City of Hugs and Thugs. Naples, Italy— Bob and I estimate that we saw 50 to 60 pickpockets in two hours on the trams today. We recognized many from previous years, others are new acquaintances. We were treated to coffee three times. Bob’s wallet was stolen repeatedly, and he stole it right back each time.
The day began in the usual corner, where we saw a gang of thieves we recognized leaning against the wall. Mario was one of them. We said hello and spoke with him for a few minutes, then let him get back to work. Just then a crowded tram came along and all four pickpockets ran to catch it. They gave us a wave goodbye or a beckon to join them (I couldn’t tell which), and squeezed themselves onto the tram.
Since we were hoping to ride incognito, we waited for another tram one stop away. Lots of suspects collected around us, waiting: a short balding guy Bob thought was a boss, several North Africans, a large, portly guy, and others. As the tram approached, the big guy positioned himself behind Bob and I saw him try for Bob’s wallet, using his own shoulder bag for cover. As Bob went up the tram steps, I saw that he still had his wallet and the pocket was still buttoned. On the tram, the big guy got behind Bob and eventually took the wallet. Bob then handed me the cell phone camera (a wireless hidden camera, not a cell phone at all) and stole the cigarette pack from the thief’s shirt pocket. Then he leaned toward the big guy and said, “I’ll give you back your cigarettes if you give me back my wallet.”
Immediately, the big guy got friendly. He said his name was Angelo. I asked how many scippatori (thieves) were on this tram. Angelo looked around and said six. Bob suggested coffee. Angelo brought us to the same cafÃ© Mario and Tony had taken us to in 2001. Angelo was warm and jolly, insisted on paying, and tried to get us to have some pastry. He said that next time we come to Naples, he will be our host for lunch.
Naples hospitality: first they steal from you, then they want to buy you lunch.