Toilet traps - Viterbo Vs. Rome

One of the strange things about Lazio, and perhaps Italy in general (I don't know - is Lazio representative of Italy?) are the variety of laws that change between one area and the next. One example is the toilet seat law.

Now, Italy is a civilized, modern country, and this post isn't going to be all Italy-bashing, so you can stop right there. However, I think it's fair to say that, as with any country, sometimes Italy could perhaps be accused of occasionally having laws that don't quite add up, or that don't quite make sense.

In the province of Rome, i.e. the area of Lazio associated with Rome, toilet seats are required by law in public toilets. OK, fair enough. Of course, there may be the occasion toilet lacking in a seat (see the Stadio Olympico if you doubt me), but this is simply an oversight that will be fixed asap (apart from in the Stadio...)

In the neighboring province of Viterbo... well, you see, there they do things differently. A toilet seat is considered unhygienic and in fact, is illegal in a public toilet. Wow. I was shocked by this. It's illegal? Apparently you can be fined and everything. Is this true? Well, my Italian isn't up to researching legal documents, but, I've been to at least 5 restaurants in the province of Viterbo (Vazianello being my favourite, incidentally), and they all tell me the same thing. How can one area think they are a good thing and by law force restaurants to have them, and the area next door, still in Lazio, say that they are illegal and will fine restaurants if they have them?


Do you have any stories of bizarre laws in Italy?

Rome Day Trip - Viterbo

Viterbo is an ancient papal city in north Lazio, central Italy and is the capital of the province of Viterbo. I've been there many times, and each time I find something new to like. It's a strange town, similar I guess to York in England, in that it was obviously once very important, but now, to modern eyes, it seems a little anachronistic and out of place. It's beautiful, for sure, with it's medieval walls (built during the 11th and 12th centuries) and it's Papal Palace (Palazzo dei Papi), but there's something else. As with many cities I've been to in Italy, it seems stuck between a glorious past and an unsure future. Almost as if it doesn't know what to make of itself. It's well worth a trip out from Rome though if you fancy seeing something a bit more authentic and off the beaten track.

Getting Married in Italy - What you need - the civil side

In my last post, I talked about what you need for a Catholic church wedding in Italy, now, it's time to talk about the civil side of things. Here's our story...

We started looking into the civil side of things about a year before their proposed marriage date. The wedding is to be between a British guy and an Italian girl, and will take place in her hometown. Her side of things were all automatically taken care of (including the comune rustling up a Certificato di stato libero in 5 minutes, forgetting the whole 21 days notice thing...), however, the other side would be quite a different story.

Six months before the proposed wedding date, we asked the comune what we would need from the straniero to allow the marriage to be valid. The comune simply said to bring 'whatever you would normally have in your country'. So, off we went to get a 'Certificate of No-lawful Impediment' (CNI) from the local council registry office in the UK. So far, so good. Great.

However, after calling the comune to check a few times exactly what was needed, it transpired that the CNI would have to be translated (OK, no problem) and legalized. This posed a problem as we weren't sure exactly what that meant: translated by a professional translation service? Translated in front of a solicitor? Getting some stamp or apostille from the government? No one could help. No one (including the comune) seemed to know the answer and there seemed to be a real disconnect and 'lost in translation' moment.

So we phoned the Italian Embassy in London. They were closed. OK, call back. They don't know what you need as a UK citizen to get married in Italy, but suggest calling the Stato Civile in Italy. OK, fair enough, why would they know? We call the stato civile who also don't seem to work that much, or at least answer the phone. The stato civile don't know but promised to find out and get back to us.

In the meantime, we called the British Embassy in Rome. They suggested that we need a nulla osta also for the Brit, and that this basically consists of the CNI plus birth details. At the same time, the comune got back to say that a CNI is probably fine, and that maybe, yes, with a birth certificate translated as well, it would be better, but they're not quite sure. OK, so what do we do? Translate two documents into Italian, somehow legalize them, and then hope that this is enough? (this would have cost about £150) Or do something else? Also, why does no one seem to know what documents you need to get married in Italy!

This was all compounded by the fact that time was running out. We were scheduled to go to Italy to sign the 'compromesso', which is like a pre-wedding contract and is a legally binding document, about 2 months before the wedding. A week before this point, we had only just found out that the CNI was probably not enough. These were stressful times.

