Pick pockets in Rome

My wife and I will be travelling to Rome and Florene in next 2 weeks. Just want to know how severe is the pick pockets problem in Rome. Any helpful hints to avoid, and is that really that terrible ? Some even say, they will rob you and try to grab your belongings too, is that true ?
Any comments or past experience want to share ?

Posted by JerryG
winston salem, nc, usa
655 posts

Just returned from Rome today and we had no problems on the street, to the airport or on the metro and it was packed on the metro.
One thing, it was really warm so I really feel for what it could be like this summer!

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1396 posts

Been to Rome 2 or 3 times. No problem out on the street, but we do keep close watch on our daybag. I did see a pickpocket in action on a Metro train. That is where they have you in close quarters. Some really nice looking guy got on the same time as we did. We found a spot holding onto the pole in the middle of the train. This guy was standing right next to my husband. My husband said (after we got off the train) that the guy was breathing into my husbands ear. It was a distraction...he had his hands in my husbands pockets (no wallet, no money there, I had everything in my Pacsafe bag- with my hand on the zipper top) This guy had a newspaper he was "reading" but his other hand was picking pockets....I noticed after a while that he was reaching across, under the paper and had his hand working the zipper open of a lady standing next to me! I tried to warn her as we were getting off at our stop, but not sure if she understood me, since I spoke to her in English, but I can tell you the Italian man shot me a look that could kill! One other note about this....at the same time this nice looking guy got on (he was in a business suit!) a "gypsy" girl also got on...she stood by the door holding the tiniest baby I ever saw...and a really quiet one as well. I think now that she was part of the distraction.... She was very dirty, and didn't seem like she "belonged" on the train....after all the warnings here on this board, she caught my attention. The nice clean business suited man did not (until I saw his roaming hand!)

Posted by DD
USA
104 posts

All big cities US or Euro have people that look for people to take advantage of. Just like anywhere - keep an eye on your things, people that get too close - bump into you etc. Men - Wallet never in a back pocket Women if you use a purse/bag keep your hand on it keep it closed if you must get into in a crowded area back up to a wall
and be quick don't show everyone the contents of the purse. Same with neck or waist wallets try to not make it obvious. Safe Travels!

Posted by Byron
Redlands, Ca, USA
358 posts

I have been to Rome 5 times and the only areas I watch out for pickpockets are on the metro and the train from the airport to Termini station. Since you can walk most of Rome I only use the metro infrequently.
Other than the train station in Florence this is one safe city. Just don't keep your wallet in your back pocket.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

We have spent nearly three weeks in Rome and nearly a year in Europe over the past 18 years and have not had any problems nor have I seen a pickpocket. I know they exist because we have spoken with people who have lost stuff. The problem with this site and other travel sites is that focus is always on problems and potential problems. So much so, that you can be easily convinced that you will be instantly robbed when you set foot in Rome. Use some reasonable precautions, and I believe, that a properly worn money belt is critical - some don't - and you will be fine. Remember that those who don't have problems rarely comment on not having problems.

Posted by Gary
Reeds Spring, Missouri, USA
120 posts

Also be on the alert for the Lira/Euro scam when you buy something. The old Italian 500 Lira coin is almost a dead ringer for the 1 Euro coin and MANY shops will include one or more in your change. Read Rick's earlier article on this at: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/scam.htm.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Patrick, It's certainly possible that you'll encounter Pickpockets in both those cities, but if you practice some basic precautions you should be fine. For example: > Be sure to wear Money Belts and DON'T access these in view of others. Keep some "daily cash" in a more easily accessible location. > Be "aware" of those around you and especially vigilant if a distraction occurs (ie: someone spills something on your clothing and then offers to help remove it). > Don't be fooled by the attire. As Ellen mentioned, they're often nicely dressed and don't "look" like thieves. > Be especially vigilant in crowded quarters such as the Metro. Also, the #64 Bus has somewhat of a "reputation" as a haven for pickpockets (it perpetually seems to be tightly packed). You'll very likely be approached numerous times by shabbily dressed individuals who appear to be crippled or afflicted with various health issues. Whether you make a donation is up to you. You may find it "enlightening" to watch This recently aired report (not sure if the entire program is still available for web viewing). Happy travels!

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
818 posts

I'd like to add that in addition to subways and buses, be careful when you are in big crowds in St. Peter's Square, the Vatican museums, etc. Anywhere you go that is crowded and has a lot of tourists is a prime spot for pick-pocketers.

