The Night of the Emmental Bandits (aka The Photoless Blog)

We had a great night out on Saturday. It was Novellando, Novello’s answer to Mangialonga. Basically, a stroll around the village, with seven stops for food and wine, a live band playing at each stop. It was everything that Mangialonga wasn’t. We loved it.

I took loads of photos, but you may notice that none of them are here. That’s because the next morning, when I staggered downstairs, slightly fuzzy-headed, I noticed that we no longer had a computer or a laptop. My wallet and car key were gone too, and my ipod. And worst of all, my camera and all its lenses had disappeared. My stomach dropped to somewhere far below my feet and I felt physically sick. We’d been burgled while we slept.

A quick lap of the house revealed some good news… our computers were piled up in the garden, as was my wallet, minus the cash, and the car key was 30 feet away on the edge of the vines. No sign of anything else though.

We called the police, but while we waited, it was time to get our CSI on and work out exactly what had happened…

One of the window shutters had been forced open and the window frame within taken apart. The glass was chipped but still intact. They’d also tried the front door, taking the key plate off and stashing it under the doormat (for some strange reason) but again they had failed to get in.

Eventually, they had forced the garage door open and from there used an axe, which they kindly left us as a present, to break a lock and get into the house. Next to the axe, was a wrapper for a block of emmental that had been in our fridge for a few weeks. It seems breaking into houses is hungry work!

Having rifled through our kitchen and fridge, they had helped themselves to our stuff before escaping the same way they had come in.

We think a neighbour startled them though, hence them leaving all the big stuff and scarpering. Bruno from the B&B down the road had heard there were burglars in the area so had spent the night patrolling with a torch and an Alsatian (a dog, not a French person). It wasn’t enough to stop them, but it saved a lot of our stuff. Who knows how much they would have taken had they not been disturbed.

They also left behind a bottle of Christian Dior aftershave which wasn’t ours. I’m not sure if it was meant as a present, a calling card or maybe just a hint, but I won’t be using it.

We were lucky to have been given this wake-up call without losing too much, and even luckier that they chose not to come upstairs where we were sleeping. Belongings are replaceable, even if it seems the insurance payout isn’t going to help that much, but it could have been so much worse.

So now, police and insurance reports completed, we’re trying to pick up the pieces. We’ve made the house safer (we think), fitting security lights that would shame a Las Vegas hotel and securing every possible access point. We’ll be getting an alarm too. A really big one.

Fortunately for us (though not for them), our architects and good friends Alpine Eco were staying with us for the weekend. Not only did they help patch things up (there is no way I could have fitted a security light on my own!) but they’re now building some pretty advanced security measures into our renovation plans. Think Home Alone… I want tar and feathers, upturned nails everywhere and scalding door handles.

But there are a few other pieces that are much harder to pick up. I’ve been making light of the situation and trying to take the positives from it as that’s what I do, but I’ve barely slept in three days now. If I do manage to drop off I wake up ten minutes later thinking I’ve heard a noise or that the security lights have come on. My wife’s the same. The only one sleeping properly is Otto, the world’s worst guard dog. We love him dearly, but seriously, how did he not even stir?

The police, to their credit, have increased patrols in the area and our neighbours are still on guard too, but I can’t help thinking that if someone wants to get in again, they will, and there’s very little we can do to stop them. I have a crowbar next to the bed at all times now. I fear it’s going to take a while to get over this one.

The worst thing is if someone does break in again, I can’t even take incriminating photos of them now…

31 thoughts on “The Night of the Emmental Bandits (aka The Photoless Blog)

  1. Sorry to hear of the worst things about living in italy is that it will happen sooner or later..we had our car broken into once, it was right under our window (we are 1st floor), when the babies were about 2months old, so we were usually awake during the night – how did we not see them?? They took our tomtom but left us a skirt..why do they always leave something? It is like those old computer games where you can only carry a limited number of objects..

    1. Thanks Andrew. It’s not something I really thought about in the UK, but it does seem to be much more of an issue here. Just as with your car, it’s amazing that we didn’t hear or see anything. I like your computer game idea though, and always leaving a gift is certainly a nice touch. They also took my hard drives out of my camera bag and left them on the side, which is good of them. Caring robbers I guess!

  2. Gutted, Really sorry to hear this. We have been lucky and touch wood (he says touching his forehead) never been burgled. Mind you the short legged but incredibly fat dog sleep outside and would go crazy if anyone appeared.

