I’ve put off writing about Rome for so long as I seem to always get stuck at this basic question: “Where should I begin?” Rome is so popular it must have been covered already thousands of times in the blogs of seasoned travelers and globetrotters around the world. How can I write about it so that the uniquely charming experiences in Rome that I had could become fully vivid through mere words and images?
I’ve decided to start by recounting this particular unforgettable experience I had in Rome in Dec 2014 as a solo female traveller. If you’re still under the impression that Rome is only for couples going on honeymoon, youngsters walking around with selfie sticks or groups of friends looking for that perfect Instagram photo, you probably want to read this.
My experience can basically be summed up into 3 words:
Romans are incredible
Before my trip to Rome in December 2014, I’d heard too many a story from Rome visitors about being pickpocketed. I was fortunately also a victim. But why fortunate? Let me explain.
It was a super-duper packed subway from Rome center to Vatican in the early afternoon. The little Asian girl (i.e. me) got pushed from all sides as people tried to cram into the already jam-packed subway carriage, until the only things she could see were others’ armpits and bellies. With a camera hanged around my neck, a Lonely Planet book on the left hand and a map on the other, I was no doubt identified as a typical tourist. Or a potential prey.
Suddenly, a middle-aged man started shouting angrily and pushing 2 young Gypsies off the train even though the door was about to close. These girls threw furious glances at him and screamed back what sounded very much like swear words. I looked at them naively without understanding anything, until someone tapped my shoulder and pointed to my backpack, which was wide open. Yes, those girls tried to pickpocket me.
How it all unfolded
Little did they know that I, coming from a developing country where petty crimes such as pickpocketing were ubiquitous, had already prepared to cope with this. There was absolutely nothing valuable in my backpack. The most expensive item inside was perhaps a Lonely Planet book I’d borrowed from the local library. Instead, I’d put all valuable belongings, money, travel documents etc. in a small zipped bag attached to my belly and covered most of the time by my own arms. So sorry girls, your prey was one step ahead.
But what touched me the most was how the Romans on that train that day reacted to this incident. Nobody could speak English, yet they all turned to me and asked if I was alright (I guessed so). A woman helped me pick up the map I dropped on the floor while checking my backpack. Another man tried to convince me to wear the backpack in the front with all the hand gestures he could think of. Some people whose faces I couldn’t even see as they were standing at the further back of the carriage shouted out loud asking what was happening. And the old man who kicked the pickpocketing girls out of the train, with his sympathetic eyes, held my shoulder in an attempt to calm me down. I found no way to communicate with all these kind people that I was absolutely okay. Perhaps the feelings evoked by their thoughtful actions were even stronger than the little shock of being pickpocketed (in a more positive way of course).
A bit of background
Now you might think that I am exacerbating the incident, that I am oversensitive and that those kinds of actions could have happened anywhere else in the world, not just in Rome. The truth was, I flew to Rome from Finland where I had lived for the previous 3 years. Upon observing how Romans reacted to such an incident, I felt for the first time what people meant when they said some European countries were warmer than others. Metaphorically. (No offence to the Finns though – They’re extremely kind and helpful in their own ways)
22 thoughts on “How I almost lost my wallet … yet still found hope in Rome”
Wonderful positive post…so nice to read about the way people reacted in the train. By the way, I have the same problem as you – I just don’t know where to start writing about Rome. And I visited the city before the invention of selfie sticks…hahaha 🙂
Great positive post here, just becareful with your wallet (or purse!) 😀 Roma is not my favourite city but doing it in the middle of the summer didn’t help with high temperatures. Will give it another chance one day
Such a nice story it turned out to be! I was expecting to hear about bad experience, but you actually had a nice moment with people from Rome. So nice. One of those moments to remember when traveling. 🙂
Good to know that everything ends well… I have never been in Rome but I really want to go. I have a few friends with a similar story but with worst end!!
This was an amazing read as you demonstrated the experience so lightly. Pickpocketing is a major problem in many cities like I particularly remember my almost getting pickpocketed experience in Las Ramblas, Barcelona! But even I got saved with some nice local people around! Glad you were attentive !
Wow definitely not the ‘run-of-the-mill’ blog post about Rome! I’m glad you received some a warm response from the other people around you, it’s not always the story when travelling. Thanks for sharing a heart-warming tale of travels – safe travels.
Pickpocketing is a real danger in Europe. Good to know that you were prepared and that the Romans were so nice. Also love that despite the incident, the post is so positive.
Yes, Italians are much warmer than the fins. Did you have to replace the book you borrowed from the library? I’ve heard about pickpockets in Saigon, so I was extra careful there.
They had not managed to take the books before they got pushed out of the train. Lucky me!
This story made me smile and what a great idea to give a unique perspective in Rome! I also found Italians in general really kind and helpful. I was there in August 2014 – just missed you! – and at the last stop of my Europe au pair trip I had a massive suitcase that tiny 40kg me could barely move! So many different Italians came up to me and offered to help me with my suitcase and carried it for me! If it wasn’t for them my suitcase would probably still be in Milan 😂 ANYWAY the point of this comment is that I can vouch for the fact that Italians are lovely!!
What a great post! Rome is so amazing. I truly love this city sooo much! Can’t wait to return.
I’m glad they didn’t get you! I always keep my important stuff hidden under my clothes in these types of cities. Sounds like you knew what to do!
Some people really become our angel when we feel vulnerable. Glad that nothing happened to you. And may the goodness of those people who helped you receive good tidings 2x. <3
I adore your story, that’s good that you are safe and nothing bad happend. wish you all the best in your future travels 🙂 take care
I’m so glad they didn’t get anything from you! Always good to take precautions. Glad that all those people were looking out for you too!
What a heart warming story….! So glad things turned out good for you , now I want to visit Rome!
I’m glad you had so many helpful hands spurounding you in Rome. It is a truly beautiful place full of tourists who don’t always pack as carefully as you.
I’m almost too worried about something like this happening to me. Thanks for sharing your story – glad you were OK!
This was a lovely read. I’m glad that you were okay and enjoyed the rest of your time in Rome! I was there back in March – it’s a wonderful city!
What a lovely, positive post. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
This is so nice! I actually got robbed in Croatia and Amsterdam and both times the person who found my (emptied!) Purse sent them back to me! For every bad person there is two good ones out these.. at least! 🙂
Heart warming story!