The next day, he offered the same man a job.
"What kind of thief steals using his wife's car for a loot of 60 euros ($78)," said Paolo Pedrotti, 62, the victim-turned-benefactor.
Pedrotti caught Marcello Mucci, 54, on Monday but the next day found out that the hapless thief was unemployed and living on his wife's monthly invalidity pension of 250 euros ($327).
The heart-warming story was widely reported in Italian media as the country endures its worst recession since the Second World War, biting austerity measures and an unemployment rate at record highs.
Pedrotti wrote to the local paper, Il Tirreno, offering Mucci a job mowing the lawn and cleaning inside the apartments, which are on the market but failing to sell, for eight euros an hour.
Mucci said he had immediately accepted the job.
"I was stealing the copper to make it into bowls and chandeliers that I sold door-to-door," said Mucci, a former gardener sacked from his job.
Pedrotti began his letter with "Dear Thief" and ended it saying: "I am waiting for you. In any case, you know the address".