Arriving in the sweet hamlet of Lucca gave a sense of peace from hectic travel in larger cities! Travelers who come here must be warned that the shopping is incredible - and this makes one open for target! I went into a shop to try on some beautiful clothing with my mother. As I stepped out of the dressing room to look at my new outfit- I did not realize I had been followed the entire time. Two women were following my every move! As I was outside the dressing room- a couple of feet away- the young one reached in and grabbed my valuables from inside my bag! It happened in seconds! It happens that fast! I knew within minutes I had been robbed as I went to make my purchase . I called 911 on my mobile & the Cabinari / police came to the shop. I would not let them close for lunch until the police arrived and the IT tech came to show the video of the robbery. I went to the police station & filed a report and upon arrival a local banker was sitting there with my small pouch with everything in it - but the money was gone! He found my pouch on the ground! Yes- this is horrible! But it is good that I have my important documents back! However- lesson learned- after many many years of travel with no incident it only takes seconds! The police said it is common these women work in pairs and surround shoppers! This is exactly what happened. They were the only other women in the store, and after watching the CCTV video they were near me the entire time. I even asked them to move away at one point to give me space. As the young one tried on clothing I told her she looked beautiful! She was the one who took my things! Be careful out here! I am shaken- and lesson learned! Keep it tight at all times! Breathing deep!
Sorry to hear about what happened. This kind of experience must be disturbing.
It's not your fault.
And thanks for taking the time to post the tip here.
This could happen anywhere, the US or many European countries. In the US they usually mug or shoot us first, then steal our goodies.
But unfortunately we've also had plenty of stories like this from European locations. The sneak thieves know who the "rich Americans" are and where our goodies are often stashed.
Of course, the savvy traveler will have had everything vital to the trip (passport, ATM card, credit card, and other "trip-destroying if stolen" valuables) in their money belt, the thing that would always be worn next to your underwear and that you would never take off--even when trying on clothes in a shop--not until you get back to your hotel room at night.
But it's easy to see how this could happen to any of us.
I'm going to Lucca in September. Thank you for sharing your story so I can keep my eyes open there, and other places as well. I had my backpack unzipped and my camera card stolen in Rome; and then the backpack was zipped up again-all without me noticing a thing. The camera card was in a little case they thought might be money. Lesson learned.
Thanks for sharing. I've been involved in a couple of "incidents" but use money belts etc. etc. so never lost anything of significance. Great reminder to be cautious and that it can happen to you. Glad you got most of your stuff back though!
Stories like yours is why my wife refuses to carry money and makes me wear the money belt. She says not having a purse was the most liberating feeling and was so relaxed even in Rome. She would carry only a lipstick and ask me for a Euro if she needed it for a restroom.
Thanks for posting yet another lesson we can learn from others' experience.
I am so sorry you had this terrible experience! This is why it is important to keep these things in a money belt and wear it (even when trying on clothes). I am glad you got your documents back. In Italy, it's not just men who pickpocket and rob- it might be two women, someone who looks handicapped, a mom and kid, even an elderly couple. They know their stuff too. They prey on distracted tourists and sometimes cause a scene or scuffle and when your attention is diverted, another member of their team do their snatch.
Yes, this could happen anywhere but for some reason likelihood of that happening in Italy is quite higher than in other countries.
Is this a fact, Ilja? Are there statistics showing this?
Norma, I am not aware if any statistics were done about it. I am judging from my own experience and from what I read here and elsewhere. I haven't been in Barcelona. Some people say that is even worse there.
IIja, been in Barcelona three times and didn't find it much different than anywhere else. Same for Italy. Spent about three weeks in Rome and have yet to see a pickpocket. I think it is less than helpful to make up conclusions based on nothing or even a few reports by travelers who lost something. Sure, people complain when they have problems but that doesn't mean that everyone has the same problems. And sometimes people contribute to their problems. So I don't know even after spending a lot of time in Rome whether Rome is more prone to pickpockets than say Madrid or not. My experience says not, but I don't extrapolate that to everyone.
