The 47-year-old woman was convicted of fraud by a court in Sicily in late 2017 and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.

An arrest warrant was issued, but the woman fled the southern Italian island and made her way to the north, where she sought refuge by pretending to be a nun in search of hospitality in the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy.

According to investigators, the woman phoned convents in the regions pretending to be a “sister looking for help and claiming she was severely ill”.

Italian police said the woman, who is from Acqui Terme in Piedmont and has not been named, repeatedly changed her identity as she moved between convents.

The nuns at one convent who hosted the fugitive said she presented herself as the niece of one of their sisters, while another convent said she had claimed to be a mother superior.

Others said she simply described herself as a nun and did not give any other details.

The criminal was caught last week when a sister from a Benedictine convent in Gallarate, north of Milan, phoned police saying she suspected the woman was not a real nun.

According to the nun, the woman’s stories “were full of contradictions”.

The police immediately visited the convent and questioned the woman.

Investigators said the woman was cooperative but seemed confused about basic biographical details.

Police discovered she was in possession of a stolen ID card and took her to a police station.

 She was identified as the person sentenced in Sicily and arrested.

In addition to the previous conviction, the woman faces fresh charges of claiming false identity.