During my visit, we wanted to add me to my husband's bank account so a client could pay me for a translation with an easy bank transfer, but we needed a "fiscal code" (a financial identification number specific to me) to do it. It's like a social security number. This is easy to do. In fact, any American who buys property or inherits money here has to get one. So off we went to the local branch of the tax authority (like the IRS) in one of Italy's biggest cities. The following scene ensued:
Bureaucrat (looking at my passport): I need to see your visa. I don't see a visa.
Self: I don't have a visa, I'm American.
Bureaucrat: It doesn't matter who you are, you need a visa.
Self: I can't have a visa, Italy doesn't give visas to Americans for visits under three months.
Bureaucrat: ....I need to see a visa.
Self: I can't have a visa.
Bureaucrat: Then I can't give you a code.
Self: I would like to see the director.
The director arrives.
Director: We can't give a fiscal code without seeing a visa.
Self: Americans don't need a visa. Under the treaty we can work or stay here for three months without a visa.
Director: Well if you want a code you'll have to get one.
Self: I can't get one. This is something my president and your president decided; there's nothing I can do about it.
Director: What do you want it for?
Self: So that I can duly report income from a translation I'll be doing while I'm here.
Director: What for?
Self: Because your agency, the tax authority, requires it.
Director: Well there's nothing I can do about it. I need to see a visa.
Self: Are you saying I should get paid under the table?
Director (of the TAX AUTHORITY): Well, we all do what we have to do, no?
(Then the director walked to the door, opened it, and held it open until we left)
So what did we do? We drove to a town an hour away, went to the local branch of the tax authority, asked for a "fiscal code," and got one in under half an hour.