I would hate to put anyone off coming to Italy, even at this time of the year, when it’s cold and grey.
The shops are pretty, too, so Roomie and I paused on the way back from her daycare to look in the windows in Bologna’s Via Farini. One shop had a huge, blue Christmas tree, entirely build of lego bricks, the children’s construction toy. Another had life-like polar bears, posing in a snowy display, perhaps a papà bear and his cub, like us. We were entranced at the lights, the displays, and the people everywhere.
After Via Farini, we wandered through the ‘French market’. I lifted her up to see where the wonderful smells were coming from. I was feeling so festive, it crossed my mind to stop for a glass of mulled wine. Roomie doesn’t drink wine, so I could have had hers, too.
But instead we headed for the maze of old streets where the fishmongers and cheeseshops draw crowds, and stopped to buy a kilo of cheap beef for a ragù I was thinking of making for dinner.
Finally to the bus stop, in Via Rizzoli, which was packed. Clearly there hadn’t been any buses along for a while, as the crowd was dense and heaving, not fun to navigate with a stroller.
And then four or five buses arrived all together! Ours was the third, so we had to run, weaving between the people. But the bus was already so full that there was no way we’d have got on, so we ran again to the fifth bus in the line, which luckily was also going our way.
I’m a foreigner, wearing a thick, down-filled, winter coat, with a hood that reduces my spatial awareness even when it’s only hanging behind my head.
I’m trying to lift a pushchair, containing fifteen restless kilos, up on to a bus, through a crowd of people who are searching for something to hold on to when the bus moves off, and into the niche reserved for mums and their charges.
It’s not easy, and needs both hands, so for that few seconds I leave my phone in one coat pocket, and the wallet I’ll need to pay for my ticket in the other.
Someone is trying to push pass me, quite rudely, and then does manage to get past, into the space reserved for hapless parents. In an instance, he changes his mind, pushes past me again, and is off, out of the door of the bus, and away down the street. Odd, I thought.
I’m totally unaware I’ve been robbed, until other passengers start asking “Did he get your phone?” They’d all seen it happening, though it wasn’t the phone (thank goodness) but my wallet, containing a hundred euros, three bank cards, and all the usual documents: identify card, driving licence, health insurance card, and so on. All the things that make daily life possible.
Having checked my pocket, for a moment I considered jumping off the bus, which hadn’t yet started to move. I took a couple of steps towards the exit, then looked back at the stroller and its occupant. Giving chase wasn’t a realistic option.
So, this morning I was at the local caserma (office/barracks of the Carabinieri, the military police) when they opened for business at 08.30. The starting point is to do the denuncia, so report the crime, and get a copy of that vital document.
Then to the doctor’s surgery to find out how I could get my prescription meds with no health insurance card (very easily it turns out – I just needed a number, which they gave me.)
Then to the pharmacia to collect the meds. Then to the local comune office, which hosts the anagrafe (register of residents), where they told me that I’d need some photos, and that my residency expired eighteen years ago, but not to worry, as they could fix that easily, except they couldn’t because the system appeared not to be working.
Then to the supermarket to get change for the photo machine, all my bank cards having been stolen, then to get the photos taken in the booth, and finally back to the anagrafe, to have my fingerprints recorded for the new, electronic carta d’identità, which will apparently be posted to me from Rome and is due to arrive in six days.
I still have to go back to the caserma to ask for a document to allow me to drive, and get instructions on how to replace the licence itself, which seems to be a secret which will only be revealed at the right moment. And to replace the health insurance card, of course.
But enough bureaucracy for one day! I have a ragù to cook, and an ‘opera easy reader’ to proof-read, for publication on Monday.
As I was saying, then, don’t let my tale put you off visiting Bologna. Do, though, be aware that gangs of professional thieves work the crowds and are inevitably going to hone in on anyone who looks confused or distracted, so me when I’m wrangling Roomie, and likely you, too, if you look foreign and are speaking English.
It’ll likely not be the badly-behaved drunk or the suspicious-looking foreigner who gives you trouble on public transport (everyone uses public transport here, it’s not just for the poor), but neutrally-dressed young men who work in teams to pick the low-hanging fruit.
In the end, losing a couple of hundred euros, and the time wasted replacing documents, doesn’t matter much.
But it is depressing to be reminded that there are people out there who target the weak…
P.S. This week, select your own ‘Half-price Ebook of the Week’!
When we’re not publishing and promoting new ebook titles for students of Italian (and other languages), we like to do the occasional ‘Half-price Ebook of the Week’ offer.
Just £3.99 for an ebook that normally sells for £7.99 is excellent value, especially as you can ask for additional versions which are suitable for use on Kindles and other ebook readers, at no extra charge.
The problem with offering one ebook title, though, is level. We use six levels and six half-levels to give an indication of the ease or difficulty of our texts, so that’s quite a range!
Take a look at our online Catalog and try comparing the texts in the FREE sample chapters at different levels, say A1 (the easiest) versus C2 (the hardest). They’re totally different, and it’s that which makes it difficult to select a single ‘Half-price Ebook of the Week’ that will have wide appeal, no matter where people currently are with their language studies.
So we’re experimenting with a different format of promotion, the idea being to offer a coupon code that’s equivalent to a 50% reduction in price on any ‘easy reader’ ebook, and let the potential customers pick one out for themselves.
Last week’s new publication, ‘Rigoletto‘, for instance, is no longer discounted 25% and so sells at our usual ‘easy reader’ price of £7.99.
