Summer 2015 Florence Crime Spree And The Tale Of A Seasoned Traveler


Florence, Italy: Out of 15 individuals associated with a major university’s Study Abroad Program in Florence, 4 (27%) have had their ATM cards skimmed or pockets picked on public transportation with over $1,000 stolen during the month of July alone.


A couple of days ago, I told you about two students in the Study Abroad Program who recently had their bank accounts drained after using the ATM machine at the Chiantibanca located in Piazza del Duomo (Florence), Italy. The ATM machine in question is next to the bank at #58.

Then this past Sunday (July 19th), another student had her wallet stolen out of her purse on a Florence bus. She did not leave her purse open or unattended, it was secured around her neck in front of her and the thief had the nerve to unzip it, grab the wallet from inside, and scurry off when the bus reached the next stop. These guys are good and their out in full force!

I, on the other hand, am a seasoned traveler, having visited 41 countries so far and countless large, theft-ridden cities (Naples, Paris, Venice, Sofia, Budapest, New Delhi, Tokyo, Seoul, Los Angeles, New York, London, Rome, Ljubljana, Kotor, Dubai, Riyadh … you get the picture) without ever having been robbed, pick-pocketed, or the like. I am always aware of my surroundings and take the necessary precautions, keeping my wallet in my front pocket and so on … until yesterday.

I feel like such a fool, never having thought it would happen to me because of my experience, my diligence … my naïveté. We were on our way to meet friends for dinner, catching the #17 bus from Piazza San Marco in central Florence. The area has several bus stops and was quite busy around 7pm, so as the bus arrived a man carrying two large painter’s canvases (100cm x 100cm) was making it difficult to board the bus. Looking back, he was likely an accomplice causing a choke-point at the door while his comrades slipped their hands into open bags. 

I sometimes carry a borsello, a leather bag (some might call a purse, BUT IT’S NOT, I SWEAR) commonly carried by men in Italy and on this day I did not have it zipped, but my hand was securely clasping the top in anticipation of such an event. But this time I must have been distracted for just a moment, leaving a window open for the thief to dip his hand in, nab my wallet (that I often have trouble locating myself), and slip off into the evening without me even noticing.

It was only when my wife and I started talking about the poor student who had her wallet stolen the day before that I reached into my bag to find … MY WALLET WAS GONE! I knew that I had brought it with me, but could I have left it on the table at home instead? Surely I could not be pick-pocketed. Wrong!

Fortunately, there were only €10 in my wallet and I cancelled my credit and debit cards before they could use them, so it was an inexpensive lesson as well as a poor “take” for the crooks who likely snatched the €10 and threw the rest in the nearest trash can.

The morales to this story are:

1) When in Florence, or anywhere else for that matter, be vigilant. Times are tough and people are desperate FOR YOUR VALUABLES – purses, wallets, cameras, phones, tablets, sunglasses, etc.
2) Avoid crowded places where pickpockets often lurk (buses, trains, stations, popular tourist areas)
3) Diversions are common place among thieves, so if someone bumps into you, trips in front of you, spills something on you, or otherwise creates havoc around you, clutch your valuables and keep your eyes open.
4) If carrying a small wallet, keep it in your front pocket and if carrying a purse (or borsello), wrap the strap around your neck, clutch it in front of you or securely under your arm, zip the zippers, and keep any external pockets next to your body. 
5) Do not think “it can’t happen to me” because it can!

ATM SAFETY: ALWAYS CHECK TO MAKE SURE THAT THE SKIMMING DEVICE, KEYPAD, CAMERA, AND ATM FACE ARE PROPERLY SECURED TO THE WALL BEFORE MAKING A TRANSACTION, COVERING THE KEYPAD WITH YOUR OTHER HAND AND USING YOUR THUMB TO ENTER YOUR PIN (IT IS MORE DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO RECOGNIZE YOUR PIN IF USING YOUR THUMB THAN IT IS YOUR USING YOUR INDEX FINGER)


You Can Read Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  Summer 2015 Florence Crime Spree And The Tale Of A Seasoned Traveler

Key Words: crime, bank, banca, bus, pickpocket, pick, pocket, Florence, Firenze, skimming, skimmer, ATM, scam, criminals, tourist, tourists, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, thief, steal, stolen, police

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Florence, Italy: Good Versus Bad Equates To Average Value


  • Trattoria Il Contadino
  • Via del Palazzuolo 69-71R
  • Florence, Italy
  • South of Santa Maria Novella Station
  • Phone: +39 055 2382673
  • trattoriailcontadino.com
 Prices: $$$$

Trattoria Da Giorgo, just down the street, is closed on Sunday and was not an option after our return to the train station from a day trip in Siena, so we decided to try Il Contadino. They have decent food and lots of it with cheap prices compared to the rest of the overpriced tourist traps in Florence. Unlike many restaurants in Italy, they are open seven days a week from noon (12:00) until 10:30pm (22:30), so you can get a meal anytime you like. Arriving around 7:00pm on a Sunday night after a long day in the Tuscan sun, we were quickly seated and shortly thereafter our waiter arrived. 


That was the most efficient service we received the rest of the night because as he and his female counterpart hovered around our table in the nearly empty restaurant, making for a rather uncomfortable experience, they chatted with each other and their friends at the next table. However, when we needed something, we had to try to catch their eye rather than counting on them to notice when they were needed instead of socializing with each other.


Tagliatelle alla Boscaiola

The menu is fixed price, €9 to €12 for lunch, and €13.50 to €14.50 for dinner, a decent value for what you receive in return and there is also an “ala carte” menu if you so choose. For €14.50 (€12 at lunch) you are entitled to a ½ liter of water, ¼ liter of wine (per person/ red or white), primo (first course from the day’s menu – pasta, soup, etc), secondo (second course from the day’s menu – meat dish), and contorno (vegetable – salad, potatoes, artichokes, broccoli, etc). 