In the end however, we simply sent everything off to the British Embassy in Rome and amazingly, after a fair amount of phone calls and pleading, they processed everything, translated it all into Italian, and produced a nulla osta in 3 days flat, all for about 82EUR.


So what do you need for a nulla osta (as of August 2010):

- Original, long birth certificate, showing both your parents names
- Photocopies of both your passport, and of the passport of the person you want to marry
- The Certificate of No-lawful Impediment from your local council (this takes 21 days and costs about £35).
- The original 'Certificato di stato libero' from the Italian side (a photocopy will not work)
- Any documents relating to previous marriages or name changes

The British Embassy has a great page of information about all this here.

I would suggest anyone who wants to get married in Italy (and who isn't Italian) to immediately contact their Embassy in Italy to get them to sort everything out. It's unfair to ask the local comune to know what documents a foreigner needs to get married there, and it's unfair to ask the Italian Embassy in another country to know either.

So, with a nulla osta for the foreigner and the Certificato di stato libero for the Italian, we finally had all we needed to sign the compromesso and go ahead with the wedding :-)

Oh, and if you're wondering, the Stato civile did get back to us and said that a CNI was all you needed (which is wrong).

So, as with the church side, I would recommend starting the whole process as early as possible, and also getting the local embassy involved from the start.

Good luck!

Getting Married in Italy - What you need

You may be wondering why I haven't been tweeting so much or posting so much on this blog recently. Well... I've been busy sorting out documents to get married in Italy! You would think it wouldn't be too difficult. Sure, there's the certificates you have to give to the council, banns that have to be read in a church, but it should be pretty straightforward right?

Well, here's the story, split over two blog posts.

We're going to have a full-on Catholic wedding, so we need to get documents for the church as well as the council. In this post, I'll talk about the church side, in the next post, I'll cover the civil side. Hopefully people stumbling across my blog will find this useful, as (as you'll see) there isn't so much help available online or indeed from the people/institutions involved. Please remember that I'm not an expert on these things, so take all of this with a pinch of salt.

Allora, here we go...

The Church side

In our particular case, the wedding is a cross between a non-catholic christian (an Anglican, if you will) and a Roman Catholic (literally, she's from the province of Rome). After we had decided on the church and got the local priest and comune (council) to give permission, we received the banns from the Italian priest and were told to contact our local priest back home (in the UK) to sort out their wedding preparation and reading of the banns. As it turns out, the wedding preparation is a couple of hours with the local priest going over the ideas of marriage and how to resolve arguments (including such handy tips as 'the guy even has to help around the house' and 'a woman is allowed to work nowadays' - all very enlightening I'm sure you'll agree...) and is also the point where the priest provides information and ideas for the service itself (including possible readings), which was perhaps more useful. Further to this, we had to go on a full-day 'marriage preparation' course (for a small fee) which went over the same ground in greater depth. Despite our grumblings, I think this is overall a good thing to do and I'm sure it will help us both now and in the future. Once this is completed, the UK priest prepares 'documents' detailing the baptism/confirmation details of both parties and dispenses the banns (apparently Catholic churches don't 'read' them in the UK). The most important document that the priest prepares is the ‘Religious Non Objection Declaration’. Once all this is sent to the Diocese for the area in Italy (in this case Civita Castellana in the province of Viterbo), then the local priest in Italy takes up the baton and finalizes all the details of the day itself and posts various documents around the towns giving notice (the most important document being a 'Religious nulla osta')

Overall this was relatively easy, but there were a few problems arising from translation problems (nothing was translated in the end, but the priests do have the right to request this, so be prepared).

Things you need:
  • Baptism/first communion/confirmation records from your church (even if it's now miles away)
  • A few weeks for the local preparation (which in this case was 2 hours over the course of 3 weeks)
  • A few months for the whole process to work it's way through. Expect nothing to happen in August (as the Priest will most likely be on holiday), and expect things to take longer than expected at both ends. 

I would definitely recommend starting this process asap as we were lucky to get onto the last marriage preparation course of the year (despite it only being in July!).

For us, for start to finish, the process took about 7 months.

Good luck!

PS In my next post I'll detail the civil side of getting married in Italy.