How To Renew a US Passport in Florence
Yesterday (July 14, 2004) I went to the consulate in Florence to renew my American Passport. My passport did not expire until September of this year but my husband was on vacation so he could stay with the kids and I could make a day out of it. The day before I went to the consulates website and read their information on passport renewal. You need to have 2 identical photos taken within the prior six months but they will not accept the photos from the photo machines throughout Italy (the ones you use for photos for permessi di soggiorno, carta d'identità etc.) and they need to be 2 x 2 in inches or 5 x 5 in cm. I had my husband take a picture of me, I resized it (head shot only) and printed it. If you do not have this possibility, don't worry, there are a few places around the area that do these types of photos. The consulates office has a map with the places highlighter for you. You also need money. $55 for a regular renewal, $70 for children. I took dollars with me as the conversion rate at their office is not that great.
So, here is my day . . . At 8 am. I hopped the Siena-Firenze Rapida bus. It is a great way to get to Florence as it leaves from Siena but makes one last stop just down the hill from my house before getting on the Siena Firenze highway. Cost was €6.50 in each direction. We arrived in Florence less than an hour later and I got off the bus not at the train station (end of the line) but around the corner and about 3 blocks from the consulate. As I was walking down the street to the consulate I noticed that the police had a car set up right at the beginning of the block. They also have cement blockades and a chain around the block (yes around the entire block). When you get to the front of the building there is an opening in the chain. A guard greets you and asks what you want. At this point I am still in the street, have not crossed the chain or gotten to the sidewalk. I told him that I needed to renew my passport. He asked if it was an American one and I said yes. He asked to see it. I showed it to him and he nicely apologized for asking. I told him not to apologize as I was thrilled at how tight their security is. He then told the guard in the inside of the building that I was there for passport renewal. I proceeded into the building where they have a metal detector. The guard asked me to put down my bag and to turn over my cell phone which he gave me a receipt for. I had to walk through the metal detector at this point and then he asked me to open my bag. I showed him everything on the inside and he gave me a number and told me to proceed up the stairs. He then told a girl that works for the consulate (Italian but speaks English) that I was there to renew my passport. She asked what type of passport (renewal, first time, replacement) and then gave me the correct form (the pink one for basic renewal) to fill out. I was told that as soon as my number came up that I could walk straight in. This took about 10 minutes. Once I was inside I gave the clerk my old passport, the form and the photos. He asked me to sign the form (you need to do this in front of them) and then asked for the fee. I gave him the money, he gave me change. He also asked me if I had registered to vote yet (they have signs all over the office to get you to register) which I said I had. He asked if I wanted to come back or have the passport mailed to me and I asked that it be mailed. I should get it in 2 to 3 weeks. Quick, painless and amazingly efficient.
A couple of extra comments:
- I spoke Italian but they all speak and understand English so have no fear.
- There were a couple of people there who had had their passports stolen and the fact that they had photocopies helped a lot. The recommendation is that you leave a copy of your passport and another photo ID (state ID card or driver's license) in your hotel or vacation rental.
- The process for an Italian to get a visa to go to the US is so much harder than for those of us coming to Italy. They have to have 2 full interviews plus all of the forms, proof of everything, et
The Florence Consular District encompasses the regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, with the exception of the two northern-most provinces in Emilia Romagna (Parma and Piacenza), plus the Republic of San Marino. For other areas (Milano, Rome and Naples), consult the main American Embassy pages.
If you have recently renewed or applied for a passport at a different consulate please let us know your story.
UPDATE: I received my old and new passports 8 days after I went to Florence. It arrived in the envelope that I had addressed to myself from the consulate's office.