Tips for trips after losing my purse abroad

View of River Arno and Ponte Vecchio Bridge
View of River Arno and Ponte Vecchio bridge

There’s a first time for everything. How it happened I’ll never know. Puzzling it out sent me in circles, so it’s a forever mystery.

I had my purse at Pisa airport, but somewhere on the train to Florence or the walk to our apartment, it went its own way.

Going to pay the city tax, there was a rush of adrenaline (of the bad kind) and the sinking realisation. My purse with bank card, driving licence, health card, house keys and suitcase key+ money had gone.

Someone, somewhere, was having a better night than me!

Botticelli's Birth of Venus in the Uffizi
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in the Uffizi

My phone + banking apps saved the week. We know the internet has changed the ways we do things, but I really appreciated the value of online connections. I could block the card, transfer money, order a new driving licence and health card. The best thing I did when preparing for the trip was to take photos of all my cards (and passport) so their details were stored on my phone.

View from the terrace cafe at the Uffizi
View from the terrace cafe at the Uffizi

I’d recommend doing this alongside taking photos of any items of value, like cameras and laptops etc, including their serial numbers.

The suitcase was an issue. We couldn’t break the padlock so I unzipped the expandable section and used scissors to cut round the fabric. The case was no longer secure but that felt preferable to not getting into it.

The Duomo in Florence
The Duomo

I phoned home to check I could be met with a door key then poured a large glass of wine. Ironically,I always store keys with my passport etc. on arrival, but from now on they’re going in my bag, along with driving licence and health card as soon as I leave the house.

If you are into art and history, Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and the go-to place for Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Botticelli, as well as the home of the Medicci  family. We hadn’t booked tickets in advance so again, the phone was indispensable. I used the Headout app which was excellent with every booking giving you 10% off the next one.

Paranoid about loss, I kept my phone stuffed down my bra for most of the week, which caused a few smiles when I pulled it out to show our prebooked tickets.

Statue of David in the Academia
David in the Academia

It didn’t feel worth claiming on insurance. I travel with most of my money and spare cards in a separate place – another useful tip – but I did contact loss property at Pisa airport,  Trenitalia and Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence. To no avail.

As well as lessons learned from the loss of my purse, we had another heart stopping moment. At Pisa airport on the return home, I lost my friend.

Ryanair put up the gate number and from where we were sitting, we couldn’t see where to go. I said I was going to the loo while my friend checked where the gate was. She hadn’t heard me and when I came back, there was no sign of her.

I couldn’t reach her on my phone and for a few moments I dithered, not knowing whether to stay in case she was still in the departure lounge or go to the gate.

Ryanair don’t mess about and I soon heard my name over the tannoy telling me to board because the plane was departing shortly. At the first passport check the officers were telling me to hurry or I would miss the plane. At the second check I was told to run!

I saw my friend waiting at the bottom of the steps and started to breath again. She walks with a stick and had to give herself time to get there. I hadn’t heard my phone ring but once seated – the last one to board – I found several voice messages.

Medicci chapel tombs
Medicci chapel tombs

The lesson learned was to have a pre-arranged agreement. If the gate is open to board, and you’ve become separated for whatever reason – go for it. It also helped to see her waiting at the steps so I’d recommend that too – then at least you know you’ll both be on the plane before you board.

I’ve travelled a lot, much of it on my own, but this was the first time I’d lost anything or had the scary moment at the airport. I was worried if I boarded I might be leaving my friend behind, but if I stayed she might have gone home without me.

cloisters at Sante Croce
Cloisters at Sante Croce

As always, preparation is key. So if you are getting ready for a trip abroad, keep most of your money and spare cards in a separate place – not in your purse – and make sure you have access to online banking. Take photos of all your cards and any digital items or other things of value, and have a plan in case you get separated at the airport!

wall mural of Tree of Life in the refrectory at Santa Croce
Wall mural of Tree of Life in the refrectory at Santa Croce

Unfortunately, my key memories of last week are still the mishaps. These included the apartment door handle coming off in my hand and the lenses of my sunglasses falling out; it was that sort of week. It also rained constantly, but even though it was cold and wet, Florence was wonderful as always – a sample of the better experiences in the photographs.

Uffizi on a wet evening showing reflections of lights on the wet floor
Uffizi on a wet evening

I hope some of this is useful.

If you have any other tips for trips, please leave them in the comments below.

Happy travels for 2024…



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