Safety in Italy

I know this is not a very pleasant subject but crime is everywhere!!

What is the situation like with pick-pocketing and general theft from tourists??....How do we safeguard ourselves to prevent this?....

We heard there are groups of men and young kids that will surround you and push you around then steal your wallet, cellphone and whatever else they can lay their hands on, specially at the stations, how do we prevent this ??


The Tuscan Expert ;-)
Staff member

Yes, it is not a pleasant subject but it is everywhere in the world you travel. If you look lost, sleepy or just not attentive in a large mass of people, you can be targeted.

Personally, I've felt quite safe in Italy, even when walking alone through the cities, including Florence, Milan and Rome and Venice. I'd say I'd be more careful in Milan and Rome, just because there are lots more tourists around as well as locals so just more people in general. This just means being aware and looking around you at people too, not just the monuments!
Venice can also get quite crowded as well as parts of central Florence... there are lots of groups of tourists all looking up at the cathedral or at the Palazzo Vecchio and taking pictures....

Here are some tips, not just for Italy:

- train stations are hubs of mass people so it is easy for them to grab and then run - make sure you have all your belongings close to you, and a good grip on suitcases at all times. Stay on the lookout, and attentive. They prey on those that look tired and maybe sleepy. Even if you've never been into a city, all train stations look and work the same way - the tracks where the trains arrive, the only exit is toward the station, large boards indicating arrivals and departures, the central ticket office. If you look arrive and look for the info on the boards and head to your track, you already look like you know what you're doing and attentive.

- bags and cameras: keep bags/backpacks closed with the zipper, it makes it harder for anyone to stick their hand in without you realizing it. Keep bags across your chest and in front, not in the back, if you ride public transportation.
I tend to keep camera out when I am out and about, keeping bag closed so that I don't forget and leave it open.

- if you're ever surrounded by kids asking for money, get away and don't try to say no or reason with them. They are used as distractions while generally an adult grabs something else. This generally happens when there aren't too many people about, so stick to the main streets at night. During the day all of the cities have lots of people about, just try to not too mixed in with crowds where you are touching other people - a pickpocket loves those! I've heard the bus line in Rome that heads to the Vatican can get really crowded and thus targeted by pickpockets... I've ridden it, it was crowded but I just put my backpack in front of me and went to stand by a window, so that I wasn't pressed on all sides by others. Easier to keep a lookout for unwanted "touching" that pickpockets do.

- keep money and cards divided, among wallet, purse, pockets... never carry everything all together. You don't want to take out ever and show large quantities of money on the streets, like if you're at a market.

In the almost 15 years that I've been in Italy, I've been robbed once here in Florence and it wasn't in the center where the tourists hang out - I was on my bike, feeling very relaxed and happy and heading home after I had just visited Palazzo Vecchio. I placed my bag into the bike basket without thinking about it. I realized only later I was being followed by two on a scooter, who waited until I was out of any crowd, pulled along me and the one in the back just stuck his hand in the basket and they took off with my bag. I lost my camera, phone and wallet and I was so sad :( but I've learned to be more vigilant of my surroundings now, I was definitely distracted that day and should have heard them behind me for a while. I also no longer place my bag anywhere else other than on my body!

If anyone can add any other tips or suggestions, please do!! Traveling is lots of fun, we just have to remember to stay attentive and generally we can avoid the unpleasant experience of having anything of ours, or ourselves, taken advantage of!