A new word – borseggiatore

A new word – borseggiatore

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

I keep learning new words in Italian but this is one I will never forget. Borseggiatore means “pickpocket”. As you can see from the photo below, it can happen anywhere. I think that this photo from the web is probably New York.



I learned this the hard way. I travel a lot by bus so I always have a borsello (man-bag). It’s very convenient for carrying all kinds of stuff. I keep my billfold (portafoglio) in the front zippered pocket and am generally careful to keep that pocket always zipped closed.


borsello – and the pocket where I put my billfold (the new one now)

So I was going to a part of town that I’m not familiar with and there was not an stop announcement on this particular bus. So I was looking at google maps on my phone to make see when I was approaching the bus stop so that I wouldn’t miss it. For convenience I also put my phone in the same pocket to make it easier to extract it to check the map. The bus was crowded – always a good environment for a borseggiatore. So when I got off of the bus I started to zip up the pocket and – oh my god, my wallet is gone! I returned home as quickly as possible. I had enough change to buy a bus ticket on the first bus going back in the opposite direction. I immediately used Skype to call first the credit card company and then the bank to cancel the ATM card. I figured that the ATM card was safer since it required a PIN. So this happened on a Friday and I had a new credit card by the following Monday and a new ATM card by Wednesday. Fortunately some friends loaned me a couple of hundred euros. (Thanks Paolo and Gaudio!). The ATM (bancomat here) is the most important since I rarely use a credit card. Cash is definitely king in Italy and the exchange rate is better anyway.

So lessons learned:

  1. ALWAYs be very wary if in a crowd. Keep a hand ON the bag to discourage sticky fingers.
  2. If you don’t have a reason to carry the bancomat or credit card (or anything else important) leave them at the place where you are staying. How much worse would it be if you were carrying your passport for example? Now I leave both cards at the house unless I have plans to use them.
  3. Don’t carry a lot of cash. I usually keep around 100 euros – enough for everyday expenses and an occasional splurge. Paolo has exactly the same bag and lost his wallet to a pickpocket during some kind of very crowded festival but he had 600 euros in it!
  4. Women are just as vulnerable. Make sure that you keep that purse closed and follow all of the above rules. Cesarina had her wallet stolen from her purse – on a crowded bus naturally. In fact almost all of my italian friends have a similar story to tell.

So this all happened about 3 weeks ago I’m just getting around to telling the story. I hope that this advice can help to keep someone safe.

One last note. The borseggiatore never tried to use the credit card. Probably because it was obviously American he assuredly was not. He did try to use the bancomat about 45 minutes later (they record these things) but of course failed due to lack of pin.

2 Responses to “A new word – borseggiatore”

  1. Marcia Nance Allen Says:

    I had my wallet taken out of my purse on the Spanish Steps in Rome. My purse was zippered shut, I was wearing it across my body with my arm against it (I thought). Fortunately a very alert undercover police woman saw it happen and returned my wallet to me. I was dumbfounded; I had not felt a thing.

  2. Joe Says:

    Lucky for you that a policewoman noticed. Some pickpockets are almost magicians.


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