How hard could it be? We discovered we need travel visas to live in Italy for 7 months. There is a visa called Elective Resident, so we thought that would fit the needs of Robb's sabbatical. Next we contacted our usual Visa Travel service and they inform us they can't issue visas for Italy. We have to go "in person" to the Italian Consulate for our region which turns out to be Miami.
This begins to resemble Dante's Inferno and all the different hells.
First we had to find the right link on the internet to get us to the Miami Consulate. Then after several tries and emails back and forth with them because they do not answer the phone- ever, I finally get an appointment window from 9:00 am to 11:45. They are open from 9:00 to noon so I'm not thinking this is a great step forward. We fill out the most arcane form for the application. It seems that this form of visa is primarily used for weddings, family reunions and mission work...none of which apply so we end up leaving half of it blank.
Next comes the drive to Miami from Jacksonville. We reserve a hotel room 5 miles from the Consulate so we can be there early. As we drive into Miami the traffic becomes incredibly dense. We decide to go to the Consulate first to make sure we can find it the next morning. We locate the building and find where we would park and then hit the GPS for the hotel. We have to take surface streets, but it's only 5 miles away- should be about 15 minutes according to Google Maps. Hahahahaha.....the longest 5 miles of our lives- it takes over an hour. Good thing there was a bar at the hotel.
Next morning, we head out and it takes 15 minutes to get to the Consulate. in the morning light with no traffic it's almost pleasant. Arriving 45 minutes early we end up in the first group to go up for our interview. The first two people are picking up their passports with their new visa. The guy in the office digs around in a huge white bin and fishes out their paperwork. Now we are up. We tell him what we are applying for and he takes our passports and checks the photos. Then he explains he will quickly review our form and after that it will go into the queue to be analyzed and researched. "When do you leave?" he asks. We tell him and he says well....it could take up to three weeks..to process. He then gives us back the forms and has us complete some sections under the family reunion part. He tears everything into parts and staples things together. He collects $250.10 and says "OK- you are done." The whole thing takes about 10 minutes. Now we have the 5 hour drive back home, but at least there is no real traffic.
We get in the car and look at each other- 10 minutes? All that driving and frustration.