Getting Robbed In Italy


Last night was White Night in Florence or Notte Bianca. It’s basically a big outside festival that goes all night in a certain part of the city. There’s often music, a lot of drinking, food, street dancing, and a lot of fun. One of our best friends L went out for the party and out drunk as a skunk until the early morning. That’s when he got robbed. As it turns out, he was standing outside of BLOB when a few guys started chatting with him. Two of them grabbed his wallet and ran away, the other two, who were obviously part of the little crime circle, stayed and just hung out as though their friends didn’t just totally jack someone’s wallet and then run down the street in plain view. L was drunk but he realized what had happened and tried to chase the other two guys who were too far away. So, he returned back to the thieves two friends who had hung back. He approached them and told them that “they could have the money but he needed his documents.” They, apparently, thought that was fair enough so they called their friends who BROUGHT BACK THE WALLET. They told him to take them to an ATM and give them 200 euro. He told them, “No, if I HAD 200 euro in my bank I would have it here with me.” They shrugged and went back to trying to steal someone else’s wallet.

This is possibly one of the strangest criminal stories I’ve ever heard. Who does that? After hearing the story I told my husband that the whole thing sounded fake, that it was so crazy that nobody would believe me if I blogged about it. “That is fucking insane! HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!?” I laughed. He shrugged and said, “It happened to me in Bologna.”

Bologna 6 a.m.

Bologna 6 a.m. (Photo credit: Rufo)

Apparently something similar happened to my husband in Bologna years ago. He was walking home with friends after drinking when some guys pretending to be police grabbed them. One of “policemen”  took my husband’s watch and they ran off. My husband chased him. “Give me back my watch!” he yelled to the guy. It was a wedding gift from his sister. The guy stopped running, turned and said, “which one is yours?” and pulled out multiple watches. My husband grabbed the one that was his.

“That wouldn’t happen like that in the US?” My husband asked. “No way dude, if someone robbed you they are not going to give you your stuff back. If you chased them they’d probably just stab you in the face.”

This whole thing is fascinating to me. Apparently if you’re ever robbed just scream, “That was a gift from my mamma!” or “could you go break the change and bring me back a twenty for cab fair!”  or “Before you take my shit will you order me a pizza? Keep the change!” They might be totally into it.

I kind of like the approach of, “Yeah, i’m totally stealing money from you, cause I need it for the secret bakery or crack, but I’m not a BAD PERSON, so yes, you can totally have back your wallet. How rude of me.”


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16 thoughts on “Getting Robbed In Italy

  1. As long as they weren’t gypsies or no, you would not get your stuff back! Polite Italian thieves and you apparently have a chance!

  2. Very important lesson here: never get shit faced at a Notte in Bianco!
    Honestly, those are two of the wierdest stories I have ever heard, and I have been living in Bologna for the last 25+ years. Unless this happened near Piazza Verde. Si dice che if your bicycle has been stolen in Bologna, all you have to do to find it again is go to Piazza Verde, when you find the rotten so and so who has it, then you threaten to bring in the Caribinieri to get it back. I never had the courage to try this one even though 3 or 4 bikes had been stolen from me over the years I lived in the center.

    • Seriously? I love how there are set processes for these things. My bike was stolen once in Florence. I feel like 80% of the bikes are just stolen and recycled there.

  3. That is hilarious! I love your writing. But, you’re right, I would have been skeptical unless I heard your hubbie’s tale. Have to love Italy.

  4. I’ve heard of this type of thing as well. A student of mine told me how at SMN station, she felt someone grabbing at her backpack. She whipped around and there was a zingaro, red-handed. She cursed at him and he just said “Sorry”, grabbed whatever money he couold, threw her wallet back in her face, and ran away! lol. I knew another girl who chased a guy down the street because he nicked her mobile phone on the bus. When she caught up to him and shamed him, he just gave it back. As you noted….this would never happen in the US…or a lot of places, lol.

  5. I guess part of the difference is in Italy you don’t feel like the “robber” will pull a gun on you if you try to prevent the robbery or get your stuff back! The zingari drive me crazy! Not the beggars with the drugged babbies, that’s just sad and heartbreaking, but the ones in your face at the Metro station – grrrrrr!

    • Oh totally. In the US if you chase down a robber he’s probably going to stab you in the face. The Gypsies don’t bother me too much because I just kind of tell them, “NO!” like a total asshole and they go away. In the train station though, you have to watch them like a hawk.

  6. Pingback: Frequently Asked Questions: Studying, Moving, Working, Loving In Florence, Italy | Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

  7. A friend (who was 19) was mugged/robbed a few years ago by a young man in New York City. She gave him two ten dollar bills and told him that was all she had. He gave her back $10 and then ran.

  8. We got robbed by the worst thief ever in Milan when he snatched my friend’s purse at a crosswalk. She shouted at him and he pretended innocence. But he had his own wallet in his back pocket, so I snatched it. We kept saying “Give hers back and we’ll give you yours” and the idiot kept looking around like he didn’t know this situation could possibly be resolved. Even his friends were laughing at him.

    I also had to bash a zingara thief in the head. She was really violently grabbing and frisking my friend so I smacked her in the forehead with the heel of my hand. She just looked at me and went “You HIT me!” and walked away.

    This comment makes me sound like some crazy vigilante, but I think criminals in Italy are all either incredibly organised (Mafia, Berlusconi, Neapolitan motorcycle thieves) or total chancers who panic when challenged.

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