Hi! It's me again! I shared my story as a lesson to be aware of your surroundings! This is for everywhere in the world! Europe, ( Yes- Italy and Spain have horrible robbery rates! No bickering about my experience was better than yours please!!) Asia, South America ect... We Americans stand out. And they know- we have more than they do. Simple fact!
I have travelled and lived in different counties for over half of my life. We are living in a different world now! Simple fact !
Thank you for the graciousness and kindness offered to me on this forum! However - I am not a novice traveller and I came up against serious pros! They wanted and they got! Even the Police were in awe! A sad but great lesson- I am safe and will continue to travel! As the Italien said to me " We live in beauty but it is not paradise"
So I am just saying be so careful as we travel this wonderful planet! Anywhere you go!!
May I please respond the the man who carries the money and the wife carries the lipstick? I am an independent woman and I am glad that works for her- But if anything were to happen to him- she will have a tube of lipstick. So thank you for sharing- but please instill confidence in female travelers - not codependence. Safe travels!!
I don't know that one place is better worse than others.
There was a big story in the London evening paper this week about professional gangs of pickpockets who travel around Europe being banned from countries as they get arrested. Where are they from? In this case, Chile. Who would have thought?
They strike and steal, large amounts from real rich and celebrities, and line them up for some time then strike in gangs.
Their devastation happens wherever they happen to be that month.
Recently they have been hitting London, especially Oxford Street and various clubs.
The comment that robbery is high in Europe is wrong, Robbery includes force, and that is rare on tourists in Europe. Pickpocketing, where the victim usually doesn't even know they have been attacked is much more common.
In North America it is the other way around - robbery is much more common than pickpocketing...
sad to hear.....always, always, always keep your travel docs and 90% of your cards and money in a hotel safe or in a money belt or neck wallet.
A neck wallet is on a strap and fits under your clothes....not sure I would advise getting changed in a dressing room to try on clothes anyway.
Only keep 1 card and 20 Euro in your pants pocket...everything else including passport, backup cards, etc in your neck wallet, personally I don't trust hotel safes and only use for short periods at night...I prefer the neck wallet.
Frank, you must have been lucky in Rome. I have been there three times and every time I was on the bus or metro somebody tried to pickpocket me fortunately unsuccessfully. On metro one gypsy lady was holding baby with one hand and the pole with the other and somebody is going through my pocket. Nobody else is around. It cannot be her, she does not have three hands. Sure enough it's her; the hand holding baby is fake. The baby is held by a scarf or something. And I heard from my friends similar stories. On the other hand Prague has a bad reputation for pickpockets. In this case I must have been lucky despite being there many times nobody ever tried.
Im not really sure why people have to watch these posts and make every attempt to discredit others posts. Just because it didnt happen to you while you were wherever it does not mean it doesnt go on. Please take these posts as a shared learning experience for us all.
Guard your backpack! If you must, wear it on your front, not your back. I was fortunate in "losing" only an empty new purse with a dirty kleenex, this being "removed" from my BACKpack while I was going down the steps at the Pisa train station.
In response to the remarks that mentioned Barcelona, my husband and I during a short visit experienced no thievery. However, many years ago our son spent a year in Barcelona and was mugged twice, both after leaving a bank. The people he was staying with had warned him not to go into a bank alone, because some thieves wait for a lone person to exit (presumably having withdrawn money or cashed a check) and walk down a lonely side street. These were not relatively harmless pickpocketing events. On one occasion he was held up at knifepoint and on the other he was knocked out. One of the times he had all his gear with him, as he was planning on leaving until he was robbed of everything---backpack, sleeping bag, personal journal, etc.---except for his cash and passport, which were in his money belt. Thankfully he survived the physical violence, and using a money belt was a wise decision, even though ignoring the advice of his host wasn't! Since he was under 21 the rest of his losses were covered by our insurance.
Ironic that I was reading this newsletter today. On our TGV train this morning, from Brussels to Paris CDG my husbands tablet was removed from the bag we had RIGHT ABOVE OUR HEADS! We just noticed it when we arrived at our hotel. We have been in Europe (Netherlands and Belgium) for three weeks with no problems. Also, this is not our first European trip and never had a theft before. We thought we were experienced and aware travellers but it can happen to anyone anywhere.
