My Night in an Italian Jail


Day Four of Blogtember states, 'A story about a time you were very afraid.'

I almost regret telling this story again but to be fair the culmination of events are still a very scary moment from my travels. It is something that should have never happened. It happened in a place I have always considered closest to ‘home’. A place that up to this point I have lived the longest. In a country where I lived twice in my childhood. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and I made a bad decision. This is my account of my night in an Italian jail. 

It was the summer of 2012 and it was my first time back since my senior year ten years prior. What made this trip special was it was my husband’s first time to Italy and his first time to experience a place where I grew up. As a military brat the places you live, though geographically stay the same, change quite a bit after you leave. The majority of people I knew of my six years in Napoli were gone. Even my church family in Bagnoli had shrunk in numbers. I could not show him the three houses I had lived because they were out in the suburbs accessible by car but difficult to get to by public transport. So we spent the majority of our time seeking out the hidden beauty of the city in both places I remembered and those we found along the way. We savored every bite of the delicious southern Italian cuisine made simple excuses to have more gelato, and captured the beauty we saw in photographs. 

On the night that this takes place we had just returned from viewing collections of antiquities excavated from Pompeii at the National Archaeological museum. It was early evening and we were walking through the narrow streets of the city. I was on a high of being surrounded by the sights and sounds of my childhood and had just gotten off the phone with an old family friend who lives in Napoli. I was so happy that I had not noticed I had gotten too comfortable. With my Nikon DSLR safely guarded in my arms, I captured street photography with the ease of my android phone. Sure the photos would not be as amazing as my camera but I was going for artsy and using different filters on my beloved hipstamatic app. 

In the process of taking a photo of a pizza being made at a pizzeria, my phone was grabbed out of my hands. I turned in shock to see an obnoxious grin and then the back of a man as he ran away with my phone down another alleyway. While my head and my feet questioned each other with whether I should run or just scream, the man who had turned to run down the side street, jumped on a back of a moped with a driver. In less than a minute my phone was stolen and gone out of sight. It was not even the phone that I was upset about but the number of photos I had taken on our journey. So many of them documenting my husband's first time in Napoli: his first taste of pizza from the birthplace of its creation, his first time on the funicular, an incline railway, and his first time shopping the street markets in Vomero. I screamed when it had happened and my husband who had been a few paces in front of me said he knew immediately what had happened before he turned around. 

Our adventurous night began there in the middle of Napoli in the small darkened streets and alleyways. The people who worked in the pizzeria were really amazing. They took us inside, called the polizia, and made me a calming tea. I had not expected the outcome and so I was shaking and in a state of shock. It was then that I had my first ride in the back of a police car, whisked away to the nearest police station to make our report. I was feeling really stupid for feeling too comfortable being home in Napoli that I had my phone out at all. We should not even had been in that area, but I wanted to show my husband ‘Christmas Alley’, another memory from my fading past. We could have easily been walking aback to where we were staying had I not tried to fit just one more thing into our day. 

Still shaking, I answered the questions using the best knowledge I have of the Italian language. I was asked to look at photographs to see if anyone looked like the man who had stolen my phone. Already his face was fleeting from my memory. Looking back afterwards I can now draw from their questions that they were hoping I would say it was this man in one of the photographs who was wearing a white shirt. However he was the opposite of my initial description and I kept getting frustrated with their persistence. I soon found myself in a small room for a 'line up', however the actuality of the situation scared me more than having my phone taken from me in the first place. I did not know exactly where they were taking me or what I would be doing before I was thrown into the scene I am about to describe to you. 

The room I was in was dark and several bodies of police officials and detectives stood inside. I turned where they wanted me to face and I stood facing a man. Although a wall with a glass window was in-between us the man in question was literally inches away from me. He was not the man I had seen. He was white not tan, he had a bald or shaved head not dark hair, and he was more stalky and muscular than the leaner guy I remembered. It was the man from the photographs that the detectives had been showing me. I looked through the glass and saw this man was bloody, amped up on adrenaline, and looking like he could have come out of a Guy Richie film the way he was ready to throw a punch. I looked at the man in the white shirt and instantly the fear kicked me to my core. I wanted to run, to move, to close my eyes. At that moment I was more afraid of him punching through the glass, especially when it was apparent he could hear my words as I spoke 'Its not him". 