Scallopine

Tagiatelle alla Boscailola, a long, thin pasta in a tomato-based sauce with ground beef, mushrooms, and black olives was my choice as a primo. The tagliatelle were good with rich, earthy tones from the mushrooms and unlike more than a few Tuscan restaurants we have been to recently, perfectly cooked “al dente”. My wife decided to forgo the meat dish, so she ordered the prosciutto e melone (cured ham and and honeydew melon) for her primo. Being difficult to improve on sliced ham and melon, her first course was as good a most places and a fair size portion.
Risotto

For secondi I had the scaloppine ai funghi (pork cutlets in a white wine and mushroom sauce). The meat was very dry and had obviously been sitting around much of the day waiting for a customer to arrive. The sauce was good and there was plenty of it, but a few more mushrooms would have been nice. My wife had the risotto with zucchini and gorgonzola, creamy with a bit of zing from the aged cheese, it could have cooked a minute or two longer to reach the desired consistency of a classic risotto. Our contorni were patate fritte (French fries), crispy but not very hot, and patate arrosto (roasted potatoes) which, like the pork, had also been sitting in a chafing dish for far too long.

We had to remind the waiter two times to bring our wine, a local red, which was decent, lightly chilled and fruity. Instead of bringing a half-liter for the two of us, he brought a single one-quarter liter carafe five to ten minutes after our primi had arrived and another carafe, having to ask him once again, after our second courses had arrived. With so few people in the restaurant, there is really no excuse for such inattentive service.

The restaurant is clean and bright even though it is in a rather seedy part of town, but we were somewhat disappointed by the food and very disappointed by the service. When I gave the waiter my card, telling him that I would post a review on my blog, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, he said “So what? I can post a review on TripAdvisor, so what makes you different from me?” I told him that I am Yelp

“Elite”, a TripAdvisor “Top Contributor”, and have a blog averaging 40,000 views a year. Enough said.

You will have a better meal in Italy for €30 or less, several places come to mind, but in Florence, with its dearth of reasonably priced restaurants, you will not find many inexpensive options. Although our experience was somewhat disappointing, the food was not bad overall and the prices fair. So if Trattoria da Giorgio just down the street is closed or too full, Trattoria il Contadino would be a decent second choice.

CombatCritic Gives Trattoria Il Contadino 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!





Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Fixed Price Menu (Italian)

Fixed Price Menu (English)

Special Menu (Dinner)

Menu of the Day (Italian)

Menu of the Day (English)




Title: Good Versus Bad Equates To Average Value

Key Words: Trattoria il Contadino, trattoria, Contadino, Firenze, Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Italy, menu, review, travel, value, pasta, wine, meat, dessert, CombatCritic, Yelp, TripAdvisor, tourist

WARNING FLORENCE TOURISTS: ChiantiBanca ATM In Piazza Del Duomo HAS A SKIMMER – ACCOUNTS DRAINED!


ChiantiBanca

Piazza del Duomo, 57R
50122 Firenze, Italia

WARNING #FLORENCE #TOURISTS: Chiantibanca #ATM In Piazza Del #Duomo HAS A #SKIMMER – ACCOUNTS DRAINED!

Two students in a major U.S. university’s Study Abroad Program recently had their bank accounts drained after using the ATM machine at the Chiantibanca located Piazza del Duomo, 57r, 50122 Firenze (Florence), Italy. The ATM machine in question is next to the bank at #58.

The director of the program inspected the ATM after the second student who had used that very machine (and only that machine) noticed $800 missing from his account, noting that the face of the ATM and the camera were suspiciously loose. Florence Police were notified and concurred that the ATM looked questionable, but when the bank’s director was notified by police, she became defensive and claimed that “our bank is not at fault”. This has likely been going on for weeks while the bank failed to notice the discrepancy with their own machine and dozens of tourists have likely been scammed as well, possibly hundreds. In such a busy location, it is possible that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars have been stolen by these thieves.

The illegal transactions are being made from Florence (Firenze), Naples (Napoli), and Milan (Milano), so it is impossible that the students withdrew the cash, having been in Florence the entire time and never having traveled to those locations. This is likely a large ring based on the numerous locations of the illegal transactions. The students are now penniless and in distress while they try to recover the funds from their institutions, which will likely not happen before their program ends late next week. The program director is working with the students to ensure they have emergency funds, but their month abroad will likely be a painful memory rather than a treasured experience.

Police said that it is highly unlikely that the criminals will be caught because of the technology used in this skimming scam, allowing these animals to get everything they need electronically from a remote device.

ALWAYS CHECK TO MAKE SURE THAT THE SKIMMING DEVICE, KEYPAD, CAMERA, AND ATM FACE ARE PROPERLY SECURED TO THE WALL BEFORE MAKING A TRANSACTION, COVERING THE KEYPAD WITH YOUR OTHER HAND AND USING YOUR THUMB TO ENTER YOUR PIN (IT IS MORE DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO RECOGNIZE YOUR PIN IF USING YOUR THUMB THAN IT IS YOUR USING YOUR INDEX FINGER)

You Can Read Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  WARNING FLORENCE TOURISTS: Chiantibanca ATM In Piazza Del Duomo HAS A SKIMMER – ACCOUNTS DRAINED!

Key Words: Chiantibanca, Chianti, bank, banca, Florence, Firenze, skimming, skimmer, ATM, scam, criminals, tourist, tourists, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide