Right before leaving for Italy, I heard all these crazy stories about the place that slightly freaked me out. Apparently the place is rife with thieves and muggers who use ancient monuments as their allies for their dark deeds. I have heard of a man who stood staring in awe at the Colosseum while someone walked by and nicked his wallet from his pocket before the poor guy could even say Caeser! I also read various articles cautioning readers against leaving their belongings in cars as it was possible that the cars could be broken into and the belongings stolen. Considering we were renting a car, this worried me all the more!
Owing to all the things I heard and read about the place, I was extremely careful (bordering on paranoia) in Italy and kept my money distributed between difference pieces of luggage. Even whatever I carried on me, I kept distributed, with a few euros in my wallet, some in one boot, the rest in the other… (told you! Paranoid!). But I had no reason to worry. Everyone in Italy was charming and nice and very excited by a visitor from Dubai (looks like Dubai’s marketing has reached Italy as well! :P). The ladies were kind and friendly and the men flirtatious and amusing.
On my very last day in Italy, we had gone to St. Peter’s Basilica to watch the La Befana parade. After lunch, my friend R and I took the metro to get back to our hotel. It was crowded that day, and it was a bit of a struggle to get into the trains. I was right behind R and inching towards the door when suddenly an old lady pushed in front of me. She looked around 60, was dressed conservatively in black, with red lipstick and badly applied golden eyeliner on her lids. I was a little taken aback, cos this was the first time someone had cut in front of me in Italy! I was used to better behaviour. So I said ” okayy..?” and she looked back at me and frowned, before pushing on ahead into the train. I got in as well and stood beside R and we started chatting.
The old woman was standing a little away from us. She promptly came forward and started speaking to me. She asked me where I was from, whether I was from Spain (we got asked this question a lot, apparently Indians and Spanish people look similar), when I shook my head and said India, she said ” aahhh! Indiyaaa!” and then was saying something more when suddenly, something fell down between us. R and I looked down and R exclaimed ” OHMYGAWD!! THAT’S MY WALLET!!!!”
The lady was talking to ME to create a distraction so she could steal from R!!!! Sneaky huh! It was extremely lucky for us that the lady had a bad case of butter-fingers that day (God’s intervention really!). But she played it tres cool! Acted like the she had nothing to do with it, like the wallet had decided to jump out of R’s purse and into her slippery hands! She kept talking to us like nothing was wrong and we were just too shocked to react! She left the train at the next stop and that was that!
Every time I played a scenario of us being mugged or robbed, it was always of some delinquent guy with a hoodie and a gun, demanding that we hand over everything to him <insert menacing tone> “OR ELSE!” Never in my wildest imagination had I pictured a crazy old lady trying to get the better of us!
So… the moral of the story is… beware of old ladies! CONSTANT VIGILANCE!