    1. I think Otto would disown us if we made him sleep outside, he’s far too pampered for that! Thanks for the sympathy… We’re trying to see the positives and treat it as a learning experience, but I think, being in the country, there’s only so much we can do. We plan on doing it all though!!

  3. We went back to England, leaving our place locked up and the scum that broke in took as much stuff as they could, including all of our drinking glasses. Stuff can be replaced as you say but sometimes I still look at where my large expensive mirror was and get angry. Now we have 2 dogs and when they bark at passing cars and people we are happy, it’ll be trait we shan’t train out of them. My neighbour is in USA, her doors were forced open a week ago, and despite keeping a close eye on the place someone came and removed part of the fence and cut the cables to the outside lights in readiness for another visit. Looks like I’ll be walking down the lane with torch and dog more often over next few days.

    1. Wow, it sounds like yours was way worse than ours, but I know that, just like you, I’ll still occasionally get angry about it a few years from now. It really seems there is very little you can do to stop them if they’re going to be that prepared. Right now I can’t envisage us ever feeling 100 % safe again. They are absolute scum, as you rightly say! Good luck with your patrols in the coming days!

      Sent from my iPad

  4. Without wishing to appear trite but I could always send you a couple of ‘my’ aforementioned nuns from the convent next door! They would have got wind of any impending trouble and dealt with it tenaciously! No-one messes with ‘our sistaaaz’!

    I guess there is a class-system even amongst thieves. Years ago in London I woke up at 2 am to the sound of who I thought was my mother, hanging the washing out in the garden (???). Watching from behind the curtains I suddenly heard a shriek and a splash and witnessed ‘my mother’ careening over the fence and hightailing it up the street!!! Turned out it was a pervy geezer with a penchant for knickers…. they had all been snatched from the washing line and in his haste to escape he had fallen into the algae-ridden pond!!!

    Or, there was the time while living in Berkeley that our apartment was cleaned out of just baseball caps, my precious collection of Barry Manilow music cassettes (??!!!!) and a couple of tubs of Hagen-Dazs ice-cream!!!! Couldn’t get the police to take that one seriously!

    Anyway, I am glad that you suffered no physical harm from your recent incident, sickening though it was. It’s just the sense of feeling violated that is the worst, isn’t it? Wishing you all the best from now on and take care.

    1. The nuns sound useful, send them over!

      There are some strange, and some pretty dreadful people out there aren’t there. It sounds like you’ve experienced the stranger ones! 😉 Thanks for your comment, and you’re right, it’s just the feeling that you’re not even safe in your own, locked home that’s the worst. I’m sure we’ll get used to it eventually though…


  5. Hi there…I just found your blog when I was doing a search on “Piemonte” and was drawn in by your woeful story…my, how horrible to be burglarized while in the house. My aunt lives on the Lombardian shores of Lago Maggiore and a few years ago, she, too, was burglarized in the middle of the night while she was “sleeping” in bed. I put “sleeping” in quotes because she actually heard them in her home. She was home alone and saw a flashlight reflected in the mirror. She remained quiet and waited for them to leave before she got up to see what had happened. It sounds like people are so desperate that they are taking these risky acts of burglary. So scary.
    Sorry to hear about your mishap, but I wanted to let you know that I’m glad I found your blog about your life in the Langhe. I look forward to reading more of your posts! I live in California…my parents immigrated here from Lago Maggiore in the 1950’s but my heart has always been in Italy. I visited many times as a child and still feel like it’s home to me – I guess it’s in the blood! I am currently planning to host a small group tour to Italy for September 2014 and plan on visiting Milan, Lago di Como, and Lago Maggiore before heading into Piemonte on a wine journey! I want to share with others the Italy that is so dear to me!
    Good luck with all the new security measures!!! And I look forward to reading more about your adventures in Italy!

    1. Hi, thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad you found my blog, and I can assure you it’s not always this miserable! I’ve really enjoyed looking through yours, the itinerary for your trip looks amazing, I hope it goes well!

