Pisa: the good, the bad and the carabinieri

Leaning Tower of Pisa

They say first impressions count. Lets just say my first impression of Italy was not great, but I am sure you can tell by the title.

It was back in summer 2011. I had left Madrid the month before and moved back to Scotland. I hadn’t seen my boyfriend in a month and I was hopping on a plane to go to his hometown in the south of Italy. Unfortunately there were no direct flights so I had to take two planes and they were Ryanair planes! Urgh! This meant a stop off in Pisa for a night which seemed like a great idea at the time. Boy was I wrong!

There was no real issues with the plane journey to Pisa. However, Ryanair still played their little ‘you have been on another on time Ryanair flight’ tune even though it was 5/10 minutes late! Has this happened to anyone else on a late Ryanair flight?

I quickly got off the flight and went and checked my hand luggage into the airport baggage storage. Yes, that’s right, hand luggage. I have become quite the expert of fitting clothes into these tight Ryanair hand luggage restrictions. It is not too hard to do, one day I will share my tips for you all. I just plain refuse to pay their ridiculous prices for luggage which seem to just keep on rising.

After I had checked my luggage into baggage storage I got on a bus into town to do some exploring. I missed the stop for the tower so I had to walk back. I took a leisurely stroll through the market looking at the leather bags and souvenirs. I headed to the tower to take some pictures. There were so many tourists there taking the classic Pisa shots. You know the one’s I mean. Making look like you are pushing/kicking the tower or leaning against it. If I wasn’t alone I would have taken the same shots!

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I was feeling hungry so I decided to pop into McDonald’s. As I was standing in the queue I went into my bag to get my purse. I couldn’t seem to find it. Panic started to set in as I frantically searched for my purse. It wasn’t there. It had been stolen! Great impression of Italy number one.

Lucky for me there was a police van in the piazza by the tower and thank goodness they spoke English (well as good English as you expect an Italian policeman to speak)! I explained that my purse had been stolen and that the last time I used it was on the bus. There was a nice policewoman who went and got some sort of form and started to fill it out. Then a policeman came and started talking to the policewoman, next thing I knew he was telling me that I needed to go to the station on via I can’t remember. I stood dumbstruck for a second.

Me: ‘I have been in the country just for a few hours, I don’t know where that is.’
Policeman: ‘huh! Here’s a map. It’s on via I can’t remember. Take the first right off the piazza’.
Me: ‘ummm ok. Grazie.’

I walked away feeling lost and hating Italy. Great impression of Italy number two.

I took the first right as he told me and I tried to work out where to go from there. That’s when I saw the police car, clearly that was where the policeman had come from. I couldn’t help but feel annoyed when I saw it! He could have given me a lift to the station, but instead he was sitting in a van chatting to his friends and not doing his job! Great impression of Italy number three.

I was walking around for ages trying to find the station. Then I came across this graffiti.

Clearly I wasn’t the only one who had a dislike for the police in Pisa.

After an hour or so I found the street! There was one slight problem, when I walked up and down the street there was no sign of a police station! I was beginning to think the very polite policeman had sent me on a wild goose chase.

I saw someone getting directions from a man. I quickly ran over to him before he disappeared on his Vespa. With my phrasebook in hand I asked (in my very limited Italian) where the police station was. He pointed down the street and told me to take the second right off the street that the policeman told me to go to, so the policeman hadn’t told me the right street. Typical! The man then told me that it was the carabinieri and not the polizia. It was so nice for the policeman to mention to me that he was sending me to the carabinieri! He is the most unhelpful policeman I have ever met. Great impression of Italy number four.

Fortunately for me the policeman at the station was a lot more helpful. He made me feel calm. He gave me a form to fill out about the crime. When I looked at it I realised that it was the same form as the one the policewoman had started to fill out before the policeman had interrupted her! Basically the entire thing could have been dealt with at the police van. Great impression of Italy number five.

I then spent the next few hours wandering around Pisa taking pictures.

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When I got back to the airport I realised that my driver’s licence had been in my purse, luckily there was a police office in the airport. As I was standing waiting to talk to a policeman I overheard another tourists ordeal. He was frantically telling the policeman that his wallet or something (I can’t remember exactly) had just been stolen in the airport. Can you guess what the policeman’s answer was?

‘There is nothing we can do’.

The man then said ‘but it has just happened here in the airport!’

