The Italian Paper Chase – Part II

Now that we had the fiscal codes, we were “legal” to sign the compromesso and send the deposit.  Since we had no bank account in Italy, sending the deposit posed some logistics issues that we hoped could be overcome quickly since Pietro was becoming a bit nervous as time went on.  Regarding the compromesso, the following excerpt from an email from Francesco says much, including a comment on how beautiful his English is.

“Please pay attention to not confuse the compromesso stage with the final deeds of sale stage.

The compromesso (the right word should be “preliminary contract”) is what we are going to do in the next 10-15 days.  The final deeds is the final document which under the italian law transfer the house in your name.

About your question how to send the money, the best option for you is that you should transfer the money into our company account (when and if you decide to do that you have to diclare at your bank that you are transfering that money for “acquisto casa in locorotondo alla contrada marinelli” which means “money sent to purchase a house in locorotondo’; with that description under the italian law I’m committed to give the money to Pietro when he will sign the “compromesso” and only in that moment!

Also, I don’t know how much time it will take to send the money from your bank to an italian bank, but with the other american clients it took about 10 days.  Then my suggestion is that you should make the transfer even this week if is possible for you.  If you agree with my suggestion, let me know and I’ll send you the instructions for the bank transfer.

Excuse me, if this email sounds rude or impolite, wasn’t my intention at all, I use to write in english as I think in italian, and some time Colleen tells me that in english sound very bad!”

I left all of the violations of the rules of English in this excerpt so that this might serve as a teachable moment.  Here is a man who has lived all of his life in southern Italy who apologizes for a command of English that exceeds that of many of the college students I taught in the 1970s.  For this and many other reasons, Jessica and I have developed such affection and respect for him that it belies the fact that we have only known him for a very short time.

But, back to the compromesso.  I went to my bank armed with the latest dollar-to-euro exchange rate.  My assumption was that, given that large number of euros I would be buying, there would be some discount from the retail price banks charge for foreign currency.  I was summarily disabused of that assumption.  The cost of a euro was the current exchange rate ($1.26, at the time) plus ten cents per euro, effectively, an 8% surcharge.  When, in the past, I had bought a couple hundred euros before heading to Europe so that we had some usable cash in our pockets when we arrived, the few dollars extra was inconsequential.  When it’s a matter of tens of thousands of euro, then it becomes an amputation.  Unfortunately, I knew of no other way, at that moment, to make the exchange so I paid the premium and the bank wired the money per Francesco’s instructions.

About a week later, on October 22nd, we received the compromesso, signed by Pietro.  Jessica and I placed our signatures where they were called for and sent them off back to Colleen for recordation.  The deposit money was released to Pietro, the compromesso was recorded, and we prepared for the closing scheduled for five weeks later.

The only remaining complication was getting our dollars for the closing into Italy.  First, we had to convert the dollars into euros and do so in a way that avoided the bank premium.  Once again, the internet was a savior.  Some research was required, but I was able to find a foreign exchange firm that, once I opened an account, would take deposits in dollars and, for a very small margin, would convert them into euros.  The euros could then be wired into a bank account in Italy.  Unfortunately, however, we had no account into which the funds could be deposited.  Furthermore, though Colleen and Francesco tried mightily to find a bank that would permit us to open an account in Italy without us being physically present, once again the Italian anti-money laundering laws interceded.  The only option available to us was to deposit the funds into Colleen’s personal checking account.

Of course, it couldn’t be that simple and it wasn’t.  In order to comply with yet another Italian regulation, I first had to execute a procura, what we might call a power of attorney, indicating that the funds were being placed into Colleen’s account temporarily and for the purpose of buying the property.  It had to be in Italian, signed in the presence of an official of the Italian government and stamped by the official to verify that the taxes for the document had been paid.  The result of this effort was a delicious example of the Italian bureaucracy at work.

Francesco sent me a form of procura to use, which I then sent on to the Consolato Onorario d’Italia (the honorary consulate office) in Pittsburgh.  I told the Honorary Consul the purpose of the procura and asked if they had the authority to authenticate it.  The response was that they could.  The problem, she said, was that the form of procura was inconsistent with the purpose.

“The entire document must be written in the form of ‘Scrittura privata’ and NOT as ‘Atto pubblico,” her response ran.  “If you wish to retain the document as is, then you must go to philadelphia.  Only the Consulate General can authenticate an “Atto pubblico.'”  She went on to say that whoever prepared the document “does not know the Italian law.”

When I sent her reaction to Francesco, he informed me that the person who produced the procura was the notaio who would be conducting the closing and that this was the form she would accept.  So, now we had the Honorary Consul refusing to accept the document that the notaio was insisting on.  And, since I could barely translate a word of it, I was utterly incapable of arguing with either one of them.  Francesco took over.  He spoke to both the Consul and the notaio, negotiated a compromise and we produced a form that satisfied both women.

The funds were sent, the closing was scheduled and our plane tickets were purchased for our return to Puglia and to, what would become, our heaven on earth.

Colleen & Francesco, i nostri cari amici (our dear friends)


Next:  The Angelinis


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