The ‘Other’ Pre-Trip Planning Details

We just returned from a trip to Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. We were gone for right at three weeks. The trip had been in the works for quite a while, amounting to approximately 6-months worth of work by the research and development team.

From the outset, this was going to be a trip with a diverse list of activities: hiking in the Dolomites, kayaking in Croatia, strolling the ancient cobbled streets of Rovenja, a bicycle-winery tour, a day trip by train to Florence and the wonderful museums and of course, the Duomo, and then concluding with Rome and it’s contemporary and ancient sites.

As we were preparing our baggage and equipment, we were of course, going to need our backpack/water bladders to stay hydrated on hikes and cycling tours, and we needed our hiking sticks for the hiking trails in the Dolomites, and as an added precaution, I packed my folding hunting knife, which can come in handy to cut bread, cheeses, salami, etc., while the second blade is like a large screwdriver and comes in handy as a pry tool if something gets stuck and you need some leverage. It has a small recessed ‘hook’ type of blade for cutting string, etc. with a pulling motion, which is much safer than a traditional knife blade. And so, into the suitcase it went, along with the other implements, shoes, clothing, etc..

I carry this knife every day in America, it’s just too handy to not have it available! To my surprise, when we arrived in Florence, several of the museums had metal detectors and security queues for backpacks to be searched, etc.. I totally ‘get it’ when it comes to our crazy modern world and the need for security. Thus, I along with my travel partner, who also brought his folding blade hunting knife, offered our knives up to the security personnel who took them and put them in a safekeeping box and issued us a receipt, no problems…..

At our appointed time to hike to the top of the Duomo in Florence, we entered yet another security line and as we had done earlier in the day, I offered up my knife to the security agent at the metal detector for them to presumably put in safekeeping. He looked at it and handled it with his gloved hand. He slowly went to open the blade. Upon getting it about halfway opened, he said in his heavy Italian accented English ‘this is an illegal weapon’….. and told me to stay there, while he went to get a police officer.  Keep in mind that there were probably 50-75 people in the queue behind me, all anxiously awaiting their entry to the Duomo, and some idiot American tourist was holding things up!

I do not know if I can accurately describe the thoughts that plowed through my mind in those few moments while I awaited a police officer to be fetched by the Duomo guard. Would I be one of those unlikely tourists who sets off an international incident because of an illegal weapon? Would I have to go to the police station, suffer through being detained, perhaps overnight (or longer), in a jail with God knows what type of other jailed people and their range of offences? I thought about having to get an international lawyer, of having to pay gobs of money to get released from this charge, and possibly not being able to leave the country until it was legally resolved…. I could just imagine, a $10,000 pocket knife, maybe more!  Should I tell my travel partner to just walk out of there (as previously referenced, he also had a knife similar to mine!) so as not to have both of us become possible detainees?! I had a nightmarish vision of making the American TV News cycle with a possible heading of “American Arrested on Weapons Charge in Italy….”

After some muffled exchange, the Duomo security guard came back to his position, handed me my knife and said I could not come into the Duomo and that I must leave. So, my partner and I wheeled around, bid adieu to our wives who had already cleared security and we promptly exited the building, with me donning my windbreaker so as not to be as easily identifiable if police outside had gotten my description. We then found a café so that we could quaff a cold beer, and that we did.

Perhaps it is ignorance, arrogance, naivete, or some combination thereof, but suffice it to say, I did not think having a knife in Italy, Slovenia or Croatia would be a big deal provided I did not try to carry it onto our flights. It went in checked baggage and made it through without incident. While we enjoyed our cold beer after this most unfortunate incident, we sought out the advice of Google and searched for knives in Italy. It is apparently illegal to carry a knife that is longer than 4 centimeters in length. My knife blade was approximately 8+ cm in length.

We have travelled around the world, mostly in the US, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Cayman Islands, St. Maarten, Scotland, UK and various countries of the EU. While it is unlikely you would ever have any legal problems while in any of these countries, what would you do if you did encounter such difficulties? Suppose you have a serious car accident, or like me, you have an illegal item of some sort that is perfectly legal here in the States, but is not there (CBD or THC products, knife, prescription pills without the pill vial and prescription authorization, etc.). What would you do?

Going forward, before travelling to any foreign country, my advice to any traveller to a country not your own is to do the following:

  • double-check via Google, any items you plan to take that could possibly be questionable, no matter how slight you think the item might be;
  • find and save in your phone and also keep printed materials, the closest Embassy representing your home country and find that contact information for the route of your planned travels.;
  • if you purchase ‘trip insurance’, read the fine print about what they cover in the event of the unexpected;
  • read the supplemental insurance policy for the rental auto you plan to use (if any) and how and what they cover and what you are responsible for;
  • read up on health care/emergency care in the countries you plan to visit so you know what to do in the event of the unexpected (accident with injuries, cardiac event, etc.)

Do not leave it to chance that you will not have a problem, whether legal, medical, accidents, etc.. As I always say:

“it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!”

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