Or How I Ended Up Talking to the Carabinieri
April, even late April is off season for tourists in Sicily. Apparently, the season officially starts during the first week of May. In Catania, this meant that the Piazza at the center of town was mostly empty. Which was nice, because it was the first place we went, and where I started to try out my auto-didactic, learned it on the flight over Italian. This was where we were hoping to shake off the tourist, just landed dust. Unfortunately, what got shook down was me, or rather my pocket.
A guy, wearing a black leather jacket and dark jeans on a 75 degree day, bumped into me from behind walking the same direction as me and then again as he was passing me. At the time, I was folding a map, looking for a place for my mother to sit, looking for the Vodofone store and trying to figure out which way to the Pescheria. He walks by, and I get a sinister vibe, so I grab my purse which is haphazardly thrown over my shoulder. I pull it in, he throws a cigarette on the ground and continues to walk through the mostly empty square. Sadly, I don’t realize until later he’s walking away with my almost brand new cell.
That’s ok, I think, there are what are clearly policemen milling around the square – I’ll talk to one of them, file a report and later file for insurance coverage. I approach a man standing around the Piazza with an acquaintance, both smoking and wearing somewhat sloppy blue uniforms, with bellies protruding over their belts. I explain in very halting Italian that il mio chelulare è stato rubato. He tsks, shakes his head, and directs me towards better dressed men in sharper blue uniforms with brown belts standing around a white Fiat, who he says are municipal policemen and should be able to help me. I approach these gentleman, and again try my newly acquired Italian out on them.
They tsk, shake their heads, tell me I need to see a different police – The Carabinieri – and that it is a shame. The police I need to see are, the seated driver of the Fiat assures me, two rights and a left as I exist the Piazza.
I follow his directions, and end up walking down narrower and narrower streets. The roads begin to get so narrow, the sunny day is blocked out and it all seems a little sinister – but that may have been me projecting as well. The first two rights and a left don’t lead to the police, but one of these thinner than Kate Moss in her heyday streets. I stop a student and ask him for directions. He says, oh, you’re so close, it’s two rights and a left from here. Can’t miss it. But somehow I do, so I try again to ask directions – yep, next person tells me that it’s only two rights and a left from where I am standing, which is if you’ve lost track, 4 rights and two lefts into the trek already. I’m beginning to suspect that I’m being punked, Sicilian style and look for cameras.
I went back to the hotel, chastened and feeling like something out of National Lampoon Goes To Italy, not normally the vibe I want to project when traveling, or at any other point. Calls to Apple (thinking that whole find my phone function would help me out but nope, Apple only offers to work with the local police on finding it) and AT&T put the phone out of order and a hold on the account. The next morning, armed with directions from the hotel, I find the Carabinieri. From the uniforms alone, I know I’ve reached the right guys. They are in an office, smartly dressed in black uniforms with a big leather belt, red stripes down the side of the pants and a red and white collar. Plus, they’ve got desks, reports and cigarettes, lots and lots of smoking in closed offices. I explain what happens, and the only sentence he says to me in English is, after tsking and taking a drag on his cigarette – Meh, it is Sicily, Haven’t I ever seen the godfather? From there on, it was back to filing a report in Italian with my two day old understanding of the language.