Car Thieves in Italy

Car Thieves in Italy

Naples, Italy

For a long time I’ve felt that in many ways, Naples is totally underrated. Instead of finding plazas filled with selfie-stick hauling loiterers and shops packed with magnets and high prices, Naples is rough and authentic and delightfully does little to cater to tourists. For this and other reasons (read: PIZZA) it’s awesome and as a visitor I’ve loved the opportunity to see real-Italy as I haven’t elsewhere. 

This week my work trip to Naples began as any other and was completely uneventful – until Tuesday night. Around 9PM I ventured to a local pizzeria for dinner. I parked my rental car outside the restaurant on a fairly busy road, 20-30 feet from the entrance, and ducked inside. I grabbed a table on the covered terrace in front of the restaurant, not far from their brick oven, and guzzled down a liter of water as I waited for my meal. The heat wave in Italy this week was a doozy!

Naples Italy-1

Since I was alone it took about 30 minutes from start to finish – a quick appetizer of melon and mozzarella followed by yummy saffron pasta with zucchini. Lingering wasn’t an option in the heat and neither wine nor tiramisu seemed appealing. I paid my bill at the register and promptly left.

Naples Italy-2

Outside the restaurant the street was completely empty. 

I’d heard this could happen, especially in Southern Italy. But no, I couldn’t believe it. I wiped around, ran back into the restaurant and held my keys in the air, yelling “My car is gone! My car is gone!”. Fishing in my purse I realized that I had left my cell phone in the glove box. The pizzeria suddenly roared to life as the owner, wait staff and cooks quickly congregated in the middle of the restaurant, seemingly yelling at each other in Italian. I later learned that this wasn’t the first theft or break-in outside the restaurant in the past few weeks so incidents like mine are terrible for business.

Fifteen minutes passed slowly while I recounted the color, make and model of the car to everyone in the room, each time pointing to the plastic wrapping of my bottled water as a reference for the unique bright blue paint job.

People were on the phone, an English-speaking shop owner from down the street was called in to help translate and I paced the room. Where were the police?! Another 10 minutes passed and I motioned to the guy running the brick oven, asking to use his phone. He agreed and for 5 minutes I slowly finagled together a frantic message on the Italian keyboard asking for help from my colleagues and Dan. Thankfully on the other end my contacts quickly sprang into action and I read messages between them as they reached out to our local office for assistance. Another 20 minutes passed and still the police were yet to be seen. Perhaps the pizzeria shop was in on the theft and hadn’t actually contacted anyone? Or was this incident so commonplace it didn’t justify a visit?

Finally, a liaison from my company arrived and I recounted the entire evening to him on one of the checkered tables on the terrace. Satisfied with my statements, we made our way to his car, exiting the pizzeria still full of raucous yelling. As an afterthought, I pointed to my parking space as we exited and we observed shattered glass all over the ground. 

And for the most part, that was it.

The following day I recounted the event a few more times to Avis and the Carabinieri (Italian police). I learned that while I had been pointing out the right shade of blue on my plastic water bottle, an alert had been dispersed for the Naples police force to be on the lookout for the vehicle. 

From what I gathered though, there was a sincere doubt that anyone would see the car again. Car thieves are truly experts in the business and likely were already stripping and selling the car while I filling my parents in over Skype that night. For a few moments Dan thought he’d solved the case when he logged into my iCloud account and choose ‘Find my iPhone’ – he could literally see the precise intersection where it was located! Talking to him via Gchat at the time, I knocked over a chair as I raced around my hotel room to find the number of the police. I returned to my laptop to find him dismayed, “Oh, that was for your Macbook, not your iPhone…” The Macbook that I was actually using to communicate with him! Ha! On airplane mode since I’d departed Germany, we realized that my iPhone was surely gone for good. 

If there are any takeaways from my experience then it’d be this:

1. ALWAYS ensure you have full coverage rental car insurance – whether it be a combination of insurance with your credit card, personal auto insurance or purchased through the rental car company, just make sure you have it. Had I not purchased full insurance then I would now be responsible for paying for a new rental car out of pocket. Instead, Avis prorated my rental fees to account for not having a car for the final few days of my rental – amazing! 

2. If you find yourself in trouble abroad (hopefully never!) then keep in mind that the way the incident is handled while likely be VERY different from what you’d expect in your home country. I wasted a lot of unneeded stress balancing what I expected to happen versus what was actually happening. Lesson learned.

