Yesterday was probably the worst day of our travels so far – worse than when we broke down, worse than when we’ve been stuck on narrow roads, worse than running out of water or LPG (which we use for cooking).
We have been staying in Rome for a couple of days now, as I had a tattoo appointment and we have a friend coming to visit for the next few days. We decided to splash out on staying in a safe camp site, as we’d heard some awful stories about crime in Rome so decided to be safe rather than sorry…
After two days in the camp site, we started running out of food so we headed out for a drive to a nearby super market to stock up. Due to height restrictions, we couldn’t fit the van into the official supermarket car park and had to park across the road instead. There were still other people around and we knew we only needed a quick shop so we headed into the shop. Half an hour later we returned to find our van completely ransacked.
We always hide our valuables but the thieves had been everywhere. They upturned the mattress and looked under the bed. They pulled up our sofa and went through everything there. They even got into our gas canister! The van was trashed, with everything upturned and strewn across the length of the van. They pulled down some of the curtains that I’d made and crumpled up our bunting that a friend had got me. I’d never seen the van look so sad.
They found all of our valuables that we’d hidden in the van: Ross’ bike and tablet; my laptop and camera. What’s more, they took my little handbag, my rucksack and my bumbag although they can’t be worth very much. Bizarrely they also took all my make up and jewellery (though it was all high street stuff apart from a vintage pair of silver moonstone earrings). They aren’t going to be able to sell much of it but it will take me years to replace them (and many of them I won’t be able to find exact replacements).
I’m not the sort of person who goes through things quickly – my camera and laptop were very good quality but I’d had them for years. My camera in particular I spent a long time saving up for. My accessories, jewellery and make up are also mostly years old! I rarely buy new things, especially since budgeting for travelling in a van. It’s hard to grasp that these things I have collected carefully over years are suddenly gone…
The thing I’ll miss the most though are the photos and videos stored on my laptop. We backed them up on an external hard drive, but the thieves took that too. Every photo I’ve taken over the years (and as an amateur photographer, that’s thousands) has been lost. I have a fair few of them on facebook luckily, but those videos I will never see again, from family weddings to little clips I saved from this trip to treasure.
As soon as we realised the van had been broken into , I knew we had to phone the police. But when we were passed along 3 different people to find someone on the emergency line who spoke English, it hit me how vulnerable we are as travellers who can’t speak fluently in every country we come to. If we were being attacked, those crucial minutes wasted could make a big difference.
We had to go to a police station to fill out a form, but we were left with the distinct impression that our paperwork was going to be shoved in a filing box and never looked at again. The police officer who spoke English told us that we shouldn’t leave ANYTHING in a van in Italy – hard to do when you live in your van and all your possessions are in there. They didn’t look in the van, didn’t ask about CCTV and didn’t want to take the screw driver that we’d found that the thieves used to get in through our sliding window.
We’ve been trying to stay positive through it all despite this though. We are grateful that neither of us got hurt, we still have the van with us, and we had some of our other valuables (purse and wallet, phones, my little camera, our passports, van keys) with us when we went food shopping.
We’ve had so many supportive messages already and that’s really helped us too. You start to lose faith in people when someone’s taken what little luxuries you had and wrecked your tiny home. But we’ve had lots of reminders through kind messages that the majority of humans are lovely souls who just want to help, so thank you to you guys. We are going to chill a little today and try to pick ourselves up, ready for more adventures tomorrow and a new start.