A lesson learned. I learned this lesson in the summer of 2005, while I was living the life as a student of Italian language. I was invincible or so I thought. I was living off of my last chunk of money from the big corporate job I left to experience life. I was a student/tourist even though 2 years before I was student at my university in Fiesole. I felt I knew it all living in Florence and experiencing daily life as it came to me. This time was different.
I decided to take my new friends to a ristorante I knew very well and enjoyed the people that worked there. I was enjoying my pizza and wine at the table with my friends on a glorious, sunny day in July. As lunch slowly ended, I got out my change purse and put it on the table. Right at the moment, a gypsy child came up to the table and waved a sign in front of my face saying something to the effect ‘I’m poor and hungry, give me money’. In fact I did just that. Before I knew it, the gypsy child was off and running with my change purse that held my credit card, €50 and my check card(for the ATM). I freaked out running to my friend Giuseppe asking him what I should do. He informed me that I must go to the Carabinieri station on Via Borgo Ognissanti to report it was stolen. As I was walking to the station, I thought to myself, ‘how could this happen to me?’ I lived in Florence before and was careful with my wallet and passport. But why was I so stupid? How could I neglect the one thing that I was taught the first day I walked on the cobblestones of this foreign and enchanting city? From that point on, I never thought of myself as “invincible” in any situation of my life.
With my new friends from Italian language in tow, we walked there with my passport and waited in a line of tourists and straineri (foreigners) that either had something stolen or some other matter with a fine or ticket. When my turn was up, the disgruntle carabiniere filled out a few documents, asking me a few questions and I was on my way. All of 5 minutes it took. I walked out boggled on what had happened really(since my Italian was below par at the time), he then said as I exited the office in English”Good Luck”. Was that a joke?
Nothing came of reporting the perpetrator; they just want you to feel that they might do something. It was a great learning experience for me, obviously. One, always have a spare credit card in your apartment, which I did. Otherwise, I would have been begging for food on the street like the gypsy chile. Two, don’t assume that you are safe even if you in a place you felt so safe in years before. Three, be aware of the people around you; you can’t trust that you are ‘invincible‘. I thought I was theft-proof, a wrong attitude I had that led to me calling home to Mom and Dad and saying, “HELP!” I felt helpless, alone, stupid, frustrated and homesick. These feelings can be detrimental to your whole trip; either as a student or a tourist.
What I realized after is that it was entirely my fault. I pretended I was a native of Florence. This would never happen to me, I always used to say to myself. Not anymore. I am more cautious these days. Being almost a resident here in Florence, I know that anything can happen in this city. From not being paid on time, to going to a store when you knew it would be open but for some reason it is closed and being pick-pocketed.
I suggest to the future travelers of Florence to be aware of your surroundings, don’t be stupid and wave about your wallet and NEVER think that being pick-pocketed is something that happens to someone else. Because once you think that way, it will happen. Ruining your vacation and everyone else’s who is traveling with you. Know where your wallet or purse is at all times, hopefully close by. Always know which pocket you put you wallet in, you would be surprised how clever people are when stealing your wallet. Before you leave for your trip, go to a travel store and purchase a money belt or neck pouch to hold all your important papers. Be smart and understand that you are in a foreign country, you can’t trust everyone you meet.