3 Things We Learned From Our Lost Passports in Italy

Our emergency passports valid for only 3 months.

It was raining as we were driving up the Bernina Pass from Brescia. We were tense from seeing another motorcyclist wipe out as his tire got caught in the train track that crossed the road. We were getting colder and colder as we climbed higher and higher. I was already shivering as I informed Scott that we needed to stop so I could put on another layer. Thankfully, at the top of the pass, there was Albergo Ospizio Berina Restaurant where we pulled under a slight overhang to prevent our seats from getting drenched.  Gusty winds blew against my face as I opened the trunk to get out a top. As we discussed going in for a warm beverage, a wave of panic swept over me. I looked at Scott in horror to ask “where is my purse?” In less than 10 seconds we realized we lost my purse (where we had our passports safely stored in the side pocket) and we were scheduled to fly home in 4 days. One of the worst things to happen during international travel – lost passports!

Lost Passports – What to do

Hindsight is how we can tell you what to do and what not to do, as we learned the hard way from this experience.  The waiter and the two other patrons in the restaurant took pity and called the police for us, but also laughed at our misfortune telling us our passports were already being sold on the black market. Nice to know that they probably didn’t understand when I called them douche bags in a quiet whisper to Scott. We decided that we needed to figure out what we wanted to do on our own. We were in a state of panic and took a total of 10 to 15 minutes to figure out that we wanted to turn around to retrace our steps to try and find my purse. We hoped it was laying on the side of the road.  The trouble with that solution is that we had already driven 5 hours north that day. We had to ride 5 hours back, which is an extremely long day on a motorcycle, especially in the rain.

We figured out we left my purse on top of our cargo rack at the beginning of the day and thought there was a good possibility it was just sitting on the side of the road. We spent 12 hours on the bike, 5 of which had our eyes pinned to the road, scouring the shoulder for my purse. We also spent half an hour walking parts of the road where we believed we lost my purse and asked businesses if it was found. We were utterly exhausted and still had to find a place to stay. Then panic struck again. We had crossed over the Swiss border back into Italy; so now we were on edge about getting back into Switzerland without our passports. We wanted to deal with the passport issue in Switzerland where we could stay with family. The closest place in Italy where we could get new passports was Rome, 8 to 9 hours south of the border vs Bern, only 1 hour from relatives and our airport. Despite this incredibly stressful situation, Scott and I pulled together and worked as a team, never blaming or bickering. As we crossed the Swiss border at 7:30 am, our shoulders relaxed and the sun came out. Despite having to figure out the lost passport issue we were in Switzerland and worst case, we would have to extend our stay.

There were a few more frustrating steps along the way, like the consulate website saying you could get passports in Zurich, only to arrive in Zurich on a Friday for them to tell us they can only get passports in 3 weeks! We had to go to the Embassy in Bern on Monday for an emergency passport so we could leave Tuesday morning as scheduled. But, the good news is, it took us only 2 hours from when we entered the US Embassy to when we left with our new emergency passports, which was ONLY possible because we had photocopies of our lost passports that we had stored in the cloud.

Lost Passports – 3 Lessons Learned

  1. Have a photocopy of your passport in the cloud so you can access it if you lose everything you own.
  2. Don’t panic, take time to think of 3 options for what you can do next. Knowing what we know now, backtracking was a time consuming and risky mistake and could have left us stuck in Italy away from family support.
  3. Just head straight to the embassy to get a new emergency passport, the US Embassy in Switzerland had a photo-booth and only took 2 hours to get new emergency passports. We could have saved ourselves 2 days of misery had we known this.