Deb from Stony Plain, Alberta
So sorry for this experience, but impressed your purse & documents were retrieved! My travel purse was stolen in Berlin, because I foolishly stuffed it in my Civita backpack. It happened in a flash, as I was dealing with luggage on a train platform. I obviously looked vulnerable & teenage boys (who should have been in school) jumped at the opportunity to quickly undip the backback. Fortunately, my passport & credit cards were safe in my Rick Steves moneybelt, but I regretted losing my favorite Baggellini & its contents. The responses that stealing is more prevalent in Italy (or in Barcelona) are disturbing & inaccurate. My husband & I, who are very experienced travelers, have been targeted in many countries, often with the famous scams mentioned in Rick's books. Fortunately, we were prepared & averted becoming victims.
FWIW, there is a Top 10 list of cities for pickpocketing activity around the world that has been floating around click bait sites for the past five years. All but two are in Europe, with Barcelona, Rome and Prague as the top three. The others in Europe are Florence, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam and Athens. TripAdvisor originally published the list but I don't know how they came up with list. However, just as Dillinger robbed banks because "that's where the money is," professional pickpockets go where the most tourists are.
A related incident, not quite pick-pocketing -
1st night in Marseilles, driving in very tight side streets. Young gamin de rue tried to open back door of car to grab at our luggage where we could not get out of car & were hemmed in. Fortunately, car doors were automatically locked & he strolled off.
I travel to Italy and France nearly every summer, and no one has ever tried to pickpocket me. I didn't care for the money belt or neck wallet because the summer heat made them too uncomfortable. What I wear now is an anti-theft crossbody purse. It has a steel cable running through the strap and wire mesh in the purse floor which prevent slash and run. I always hold the purse against my stomach and never let go of it when I'm out and about. It's easy, comfortable and always in sight. When I get to my lodging, the purse comes off, I look at my pictures and give thanks for another wonderful day in Europe! :-))
This story contains important advice that may be overlooked. When something such as a purse, briefcase, daypack, wallet, etc., is stolen don't assume that everything is irretrievably gone. Thieves will grab these items and instead of standing conspicuously around with them will quickly take them someplace where they can privately rifle through them and remove anything that they consider valuable [such as cash]. They then will discard the evidence, which will likely still have items that the victim will want back. Check around the area, for example in trash cans, under bushes, washroom stalls, etc., and you may be able to recover some of the stolen property.
I'd like to share my story about an incident in Prague that happened last October. I went into a public restroom that had an attendant. It was very crowded, and there was a lot of jostling to get to the stalls, the sinks, etc… After using the facilities, I had my rain coat open with my over the shoulder bag inside and reached in to get some coins for the attendant. Before I could even react, my bag was cut off my shoulder with scissors and the attendant moved to block my way to chase the thief. I lost cash, a credit card and my drivers license. Luckily, I had taken Rick's advice and had my passport and photos of my credit card in the safe at the hotel, so getting it canceled was easy. Later, talking to the hotel staff, they told me that the attendants in the restrooms work in tandem with the thieves and split the profits and that some public restroom are more notorious than others. This one was off of a lovely garden that is behind where the Czech parliament meets.
Lesson learned. Never expose your bag in public, even for a couple of seconds and keep coins in your pocket for tips for the attendants. Be really careful where there is a lot of crowding and jostling!
On a positive note-Prague is incredible and everyone else I met from taxi and bus drivers to hotel and wait staff were exceptionally friendly and professional.
I hate to add to this thread but today, as a very crowded public bus pulled away from the curb, I noticed a wallet and passport cover on the floor of the bus. As we reconstructed the event, three men pushed their way onto the bus, one stole a man's wallet (no one saw this), handed it off, and all three exited the bus before it left the stop.
The man was distracted while trying to keep his wife from being pushed (travel partners can be a built-in distraction, or a security system if they can watch each others' backs). Only cash was stolen from the man, but he was carrying all of it (and more than just today's money).
Once you are targeted, there's almost nothing you can do unless you are prepared (neck pouch, money belt, small amount of cash, split money and docs with your partner if you have one). If a bus is crowded, wait until the initial pushing stops, even if you have to stand, or consider taking a taxi.
