A complete Italian experience

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When a friend suggested an Italian holiday this summer, I was thrilled.

The birth place of renaissance great masters, Michaelangelo’s David, Pieta, the Sistine Chapel ceiling…

I used to dream of seeing all this and more since my under-grad days of art classes.

And Italy did not fail. The vatican museum was breath-taking. Corridors and corridors of brilliant art. And Pieta..

And what is with the Italian skies? Cerulean blue with puffy white clouds, the sky looked like an enormous, ever-changing painting I could look at all day.


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In Florence, which was the last leg of the trip, we had booked an apartment on a busy street.

We were two families of six, including two kids. The owner of the apartment, who was barely 17, opened the front door on the said busy street and led us in.

We trailed behind him, up a narrow staircase, while one of us stood on the pavement guarding the luggage. A man who was standing beside us, as if we had been blocking his way, got into the open apartment. My friend who was guarding the luggage assumed he was a fellow guest.

He went up and stood by the door, just behind us, again giving us the impression that he was part of the apartment.

The owner had assumed he was part of our group.

We entered the apartment, set our bags on an ornate bench outside the kitchen and followed the owner who showed us around the place. When we got back in less than two minutes, my husband’s camera bag with his phone was gone.

Though he noticed it immediately, he wrongly assumed that the owner had simply kept it inside one of the rooms.

It took us a while to make the owner understand what we were looking for. But by the time we realised all of us had been tricked by the artful stranger, it was too late.

And the whole thing happened in under 5 minutes.

What a clever planning that must have been. I’m sure there was more than just the stranger whom we saw. It must have involved a few accomplices waiting outside.

My husband, along with the owner rushed to the police station to lodge a complaint.

It was disheartening to see there were so many people like us waiting to lodge complaints and most of them were senior citizens.

The police were friendly, took our complaint and bid us good bye. No cop came to the crime scene like in India, no cop wanted to check the security cameras on the pub downstairs and no assurances were given.


But life goes on. Still a bit rattled, we walked to Uffizi Gallery for our appointment to stand in a mile long queue which resembled the crowds in Thirumala or any other religious hotspots in India. The fabulous art from renaissance was well worth it.

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And to the Academia the next day. I had goosebumps when I saw David. His sheer presence was truly a magical.

The Duomo was magnificent.

Cobbled streets dotted with cafes were a joy to walk through.

Though we thoroughly enjoyed Florence, the aftertaste of the theft was always in the back of our minds.

Even my 14 year old jumped up in his sleep that night asking “Does he have a gun?” before muttering something incomprehensible and going back to sleep.


When we narrated the story to a friend on our return, he said after a few choice word for the crook, “So, now you’ve had the complete Italian experience! I guess getting robbed is one of the must-have experiences in Italy. It’s so common place”.

It is.

We hear of pickpockets in Rome, bag snatching and even mugging all across hot tourist spots in Italy.

Just underneath the beautiful exterior, the grand structures and high art, there runs a parallel network of artful and deft band of prowlers and swindlers.

If tourism is indeed their main income, shouldn’t tourists be their most preferred clients?

Then why do they shrug off thefts? Why aren’t they equipped to protect innocent tourists from miscreants who are brave enough to steal in broad daylight?

I guess for the fantastic, life affirming experience one gets looking at all the art & architecture carefully preserved over centuries, a camera here and a mobile phone there is a small price to pay.

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