Policeman: ‘there is nothing we can.’

I couldn’t help thinking how was it possible that they couldn’t do anything. I mean it literally just happened, the person who stole it was probably still in the airport!  Also there are security cameras in the airport, I mean really how could nothing be done? Great impression of Italy number six. 

The policeman came across like he didn’t want to do anything. Maybe they couldn’t do anything to help the man, but he could have worded it in a better way. For example, ‘I am sorry we can’t do anything because the person is probably long gone. If you can file a report for the stolen item’. Now doesn’t that sound a lot more helpful?

Unfortunately they couldn’t help me either. I would need to go back to the station I made the report at and add that my licence was stolen too. The problem was that I only had half an hour to collect my bag from storage because it closed at 7pm. That would mean I would have to go to the station with all of my things with me on a bus and after what had happened last time I wasn’t going to risk it! Not to mention that it took me so long to find the station in the first place.

I then spent the night in the airport. I learned another lesson that night. Don’t listen to your Italian boyfriend when he tells you that he is sure the airport is open all night! Pisa airport closed for 3 hours in the middle of the night, thank goodness there were other travelers sleeping in the airport too and that it was summer! I still managed to catch a cold though. Trust me you don’t want to have a cold in summer in southern Italy, its awful! It was well over 30 degrees!

At the end of my Pisa experience I was left hating Italy, but as you can guess my opinion has clearly changed over time since I am currently living in Italy! I also learned to be super careful with my things, especially when I am abroad!

Has anyone else had a similar experience when abroad? Am I the only one who dislikes the carabinieri? Write a comment and let me know.

Lorena 🙂


8 responses to “Pisa: the good, the bad and the carabinieri

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  4. Hi Lorena, came across your article following a recent experience in Pisa and frantic googling to see if anyone else had experienced what we did. Your story has a bad start and a good end it seems where as ours started off really well and ended in a massive disappointment and resentment. We travelled from London to Pisa and had an amazing time driving around Tuscany and seeing some beautiful destinations – Florence, San Gimignano, Lucca, Siena and the Chianti region. We were visiting in fact for a wedding and decided to make a family holiday of it. Unfortunately our trip was ruined at the last hour following a quick visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This was our final destination before flying out and we decided to park in a free car park on Via Paparelli which was recommended on this website https://www.discovertuscany.com/pisa/where-to-park-in-pisa.html.

    On Tuesday, June 21st 2016 between 11am and 1.30pm we parked up and went to visit the leaning tower. When we returned to our car we found that four pieces of hand luggage and one suitcase and a baby buggy had been stolen from the car. The car was locked but the thieves managed to pick the driver side lock and get in. I want to say to the ‘a-holes’ who stole our luggage and all our baby stuff, we hope you rot in hell. You stole a suitcase full of baby clothes and baby items, these we’re mainly gifts of sentimental value and you stole our baby’s pushchair! You should feel really proud that you can pick a car lock and steal property that isn’t yours, it’s the only thing you will ever be good at in your lousy lives. To the police of Pisa who so far have been of very little help, if you find the time to review CCTV from this car park then please help find these low life’s and help return some of our luggage. I don’t have much faith in the police as when we reported it their body language was clear, they weren’t interested, it was unlikely it would be pursued and I got the impression that it is a frequent occurrence in Pisa but given very little publicity. We did not see one sign in this car park to warn us of any history of crime or to be careful, no warnings at all and it concerns me that local officials are more interested and getting the tourists in but not protecting them. Lorena, I am grateful that you have posted your experience, I don’t think I would consider moving there at this point in time and I certainly will not be visiting Pisa ever again. I would like to warn other tourists visiting Pisa however to be careful, it’s unfortunate that the main attraction in Pisa is located near to the airport because a lot of the people who visit Pisa actually make a flying visit either when landing or flying out so they automatically become easy targets for the organised gangs operating in Pisa. I am grateful we didn’t stop to see Pisa when flying in, that would have been a complete disaster! Plus, if you have a hire care then I must warn you that hire companies also do very little to offer protection, we had an Opal Insignia and the door lock was picked with ease, guess who foots the bill for damages! #Italyholidayruined!

    • Hi, I am sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience! I do think that the police can do more to help. I hope that they can find them.
      Fortunately Pisa is they only place that I have had a bad experience in Italy.

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