Many have offered excellent advice on the subject of pick pockets, etc. My friend and I were in a British pub in London. My girlfriend put her purse on the back of her chair, with her winter coat over the top. We were alone in the pub except for two other ladies sitting a couple of tables away. They started chatting with us, one was behind my friend, they offered to take our picture. Shortly after they left, waving good bye and smiling. When my girlfriend turned to get money to pay the bill her purse was GONE! Since we had only gotten to the pub on that day, she had not had time to put away her passport, so it was in her purse. Everything was gone, money, passport, credit cards, etc. The only way one of the woman could have gotten the purse was while the one lady was behind my friend, she must have pushed the purse to the floor and then as they walked out one of them picked it up. We didn't notice a thing!! What an ordeal, full day to the American Consulate to obtain a temp passport, which took about four more days, cancel the cards, which had already been used and reports to the police. We let the police know where we were located, but nothing more showed up. Lesson learned keep your purse attached to you, never let it leave your sight.
I have to add my experience. I was in Barcelona when a fight broke out. I remembered reading on Rick's website that a fight might be staged as an opportunity for pick pocketers to go around. I immediately stepped back and watched as several pickpockets were wandering around the circle of people watching the fight getting whatever they could from the distracted folks. I couldn't believe what I was watching and before I could yell a warning they were gone. Moral of the story, if a fight breaks out don't stand around to be a victim.
Unless in transit.. my stuff stays in hotel safe.. I find money belts hot.. and I find safes.. safe.. lol I travel alone sometimes. .or alone with a child.. not carrying my own purse is out of the question.. I have carried one since I was 13.. and would never consider having my husband carry my stuff. That would not feel like freedom to me ..
I have had two attempts over last 30 years.. both failed , as both times I discovered them in the act of pickpocketing me.
Both times I was not really paying attention.
Both times I screamed and they ran away( one time was actually funny.. I screamed " get a job you fking loser".. in English.. it was funny because I doubt they understood me.. but guess they figured my bulging eyes and death ray look meant I would kill them on the spot.. ( I don't get scared like normal.. I get very very angry) Both times it was young men.
It can happen any place.. but yes.. Rome, Barcelona and Paris have reps..
Never put your purse over a chair.. mine stays in my lap..
I don't travel with any electronics except a cheap tablet.. which stays in hotel safe and I just use it for contacting family in evenings.. or looking up sites or restaurants.. in evening while relaxing in room.
Be ESPECIALLY careful in any crowd situation.. try VERY hard to not let people in your "bubble".. basically the space around your body. In crowded metros or buses try standing with your back to wall.. and try waiting for next transport that may not be as crowded. If with a partner stand back to back.
I do not use backpacks.
I wear a cross body messenger bag with good clasps /closures and a full flap that clicks shut on top of the zippered entrance. I keep valuables inside the inside zippered compartment two.. three layers for a pickpocket to get through.. but keep in mind.. they can.. if you are not being attentive.
In WUHAN China in a 5 star hotel we read about the possibility of thieves actually using knives in robbery attempts on tourists and for tourists not to go about alone. WELL! we had the experience and thank goodness for that tourist newspaper and our reading the warning. Not going into a lot of detail we Know for a fact our assigned guide was in on the attempt and a group of very well dressed men in early 20's looking like regular office workers were the culprits. We picked up on their activities around us and clung together physically until we got to our bus with the "Guide". One of us had a movie camera and on directing it towards the group of men each of them coming from a different direction towards us they took off in one heck of a hurry. We could not prove the guide was in on it and didn't want to get into hassles with the police so made a very fast exit back to the hotel. Actually, we didn't even know if possibly our driver was in on it. Even getting back on the bus could have proven a problem. The guide had insisted on the ladies wearing "friendship bracelets" and I was basically pushed to wearing one of a certain colour. We noticed two of the "thieves" circling my husband and staying very close to him at all times. The Guide left us for a moment to go shopping for baby clothes.????? That is when all the activity began.
