Or “The time I was robbed in Italy” ← Not a literal translation!
Ah, Italy, the land of ancient ruins, heavenly food, and rich culture. And unfortunately a pickpocket’s haven. I had made it about 3/4 of the way through my European trip without incident, but it was when I was in Rome that bad luck finally struck. Admittedly, I had been provoking fate the entire time with an especially prone bag and a sort of naiveté that would put Bambi to shame, but it still hurt none-the-less. No one likes being stolen from. And even now, a few years after the fact, it still irks me!
As beautiful and old as Rome is, it still has all the trappings of any other major city and one of those happens to be crime. (And graffiti, but that’s a story for another time!) Now, I’m not saying that Rome is not safe by any means, and I may be a little jaded from my experience, but I did feel like I had to watch my things a little closer than the other countries we’d visited previously. It was in the subway where it happened. It was crowded and I was a victim of the crowd-push-and-pickpocket move. (Is that a thing? I’m not familiar with thief moves!) And, unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed that my wallet was missing until it was pointed out to me on the train after the doors were closed and we were well on our way. Urgh!
Now, you would think that that would be the perfect time to freak out, and really, I did in a way, who wouldn’t? But I surprisingly was able to keep somewhat of a cool. If cursing and nearly crying could be considered that! Fortunately, I wasn’t alone so I had some help through the whole endeavor. Thank goodness! Right away I went back to the train station and scene of the crime. Now, there were some police officers around, but they were up above the train platform, and therefore not able to catch or see any theft. They had directed me to the small police office in the station and when I got there, I hate to say that I was relieved that I wasn’t the only tourist that had been burgled, but I kind of was. Misery loves company! The tiny office was nearly full of people in my exact predicament. So, don’t feel bad if this happens to you, or feel like it is ever your fault. It’s not.
Anyway, now you might feel like going to a police station may be a waste of time, and in some ways it is. There’s a very slim chance that the police can do anything for you, let alone find your missing property, but it will help in the long run when you finally return home and need to replace any ids that had gotten stolen. If you have a police report, usually the fees are waived. So make sure you don’t lose the report! After battling the frustrating language barrier and going through the reporting process, there was another fun part!
Finding an internet/ phone cafe where I could make an international call to cancel my cards. To call it a cafe was a stretch, it was more a place where people can pay to use computers and such. Now again, I was lucky to have a friend with me to help fill in the gaps while I waited for my mother to wire money to me through Western Union. Yes, they still exist! And they were a lifesaver!
Learn From My Mistake!
Overall, the experience was not fun. I really don’t recommend it! So what can you do to avoid my predicament?
- First of all, don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Keep a backup stash in a secure location in your hotel room or locker if staying in a more public hostel.
- Second, use a more secure bag. Mine was not! Preferably one with a flap and a zipper. Basically, any bag that makes it harder for someone to sneak their hands in there. Another thing I’ve tried doing since is to use a smaller wallet and putting it inside another zippered pocket within the bag.
- Third, keep an eye on your stuff! I had a habit of keeping my big DSLR in front of me in crowded places to keep it from banging into people instead of my purse. Priorities, right? Ack! It was stupid of me and I definitely learned my lesson there!
- I thought about somehow attaching a wallet to my bag via chain, etc, but have yet to actually try it out. So that may work? I also would like to try out those little Bluetooth key finder tags. Who knows? Maybe they can track down your wallet as well! (Probably not, but it would be worth a try? Right? Wishful thinking more like! But who knows!)
- I have never tried out a money belt or other sort of secret on-person stash. So I have no idea how effective or convenient they really are.
- Be extra cautious in touristy places. Tourists are prime targets for thieves!
- Also keep an eye on your phones and other electronics. The people next to me in the police office had their iphone stolen from their pocket!
Although the whole ordeal was a low-point, I didn’t let it ruin the rest of my trip! If you are able to move on, do so and try to remember it can happen to the best of us. And hopefully learn from the experience! I am now much more diligent with my things and am searching for that perfect travel purse!