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Concerns About Italy

I am planning to travel to Italy but, I've heard that the public transportation is not reliable and there is a big problem with pickpockets.

I have two questions:

  1. What has been your experience in Italy?

  2. Are the above issues a major problem, or are they managable for the first time traveler to Italy?

Thank You

John G.

Posted by
842 posts

John, go on the trip and enjoy! Do a little reading and follow the Boy Scout motto; "Be Prepared". Don't carry a billfold, or purse, and you never have to worry about the pickpockets.......it's as simple as that. Use a neck purse or moneybelt. The trains (Trenitalia)in Italy are fantastic...1st class is wonderful, but not necessary. We use the trains any chance we get. In some places the buses are even better. And, in some places, (small towns way down south), the buses are not very reliable. We have traveled to Italy/Sici 4 times. We have used every mode of transportaion imagainable. We have been in the middle of a train strike, missed our ferry departure time, etc. got parking tickets, narrowly avoided accidents.......it is just like here. We speak no Italian, yet we will venture anywhere by ourselves. (well, almost anywhere.....again,it is just like here) Italy and the Italian people are warm and friendly, and once you experience La Dolce Vita you can't wait to go back for more!

Posted by
223 posts

All the concerns about Italy are not reasons to avoid it - like the poster-above said, be prepared. The worst case scenario is that you learn to "go with the flow" about transportation (more "flexible" in the south than the north) and you might get your one-day stash of cash lifted. On the flip side, you'll see MAGNIFICIENT sites that were created long before our country was even found by the white man. Don't pass it up over some minor concerns - Italy is not Columbia, despite all our dire warnings about wearing your money belt. :)

Posted by
1127 posts

I have found public transportation to be wonderful in Italy. The only problem you may encounter is a strike. Strikes are announced in advance with set hours, they don't go on forever.

I think the problem with pickpockets is blown out of proportion. Yes pickpockets exist but it's not like you will spend your trip fending them off. As mentioned above, be prepared. Don't carry a lot of cash with you, keep it is in your hotel room safe. People on vacation are more relaxed so just aware of your surroundings at all times. And don't be prepared to tell a shady person to "Go away!!!!" if they are hovering around you.

Posted by
705 posts

I travel to Italy for work each year and I do love it. Great excuse to have a few days vacation at the end of the work part. I travel alone and have never had a problem with pick pockets. However I do take note of my surroundings and don't do silly things. I find the trains great too and as I travel alone, I do tend to book 1st class and get a seat reservation. You may like to try that for your first time so you get the feel for how things work. One other thing I always do is make sure I know how to get to my hotel from the station so when I arrive I'm not looking at maps to see where to go and looking lost - perfect target for a pickpocket. I find google earth great for that. Don't stress you'll be fine. just enjoy.

Posted by
216 posts

My experiences in Italy have always been very positive. The issues you mention are manageable for a first-time traveler. The trip last month was my 5th to Italy in as many years--twice with 10+ college students (all female). No one has ever been pickpocketed or attacked, although one did have a well-dressed man try to slip his hand in her shoulder bag this year. One of the other girls near her pushed him in the back and stopped him, but it was nothing major. We always exercise caution, of course, and roll with the punches where the transportation system is concerned. I've never had any major problems. Go and enjoy yourself.

Posted by
13 posts

Having been to italy I can say, Go and enjoy. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Only carry enough cash on you for the day,and use a money belt. My husband and I walked all over Rome and never felt unsafe. One piece of advice I would give for anyone traveling to Italy or Europe is dont flash money around. Pulling out a wad of cash is not a smart thing to do anywhere here in the USA and in Italy.

Posted by
1589 posts

John, if you can handle the BART, you can handle this! We love Italy and find it's subways,trains & buses all part of the charm and excitment.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
1449 posts

John, I've been to Italy twice and I've felt safer (even in Naples) travelling by train than I have taking the bus to the Caltrain terminal on 4th St or waiting there for the train. Get Rick's book "Europe Thru the Back Door" which is filled with advice, and follow a few simple guidelines like keeping your passport, credit cards, and large sums of money in a money belt.

Posted by
192 posts

Don't take any city busses. They are very crowded and the pickpocket people are very active on them.
My husband had his camera stolen on a bus in Rome.
It was zipped into its case, the case strap was crossways across husband's bod, with the camera case part in front, and the whole thing was totally under his jacket which was also zipped.

Try not to get into crowds (ha) where there's a lot of pushing and shoving...pickpocketers love those.

Avoid the 'beggars'...maybe they really are poor, lost souls, and maybe they have borrowed the neighbor's baby for effect and are out to get every cent/Euro you have.

Make good use of the security neck or waist pouch, and have somebody be your lookout when you use an ATM, and you should be fine.

Posted by
97 posts

On my first trip to Rome 2 years ago, I arrived in the middle of a subway strike. No big deal -- Rome is small and walkable, and the subway doesn't go anywhere I wanted to go anyhow. As for pickpockets, I walked right through a big group of them near the Colosseum and they didn't give me a second glance.

I might just be nondescript enough to pass for a local -- no matter where I go, someone walks up to me and asks for directions. Or it may be that I just don't look like I'm carrying anything valuable. I used to worry about being a solo female traveler, but honestly, I've felt more uncomfortable riding MUNI at night right here at home than I've ever felt anywhere in Europe.

Posted by
339 posts

John,
You don't say when you are planning to go or if you will be alone or with a friend(s). If you are going alone, think about taking a tour for your first visit. We first went to Italy with our young teenagers and didn't want to try it on our own with them. The tour was perfect for a first timer. We didn't want to have the stress of figuring out our major transportation or guided tours of important sites. The tour offered plenty of individual time to explore and it also gave us the opportunity to meet interesting people from around the world who were also on our tour. We have been back several times since on our own but we are very happy our first visit was guided.
If you truely want to go on your own, try an off season. Early winter through late spring is great in Italy if you don't mind a little cold weather. We went in early December and loved it - very few tourists, no lines, lots of local color, and Advent is very special in Europe.

Posted by
12 posts

I loved my "cargo pants" (convertible to shorts) with zippered pockets.....felt very secure carrying my wallet, passports, etc.