Now, that day was to be a free day for us. Our guide came to our hotel and graciously told us she had arranged a shopping outing for us and in a small van and enticed us with sites we hadn't seen. This was very early in the morning after breakfast. The shopping area was like a walking mall and there were NO PEOPLE around - it was still too early but the stores were opening. The bracelets were a means to identify the tourist with whom had the most money and did most of the speaking for the group of six. It was definitely a well planned attempt at robbing and quite possibly harming my husband. We learned not to trust even our guides; be wary of anything offered that is unusual and not on the tour. Our free day turned out to be an adventure and thank goodness for that movie camera and our reading the tourism news alert in the hotel. My hubby does not do any dealings with the desk in our hotels until there are not many people around he just says I will be back to complete everything and we all go to our rooms. We should have noticed that our guide managed to still be nearby the desk when he returned and she paid far too much attention to him. NO GUIDE is going to arrange a "freebie" day outing. Read those notices in your rooms they are there for your protection.
@ Brad...Agree with your assessment. In my opinion it has got nothing to do with stereotyping but accuracy. One had better spot them a mile away and/or how to do that... better that than vice versa, when you're caught off guard and may even be surrounded by them. Be proactive is the correct option, ie, ditch them before they see you because chances are that if you're spotted by them, they'll come after you. That has happened to me in Paris, and I've seen that happened to others caught unsuspectingly. Be nasty but don't over do it...scream at them in what ever language comes to you, do your theatrics. They and the scammers don't want to call such dramatic attention to themselves.
This is a problem in most European cities. In fact, I don't even carry a purse anymore. My camera bag has a cross-body strap and I also hold it for extra security. I wear a pouch around my neck that holds my passport, some cash and a few credit cards.
I was interested in where you purchased your anti-theft cross-body purse mentioned in your post. I wear a cross-body purse when traveling and have been fortunate, knock on wood, so far, on my trips.
My cross-body bag I bought at REI, love that store! But it does not have the anti-theft features yours does. I simply hold it close to me at all times when I am out and about.
All of the posts here are very helpful. Btw, a friend of mine was in Rome last summer and was robbed of 500€ after he left an ATM. He had put the cash in his wallet in his back pants pocket. He admits he knew better...but a painful incident!
Judy B - Barbara most likely is talking about a PacSafe bag. I have one as well (the Metrosafe 200 I think) and even if the security measures are 'overkill', I still love the organizational aspects of it. The daily spending money is in the back zipper against the body and the extra money is in the front...down in a 'cubby hole' behind a zippered compartment which is behind the Velcro flap. (You can also secure the zipper). If we need to add a little more spending money to the kitty, then we don't have to worry about trying to find a bathroom to access a money belt, we just find a private spot and take a little out. Now, if someone decided they wanted to rob us at knifepoint and take the whole bag, then we are in trouble.
I actually bought mine used on ebay for about half the price of a new one, but you can also check out their website.
I would add that we usually withdraw spending money from an ATM at the airport upon arrival. Not that it's foolproof, but we then immediately head for the nearest bathroom to place the majority of the money in our money belts. I wear the tradtional type (although I finally figured out that for women, it's really less deformed looking to wear it facing the small of your back rather than facing front). My husband now wears the type that attaches with a belt loop. It's much easier to get that type in and out when you need a credit card, etc. than the traditional type he used to wear (and which he really disliked).
Zoe makes a very important point, which is relevant for the metro, too:
"If a bus is crowded, wait until the initial pushing stops, even if you have to stand, or consider taking a taxi."
If there are people all jammed up, pushing to get in a Paris metro car, just . . . WAIT. Wait for the next train - it will normally be there in 2 to 3 minutes. There's no reason to feel like you have to push and shove to get on the first train. I often wait for two or three to go by if they're particularly crowded. Let others shove in there!
Good point Kim. In Rome, my wife prevented me from getting on a packed, late running Metro train. Of course, the train behind it was on time and came in 2 minutes later and it was practically empty. Everyone jammed on the other train, clearing all the platforms for the train behind it.
I remember touring Boston with a friend of my husband who had lived there for awhile. He took us down to the subway and a train came along packed like sardines (with more packing in)...he's like...'wait a few minutes'...and the next one was practically empty. But then again we tried that in both London and Rome (waiting for the next) and by the time the next one would come along in London, the platform was packed again, so the only thing you could do was to squeeze on, and in Rome, we waited for 3 different trains and couldn't get on any of them and ended up walking (and wasting our tickets). If my mom hadn't been along, hubby and I would have packed on...
My husband was pick pocketed on the train platform in Pisa. The only thing in my husbands pocket was a 16 oz wide mouth Nalgene water bottle. The man's hand got a little stuck. The man looked straight forward like nothing was going on and kept on walking.
Both my husband and I carried Pacsafe Venturesafe 150 anti thief cross body bags during our 35 days in Europe. They were perfect.
Nicole is right, the waiting-for-a-train trick doesn't ALWAYS work, sometimes the system is too crowded, and the following trains will be just as bad. But most of the time it's at least worth a try.
On our trip in March of this year to Paris, Lucerne, through Milan, then Florence & Salerno, the only places I felt vulnerable were:
A) The first time I felt we had to be aware was when the Paris Metro was crowded and we had to stand. The constant jostling of the train car must help the thieves as one arm has to be wound around the vertical pole to stay upright. I wore a neck wallet with the important stuff, but the zippered front of my fleece had my iPhone and a few Euro, so I had my forearm on that, and must have looked quite ridiculous. This situation has to be easy pickings for the ill-prepared.
B) I had heard horror stories about the Milano Centrale train station. Yes, there were many gypsies, but a sympathetic/stern admonishment made them go away. Did not like the placement of the latrines in the basement--too far away, nobody would hear you if you yelled at a thief, so I kept everything, did my business quickly & got the heck out of there and back up the escalator.
C) Near Il Duomo in Florence, at the height of the Saturday tour group onslaught. Selfie stick hawkers only distract you from keeping your mind on your possessions, and there had to be plenty of pickpockets about. You had to basically be like a fullback trying for a first down. It was not pleasant at all, as opposed to a weeknight in the same space--perfect, serene, no crowds.
But never had an actual attempt in any of these places, or in Salerno, Pompei either. Certainly not in Lucerne!
I agree, you really do have to walk at a very brisk and purposeful pace down certain streets to avoid the aggressive peddlers. Avoid eye contact too, just to be safe. Unfortunately, constantly doing this means you're not seeing much of anything during your walks about town. So find your own balance and comfort/safety level.
Brad.. you were assaulted many times in Paris.. I doubt you were assaulted at all.. do you really mean people attacked you or tried to attack you.
Well , my 19 yr old 5'7 ' 120 lb daughter has managed to enjoy her visit to Paris without being "assaulted " . and I being an out of shape 5'5' 140 middle aged woman have visited Paris many times without being assaulted or even fearful of it.. why were you so scared.. you being so large ( you told us your size).
Its not a war zone and people do not need size or brawn to do just fine there.. one needs only some good common sense..
I think the other Brad means he was approached, crowded, bothered, etc. I doubt he means he was assaulted in a way that would cause physical injury, that's not how most European thieves work.
Regarding Spain, the big tourist areas in Barcelona and Madrid seem notorious for petty criminals. I'd say they are on a par with cities in Italy. Outside of those two cities, Spain wasn't nearly as bad as Italy. We were there in April. It's possible the crime heats up as the tourist season does.
Why Italy? I hadn't given it much thought before. I'd say it may have to do with an overall attitude toward tourists in Italy. There is a certain "ho-hum, life happens" approach regarding any complaint in Italy - whether it's no towels in your room, a complaint in a restaurant, or a police report. Maybe they've just heard the same complaints so many times they've grown jaded; there are more tourists where you came from. Based on my experience, I wouldn't expect a police report to be followed up on any more than a lost luggage report on Alitalia. That attitude likely serves thieves well.
I like Italy, but it's in spite of the attitude. To enjoy Italy, you have to find the whole thing humorous rather than frustrating. If you want efficiency, visit northern Europe.
I doubt anyone expects a police report of such thievery to do any real good, but without one good luck with your insurance claim.