Travel isn’t always just sunshine, swimming and summit photos. Bad things can happen while travelling too, and we experienced this for the first time a couple of years ago. The experience left us with not much more than the clothes on our back.
This is the story of how we had everything robbed in Italy, on our second day in the country. At the end, I’ll also share some tips to hopefully prevent you from having same awful experience.
There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Arriving in Italy
Our flight from Reykjavik (via London) got into Rome Fiumicino a little late. Immigration was chaos, so by the time we got through to the rental car area, it was already 10.30pm. Lucky we had booked a place to stay very close to the airport.
Renting the car was straightforward, although we had to sign off on a little disclaimer that drivers needed to be especially careful about leaving luggage in their vehicle in the high-risk area of Palermo. Well, we weren’t going there, so no problem. So we thought.
After leaving our cute B&B in the outskirts of Fiumicino the next morning, we decided to do a few errands before leaving the area. In a few days time, it would be the International Workers Day holiday and it was likely that a lot of shops would soon be closed for it.
We had a bad experience during our UK to Turkey road trip a few years back when almost everything was shut in Italy for a week due to the Assumption Day holiday.
Buying food was a necessity as we were heading to stay in a rented castle for a week (self-catered). We also needed basics like toothpaste and shampoo since we had flown to Italy with hand luggage.
The initial wonder of Auchan
Driving around and around the many roundabouts of Fiumicino, we were almost about to give up hope of finding a large grocery store. And then we spotted Auchan.
Auchan, for the uninitiated, is a huge supermarket (a hypermarket even!) selling food, clothes and household accessories. The food was the important bit for us. Aisles and aisles of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, prosecco, cheese, dried meat and freshly baked bread.
It was incredible (though admittedly not quite as good as a proper Italian farmers market). We went a little crazy. Leaving Auchan with five bulging bags of our favourite Italian food and drinks, we were excited about the lunch we would compile from our fresh groceries. Our food high didn’t last long.
Robbed in Italy
Arriving at the car, JR opened the boot to put the groceries in. It was completely empty. The two backpacks that had been sat there only an hour before, had disappeared. The clean interior of the rental car made the realisation even starker.
Checking the front of the car, there were just a few items of clothing thrown around the seats. Whirling around, we looked around in a panic to see if the offenders were still around. They, of course, were long gone.
We split up and looked around the car park to see if our backpacks had been dumped nearby. It wouldn’t be much consolation to have the bags back, but at least it would be something.
With no luck finding any sign of our backpacks, the shock finally wore off and I burst into tears. There are people out there who are strong and stoic in these situations (such as JR), but I personally just felt so sad and defeated.
To be right at the start of a trip and go from such a high (a stopover in Iceland! Arriving in Italy! Finding Auchan!) to such a terrible low was incredibly upsetting. The tone of our long-awaited Europe trip had changed so much, so quickly.
Evaluating our losses, we discovered we had lost our camera, laptop, JR’s driving license, my wallet, my mobile phone, 80% of our clothes, gifts and all of our printed travel plans.
Thankfully, we both had carried our passports on us so luckily had averted a potentially huge problem. The biggest kick in the teeth was losing the camera since it had all of our unsaved Canadian Rockies and Iceland photos on it.
Completing a police report
The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, though it felt painfully slow at the time. The security at Auchan wouldn’t help us without the police involved. After a slightly confusing drive around town, we finally found the police who said they couldn’t do much other than complete a police report.
By this point, we really just wanted to leave Fiumicino and put the experience behind us, literally and figuratively. Increasingly deflated by the minute, we couldn’t leave quite yet as we needed to find somewhere to go online.
I had to cancel my credit cards, find the address of our next destination and also let them know we would be much later than planned. So many things to do after an action that only took a few minutes at the most.
Making the most of our time in Italy
We eventually made it to our AirBnB accommodation at 8.30pm. Our journey had been further delayed by several stops to get essentials like toothbrushes and underwear.
Finding clothes to buy proved to be difficult. Everything we did find was incredibly expensive and we figured we weren’t that desperate. Yet!
Our AirBnB cottage, high in the Tuscan hills, lived up to its dreamy listing. Sadly, we weren’t able to enjoy it the way we had planned since it was almost dark and the vegetarian restaurant on site was already fully booked.
The one good thing? We had a lot of great food to eat and wine to drink!
The next day, we tried to put it behind us. We found some more reasonably priced clothing stores in Perugia and then shortly after, we arrived at our rented 14th-century castle in Umbria.
Staying in such an amazing converted castle with friends and plenty of prosecco for a week definitely made the situation a whole lot better!
Lessons learned from getting robbed in Italy
- It’s very easy to get distracted by the excitement of landing in a new country and not taking the same precautions you would at home. Losing our camera was especially frustrating as when travelling around Canada on our road trip, I always brought it into shops (with my wallet in a side pocket) to keep it safe.
- Don’t move your belongings around in public. This sounds weird, but it is also the reason we think we were targeted. Before arriving at the supermarket car park, our bags were just sitting on the backseat. After parking, we moved them to the boot. We believe that it is very possible that the thieves were nearby and saw us doing this.
- Carrying our passports on our person was the right thing to do in this instance. This situation would have been SO much worse if our passports would have been stolen too. As it was, my Canadian Permanent Residency card was taken and that was hassle enough.
