How to get an Italian codice fiscale from the USA. Since this took me some time to figure out, I figured I would share. "Why might one need a codice fiscale?," you may be asking yourself. I've gone 20+ years of summers in Italy without one. But if you want to buy an Italian SIM card for your unlocked smart phone or even a pay-as-you-go, not-so-smart-phone nowadays (or perhaps a quaint Tuscan farmhouse which you plan on gifting to me), you'll need one.
The process is pretty simple and I received my codice via e-mail in about two weeks. I still haven't received a physical card as those seem to be sent from Italy to your embassy and then on to you.
1) Find your Italian Consulate, based on your state of residence, on the list here.
2) On your consulate website, and they all seem to be a tiny bit different, look for the "Modulistica" link or change the language to English and look for "Forms." Then find the link for the codice fiscale form.
It seems each consulate has a slightly different form, but all asking for the same info. My consulate is in San Francisco and they kindly include instructions in both Italian and English. The link to the form for the SF office is here in case you'd like some decent instructions and your consulate isn't quite as thorough. I don't know if it matters whether you fill out your consulate's specific form, but some do have their location listed in the form title. SF doesn't.
3) Follow the instructions to fill out the form and send it, a copy of your passport, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to your consulate. Wait ca. two weeks for them to email your codice to you. They will ultimately send you a card in the mail, but you just need the number apparently, (just as we Americans don't need to run around with our social security cards, we just need to know the number).
If you're already in Italy and would like to get a codice you can visit an Agenzia delle Entrate. I would recommend asking at your hotel for the nearest location or you can use this on-line form. (n.b. once you click through the "Find the Office" link it is in Italian. Comune di residenza = municipality. Indirizzo di partenza = street address. You may want to click the button for Ufficio più vicino all'indirizzo di partenza, which will provide locations physically closer to the address you have entered rather than use the default location for your comune.)
Heads up: There are also various websites that will calculate your codice for you. THIS DOES NOT CREATE A VALID CODICE FISCALE. I compared my real codice to those created by these on-line calculators and they were off by two characters. I don't know what, if anything, happens if you're found to be using an invalid codice, but personally I'm a bit paranoid about these things and prefer not to find out. If you decided you want to try one of these calculators to get an invalid codice, Italy Chronicles has a thorough explanation of how to go about this.