Aussie Embassy day
Seeing as how my passport was one of the victims of the train robbery on Saturday morning, today I had to go and visit the Australian Embassy here in Rome, in order to apply for a new (emergency) passport. Since the embassy's only open from Monday to Friday, I wasn't able to go until today. I had to wait around all day: but at least I had some people to keep me company; and at least they had the new passport ready for me within one day.
After breakfasting and checking out of Gulliver's House this morning, I proceeded straight to the Aussie Embassy, laden with my big backpack and all. The embassy wasn't too hard to find: it's just a few minutes' walk away from Bologna metro station; and it's in a very fancy area, surrounded by numerous other national embassies and consulates. When I reached the building, I was taken aback to find a really serious security system at the entrance gate: I had to leave my big backpack in the reception area, put my little backpack in a locker, and walk through a strange metal-and-other-detecting glass box — with sliding doors on either side — in order to reach the inside. The security was a bit extreme: but then again, I guess they do have fairly important people working here; and hey, once I was through, I was technically standing on Australian soil!
Pity that I hadn't been able to make it back to Rome by Friday: otherwise, I could have visited the embassy then, and still have been able to vote in last weekend's Federal Government election. Not that it really matters now: despite my neglecting to vote, Kevin Rudd still kicked Johnny's a$$ hands-down; and along with most people, I'm very pleased that as of yesterday, Australia now has a new Labor government in power. I also noticed the plaque here at the embassy, saying that apparently dear old Amanda Vanstone is the current Ambassador to Italy, and has been for the past five months: perhaps she'll do a better job in the diplomatic corps, than she did ruining various government departments over the past decade. Anyway, I had a squiz around, but I didn't see Amanda anywhere — I guess she was busy doing whatever the hell it is that ambassadors do.
The application form for a new passport was straightforward enough. Apart from the photo, that is. I'd stopped at a photo booth in Termini station, on my way to the embassy this morning (anticipating that I'd need a photo for the application), and grabbed some shots from the machine. But the embassy wouldn't accept the machine photo: they said that it was the wrong size, and that I was smiling too much (apparently you have to have your mouth closed for a passport shot). So I had to go around the corner to a photo studio (along with several others of today's passport crew), and get some more shots taken — this time, by an actual passport photographer, who obviously charged more than the machine. I think that the embassy has a little "agreement" with the photo studio: they recommend everyone to go to the same place nearby; and they seem to reject most photos that they are presented with.
I was surprised that the embassy were able to process my application on-the-spot, and to give me a new passport within the same day. I assumed that I'd probably have to hang around in Rome for another day, or else to return here tomorrow just to pick up the passport. But they were very nice and very efficient, and they had it ready in the afternoon; plus, I still made it to Pisa by train tonight (albeit a little late).