- No-one died; things are just things and can be replaced. I’d like to think we’re not super materialistic people in the first place but this experience did teach me to care less about ‘stuff.’ I am so thankful that we were safe even though all of our belongings were gone.
- Insurance can really help to ease the blow. On this trip, we did not have baggage insurance, just medical coverage. We opted out of the baggage insurance due to cost. Canadian and travelling to Italy? Check out TuGo insurance. When I used to live in the UK, I used True Traveller.
What is your worst travel experience?
Adventure in your inbox
Subscribe to our monthly email newsletter and receive a round-up of our latest outdoor adventures plus other exciting beyond the beaten path destinations
Check out these recently published posts:
One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Monday 10th of October 2022
Hi Gemma, worst happened to us just a few days ago. After one week under the Tuscan sun for a wedding and visiting around 3 of us with a 4 months old baby we decided to complete the Italian vacation in Rome for a few days before returning to Canada. Our apartment was not ready at 2pm. The host suggest we decided to go grab a bite and return to the apartment by 3pm We parked the car in front of the apartment in Vatican City in a very safe neighborough and in broad daylight they broke to our car and stole all of our belongings. Suitcases backpack laptop cell phone and the baby essentials. Cash and passports were with us We felt so defeated we decide to return to Canada the next day. What an ending to a vacation that started so well
Saturday 15th of October 2022
@Gemma, thanks Gemma, nobody got hurts we had all of our papers passports etc secured in my anti-theft bag and we could safely leave Italy the next morning not with the same state of mind we had when we arrived the week before. I will be extra careful from now on about leaving luggage in a car unattended when abroad.
Monday 10th of October 2022
I'm so sorry to hear that you had so recently had a similar experience. It really does taint things. I'm so glad you had a lovely week beforehand though!
Friday 5th of July 2019
Did the insurance cover the theft? How about setting up a goFundMe to recoup your losses like these folks? https://www.gofundme.com/robbery-in-italy-lost-everything-please-help
Saturday 13th of July 2019
Our insurance did not cover robbery. We did not set up a GoFundMe. We were lucky enough to still have credit cards.
Monday 24th of June 2019
I was in Rome walking down an empty street. A young man was walking towards me and passed me. All of a sudden he turns & grabs a hold of my necklace, behind me. I grabbed the front of the necklace to hold onto it so that he could not steal it. It was a thick necklace and he couldn’t break it off of me so we struggled for sometime. He threw me to the ground, cracking my rib, and kept pulling on my necklace. He grabbed my arm to make me let go of the necklace and I sustained multiple blood blisters & a twisted wrist When he was finally able to break the clasp off the necklace he pulled the necklace so hard it cut my hand and bruised my face & neck very badly. NEVER wear expensive jewelry in Italy
Tuesday 29th of January 2019
Similar thing happened to us last month in Pisa (Dec 2018)
We parked in the free parking lot of Via Pietrasantina as recommended by this site last week (on Dec 27, 2018). Our entire luggage was in our van as we were driving down from Milan. We took the shuttle to Pisa City Centre to see Leaning Tower of Pisa. The entire trip to city center including lunch stop was less than an hour and half. When we returned to the parking lot at Via Pietrasantina, we found our entire luggage (12 bags) was stolen from our van. The robbers in the bright daylight managed to break in to our van (Fiat Ducato) and simple cleaned us out. We approached AutoGrill that was 10 meters away from we parked and the man there was such a rude arrogant human being and he simply said to us in English "I do not speak English. You go away". We called the police. The police came in and did not do squat, they did not even bother to inspect the crime scene or checked CCTV footage. They asked us to follow them to the police station and after an hour or so wait at the police station, they simply gave us a police report. We were surprised how in a bright day light this kind of crime is happening? It appeared to us that there is no law enforcement there and robbers are getting away with such hideous crimes. It was terrible and disgusting. Our vacation was ruined. We were left stranded there with just the clothing we had on and no one stepped forward to help or comfort us.
I called my insurance company upon return to the United States and they told me that similar incidents are being reported by several American tourists whose rental cars (especially Fiats) were broken into by the locals and their entire baggage was robbed in Pisa. This appears to be an organized crime the shame is that city's law enforcement is not doing anything to protect tourists. My advise, stay away from Pisa and generally exercise high precaution when in Italy. Beware of thieves, robbers and pick pockets. IT'S NOT SAFE OUT THERE.
Tuesday 29th of January 2019
I'm so sorry that this happened to you as well. It's so incredibly saddening and frustrating. Your experience with the Italian police was very, very similar to ours. I hope you managed to claim some money back on your insurance.
Wednesday 18th of July 2018
I am still in Milano, Italy. Leaving tomorrow hopefully. I got robbed in Venice first day of our familt trip. We lost all our money, cards, id's, drivers license. I feel so angry, shocked frustrated, sad, helpless, defeated .... I had to travel with my son to Rome as we both lost id's, to find the Greek embassy, to get papers to travel back. We spend a week here with no money on our pockets, it is something I cannot describe....Yes, we are still alive but I wish I could turn back the clock now at that moment, were we were pushed in the bus, the moment we were getting off, so that I get distracted for a moment were somebody like a magician managed to unzip my bag and remove my wallet....