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Monday, 28 January 2008

We did get to the tax office today, clutching all the documents and it was a very funny experience. You come into the office and report to the front desk. There you are given a bit of paper like at the butchers counter at the supermarket. However, they use a complicated combination of letters and numbers designed to confuse the uninitiated. So unlike at the butcher counter, where you see that number 172 is being served and you are number 198, giving you some time to do the rest of your shopping or have a coffee, at the tax office you get EA0007. Before us they served AO0017 and JA0012 and various other meaningless combinations. This way you are poised in the waiting room for your letter / number combination like waiting for the bingo caller to call your number at random.

There were about a dozen people in the waiting room, but no one behind any of the 9 desks serving the public. When some people started to complain, the boss came out and said they were all on their coffee break. Some people in the back of the room couldn't hear what was going on and asked if there was a strike. Someone in front answered in a rather sarcastic tone that the poor clerks had already worked hard for 2 whole hours this morning and couldn't possibly wait another 2 hours before going home. This started a bit of riot in the waiting room with the boss explaing that the coffee break after 2 hours was in their contract. There was a round of applause when 4 clerks appeared back behind their desks, some still clutching their coffees.

Finally our number came up and I was about to shout 'BINGO', when I saw the sour face of the lady about to lower herself to deal with us muck. Some thoughtful person had given her a cactus for her desk and the pot proclaimed that it's owner was called Elisabetta. We had filled in the form already except were it said 'Activity Code'. Each activity has a 6 digit number code, which of course we could not know. So Elisabetta flung a 100 page booklet in front of us telling us to find our code ourselves. Now there seemed no sensible order to the document, certainly not an alphabetic order. Asking her resuted in a bored shrug of the shoulder. Finally towards the end we found teaching and pointed it out to her. She photocopied Susan's documents and finally printed off a page with her VAT number, with a slightly mumbed 'a posto', 'that's it', dismissing us with an annoyed look. She must have had years of training to become quite as unfriendly as this.

Well, never mind. We've got what we came for and Susan will be able to start work soon.

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