I will be honest I cried when we got back to the room for more questions and information about the scene. I wish now I had checked the photographs on my Nikon DSLR. When we had gotten home to England all the feelings from that night came right back in a spiraling anxiety attack as I found a photo taken minutes before the crime. The man in the white shirt, whom I had been asked to identify, was up ahead of where I was taking photos, talking to a man who very much fit my description of the man who had taken my phone. Bone chilling. Perhaps the other man was just a man, innocent in his own right. However there was no mistaking the man I had to view at the police station, for I cannot get him out of my mind. Whatever he did from when I had taken that photo on my camera to when I saw him at the police station, I will never know. 

Luckily I had my camera to document the rest of our trip and I did not let the incident ruin the rest of our time. I still love my beautiful city. The old buildings, the cobblestoned streets, the laundry hung out all the windows, and the women who lower baskets from tall apartment windows to retrieve recently purchased goods. The best was being able to start every morning and end every day with the beautiful view from where we were staying high up near the funicular to see the beautiful bay of Napoli. It may have taken me many years to return, but no one can take away from me the love I have for the city of Napoli. Not even spending part of our night in an Italian jail. Ci Vediamo bella Napoli! 




* Photograph belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 - 2013 All Rights Reserved | www.bonnie-rose.co.uk 

34 comments:

  1. How frightening for you. To experience something like that is unpleasant enough in one's own country, but when abroad it makes it more so.

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  2. Yeah...never let your guard down. That was my first mistake.

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  3. Yeah my Italian has suffered since I left and the not knowing added to the situation. However I have learned a lot from that experience.

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  4. I'm glad you still managed to have a nice trip. :)

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  5. Seeing as I've never heard this story before, I'm glad you told it again! It will remind me to always be aware - all. the. time. This experience would have shaken me in the exact same way. I'm so sorry you had something like this happen to you. It can be hard to not let these sorts of things "taint" the way we see a place from there on out or discourage us from traveling, but it's imperative that we not. These bad experiences are few and far between - the benefits of getting out and making yourself vulnerable in a new place far outweigh losing a phone {and the pictures on it!}.

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  6. that is so bizarre and bone chilling! i can't imagine that happening. not so much the phone getting stolen part but the man being feet from you on the street and then again in the police station! i'm glad nothing happened to YOU!

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  7. Thank you Ali, me too because I would have to see Italy any differently from how I left it when we moved. :)

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  8. That was definitely the words my friend Liisa told me when we got back to her house after this incident. She reminded me to think that every one is suspicious. That way you can always be on your guard and have fun. You are so right about them being few and far between and not letting them discourage from traveling again! x

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  9. Yeah...I've seen line ups before on like tv and films...and was expecting a much larger difference in space not right up close! eeek!

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  10. To see that very many on your camera!! That would be eerie!! Wow! I don't ever think of someone snatching a phone right from my hand! I am, however, always very careful how I wear my bag. It is a good reminder to always be aware!

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  11. Yikes lady! I'm glad you elaborated on this story. I remember when you told it a bit on my 'Don't Get Mugged' post. What a terrible night! At least it wasn't the DSLR that was stolen! Yikes. A constant reminder not to get too comfortable anywhere!

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  12. Wow! How scary. No wonder you were shaken up. I would have been the same. When we moved to the UK and I bought my mobile the salesman told me to guard it and to be safe. He told me that phones have been known to be snatched right out of peoples hands ~ I was shocked! He had a good laugh at my face as I picked up my jaw and pulled myself together. He found my naivety refreshing. It is unbelievable. I am now super careful ~ thank you for the reminder.

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  13. Wow. That must have been a haunting experience... I would have definitely been shaking too. Even when I get pulled over here at a regular roadblock I start shaking. I've never really had anything stolen straight out of my hands before though. Glad it wasn't your DSLR.