3. Stay calm. (Yes, I know, this is the worst advice ever and so much easier said than done!) Eventually, everything will be worked out. Eventually. Remember that. 

Finally, what happened to me could indeed happen anywhere. In no way am I discouraging traveling to Naples, simply advising caution when doing so! I look forward to returning one day but you can bet I’ll have car insurance when I do!

Naples Italy-1-2

With two weeks left before repatriating back to the US, I’m now down a cell phone and using Dan’s to check Instagram. Since I don’t want to buy a new phone now (looking at you, iPhone 7!) or start a new contract to get one for free, I’m totally disconnected – and it’s kind of awesome! Cheers to you, Europe, for keeping things interesting right up until the final minute!

Note: The pizzeria pictured above is not where my car was stolen – I was far too distracted at the time to take a picture of the scene. This is just another restaurant in Naples added for improved storytelling! 😉


  • So sorry to read this, but thankfully you had full insurance with your rental. My good friend has a car rental agency here in Mostar (called Carrus Rent-a-Car) and I know that all of her cars are fully insured and how important that is. Otherwise you would pay a lot. Have a safe trip back to the USA.

    • Thanks so much, Mersad. Eventually something like this had to happen, right? On the bright side now I have a great story to share for years to come! 🙂

  • World Journeys

    wow. it must have been such a surreal experience!

  • Oh no! Terrible incident, but a great story!

    And you may have actually swayed me to opt for insurance the next time I rent a car. We didn’t in Armenia and for how much we tortured that car through the mountains, I think we were just incredibly lucky!

    • Oh man, is this that trip that you went on and you drove about 1000 km? Did you have any issues with the rental car when you returned it? Either way it sounds like an amazing vacation!

      • Yup, about 1000 miles over a few days. No issues, miraculously, considering we drove up and down a mountain without real roads haha. (The guy who looked it over didn’t seem to care at all, so I guess we just got lucky!)

  • Chelsea Zinck

    Rental car insurance is SOO important. We were glad we had it in the Cotswolds when he had a flat tire! I’m so bummed that your time in Europe has to end. I just discovered your blog about a month ago and I’ve been getting inspired for our upcoming trip to Prague and Budapest!

    • Thanks so much for the sweet compliments, Chelsea! I mean I am sad… very sad… to be leaving Europe as well, but I am really excited about what’s to come and I’ll share the details soon, I promise! 😀

  • emi

    Oh my goodness, this is crazy!! When I read the title I thought your car had been broken into..not completely stolen!! Glad it all worked out, and you taught all of us something from it! Reminds me so much of San Francisco…30 minutes? Must be pros!

    • It’s funny, because I’ve heard a lot of feedback that things like this happen often San Francisco. I had no idea it was like that! You know what’s crazy is that when I lived in Washington DC I had my airbag stolen once… It was so wild that even the radio station and TV station showed up to record the incident! Ha! You guys have fun on your trip to Denmark I look forward to following along. 😀

  • Oh lordy!!! Thank goodness you are safe and you purchased the extra insurance!! And thank goodness your camera wasn’t in there!! Well, what a way to almost end your stay. Good luck on your next two weeks dear!

    • Oh man, right back at you! I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for us in about a month when we look back on our lives here… It makes me so sad. But I at least I know that we are in this together! 😀

  • I agree, things like this could happen anywhere. What an experience though!! How crazy!! I probably would have been a crying mess.

    • Oh, I know that I would’ve been an absolute mess had I not had the clarity to remember that I had this full coverage insurance. When I usually rent a car, when Dan and I are traveling, I never buy this extra stuff but because it was with work I had to. So right when it happened I immediately knew that everything would be fine for me financially. That made all the difference!

  • Oh lord, what a story! Many people I know have had windows smashed in Brussels but they rarely steal the car as well. Very glad everything ended ok. Full insurance for SURE! Enjoy your last two weeks in Germany sweets. Can’t wait to see what you get up to back home.

    • Thanks so much, dear! Yes we have lots of exciting things to come and I promise to share very soon! Thanks for all your support while I’ve been over here it means so much to me! One day, we must cross paths! 😀

      • Yes, we really must Margo! I’m going to miss your adventures across Europe!! xx

  • Micah Lambert

    Aw man, so sorry about that Margo! I also wanted to say that I studied in Heidelberg last year, so I know how hard it is to say goodbye to that magical city. Hoping all goes well 🙂

    • Thanks so much, dear! Wow, I can’t believe you actually lived here too! How much do you miss it? Wait, don’t tell me… Well at least we are lucky to have called at home for period of time! 😀

  • The slow pace

    I’m sorry to read that you had such a terrible experience! I hope you enjoy your last weeks in Europe!!!