      As for burglary, it sounds like your Aunt did exactly the right thing, I can’t imagine it’s easy to do though. Hopefully we won’t get a chance to find out any time soon…

      Thanks again,

      1. Thanks for your compliment!! I worked really hard to find things…places, accomodations, etc…that would let people experience some of the essence of Italy! Now I just need to convince others to come along 😉
        I’m sure, that despite this mishap, living in Italy has been wonderful! I always dream of maybe one day being able to do that myself (maybe not full time, but at least part time)! I look forward to catching up on your blog… And thanks for following mine, too!

      2. I’m sure you won’t have too much trouble convincing people… as I said, it looks amazing! Really well-planned and with some great hotels and trips. Ciao!


  6. I am as a sorry as everyone else particularly because I come from that area. Unfortunately it can happen I see when I watch the Italian TV channels beamed to the USA. And it happens here too, especially in highly populated areas.

    1. Thanks Vera. It does seem to be remarkably common. It’s not something I’ve got much experience of. Until now I don’t think I’ve known anyone who’s been burgled. Judging from all the comments on here and on facebook, as well as everyone we’ve spoken to here in Italy though, it appears it happens a lot. It certainly seems more common in Italy than the UK. Our trouble is we don’t have any neighbours particularly close by so we’re easy pickings I guess. We’ll be investing in a very good alarm system though, so hopefully that will help!

  7. What a miserable bunch of ratbags. I hope they end up eating something that’s gone off and (easily achieved if they choose a fridge like mine after the fuses have blown during my absence..) I feel so sorry for you – I hope that you can sleep easy soon. As for the Alsatian: I lived in the Alsace region, and I can tell you that an Alsatian farmer is as dissuasive, if not more, than the four-legged version you mention. 🙂

    1. Thanks MM, I couldn’t have said it better myself! The emmental had been in our fridge for a while so hopefully that will have done the trick!

      Maybe we should invest in Alsatian farmer to leave in our garden and scare intruders off… 😉

  8. On the subject of leaving things. Years ago we were up from Ghana in the summer and went for a few days to Isola d’Elba. We came home to find all the African gifts I had bought for family gone, plus a crappy stereo my brother-in-law had lent us, my Prince CDs, they had also ripped up my husband’s Italian passport but left my Australian one intact (clues here); and in the kitchen they had opened cans of polpa di pomodoro (time to make a pasta?) and left a huge smelly bong in our living room!! Time for a big dog, sorry Otto! Best, cat
    Oh and all my gold stuff was gone.

    1. Thieves can be remarkably picky I guess, but they do take (and leave behind) some very strange stuff! We’ve tried to reason some of the things they did but have completely failed. There’s just no logic to it.

      Poor Otto… The world’s worst guard dog!

    1. Thanks Andrea, much appreciated! We’re looking on the positive side… We’re both fine and they didn’t get away with too much. We’ve upped our security quite a bit now and there’s an alarm system on the way. I think it will take a while for us to fully feel safe again, but I’m sure we’ll get there.

  9. Really sorry to hear about your experience. It does seem to be more common here in Italy than in the UK. All the Italians I know are paranoid about security. Glad that you are ok and will be able to have a proper night’s sleep soon.

    1. Thanks… yes, it seems a lot more prevalent here in Italy. As you say, everyone is really focused on security, and now I understand why! Everyone we’ve mentioned it too has also asked if we were “made to sleep” as apparently it’s common practice among burglars to use a gas to drug the homeowners. Scary stuff!

  10. OMG so sorry to hear that! it’s – fortunately – never happened to me but I know people say you feel violated, in your own home, especially as you were upstairs sleeping!!! unfortunately it is ever so common in Italy, happened to my mum few years back, in the summer, she was keeping the shutters open as it’s so hot, and they just came through the window, as she was sleeping. She only noticed in the morning that her bag had been moved and purse missing. Same to my brother, they broke into his house a few months back, forced some strong shutter and super-strong double grazed windows. Apparently they were working they way along all the houses in the street.
    Security lights, alarm system and ferociuos guard dog… maybe the answer so you can sleep easy…. sorry again, and like MM above commented, I hope they steal some food which has gone really bad.

    1. That’s what happened with us… they tried the other houses in the borgata before getting to us. I think by the time they reached ours they weren’t going to take no for an answer and just kept trying until they found a way in. You’re right though, it does seem to be a very common thing in Italy, much more so than in the UK.
      We’ve got the security lights, the alarm is going in next week and the ferocious guard dog is lying sleeping on my lap… two out of three isn’t bad though! 😉
      Thanks for your kind words!

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