Beware of being pickpocketed!
Iwas pickpocketed on the underground between Milan Central station and Milan Cadorna. In hindsight it was so obvious: a young woman made to help me with my suitcase, then leapt off the metro as the doors were closing. Only later did I realise it was a ploy to distract me as her assistant got into my handbag.
Our passports and train tickets were missing. Luckily, I usually keep my phone, money and credit cards in separate zip pockets.
I had copies of our passports on my iPad, but we needed Wi-Fi to access them and couldn’t buy local SIMS without proof of identity. So we downloaded copies at the nearest internet cafe and bought data by emailing proof of identity. But first we had to report the theft to the intimidating local police, the Carabinieri. After a good few hours we managed to complete the police forms.
Happily, the South African embassy in Milan informed us that a young Croatian traveller had picked up our wallet and returned it to the embassy. Our train tickets had been removed, and the rest tossed to the ground. My fear of identity theft proved unfounded. The embassy said passports are now very difficult to steal given the new biometrics.
We were soon reunited with said passports, but had to now ‘unreport’ the stolen passports. You need to return with the actual passports before they cancel the paperwork.
I did this on my own – and what a difference it made to be a woman on her own! Italians love flirting!
However, there are a few extra precautions we will take in future:
• We usually split the phone, credit cards, money and passports anyway, but make sure you both hold money and credit cards in case one bag is stolen.
• Make copies of everything and store them where you can access them from anywhere. Have photographs of your documents as a backup and mail copies to a friend as added security.
• Keep vital contact numbers and any other numbers you need to access property or your address in the town you’re visiting on good old-fashioned paper, as well as online and on your phone.
And keep calm. If it hadn’t been for my husband constantly telling me that losing our passports was the lucky part of this theft, I would have unravelled. That, and the fact that in 30 years of travel, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t happened before...