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Carry a purse/backpack in Italy?

I've read so much from Rick about the pickpockets in Italy that I'm worried about whether I can take a purse or a backpack. I plan to have a money belt, but that won't hold my camera, guide book, etc. or be easy to get money in/out of. Is there any safe way to carry a purse or backpack?

Posted by
1003 posts

I took a little purse over my shoulder, kept one hand on it at all times, never had a problem all throughout italy for 2 weeks on my own. I kept my camera, a water bottle, guidebooks/maps, sunglasses, and my wallet with a little cash and one credit card. Have fun!

Posted by
82 posts

If you want some peace of mind. There is a company called Pac Safe that makes purses that have stainless steel wire mesh inside (google pacsafe city safe secure shoulder bag or go to the REI website). My sister bought one for our trip to Paris and London earlier this year. The purse is actually cute and functional. It's very lightweight, can hold a small umbrella, water bottel, guide book and camera. (and whatever else you can shove in there) She liked it better than carrying her backpack around! I'm going to get one for my trip to Italy.

Posted by
423 posts

I purchased a pacsafe "tote bag" and it worked beautifully. It's larger and holds lots of things and is well organized with a clip on the zipper. It has 2 outside gusseted pockets on the outside. I used one for a bottle of water and the other for a folding umbrella. Both were handy without having to open the bag.

Posted by
4828 posts

Just don't put all your money, passport, etc, in your purse. Keep a days worth of cash only in your purse. Keep your passport, credit card, and the rest of your money in the money belt.

I always carry a purse with about 50 Euro, my camera, etc. Just don't put more money in your purse that you can afford to lose and keep your eye on your bag in crowded places.

Posted by
1830 posts

I've been to Italy 5x and always taken my Eagle Creek guide bag, but I'm going back to Rome next month and I've bought the PacSafe Metro 200 bag. I really like the way the zippers are secured.

I will use my money belt for important things, like credit card, passport, etc, but will use the new bag for my camera, some day money, and other things I'll need during the day.

I highly recommend the PacSafe line of bags. They are not heavier than other bags out there, and are more secure and offer a good peace of mind.

this being said...it is still very important that you keep one hand on your bag and one eye on people around you. No problems in smaller hilltop towns, but really watch yourself in the cities, Milan, Rome, Florence, etc. Read the blog on this site "Tourist Scam Alert" You can learn a lot from other's experiences - what to watch for, like getting on a subway car in Rome and having some guy breathing down your neck to distract - while his fingers are in your pockets!

Posted by
43 posts

Keep imp. stuff in your money belt, but you should be fine with a backpack or purse. Just be cautious on metros or in crowded spots. We always put our backpacks on our chests when we got on a crowded metro. In the evenings I would carry a small purse and my hubby had a backpack for the guide books, maps, etc. I often carried my camera in my hand with the strap around my wrist and we had no problems at all! We had two wonderful weeks in Italy!
Tom and Sherry
Steger, IL

Posted by
689 posts

Pac Safe makes great gear. I invested this year in the over the shoulder purse and I am glad I got it. It is heavy - before anything is in it. While I've been to Italy previously without any special gear - I do like all the pockets and such of my Pac Safe.

Re backpacks. We also carry a back pack - zippers closed at the top and held with a large safety pin. (too much hassle to be sneaky to open a safety pin - pickpockets move on to the next target quickly)

Most of all - be aware of where you are and who is around you. And enjoy your trip!

Posted by
7 posts

THANKS everyone!! I will look into the PacSafe bag. I really appreciate your help and you've really put my mind at ease! :-)

Posted by
526 posts

I read all of Rick's books, watched the Travel Tips DVD he sent with our railpass and hundreds of notes on the Graffiti Wall before coming there last Friday, and have to admit that I was so afraid of the gypsies and pickpockets that I lost sleep, even on the plane over. After going through the Rome airport, 2 1/2 days in Rome, the Florence train station and two days in Florence, I have yet to be attacked by the evil hoards, nor have I even SEEN a single one of them. Several beggars, but nothing like I expected. I'm with my wife and her 83 year-old mother and we've used money belts and a backpack with NO problems. Caution is the word! Ciao.

Posted by
64 posts

I am currently in Italy and will be here for another two weeks or so, but I have yet to see a single gypsy and have no problems on the trains so far. As far as the pacsafe bags, just as everyone else says, they're great. I got the over the shoulder messenger bag (smaller than the tote) which has enough room for me to carry two water bottle sized items in the outer pockets, a guide book, a wallet, my larger camera, plus other odds and ends on the outer pocket that is covered by a flap. The clips for the zippers definitely give me a sense of security. Definitely worth the investment for a bit of peace of mind.

Posted by
24 posts

We are leaving for Italy in 10 days, and I am taking the Pac Safe 200. Glad to hear how great it is ! We bought 49 cent oval key rings that have a little screw end that keeps things secure, to hold zippers on suitcase and backpacks together and harder to get into.

Posted by
8 posts

I just spent a week in Rome and had no problems walking through the streets and sidestreets by myself. I carried a PacSafe bag and felt very secure knowing that any attempts to open my purse would meet with some resistence. Luckily, I didn't meet up with the gypsy children or pickpockets I had read so much about.

Posted by
104 posts

I also just got back from 2 weeks in Italy, 7 days in Rome. We had no problems at all with pickpockets. I was very nervous about them before. There were gypsies begging in the train station that would approach us, but we never felt anyone come close to picking our pockets. I carried an bag across my body and kept it in front of me most of the time.

Posted by
710 posts

I just got back. I had bought the packSafe shoulder bag 100. It was a little to small. Would have loved an outside place to put my map,etc and water bottle. I took a neck money belt, but hooked it onto my bra strap instead of around my neck and I kept my credit cards and passport in there. I took a change purse instead of a wallet and kept about 100 Euros to start with in there and my one atm card in the pocket book with my digital camera.
Rome felt the least safe because of the huge crowds. The country side was fine. I worried to because of all I had read on this site. One thing that did happen is our luggage did not make our connecting flight from the USA to Rome. Luckily it arrived the next night. I had a change of clothes in my carry on, but my husband did not. Someone had openned my suitcase and removed my great rain Jacket. Nothing else was taken. They have locks that you can put on that security can open and close. Wish I had bought and used it. I could have used it in Venice.

Posted by
104 posts

Like several folks mentioned here, I was so afraid of the pickpockets and gangs of thieves and gypsies before I went to Italy that it was to the point of paranoia. In th ened, we never had any problems, and I never saw any obvious gangs of young thieves or felt anyone even come close enough to me to pick my pocket. There were gypsies and othes who begged for money, but they went away easily.

I wore a purse slung across my body and kept it in front of me. All important stuff was in my money belt. I think precaution and awareness are the most important things to keep you safe, but try not to let it stress you out so much - my extreme paranoia turned out to be unfounded.

Posted by
11 posts

We just got back from a 3 week trip to Italy and this subject was the main cause of worry for me and our family of six before arriving. Just be aware of your surroundings and in the bigger cities more aware and keep your bags in front of you tucked closely next to you. We're happy to say we worried for no reason. We felt safer in most of Italy than we do here in downtown Seattle!