’t know one, I think they provide you with some options, but it’s better to find someone who speaks English ahead of time)

I had to scramble for some of the items, but since I have taken to carrying all of my documents to every government office every time, I ended up having everything with me. As for the name of the doctor, I got that from a friend who had been to one that apparently speaks English. I have never been there before, so I hope that when I have to go for my thyroxine medication, it all goes smoothly.

However, as the lady started to look up my information from the codice fiscale, something went wrong with her system. She started talking to her colleague, who pulled in another colleague, and another, and soon, everyone was all in a flurry, trying to help this lady figure out her system. I didn’t fully understand what was going on, but apparently the problem had to do with the fact that I was born in the Soviet Union (before its collapse), but my passport and documents all say I was born in Russia. Somehow, this impeded the creation of some sort of internal code or something like that. A frustrating 15 minutes later, they had finally figured out how to reconcile the difference. They gave me a certificate confirming my enrollment and a paper with the doctor’s hours, and I was done. However, because of this slowdown, I missed my last train to work before the 2 hour break in trains.

I would like to point out that it has been 5 months out of the 12 that I intend to stay here, and I am only now finishing some of this process for myself, and I still have follow ups to do with my husband. By the way, my permesso di soggiorno was actually expedited so 5 months should actually be considered faster than normal.

Officialization 9: Residenzia


Neptune in Bologna.

Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III
  9. Officialization 9: Residenzia <— You are here
  10. Officialization 10: Health Insurance


I finally picked up my permesso di soggiorno (stay permit) in the middle of December, and this time it was correct. My husband also received his paper that says his permit is on the way. Along with my permit, I was given a paper that said that I had to go to anagrafe (municipal office) to register as a resident within 60 days. For this, I needed my:

  • passport
  • permesso di soggiorno (stay permit)
  • lease with official contract registration
  • marriage license

Since I am married, I was supposed to show them my official marriage certificate. Unfortunately, when we got married, the courthouse in Portland gave us only an official stamped copy of our marriage certificate. We have an official translation of this document but it’s not good enough. Apparently, the certificate has to have an apostille stamp on it, certifying its officialness. We never had one of these. Without this, once it’s my husband’s turn to register, he will only be considered as a cohabitator of some sort. In the meantime, the lady put my marriage status as unknown, so that once we get ahold of this apostille stamped document, we can make the change. Now we are waiting for that to come in the mail from the US.

In any case, after going to the office and doing all of this, I got a postcard in the mail from the polizia locale (local police office). They requested that I contact them in regards to the resident registration– they send a police office to make sure you actually live there. It took me 3 tries to talk to someone who I could more or less understand. In the end, an appointment was made at my apartment at 8:30am. They showed up at 8:00am, took a look at our passports and stay permits, wrote down some information from my lease, and left. They were both actually really nice, though we didn’t talk much, since we had trouble understanding each other.

So yea, apparently when you register, a police officer has to come to make sure you aren’t taking advantage of the system.

Weeks 66 and 67

IMG_20171211_092159The last couple weeks have been short but packed. We had a lovely dusting of snow, so the view outside my window became a winter wonderland, just in time for the holidays. Although I am not a big fan of the cold, I have to admit, the snow is so lovely and festive.

Also on the topic of festivities, since our window is in the very center of town, every single Saturday and Sunday since the second half of November, there have been full bands marching in the evenings down the red carpet just outside our window. I cannot emphasize how over-the-top the Christmas festivities are here, as I mentioned in my last post already: almost two months of Christmas markets, marching bands, hot spiced wine, lights, shows… I mean, it’s a small town… how can it support all of this?!IMG_20171217_172725

Speaking of shows, this last week, the department had a sort of informal variety/talent show for Christmas as well. For the first time ever, I performed on aerial silks! My awesome silks teachers set up the apparatus in the theatre, and helped me come up with a routine, although I only had time to practice it a few times before the performance. I made some mistakes during the performance, and I think you can really tell that I am a beginner, but considering I’ve only been at it for around 2.5 or 3 months now, I’m still really happy with how it went. The best part too, is that my husband, who is a musician, played one of the songs we wrote together for my performance!IMG_20171210_113242_1_2

Apart from the fun, there was also plenty of work to do the last couple of weeks. It’s probably the first time since I got here that I’ve felt actually busy. Mainly, I ended up doing four presentations, which took a lot of preparation. I don’t feel very comfortable as a public speaker, so I tend to practice these things at least 3-4 times each, and redo my slides countless times, before I feel ready. It took forever.

