This entire process started way back in 2011. I was working with an investment bank in Milan but was forced to leave when my visa expired. My great-grandfather had emigrated to the U.S. but never renounced his rights, so I was eligible to apply for dual citizenship.
Except that I needed to find his birth certificate from 1891. And his marriage certificate from a hilltop town, Arquata del Tronto, in the middle of nowhere in the Le Marche region. And his certificate of naturalization from Ellis Island.
After about a year of collecting documents, I went to the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia where the nice lady said, "Oh, tutto a posto, non si preoccupi. We will send all of these to Italy right away."
A year and a half later, no response. I figured while at SAIS Europe in Bologna I would find it easier to just go to Arquata del Tronto myself. This worked only because SAIS Europe had hired the most helpful woman in the world in receptionist Raffaella Besola. She called the comune around 20 times, maneuvered her way around the Italian bureaucracy and charmed them into speeding up the process.
It took me two days to get to Arquata, where maybe ten people live, but I was finally able to pick up the carta d'identità. Before I left, the mayor pulled out this huge book. In it, he showed me the hand-written registration of my great-grandfather's birth, penned by his parents -- my great-great-grandparents -- in 1891. Absolutely crazy! [...]