Lost in translation

I know many of you get a kick out of our impromptu and impulsive meanderings, but sadly, our government agencies do not embrace the concept of spontaneity quite as fervently. In fact, the only person who has cracked a smile throughout this bureaucratic quagmire was a crazy lady at the Italian Consulate in Amsterdam who couldn't stop laughing throughout our entire meeting. Hmmm...

Anyway, should you someday elect to be married in Italy, check your official government websites for relevant legal requirements. And when attempting to confirm information, pay absolutely NO attention to anyone who starts a sentence with, "I think..."

Nota bene, even if someone assures you that they know exactly what they're doing, get a second (and possibly third) opinion.

Case in point: for several weeks, Crazy Italian Consulate Lady in Amsterdam insisted that there was no need for consulates in the US or Italy to be involved because "everything can be done here in Holland." This made no sense to me. At one point she got rather pissy because she's done this "at least a hundred times before." Yeah, right.

There's no way has she processed an-Italian national-inscribed-in-Holland-who-wants-to-be-married-in-Brescia-to-an-American-citizen-living-in-Chicago anywhere near 100 times. In fact, I double-dog-dared her to come up with just ONE such instance.

"Oh...er...ah...why don't you send me all your paperwork again and let me review it. [Insert uncomfortable silence here.] Ah yes, if this is the case, she will need to deal with this in the US...and also in Milan." Duh.

And if we couldn't get to Milan in the next 72 hours? We wouldn't have the affidavit we needed to bring to the Prefettura in Brescia on Friday, which means we wouldn't have the final piece of paperwork we needed to bring to the Italian Consulate in Amsterdam the following Thursday, which had to be done before we left for Croatia the following Saturday so they could post a notice of our intent to be married to make sure no one who happened to be in the Consulate over the course of the next 16 days wanted to object.


With the full force of my American arrogance raging, I attempted to talk my way into an exception. However, after pleading with several people both in Italian and in English, I was finally told in no uncertain terms (both in Italian and in English) that they were neither interested in nor responsible for my plight.

Me: So you mean to tell me that if I cannot get to my consulate in Milan on a Tuesday or a Thursday morning between 9 and 11:45am, I cannot be married in your country?
Mean Italian Consulate Guy: Si, Signorina. Arrivederci.
[Momentary pause as I struggle to recall exactly why I think I'd want to live here...]

So I left the next day and had dinner with an old friend at a little restaurant in Bellagio with a fantastic view of Lake Como.

Ah yes, it's starting to come back now...

The meal wasn't particularly memorable (almost unheard of in Italy) but don't despair. If you make it through this entire post, you will be rewarded with a recipe. Promise.

Another highlight was Vietnamonamour.

The uber-private B&B is set in an Indochinese house with a lovely private garden. With only four rooms, this is one of those hidden gems that's almost impossible to stumble across without the help of a local.

Built in 1903 in one of the historic areas of Milan, it's a quiet oasis in the city center. So even though it's only a few blocks from the Red and Green Metro lines, you really get the sense of being tucked away somewhere magical.

It doesn't look like much from the outside...but step inside and you'll swear you fell down a rabbit hole.

Each of their four vividly-colored rooms is done in a different theme with beautiful Vietnamese artisan furniture. The natural wood, bamboo parquets and pure silk bedding made it one of the all-time best rooms I've found for less than 100 euro a night.

The bed was so comfortable I slept through breakfast. And that never happens...

It's definitely on the list to come back for a romantic getaway.

The next morning I took the train in to Milan where my sole purpose at the American Consulate was to personally deliver an Atto Notorio - the document sworn by me and two witnesses before an Italian consular officer in Chicago that I was indeed single, never before married, and legally able to be married in the United States. I also had to swear to the same things again, this time before an American consular officer in Milan. The entire process that cost us three airline tickets, one hotel room, two train tickets and a boatload of aggravation took 15 whole minutes.

And since Andrea's flight was canceled because "the crew didn't come to work today" (thus necessitating the 3rd airline ticket) I had a lot of time to kill, so I jumped on the Metro and went to the city center where I immediately forgave all aforementioned transgressions and fell in love with Milan all over again.

Castello Sforzesco

The Duomo

The Galleria
The next day the affidavit had to be legalized at the Prefettura in Brescia and eventually forwarded with the other paperwork to the Comune in Molinetto where we needed the seal of approval from the Mayor.

But first, we needed to bring all our documents back to the Italian consulate in Amsterdam to officially declare and publicly post our intent to marry.

As part of the declaration, we were required to read the Italian civil code on marriage that states (among other stipulations) that:

1) we are not already married, brother and sister or first cousins;

2) we were not adopted by the same parents;

3) we would not be allowed to marry if one of us had been convicted of killing the other's former spouse;


4) if one of us was merely accused of said homicide, the validity of our marriage would be suspended pending a full acquittal.

Ummm...ok. Good to know.

So with all the right documents turned in to all the right people in all the right countries, no traceable common bloodlines, and neither of us being convicted (or alleged) murderers, I believe we are finally ready to be married...that is, as soon as I renew my passport which expires right before the wedding.

Although apparently it is possible that a new passport number will invalidate all the aforementioned documents since I may no longer be recognized by the Italian government as the same person who swore to all of the above.

Mamma mia.

Desperately in need of something soothing and sensible, I made some Italian Wedding Soup to mark the occasion. At least now we have ONE fond memory of this ludicrous exercise in foreign diplomacy...


Italian Wedding Soup
(Giada's recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork.com)

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound curly endive, coarsely chopped (1 pound of escarole would be a good substitution)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs.

Make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish individual servings with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And be thankful that something Italian works the way it's supposed to.
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