Rome’s Tiny Thieves


A moment later, the tiniest gypsy girl, who could not have been more than four years old stepped forward, lifted her skirt and produced my wallet from her panties.

The smallest one in the group was the actual thief. She was so small; I do not know how she could get her hand inside my coat to have reached the wallet.

The policeman handed me the wallet and said something with a shrug of his shoulders. I took this to mean, “What can you do?” With that, the children took off running and the policeman returned to his car. There was no report or arrest, for this is just the way things are done here in Rome.

I watched as the children rounded the corner to their alley, where they would have to tell their father or uncle that they had been caught and would probably be punished for this.

As an afterthought, I looked inside my wallet. That morning, I had exactly US$ 100 dollars in US$ 20 dollar bills. Now there was only US$ 60 left. In the few seconds I had hold of her brother, this tiny waif had the presence of mind to realize they had been caught and still managed to slip some of my money out of the wallet.

I could not help but be in awe of her talent. Looking up, I saw her standing under a tree almost a block away, looking directly at me. She put her thumb under her chin and flicked it at me, then turned to run away.

If You Go

Italian State Tourist Board

City of Rome Tourism Guide