I totally remember the first time I encountered face to face a pick pocket, he was about 9-10 years old and I was fresh off the plane – a novice in every way. I was visiting Florence on my own, my guide book in hand and a look of wonder on my face – which must have been two dead give a-ways that I was a tourist, of course that and my backpack carelessly slung on my shoulder (apparently easy prey for the zingari – Italian word for gypsy).
As I stood admiring the church Santuario S.Maria del Carmine (Firenze) and those huge wooden doors, I was unexpectedly surround by about 5 – 6 kids. Hey I am game, I grew up as one of 4, so I am used to noise, excitement – but not a 9 year old sticking his hand in my leather travel backpack while the other four try to distract me with jibbering and jabbering in another language. Maybe it was the fact that I was used to having kids all around that made me notice his sticky fingers grasping in my bag.
My first instinct, turn around and slap him!They all ran, hollering and screaming for the road and no one was around to be the wiser for their attempt but, it left a mark on me that has lastest until today (20 years later and it still haunts me.) If I had to be honest, I don’t know what effected me the most: the surprise I felt when I raised my hand to shoo the kid off or the fact that some one actually tried to rip me off … in broad daylight … in front of this religious monument … the list goes on.
Since then I have worked many jobs, including travel agent. During this stint I listened to tourists who had travelled all over Italy only to hear repeatedly their first and lasting memory, the fact that they too got ripped off – most times at the airport on their way home. What always surprises me is that these are adults, who I would have considered to be worldly and not at all gulliable like I was . And though, I dislike speaking of this down side to travelling I am going swallow my dislike because I believe no one should go home with those types of memories from a place as beautiful as Italy.
Of course, picket pockets come in all shapes, sizes, smells and dress – they can be they man in a suit sitting next to you in the waiting area … checking the partenze schedule … just like you or they can be the lady in the long, patchwork skirt with a baby on her hip, an unusual color combination between shirt, jacket, skirt and wearing bathroom slippers, following you around with a cup in her hand or as in my case, a group of street urchins (believe me it sounds like something out of a Dickens novel … and it looked like something out of a Dickens novel … but if the description fits ….)
So a here are a few pointers on keeping your valuables, your handbags, your pockets and your money a little safer.
keep it closed with snaps, zips and buckles: If the bag you are carrying has them then USE THEM. Make it as hard as possible to get inside.
keep it attached between your body and your arm: Some won’t even try to get inside, they will just pick off the whole bag – so keep it secure, close to you … not hanging low in one hand or unattended on your back.
keep it small: the bigger the target – they easier it is to pick it out.
stay alert: This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the scenery and immerse yourself in the culture – but you should never loose sight of the fact that you are surrounded by others.
I’d like to close with this safetyhandbag site I found that I felt gave some pretty good tips.
If you have anything to add – leave a comment.