Italian bureaucracy seems designed to sap the will and break the spirit. You would think that, being a bureaucracy of long standing, there would be a process, a correct way of doing things, that, no matter how complex the labyrinth, there would be a path through it and the bureaucrats would know the One True Way.

But no.

Having got within sight of our goal yesterday, after two meetings with helpful people, I was told that I needed just one more piece of paper: a certificate of my health insurance. Easy-peasy. Available online, in several languages. Gung-ho, I made an appointment, online (another aspect of the patchily-distributed future that happens to work well, no doubt a ruse to gull you further), and looked forward to a final appointment today.

At the appointed hour, my number was called. A different person now told me that everything -- everything -- her colleague had said yesterday was wrong. To her credit, she also patiently explained to me her proposed route through the labyrinth, which deviated in several crucial respects from her colleague's, and watched and corrected me as I wrote down the steps, spells and incantations.

So, we'll try that. But I fully expect the next person we see, having completed the new Step One, will tell us a completely different story.

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