Tomorrow, my husband and I are leaving to go back to the US for the holidays. I’m really looking forward to visiting my family and friends, some of whom I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen in a couple of years now. I wish there were more interesting and local things to bring home as gifts, but with our globalized world, the stuff you can get here is mostly the same as at home (except for cured meat, which you can’t import into the US at all, unfortunately). I guess I’ll just have to bring home sweets.

I have to admit, I’m actually a little nervous to go back. Last time when I came home after such a long stint away was after college and a study abroad period in Russia. I remember how strange it felt being back home– like everything was the same as it had ever been, and yet completely different. After such a long time away, I remember realizing that I had changed a lot in that period after all. Now, too, I expect I’ve changed a lot. I guess I’m nervous-excited. But it’s hard to worry too much. After all, the holidays are all about family, friends, and food! It’s gonna be great.

Happy holidays from Rovereto to everyone out there, at home, in Europe, and all around the globe!



Weeks 61 through 65


This month has been all about hunkering down. My husband had to go back to the States for a bit while waiting on the stay permit process, but got to come back sooner than expected. In the meantime, school got busy, with tons of presentations and reports to do.

We both had a lot of good news in terms of work-related things, as well. For one, my husband’s gig is becoming salaried at the start of January. This is something he’s been working towards for a very long time, so we are both super excited. In addition, I have already started preliminary work on my internship (and hopefully master’s thesis) with FBK, a local research institute. This also becomes paid starting in January.

All of this is fantastic news, but it does mean I am about to become much busier than I have been. I may not have time to hike or loaf around as much as I have been. In the next two weeks, I also have to finish the last things left for my courses to get the last few credits I need. I have 3 presentations and 4 short reports to write up, and I have to study for a hard final in machine learning that will take place in January. I’m also headed back to the US for three weeks over the winter holidays, which I am really excited about. I can’t wait to see my family and hopefully many friends too!

In terms of exciting activities this month, I only went on one hike, but it was a breathtaking one. We went to Strada delle 52 Gallerie, just after the first snow. It was the longest hike I’ve done so far (6.5 hours and 12km I think), but it didn’t feel as difficult as some previous ones.  The hike snaked through some old tunnels built during WWI, up to the very top of the mountain. The views were spectacular, perhaps even more so with the snow. (I’m afraid these phone pics do it no justice though.) I look forward to returning another time, maybe in the spring.

By the way, the Christmas markets have also started up here. Rovereto has gone on some sort of fanatic Christmas spree: they spent over a week building wooden houses for the stalls, they brought in the most giant real tree I have ever seen, they put up projectors to light up the buildings with Christmas decor, they put up speakers playing Christmas music, they have live bands walking through the city on the weekends, and they have a red fucking carpet spread out through like half the city center. It feels really over-the-top for such a tiny town. In terms of the Christmas market itself, though, they don’t serve nearly as much hot spiced wine as they should, and they don’t pass out adorable mugs the way they did in Germany, which is a shame; however, the fried dough treats don’t disappoint.


Splitting costs (and cooking duty) with a second person really helps.

  • €225 – rent
  • €22 – internet
  • €136 – utilities (electric/gas) including installation costs and stupid TV tax
  • €234 – groceries
  • €135 – dining out/ snacks at markets
  • €90 – last health insurance payment to AOK back in Germany (ugh)
  • €47 – phone
  • €16 – extra aerial silks days
  • €30 – fancy bike tire pump
  • €8 – misc for the apartment
  • Total: €943

Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III


Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III <– You are here

Stay Permit, part III

The entire stay permit process has been an emotional rollercoaster. I left off last time with waiting for my permit to be processed, and wondering what to do with my husband’s permit.

As a US citizen, my husband is allowed to stay in the Shengen Zone up to 90 days in each 180 day period. He arrived at the end of August, and it is now November, so he has around just 22 days left.

Last week, we went to Cinformi, an office that helps immigrants submit their paperwork, and found out that we had a few outstanding documents to collect for the spousal visa. Namely, we needed a copy of our landlord’s I.D. and we needed proof that our apartment was larger than the minimum for two people of 45 meters squared (ours is 48 meters squared, which is just huge, by the way). Cinformi told us that the paper attached to our lease which includes the apartment size information, wasn’t enough as proof of this, so we had to go to Anagrafe (municipal office) to get an official stamped form.

In any case, since it seemed like my permit wasn’t going to arrive anytime soon, my husband went ahead and got plane tickets back to the US. The idea was to save as many Shengen Zone days as possible so that once I finally got my permit, he could come back and still have time to initiate the process for himself.

However, on Friday, I checked the status of my permit, and lo and behold, it was ready!

