When we learned that Jonas had been recognized as an Italian citizen, we were on cloud nine. Our thoughts quickly shifted to securing his Italian passport. We’ll need proof of EU citizenship to stay in France legally as our French residence permits are set to expire at the beginning of November! We thought getting the passport would be relatively easy but already we were facing two challenges: 1. Jonas was recognized via the Italian Consulate in Miami, meaning he’d have to fly all the way there to get the passport and 2. The consulate was not releasing any appointments! We needed one ASAP. We researched the Italian Consulate in Marseille to see if we could apply there based on residence but we hit a wall there too because Jonas first has to be registered in AIRE, a system for Italians residing abroad, before he would be allowed to change consulates. Getting registered in AIRE can take weeks or months, depending on your ancestral comune where you applied for citizenship. We didn’t have time for that so we needed a work-around.
A few years ago I joined a Facebook group for people seeking Dual U.S.-Italian Citizenship and that group’s advice has been invaluable for us on this journey.
I presented our situation to the group and an American woman living in Italy named Carole suggested we go straight to the comune where Jonas’s great-grandfather was born and request a paper Italian ID card which is issued on the spot. We have always wanted to visit the towns where Jonas’ great-grandparents lived (Ascoli Satriano and Solofra) and the kids did have a school break coming up. A quick online search revealed 17€ one-way flights from Toulouse to Napoli on Ryanair. Sì, sì! We decided to spend a week in southern Italy and a second week in Rome. We wanted a decent amount of time to explore and learn more about the land of Jonas, Rhône and Rocky’s ancestors.
Vacation time arrived and we got up at 6 in the morning to catch our flight to Napoli. We arrived at Toulouse’s airport 2-1/2 hours early as instructed only to be told at 6:30 a.m. that the check in window would not be open until 7. The boys and I wandered around looking for breakfast while Jonas waited for the lone Ryanair employee to stop looking at her phone and start checking people in. Thankfully we found a boulangerie that was open. A gentleman in his mid-fifties standing at the entrance asked for 20 centimes and I said I’d give him some change on my way out. After securing our pains au chocolat, I gave the guy 50 centimes and I could tell under his mask that he was grinning from ear to ear. He said I was beautiful, that I had two handsome boys and that next time he would like to invite me for a café and a pastry. He introduced himself as Frederico (nickname Fredo) and he asked me for my name. He thanked me again and said in French, “Next time, I’m buying. Ciao!” I told Rhône and Rocky, “I think that guy wants to be your new dad.” They looked puzzled.
We returned to the Ryanair line and Jonas was at the very front. I looked at the electronic message above the woman’s head saying that check-in ended at 8:20 a.m. I couldn’t believe we had shown up so early! We were called to the window and after reviewing our passports, the woman asked if our children had completed Covid tests before the flight. Euh, excusez-moi? We had checked the rules for Italy and we didn’t see anything about Covid tests for kids. She assured us that they did need them and that we wouldn’t be able to board without them. Trying to stay calm, I asked, “Is there a testing site here?” She said there was but that it didn’t open until 8 a.m. She suggested we go downstairs to the site immediately so we would be the first in line. If we got the tests right at 8 and the results by 8:15, we might be able to make our flight.
We took the escalator downstairs and started to make a contingency plan. Jonas looked up one-way flights and found that they were running every few days and they were all around 200€ each. That was way too much for us. If we couldn’t get the test results in time, Jonas would get on the flight to Napoli, take care of business, and then find another flight home. (Thankfully we had only booked our first two nights of lodging.) It would be very sad to miss our trip, but Jonas could still go to the Anagrafe, or registry office, in Ascoli Satriano and apply for his ID card. Once he had proof that he was an EU citizen, I would apply for a new residency card in France as the spouse of an EU citizen and we could all stay in Toulouse.
The boys and I took a walk around the small airport to pass some time. When we returned to the testing center, there was a businessman in a suit waiting there too. Jonas told me he had asked if he could go in front of us as he had an important meeting to attend, but Jonas explained that we were cutting it too close for our flight and we needed to keep our spot. At this point we hugged Jonas goodbye because he needed to go upstairs to check his/our bag and get through security. We sat down on a set of chairs in front of the tiny testing center. The businessman seemed to be making a power play as he stood up and moved all of his bags directly next to the entrance of the center. Désolée, mais non, monsieur. As soon as the employees arrived to unlock the doors, I walked up and explained our situation. They said they needed to set up, but that the whole testing and results process should only take 10 minutes. As soon as the doors opened, I gave them our information, R&R did saliva tests (Thank God, because they were dreading the nasal swab), and we had our results within five minutes!
We headed up the escalator, which happened to let out right near the boulangerie we had been to before. I heard a familiar voice say to someone nearby, “Attends, c’est ma copine.” (“Hold on, that’s my girlfriend.”) Frederico walked up and said hi again, adding that next time we came to the airport, he would like to take me out to dinner. As we hurried in the direction of the security line, he asked if the boys knew how to play piano. I said no and he assured me we’d talk about that next time. Hmm, was Frederico really going to be the one to teach my sons to tickle the ivories? I said, “D’accord” and waved to let him know we were off. He replied, “A bientôt!” As we approached the security line, I said to Rocky and Rhône, “That was hilarious. He called me his copine and he wants to teach you guys piano!” Rhône said, “I guess he really likes you. Why do you think he likes you so much?” I shrugged and said, “Probably because I gave him 50 centimes instead of 20.” They both burst out laughing.
We got through security easily, joined Jonas at the gate and we all shared the biggest family hug. We were on our way to Napoli! The flight was easy and uneventful. The boys played a hidden pictures game and I marveled at how Ryanair’s proofreaders had missed an important apostrophe on an ad.
We landed in Napoli and after deplaning, we were greeted by a naked guy chilling at baggage claim. (In stone, of course.)
We picked up our rental car and set a course for Ascoli Satriano, which was less than 2 hours from Napoli. About an hour into our drive, we pulled off the main road and found a restaurant for lunch. The portions were generous and everything tasted delicious. They even had Rocky’s favorite dish, polpo (octopus) salad.
We continued on and reached our destination with feelings of excitement and wonder. These were the streets that Antonio Auriemma and his family once walked! We parked in the small piazza in the middle of town, paid a guy in a fluorescent yellow vest 1,20€ for parking and walked uphill to the town’s municipal building.
The front entrance was closed, so we went around the corner and knocked on the door of the police station. A short, silver-haired man in uniform answered and we used broken Italian to ask about the Anagrafe and shared our intent to pick up an ID card there. He held up one finger, said, “Un momento” and dialed a number on his phone.
He explained he was calling his sister who spoke some English. He told her everything we’d said to him and she asked where we lived in Italy. The police chief repeated, “Dove? Dove?” I replied, “Non in Italia. In Francia.” He shook his head and his sister said, “You cannot get the ID card if you are not an Italian resident.” I explained that we wanted the paper ID card, not the electronic one for residents, and she insisted it was not possible. The policeman raised and lowered his shoulders and gave us a look of sympathy. We finally said, “Okay.” After he hung up the phone I asked in Italian, “What time does the Anagrafe open tomorrow?” He said, “Around 10,” adding, “Did you understand what she said?” I said, “Sì,” and my eyes smiled in a way that made it clear we were not giving up.
To be continued.