For the last several days, our yard has been full of workers adding height to our fence and improving our gate to make our house even more secure. It’s apparently something our landlord has been planning to do for some time, but this weekend she got a push to get on it immediately …
At about 11 p.m. Sunday night, Chris and I were lazing around when there was a buzz at the gate. I answered at the intercom and got a string of Italian, but the only words I understood were “senora” and “telefono” and “carabinieri.”
The carabinieri are one division of the police here; as I understand it, they police both the civilian and military population.
All I could think to say was “No Italiano” and hung up, then Chris and I just kind of looked out the window. The officers were using flashlights to look into our yard, but because it was so dark we couldn’t tell if they were actually cops or if it could be a ruse. Eventually, they turned on the lights on their cop cars (presumably to show us they were really cops) so Chris went out. Since we are only two Italian lessons in and the cops didn’t speak English either (and our English-speaking landlord didn’t pick up the phone), there was pretty much compete confusion on all sides* but eventually they made themselves understood that they were concerned about our neighbors and they wanted us to open our gate so they could get into her yard.
Worth noting at this point: our neighbors, an American woman and her son, are rarely home and at the time I hadn’t actually met Neighbor, only her son and mother. I didn’t have her phone number, nor did I know if they were home or not (we suspected not because no car). Since we had no Italian we weren’t sure if there was a break in or if someone was hurt and had called for help or what. So, we opened the gate so they could hop over the lowest part of the fence and get in.
Anyway, one of the cops went exploring around the outside of the house and I thought at the time that they had scaled the building to get on to the balcony. In the meantime, a couple other neighbors had showed up and were talking at length with the cops, but obviously we still didn’t know what was going on. I mustered up Google Translate to ask if an alarm had gone off, and got a “No …(lots of Italian).” Eventually, the cops went on their way and we had no idea what had happened. At some point I regained my senses and called the base to ask someone to get in touch with our neighbor and make sure she was OK, but they couldn’t give me any information.
So, the next morning our landlord showed up in the morning to inform us that the neighbors — who she confirmed were on vacation — had a break-in the night before. She asked Chris to go with her over there and lock everything up, so he did. Apparently the thieves rifled through every drawer, but left big-ticket items like televisions and computers. (Later, we learned from Neighbor that they’d stolen exclusively her jewelry.) They had shattered her glass kitchen door, though how they accessed it remains a matter of some debate among the various parties involved.
Since then, there has been a fair bit of drama with our landlord, who is obviously pretty emotional about it all. Apparently this is the first time a house of hers has been broken into. Among the major points were:
- Our landlord insisted that our neighbor left the iron shutters open when she left on vacation. She also insists that she shouldn’t have to pay to replace the door since Neighbor left it open.
- I ended up sort of in the middle of a whole big conversation between Neighbor and Landlord because they came by to ask what I knew about it all, and ended up coming inside the house and going back and forth a bit. The gist is that Neighbor says she absolutely did not leave the metal shutters unlocked because, uh, she’s not an idiot. I’m inclined to believe her.
- Later, Neighbor tells us the caribinieri told her that they believed the thieves (apparently there were three) managed to open the metal shutter in a specific way that seems unwise to detail here. I don’t quite understand the logistics because a couple things don’t make sense to me, but then again I’m not a thief.
- Our landlord somehow gets the idea that people think she was involved with the break-in because she has a key to our neighbor’s house. She shows up at our house to tell me at great length about how she never wanted to have a key to anyone’s house (she doesn’t to ours) but there were specific extenuating circumstances that led to base to “ask” her to keep them.* For the record, our landlord is 85 years old and no one thinks she is a freaking jewel thief.
- To Landlord’s great credit, renovations to the properties’ fencing and gates began more or less immediately after all the break in. We’ve had workers in our yard all week, and our landlord has been out there all day every day watching. I keep inviting her in and trying to give her food or drinks but she keeps rejecting me. I have no idea what I need to do to make this woman like me!***
- Silver lining: I finally met our neighbor and she is really nice. We’ve exchanged information and will be watching each others’ houses when we go out of town.
So, how are we feeling in the aftermath of this? While we were pretty alarmed by the cops’ initial arrival because we had no idea what had gone down, now that we know more details I’m not as freaked out as I supposed I could be. Do I love that there was a break-in? Hell no. It basically couldn’t hit closer to home, and the houses are built and owned by the same person and thus have mostly the same features. I especially don’t love that Neighbor feels quite certain that she didn’t leave shutters open, since I’ve always felt like these places were so impenetrable . But honestly, we already lock up the house like Fort Knox every time we go out. The fence is being made even larger. Our landlord has “security guys” who apparently patrol regularly, and she says that if we tell her before we go out of town she’ll send them around more frequently and check on the house herself. Other than buying a safe (which we’ll do), I’m not certain what more we can do, short of never leaving. And we all know that isn’t happening.
* In hindsight, the EXTREMELY OBVIOUS solution was to call the non-emergency line at the base and have someone translate for us. Or heck, even call our Italian tutor. I have literally no idea why this didn’t occur to me or to Chris at the time.
** As anyone on my Facebook list knows, I also enraged her by knocking over one of those damned planters and — since she was already talking about having one of her guys comes deal with it — I made the mistake of asking if the guys could move the other stupid planers as well. This resulted in both tears and ranting to my face about how she’ll never rent to Americans again. She seems to have repented since, most likely because Fiona and Owen have been working hard to defrost her heart.
*** Other than stop running over her planters.