What to Do When You Lose Your Luggage
When G and I landed at the airport in Napoli, there was one little problem: my suitcase never appeared on the baggage claim conveyer belt. Has that ever happened to you? It’s such a disorienting feeling, particularly after a long travel. Here’s the story of what we did.
Funny enough, this wasn’t the first time an airline had lost my luggage. By coincidence the only other time it had happened to me was also in Italy, when I was a grad student. Even though I was so tired, I knew I had to fill out a lost luggage report at the Napoli airport. I hoped my suitcase would be found and returned to me, just as it had the time before.
G says I remained calm during the filling out of the form process, but in my mind I was making a list of all the clothes I would likely never see again: my white Birkenstocks (a birthday gift from my dad), the new, dusty rose-colored jumpsuit that I had only worn once (an anniversary gift from G), a favorite dress my mother-in-law had given me years ago. The more I thought about these lost things, the sadder I felt, although I also knew they were just things and could therefore be replaced. They held much sentimental value, but it wasn’t as if I had packed irreplaceable goods.
I put my cell phone and our AirBnb host Isa’s number on the lost luggage form and we headed to the apartment we had rented in the center of town. That first night we went to the supermarket and bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste (because G only had a travel-size tube), and a box of tampons. I know that might be TMI, but I feel like it’s a key part of the story and I’d be dishonest to omit it. We also tried calling Napoli airport’s lost luggage department. When you dial their number, you hear a recorded message in rapid Italian that says something about calling back later, and then you hear a dial tone because they have hung up on you. I sent an email to the airport and to the airline, hoping for an update on my suitcase.
Our first order of business the following morning was to buy me a new set of underwear. We headed to Tezenis, which was a recommendation from my friend Yahli, who lives in Italy and whom I immediately messaged to ask about where I might be able to find underwear and socks. For socks, she suggested a store called Calzedonia. I was in a daze, but somehow managed to choose five underwear in a size I guessed was mine and I also chose a pair of cotton pajama shorts with red poppies on them as well as a couple of tank tops for sleeping.
You might be wondering what I was wearing at the time. G let me borrow a t-shirt and I put on the very same black jeans I had worn for what felt like 96 hours. When we got back to the apartment, I took a hot shower and put on a new pair of underwear and I seriously felt like a whole new person. Then I cried! It was sort of embarrassing and G was super sweet about it, saying things like, “a lost luggage would ruin some people’s trips!” and “what else can we buy for you?”
The truth about what I felt I needed next is also somewhat embarrassing, but since I’ve committed to telling the honest story, here it is: I missed my skincare routine from home. I missed my usual face cleanser and daily moisturizer with SPF. Also, I missed the Glossier Boy Brow that I brush on my eyebrows so that other people can see that I do indeed have eyebrows. I didn’t feel like I looked like myself, and that was difficult.
We ventured out again to the main shopping street in Napoli. I was glad we were there and not, for example, in the Tuscan countryside, which is where we were headed next. I went to Sephora and bought a Benefit eyebrow brush that admittedly isn’t the same as the Glossier one I love, but it would get the job done. We walked by a Kiehl’s store and G encouraged me to go in and buy a whole suite of goods. I picked up shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, and moisturizer with SPF 30. I hesitated a little to spend the money on these items, but G gave me another little nudge and I did it. We started calling it “The Kiehl’s Spa.” As in, “I’m going to take a shower with The Kiehl’s Spa” and “Do you have The Kiehl’s Spa in your bag?”
We ate some phenomenal pizza for a late lunch and picked up a few things for a simple picnic dinner at home. I took another shower, this time really enjoying it because of The Kiehl’s Spa, and put on a new pair of underwear and my new pajamas. Then I cried again. It had been more than 24 hours and no word from the airline or airport, despite our many attempts to reach them. All we heard were recorded messages. I was starting to accept the fact that my bag was likely gone forever.
It was time to buy some new pants. I found a pair I liked at Zara and I also bought two t-shirts from a shop called Scout. With these new clothes and toiletries, I felt like I had what I needed to actually enjoy a few days in Napoli. We walked around the whole city, trying a different pizzeria each day and peeking into old churches. It was glorious.
On our last day in Napoli, I bought a pretty green linen dress and another five pairs of underwear and socks. At the train station, just before we left, I spotted a dress that I loved—it had a floral print and a belt around the waist. I bought that too. Napoli turned out to be a very affordable city for buying a whole new wardrobe.
We arrived in Lucca in the late afternoon. I begged our Lucca AirBnb host to help me get in touch with someone, anyone, who could tell me more about where my suitcase was. The recorded messages were starting to drive me nuts. I overheard G having a painful conversation with the airline, who assured him there was nothing they could do. We decided to go out for a walk and find a place to have dinner. Just as we were locking the gate, my phone rang. It was someone from Napoli airport! They had located my suitcase (!) and were going to send it to Firenze airport. They told me I would receive another call the next morning from Firenze airport in order to schedule a delivery of the suitcase to Lucca. I felt elated! This might actually work! When I hung up, I noticed that Isa, our host in Napoli, had sent me a message. The airline had called her to tell her that they sent my suitcase to Pisa Airport. She said I should try to reach them by phone. Now I was confused. We found the number for Pisa airport and called right away. Their recorded message said the lost luggage department was open from 8:00 – 9:00 AM and 3:00 – 4:00 PM Monday through Friday. Currently, it was neither of those hours. We sent more emails to the airline, Napoli airport, and Pisa airport. Another night went by without my suitcase, but I had a glimmer of hope that it might actually find its way back to me.
The next day, we enjoyed breakfast sitting outdoors in a sunny piazza, went for a leisurely walk around the ancient walls of Lucca, explored more churches, and ate plenty of gelato. I had my phone with me the whole time and was expecting a call from Firenze airport, but it never came. While we were cooking dinner at the apartment that evening, an email arrived from Pisa airport. Yes, they had my suitcase and I would need to come pick it up myself because the airline did not have a delivery service with Pisa airport.
This was problematic for a number of reasons, but most especially because in about twelve hours we were booked on an early morning train to the university where I was teaching a recipe-writing course. If I was going to pick up my suitcase from Pisa airport, it was going to have to be tonight. I replied to the email, asking if they would be open late tonight. They responded surprisingly quickly: yes, they are open now.
G and I speed-walked to the Lucca train station. In my best Italian, I asked the ticket-seller for two tickets on the next train to Pisa. That will be the last train to Pisa, she told me. There are no return trains because it is too late. We knew this would be the case. We’d have to take a taxi back to Lucca, but it would be worth it if I could get my suitcase.
On the train, we didn’t know for sure if Pisa airport’s lost luggage office would be open. Their email wasn’t the clearest. But we very much hoped. I walked up to the office window and gave the woman my passport as identification. She disappeared for a moment, then reappeared wheeling my little silver bullet—my suitcase! I practically screamed with happiness! She put it through a strange portal door and then it was in my arms. There were so many stickers and tags on the suitcase. I could hardly believe I finally had it with me.
We took a taxi back to Lucca and the fare wasn’t as steep as we had expected. Nothing could get me down, however, because at long last my suitcase and I had been reunited. When I unzipped it at the apartment, I saw my white Birkenstocks, my dusty rose-colored jumpsuit, and my favorite striped dress.
There was one final mystery: on top of all my clothes, I found one of those papers that says, “Inspected by US Customs and Border Control.” The paper was dated May 28, which is one day after I held my suitcase by the handle and checked it at the airline counter in Milano airport. Had it gone back to the US? What an adventure we both had.