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

I've only had a problem one time in about a half dozen trips. It was about 10 years ago with a group of gypsies as I was walking on a small side street near the train station with my girlfriend. There is a popular scam I'd read about in Lonely Planet where the gypsies will send a bunch of little kids at you waving newspaper or cardboard to distract you and while an older one picks your pocket. At the time I read it, I remember thinking "Who would be stupid enough to fall for that one?". Well, I almost was. An old gypsy woman surrounded by a bunch of kids came running at me waving newspaper. I knew what they were up to so I started swinging my arms to shoo the kids away before it dawned on me how the scam worked; I looked down just in time to see the old gypsy woman's hand coming out of my pocket holding a 50,000 lira bill. I smacked it and she dropped it so I didn't lose any money but I'd have never believed that someone could get in and out of my front pocket so fast without me feeling it if it hadn't happened to me.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2393 posts

Pick pocket thieves are only a problem if you have something in your pocket for them to steal. Purses or day bags slung over a shoulder are also not a good idea when it gets crowded (like riding the metro). Don't leave a camera siting on a cafe table next to a busy street where someone could grab and run off with it. These are all standard precautions you should use whether in NYC, Rome or Seattle.

Posted by Darby
Monroe, WA, USA
151 posts

We had a similar pickpocket metro experience to other posters. I saw a man clearly picking the pocket of a fellow passenger. (Large colorful bills sliding out of his back pockets.) I used my "teacher voice" on him and only succeeded in getting everyone in the car to look at me. I ended up creating a great cover for the guy picking the pocket and probably should have asked him for a cut of his profits. Oh well, at least I tried:) It's definitely prevalent in Rome.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Rome and Paris are tied for me in terms of suspicious behavior/attempted pickpocketing/other scams. In Rome a group of gypsies came up to us with a baby. We knew about this scam from our Italian teacher - the person holding the baby thrusts the baby at unwitting tourists. The tourists think the baby will fall and try to catch it while the other gypsy kids go through their pockets. We didn't let the group get close to us and one of the ladies I was with started yelling, "Go away! Go away!" and waving her arms to attract attention. It worked - they left. Pay attention to your surroundings and wear a moneybelt! I suggest that your wife bring a cross-body daybag that she can hold in front of her if you guys are on the Metro or in any other crowded area.

Posted by Mike
Poulsbo, WA, US
210 posts

Its likely about the same relative danger as walking from GM Place to Gastown... Could something happen? Sure but with even the most basic of precautions its highly unlikely.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1470 posts

Rome reputation is well deserved. IMHO out of all European cities I visited (and they were many) Rome is the worst. Every time I used subway or bus somebody tried to pickpocket me, thank God unsuccessfully.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

If an attempt is make on you every time you ride the metro, you are doing something very wrong. I am sorry but that is over the top. And that type of comment is what scares Patrick, the original poster. Pickpockets, petty theft, etc. is not uncommon but the majority of tourists are not going to have in any problems regardless of what they do. Taken a few, reasonable precautions and you will be fine. Again, we have traveled for nearly a year over the past 18 years in some of the great pickpocket capitols of the world with no problems. Of course, it doesn't mean I cannot be hit on the next trip but I doubt it.

Posted by David
Portland, OR, USA
805 posts

I would echo what Frank said. I have traveled through Europe and in parts of Asia and have NEVER been the victim of pick pocketing. Sure, it can happen but as long as you are aware and do basic things (wallet in the front pocket, real valuables in a money belt, etc.) you'll be fine.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
1841 posts

I have visited Rome and only used public transportation to get around and have never knowingly been a target of a pick pocketer. And, I have never found anything missing. I do use a money belt everywhere I go in Europe so maybe that gives me the appearance of being more confident and not such an easy mark for the bad guys, also being 6'3" can not hurt.

Posted by Patrick
Vancouver
5 posts

Thanks every one for your replies and useful hints. For sure I will use money belt and put nothing in my pockets excpet some small changes and maybe 10 euros at most. I also carry a camera bag with lens and camera, I believe they won't be that crazy to rob it, right ?
If I am taking public transport, I will wear it across my body and with my hand holding the zip, is that alright ?

Posted by Merris
Los Angeles, Ca, US
5 posts

My husband and I just returned from Italy. His wallet was picked from his front pocket in the Rome subway, line A, Manzoni station. Morning rush and trains were very crowded. As we boarded the train with luggage, a group of 20ish girls with infants strapped to their fronts boarded with us. They pushed between my husband and me, jostled, and then exited the train immediately, as he realized he'd been robbed. We quickly exited the next stop to freeze the credit card. Unfortunately, it cost us about $100' as well as my husbands drivers license. Be on the lookout for these groups of gypsies, as well as other scams.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

Sorry for your loss:( This youtube video of thieves at work in Rome (I think) is been popular over the past few days. Keep an eye on the lens of the camera, and on your second viewing watch the back of the backpack. The poor bloke didn't stand a chance: http://tinyurl.com/m9kfy3a

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

While you drudged up a two year old question, your posting continues to confirm that a front pocket is not safe. Now that Patrick's email is being hit with these responses maybe he will return and relate his experiences from two years ago.