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  14. Yep. My DSLR was going now where I would have used it as a weapon before it was able to be taken off my person. but there I was with my phone freely taking photos. Yep, it def freaked me out to see him on film. x

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  15. Yes I second that because I was borrowing a lens from my friend and I would have hated to have had that stolen! Thats why I was holding onto it so tight. I'm just annoyed now that I was so silly with being comfortable. It actually made walking home from it all the way back to where we were staying (the trains had stopped running so it ended up being a much longer walk in the dark) scary. Normally I'm not scared and I would have been fine.

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  16. I wish someone had told me that about phones because now thats all I hear. And about how much money these thieves can get from phones compared to their 'day jobs'. If anything I am glad my story can be a good reminder. Its a good lesson for my boys, they have heard the story and now they always make sure to be careful when they are out with their cameras or DSs.

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  17. Yeah because it was not the phone being stolen but being in that room with that guy. Eesh..especially when he looked right at me. He couldnt see me but he could hear me and no one had told me not to talk.

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  18. Goodness, so sorry this happened to you -- and so scary!

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  19. My aunt had her bag snatched off a table (in Italy too) as she was having a drink - very scary experience indeed. I am always looking around me as even a few days a ago I sat down to send a text as I was out and had a coffee so put it next to me. I became aware of a man stopping near me then walking around to the back of me - I immediately out my phone away and walked off. I do not know if he was going to do anything, but instinct told me something was not right.
    How scary for you to have experienced tha, but at least you were not hurt.

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  20. Aw so sorry you went through this! That must have been such a stressful situation. And sad to lose all those photos! It is definitely a good lesson for those of us traveling to Italy. I remember when I was there, some guy came up to me and my friend and put a cheap, embroidery thread bracelet around my arm and asked for 20 euro for it, or something like that. I was dazed and confused and 13, so I just gave it to him. But obviously I got swindled. I was surprised things happen so commonly like that in Italy, but I'm so glad I didn't lose anything else!

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  21. The story gave me chills! I am sorry that this happened to you, but glad that you still had your camera to document the good parts of the trip.

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  22. I'm glad it turned out ok. We can never be too cautious! Not letting an event like this affect you is key to enjoying your city!
    http://liveitinerantly.com

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  23. Oh my gosh Bonnie how scary! I would be devastated if my phone got stolen and then to spend the night in a jail wouldn't have made it much better!
    I think it's great you haven't let it effect how you feel about Napoli, it's just a shame it happened in the first place!

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  24. OMG what an awful and traumatic experience!!! I've had my camera stolen before (twice actually) and it's devastating to lose photos. They are irreplaceable.

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  25. Yeah it really shook me up! Yikes, twice!! Wow...you def understand the sadness of losing photos. :(

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  26. Yep, pretty much. That was important to me too because I really loved my memories and I would hate to have a horrid their tarnish that.

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  27. Oh yes i was not going to let anyone touch that camera. That and I was also borrowing my friends lens at the time and so I was making sure that baby was well secured. x

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  28. Oh girl...i know exactly what you are talking about! During my 10th grade english trip we went to Rome for the day and they attacked a whole group of Algerians with those friendship bracelets. I would not pay and they dragged me to each male peer in our group trying to get them to pay for my 'freedom' and i just told the guys to not give him anything. He kept saying 'but you are american' and I was like 'yeah an american teenage girl, so obviously I have spent all my money and I'm not paying for this'. He eventually just left me alone. but they can be intimidating for sure and i think all my other classmates gave the guys money just to leave them alone.

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  29. It was an interesting experience.

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  30. oh wow! Yes scary indeed. That is good that you got the instincts to be careful. I wish I had channeled some of that during our time in that alley. I was completely oblivious.

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  31. Thank you it was def scary in deed and do not need to do that again for sure. x

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  32. It's amazing how traumatic a theft can be on a person, it leaves us feeling completely and utterly violated. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. x.

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I love to interact with my readers and I try my best to respond back to all comments.

Cheers,
Bonnie Rose

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