    • Thanks so much, dear! Yes, I’m optimistic that it will be smooth sailing from here on out… I really am going to miss it so much here though! Sad! xo

  • Okay, this is kind of insane – I am so sorry that you had to experience that, but I do hope that this won’t darken your last two weeks in Germany and I am glad that you were able to draw some sort of silver lining from the experience. And thank god you had the full car insurance! On a site note: The writing in this post was so on point!! I really felt like I was sitting in Naples with you! 🙂

  • Noooooo I am so sorry that happened to you!! My husband and I visited Naples for the first time just briefly last year, it was actually a last minute thing. We were leaving from the Amalfi Coast and flying out of Naples early the next morning. My parents always recommended it, as we lived there for two years right after I was born (dad is the in Navy) and to this day they speak so highly of their time there but we were honestly scared to stay there and were going to just sleep in the airport or take an expensive taxi from the coast early that morning (crazy I know) because everyone had these horrible reviews online, not one person said anything good, but at the last minute, we were like “we are going to need to sleep in a real bed, let’s just do it” and we were SO glad we did! Like you were saying at the beginning, it was magical in its realness. Totally not touristy at all and just raw and perfectly Italian.

    I am so sorry that this happened but so glad that you were prepared with insurance, and hey it’s quite the story!

    xo Mary-Katherine

    • Yes! I’m so glad that you guys actually got the chance to stay there and really see it… Yes, it is so different from the amalfi coast but it is really really cool and it is really authentic. I mean aside from this whole rental-car-getting-stolen thing it is such an awesome city and I’d love to return!

      Also, logistically I think what you guys did makes a ton of sense. 🙂

  • That’s crazy. I’m sorry that happened to you. 🙁 It’s nice to see that you have such a positive outlook on things — i hope the rest of your trip is much better!!

    • Thanks so much! I’m sure the rest of my time here will go smoothly, if not there’s always wine! Plus, this makes me all the more excited to repatriate home to the US for a little bit!

  • What a terrible experience! So sorry you had to go through that!

    • No worries! I mean I guess at the end of the day it has to happen to somebody… At least I had this insurance so everything was fine in the end. When I was walking back to the hotel at the end of the night I couldn’t help but be incredibly grateful that I wasn’t even there for any part of it. I was inside having my dinner, minding my own business, and I couldn’t of been more unaffected. Ya know?

  • This is insane!! It blows my mind that cars can still get stolen so easily, and that the thieves can get away with it! It sounds like you’ve handled it superbly though 🙂

    • Thanks so much, dear! I mean I feel really lucky that I had this crazy insurance to cover it all and then at the end of the day I just had to turn in a pair of keys and that was it… ridiculous!

  • Oh gosh! I’d been wondering where your beautiful Instagram photos were lately… so glad everything turned out okay in the end. No adventure like a misadventure, huh?

    • Ha! That’s exactly right! I mean honestly I’m just happy to have a really crazy story to share with my grandchildren… right?

  • Kari Guastella

    How awful! I was so paranoid for the total of one day that we were in Naples. I was so convinced that our rental was going to be stolen! So sorry that happened to you.

    • Well honestly, I’m glad that it had to happen to me because it had to happen to somebody right? I had full coverage insurance and knew that from the very beginning when I saw the car missing so I actually had peace of mind throughout the entire event- which is really lucky because had it been a personal rental for my own leisure travel I don’t think that would be the case.

  • Oh no! This made me having shivers up and down my back while reading it… how scary! Glad you were able to walk away with positive thoughts on Naples. After being pick pocketed (and almost mugged) in Paris, I really struggled with keeping a light heart about the city. Now I realize that it was a completely random occurrence that I hope won’t happen to me again no matter where it happens!

    • Yikes! No I’ve never been pickpocketed (knock on wood) but I feel like that would be a real invasion of privacy that would be hard to get past easily… For me the car was just suddenly gone and that was it. So I wasn’t affected personally… So I can see how it would be hard to move past that in Paris for you. Good luck with that!

