Europe, How-Tos, Italy, Milan

That Time I Got Robbed in Milan…

August 29, 2013

As you are reading this, I am currently in the Maritime provinces of Canada, stuffing myself with lobster and scallops. Stay tuned for more updates! 

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“Don’t wear anything flashy”, “You should wear those anti-theft pants!”, “Remember to keep your bag in front of you AT ALL TIMES”, or “Don’t put all your money in one place” – whatever it is, I’m sure we’ve heard them all. Every time I tell someone about my travels, there is always a safety concern associated with their excitement. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate the concern, but I always think they’re overreacting… until the misfortune actually happened to me.

We arrived in Milano Centrale that morning and quickly found our way to the Metro. Before I go any further, let me just tell you, Milano Centrale is a gorgeous and a highly efficient train station! With its high ceiling, a myriad of underground stores, and a conveyor belt that transports your baggage from the top to the bottom of the stairs, it was definitely the best train station I’ve been to in all my travels. I’m very easily amused, so it was a delight to realize that I didn’t have to drag my bag up and down the stairs with me (for once!).

MilanoCentrale

That said, our goal that morning was to get to the hotel, drop off our luggage, and get on with our sight-seeing. We only had 2 days to see the city and we wanted to get as much out of it as possible. What else is new, right?

We started off by seeing the majestic Duomo (more on this later), meandered over to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, had pasta dinner around the area, and capped off the night with a scoop (or 3) of gelato from a nearby gelateria.

Duomo

We figured it was a day done well, so we decided to head back to our hotel. Plus, it had started raining and we didn’t want to be soaked. So, we head into the Metro and trek our way to Hotel Sabatino, where we were staying for the night. Everything was fine, I was being cautious enough, but not obsessively so. I had a cross-body bag with me, filled with my wallet, my camera, and random knick-knacks, like a hand sanitizer, napkins, metro tickets, and some change.

By the time we arrived at our station, it was raining quite heavily. As fitting to our personalities, Candice had her poncho, which she promptly put over her body, while Gaby and I had neither an umbrella nor a poncho. We walked up the stairs, went through the round-a-bout, briskly walked down the street, made a quick right turn, and finally arrived at our hotel. We got into our room and started to unwind – it was then that I realized my bag was opened. I didn’t think of anything at first, but then I felt that it’s lighter than usual and my heart dropped. I quickly rummaged through it and to my horror, my wallet is nowhere to be found. My mind went into overdrive – what should I do now? Do I call my credit card companies first? Do I re-trace my steps? Am I sure that I didn’t drop (or left) it anywhere?

After a quick discussion, we eliminated the possibility that I left or drop it anywhere (it’s just not an option), and concluded that someone must have opened my bag and grabbed my wallet. We figured they’d just take the cash and discard the wallet after (at least this is what I was hoping). We decided to go back outside, re-trace our steps, while simultaneously checking every garbage bin that we pass by as well as profusely muttering prayers to St. Anthony, the patron saint of all things lost. I was beginning to lose hope as there was no sign of it and we were nearing the metro station. Then, just as soon as the doubt surfaced, it disappeared as we saw my wallet lying on top of a pile of garbage in the second-last bin we had to check. I opened it and, of course, the cash is gone, but everything else was left intact. A huge relief washed over me and a smile started to make its way to my face. Yes, it was hard to lose the 40 Euros, but compared to what I had to do if I didn’t find my wallet, it’s a small price to pay. Also, I was SO GLAD they didn’t take my camera – now that would have made me cry my eyes out.

This incident happened at the very beginning of our trip (think: day 4 of a 21-day trip) and I wasn’t going to let it ruin the rest of my trek across Western Europe. I did become more vigilant with my possessions, though. Lesson learned! Have this experience put me off from traveling? Absolutely not. In fact, 6 months later, I went on a trip around South East Asia, an area that is easily considered to be more “dangerous” than Europe. And no, I did not start wearing those (less-than-fashionable) anti-theft pants. Instead, here is a list of things I keep in mind when I travel:

Be fully aware of your surrounding. 

I didn’t notice this, but Gaby mentioned there were two guys following us very closely when we were going up the stairs. They may be the culprits although we cannot pinpoint this for sure.

Put your bag in front of your body at all times. 

This goes for all kinds of bags. I overestimated the safety of my surrounding, so I didn’t have my bag in front of me. It just got really annoying – I mean, cross-body bags are meant to be placed on your behind, not on your front, right? But you’ll be surprised at how swift these sticky-hands can be and you won’t feel a thing either!

Spread your treasures.

When traveling, I only carry one credit card with me and a limited amount of cash. Before I step out of the hostel, I make a mental estimate as to how much cash I would need that day and only carry that amount with me. I’ve also put money in my shoes.

 

Also, check out this safety guide from Beers & Beans for more tips to follow.

 

Have any of you had a similar experience? What did you do? I hope one bad experience did not stop you from traveling. It’s pretty much the law of the traveling universe that “All travelers will stumble upon a misfortune at least once in their travels” (I totally just made that up).

 

P.s. Thanks, St. Anthony!

3 Comments

  • Reply jill September 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Smart that you retraced your steps and and checked the trash cans. Lucky that you’ve found it too – dealing with traveling with credit or debit cards can be such a nightmare.

    • Reply Pauline Susanto September 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      I know! I can’t even begin to imagine what I would do if I never ended up finding it. *Shivers*

  • Reply Lisa October 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Crazy story Pauline! Glad you found it though.

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