They had actually expedited it. Excited, my husband and I decided to start moving on the outstanding documents so we could try to submit his application before he flew out. This would give him a solid date on when to come back, and make everything go just a little faster so he wouldn’t have to leave the Shengen Zone again to save days between appointments. So we went to Anagrafe about the apartment size form, but they sent us to yet another office one kilometer away. The lease is in my name, and I didn’t have time to go that far that day, so we’d have to get it later. I still needed to get in contact with our landlord for a copy of his I.D. anyway.

The next task on the list was for me to actually pick up my stay permit. I went to Questura and luckily only had to wait a few minutes to get in this time. The lady there had me sign a document stating I would follow all the Italian laws and start learning Italian as she opened the envelope containing my documents. I can’t describe the feeling I had as the lady pulled out my stay permit– a pink card with a lovely holographic sigil stamped into the plastic and my ugly mug on the left hand side. I suppose it was a feeling of excitement and relief that the rest of the process would be straightforward (if not easy). I wanted nothing more than to gently slip that card into its new home in my wallet, and to never part with it again… precious… my precious. She passed the shiny new card into my open hands, and it felt so right.

Unfortunately, it was wrong.

The permit said it was valid until the end of August 2018, but I don’t expect to graduate until October 2018! In any case, I paid for health insurance through December, so it’s supposed to be valid even through then. Chagrined, I did my best to express this in my terrible Italian. After a few minutes, she seemed to understand the problem. She told me it was their mistake and to come back in 20 days.

20 days! That meant my husband would have to be in the US that long. I was disheartened, but at least we already had those plane tickets. We had also already decided to go back to Cinformi that afternoon for some clarifications. Now I could ask them about this too.

The Cinformi in Rovereto is a bit of a clusterfuck. They don’t have numbers for the queue or space to make a line, so you just come there and try to remember the faces of everyone who’s already there before you. Last time, we were sent to someone who spoke English/French after it became clear that our Italian was awful. This time, when our turn came up, we had no such luck. So there we were, sitting in front of a nice lady trying her best to speak slowly, and me struggling to form grammatical sentences to explain our whole situation. However, a moment later, it just so happened, that the same lady I had spoken to at Questura, was walking by, and she recognized me.

Quickly, she spoke to the lady at the desk and explained the situation with my stay permit. But then, she turned to me, and said that actually, she thinks my stay permit running out in August was correct after all, because that’s all that Erasmus students need. Only I am not an Erasmus student. I am Erasmus Mundus, which means I have a different study plan, and I should stay through the whole year, rather than just one semester. However, even people who know about Erasmus, don’t always know about Erasmus Mundus, and I have no idea how to explain all of this in Italian. I tried my best, but in the end, I asked her to talk to the person at the Welcome Office at the university. They got in contact the next morning, and although I still have to wait 20 days, it should be corrected now.

In the meanwhile, we were still sitting in front of the Cinformi counter, asking what to do about my husband’s permit, while mine is in the works. We were still missing some documents, and now it looked like it would take forever to get his started.  So I asked the lady at the counter what we should do next. She said we would submit everything now. I wasn’t sure I heard or understood her right. I asked again. I asked two more times. She replied: Don’t I want my husband to stay with me? –Of course I do. –Then don’t worry.

She filled out the form for us, collected all our documents into an envelope, and told us to go to the tabacchino to buy a “marca da bollo” for 16 euro (some sort of tax stamp) and to go to the post with a little over 100 euros to mail off all the documents. We did as we were instructed. My husband’s appointment at the Questura is November 22nd, so he is changing his plane tickets to come home much sooner than we ever could have hoped.


Officialization 7: TV Tax


View from Castel Beseno

Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II 
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax <— You are here

TV Tax

It seems like European countries in general tend to have some sort of TV tax. This is a ridiculous tax that you pay for the privilege of existing in a world with television stations, even if you don’t own a television.

Fortunately, in Italy (unlike in Germany), you can get out of paying this tax if you declare at Agenzia delle Entrate that you don’t have a TV. Unfortunately, I was supposed to do it within a month of moving here… or something. Since I didn’t do that (because I didn’t know about any of this), I have to pay the tax for the rest of this year. The good thing is I can declare that I won’t have a TV next year, so I won’t have to pay the tax for next year. This year, I’m stuck though. The first month’s tax already cost me 33 euro, but I don’t know if that’s how expensive it always is or if that much was just the first month.

To declare that you won’t have TV in the next calendar year, you just bring your codice fiscale, passport, and address (well, I brought my lease just in case) to the Agenzia delle Entrate, and you just have to sign a paper stating you don’t have a TV. I doubt anyone ever comes and checks.

If you do have a TV, and you pay the tax, the electric company is the one that deducts the tax from your account, and sends it to the correct place. No one ever tells you about this, and I only found out it thanks to a friend, who noticed the charge on my electric bill. By the way, the electric bill set up fees were really expensive in general!