      Ps! I’m trying to get used to speak-to-text so apologies for it not working with the parenthesis! Ha!

  • Julia

    Whhaaaat? This totally sucks girl, I’m so sorry! I agree with staying calm, but we all know how hard it can be in the actual situation! One time I misplaced my phone in the metro and spent a good panicky 5 minutes looking only to find it in my pocket. Of course your story is totally different, but I’m glad that you came out of it with a still positive attitude. Respect, and enjoy the rest of your time in Europe! I’ve already returned to the US for my summer 🙂

    • I totally know that feeling! When I walked outside and did not see the car I couldn’t stop thinking ‘no, no this must be wrong I must’ve parked somewhere else…’ But I knew of all places that there could be a robbery it’d be in Naples. So yeah I totally know the feeling. It’s not fun! But alas at least we both have resolution for our issues! Ha!


    So glad you had full insurance though; it would have been terrible to pay out of pocket on top of all of that!

    • Ha! Safe to say that I probably be soliciting my lovely blogger buddies like you for money if I had to pay for that rental car out of pocket! I can’t imagine! So glad that it’s all over now and I’m now extra excited to get back in the US! 🙂

  • Ugg, what a story! So sorry to hear about this awful experience! I give you so much credit because if I were alone and this happened to me, I would be an absolute mess. I hope your last two weeks in Europe are absolutely fantastic! Good luck as you prepare for the transition!

    • I think the best thing about my situation is that at the time that it was happening I knew right away that I had full coverage insurance… But honestly, it isn’t cheap and I only got it because work required me to. I can’t think of how many times I rented a car for personal travel and didn’t have that I can kind of insurance so I feel so fortunate! So the good news is that it’s all taken care of now and I’m extra excited to be back in the US!

  • How awful! What a crazy, stressful ordeal! Good thing for the full insurance and that you were okay! Good luck and have fun the next two weeks 🙂

    • Thanks so much, dear! Yes, I hope it will be smooth sailing from here on out… but safe to say I’m really looking forward to being back to the US now! Ha

  • Margo! What a crazy story!! I’m so glad you’re okay and that you’re still feeling positive after the who event. I probably would have done exactly what you did – and even scarier that you were alone. I can’t imagine how stressed out you were!! Hopefully the next 2 weeks are a little less stressful! <3

    • Yeah, I mean at the time… It was just so odd. I just kept thinking, where are the police? But they never came. So I just couldn’t believe it was actually happening. So I guess maybe that helped calm me down because I couldn’t realize how real it actually was? Does that make any sense? Ha

  • Becki

    Oh no! I hate this happened to you with only a couple of weeks to go. I hope the rest of your time in Europe is smooth sailing. 🙂

    • Thanks so much dear! Yes, I’m quite sure that everything will be great from here on out…or at least I’m going to drink beer to make sure of it! Ha

  • Selma // The Little Black Case

    I would have been completely panicked! Already am when I misplace my phone for a minute… I seriously need to learn some of my phone numbers by heart ^^ I’m glad nothing happened to you though and it all turned out (quite) well!

    • Thanks dear. Yes I was really scary at the time but I’m so fortunate that I had full auto insurance… I’m sure if I had not, I would have absolutely freaked out and responded quite differently!

  • I had heard that things like this can happen in Naples and that, if you’re renting in Italy, many rental car companies have clauses that don’t allow you to drive into Naples, not just because of the car and tire theft but also because of the likelihood of a car accident. How did you find driving in Naples? For me, it was absolutely nerve-wracking. Great city, though!

  • I’m so sorry that happened to you! We are planning to rent a car for an upcoming trip in October, so I will be sure to get rental car insurance! I would have never though of that otherwise.

  • Lex

    That is so scary! My sister lived in Naples a few years ago, and I remember her telling me about how bad the crime was there. Someone once LITERALLY tried to pull her out of her car when they thought she cut him off. So scary!

  • My friend and I stupidly booked three days in Naples for our Europe extravaganza this summer – literally knew NOTHING about Naples and its reputation before going… we only heard about its sketchiness and crime rate hours before going and just about peed our pants when shady characters started appearing on the train, ha. Thankfully nothing major happened except that we definitely felt a little unsafe at times on our treks to find pizza. Nevertheless, its closeness to the Amalfi Coast and AMAZING pizza (did you by any chance visit Starita pizza? Life.changing.) gives it a few brownie points!