Were we to offer it as a ‘Half-price Ebook of the Week’ at some point (we usually wait a few years after publication before doing so), then half-price would be £3.99. The difference is £4.
To offer everyone the chance of a half-price ‘easy reader’ at their particular levels, I therefore need to create a ‘one use’ coupon for that amount, £4.
Here it is:
Browse our online Catalog, downloading sample chapters for anything that interests you, until you find one or more titles that will liven up your studies and provide valuable extra reading/listening practice.
Add them to your Cart, in the usual way.
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Lynne F says
Oh Daniel what a horrible experience, and all the inconvenience one person can cause! Although a shock, at least you were not physically hurt. Bologna is not alone in this problem unfortunately there are people like that in every city who prey on seemingly vulnerable people.
I have visited Bologna and it can pretty crowded. I was approached by a man asking in a combination of Italian, English and gesture to borrow my phone to contact the chemist. When I replied in Italian he turned and walked away. My hours of work learning the language came in handy. It didn’t put me off the city, returning twice more.
I hope you get everything sorted soon
Brava to you, Lynne, for not giving the guy your phone!!! I know people who would have, and then of course, they’d never have seen it again…
Thanks for being our superstar commenter, by the way. You make the place seem alive, when most people email. I like emails, but comments are better, because everyone can read them, not just me.
So very sorry to hear, Daniel. Even reading your heading I didn’t contemplate the outcome. Just dreadful that those sorts of people are in our midst, especially targeting an honest, hard-working and upright gentleman caring for his little one. We can only hope such persons get their comeuppance.
Grazie Jan! Honest and hard-working! But not my little one. I have Roomie on loan.
Actually, it really made me angry to find out that there are people who intentionally target the vulnerable!
I am so sorry this has happened to you Daniel, although as Lynne says, you were not physically hurt, thank goodness. However, I know that being robbed causes a lot of stress and inconvenience. I hope that everything gets sorted soon for you.
Oh golly Daniel, that was a very nasty incident. So glad you & Roomie weren’t hurt. We all know that it is not just Italy that has these rotten sods. Hope your paperwork gets sorted soon – that’s also a pain, wherever you live.
‘Rotten sods’ is right, Isabel, preying on the vulnerable!
So far getting my replacement documents is turning out to be easier than I expected. These days we have SPIDs, you know, which speeds everything up. It’s still time-consuming, though, so has rather messed up my week.
Lynn See says
I am so sorry for your miserable experience, Daniel! We will be coming to Bologna for a couple of months soon and will keep our eyes open (though, as New Yorkers, we usually do). And in response to your next post regarding the carabiniere, I have been having English/Italian conversations going on three years with one (we help each other with our languages, and it’s great) but I still have trouble sorting out how all the police forces in Italy fit together. And my friend was indeed deployed in Bosnia for I think at least a year. Buon Natale!
You should ask your carabiniere friend – I bet s/he won’t have any sensible explanation, though.
Hope you have a nice time in Bologna. It’s always felt safe to me, at least in terms of street-level violence, but everyone I know seems to have got robbed at some point, and Italians in cars can be murderous bastards!
So walk, don’t carry valuables with you, and you’ll be fine.
Laura Camaione says
Wow, that’s horrible. So sorry that happened to you. It’s such a hassle to replace the documents. That’s actually worse than losing the money. My family and I were in Rome in October, in the PIazza Navona — che bella! My husband was approached by a young man who was standing very close to him and talking jibberish in English. My husband likes his personal space and didn’t enjoy this man being so close to his face. My husband was just shaking his head and saying, “no,” as he didn’t understand what the man wanted. Then I saw what was about to go down — a man holding loads of scarves that conveniently concealed his hands, had moved VERY close to the back of my husband. I immediately ran over and pushed my husband away as I yelled “LADRI!” and then in English for my husband’s benefit, “Pickpockets!” Thankfully, we were spared! Any attempted theft or mugging that doesn’t involve a gun (I live in the USA) is a good one! Sorry again to hear of this, but I’m glad that you and Roomie were not harmed! Take care.
Well done to you, Laura, for keeping your eyes open!
The ‘invading personal space’ thing seems to be a popular technique. We, the victims, are disturbed but distracted, so allowing they, the perpetrators, a chance to steal from us, while we’re convinced they’re just being rude. Clever really.
I got my wallet back today, by the way. From the Polizia di stato (unshined shoes, exactly as described in this morning’s article) not the Carabinieri. All the documents I’d spent the week cancelling and replacing were in it, some of the now-useless cards, and none of the cash, of course.
Sorry to hear that you have had that experience and you and Roomie are ok. Strange that the other passengers saw it happen but didn’t say anything!
The pickpockets around the world are getting very clever these days. When we were on a bus in Bologna, I heard a couple of the passengers say – ‘watch your wallets, here they come. ‘ Sure enough a small group (men and women) got on the bus and spread out. After a couple of stops they got off as they probably realised that everyone was watching them. An Italian woman told me that it happens a lot and to be careful.
Glad to hear that your wallet has been returned – pity about the money!
By the way, great Idea about choosing any ebook this week! Many thanks.
Thanks for commenting, Anita.
I think it was so quick that there wasn’t time for people to warn me, and also I was in a heaving crowd of people pushing and jostling.
I’m not too bothered about the money I lost, not because I have masses of it but because as a father of three college-age kids, it’s at best just a theoretical concept. I stand by the river and watch the water flow past, if you see what I mean.
I do see what you mean! 🙂 Anyone with kids will know exactly what you mean!