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Safety/security in Rome, Florence and around

My daughter and I are going to Italy in March to Rome, Florence and other ares. We will be traveling by train and not on organized tours. From what I read the train stations and major attractions are full of teenage gangs and pickpockets. We plan to leave, when possible, luggage at our lodging site but not always possible. We will have money belts with passport and credit cards in money belt except for daily expenditures. We do not want to have cameras, iPhones ripped from our hands while taking pictures. Any suggestions for safety . I am elderly and thinking of taking a cane but I really don't need for walking.

I am not really scared but not knowing the language is somewhat scary. Thanks for your assistance.

Posted by
693 posts

Taking sensible precautions like you are, I have travelled in Europe extensively with no problems. The only time I have ever had an issue was in Baltimore where my wife was threatened with a weapon and robbed in the harbour area during daylight hours. Given the United States has its own issues with violent crime, many non Americans find it ironic that some US citizens stress so much over personal safety while abroad.

Posted by
31262 posts

rcalr65,

To begin with, it would be a good idea to delete your duplicate Threads on this topic so that you keep all replies in the same place.

"the train stations and major attractions are full of teenage gangs and pickpockets."

It would be interesting to know where you read that, as (IMO) it provides an exaggerated view of the reality. There will be pickpockets around, especially in more crowded locations such as the Metro or the infamous #64 Bus in Rome, but if you take reasonable precautions you shouldn't have any problems. I should note that I've ridden the #64 and #40 Buses numerous times, and so far haven't been pickpocketed, despite the fact that I was carrying a very large and expensive Camera (which was in plain view). When I was in Italy several months ago, I noticed an increased police presence in stations and Metro stops, so the authorities seem to be trying to deal with the problem.

"We do not want to have cameras, iPhones ripped from our hands while taking pictures."

It would be a shame to visit two such beautiful cities and not have any photos to remember the occasion. iPhones are probably more attractive to thieves, but you should be fine with small P&S cameras. After all, there will be thousands of other tourists with cameras (and Smartphones), and the majority won't have any "theft problems". Again, I think this has been exaggerated.

"I am elderly and thinking of taking a cane but I really don't need for walking."

If you don't need the cane for walking, what are you planning to use it for?

You may find it helpful to have a look at THIS short video on the the topic. A few things to keep in mind......

  • Keep your Passport, credit cards, larger amounts of cash in your money belt. Keep your daily expense money in a more accessible location (front pocket or wherever) and DON'T access your money belt where others can see.
  • Practice "situational awareness", especially in more crowded locations. Be aware of who's around you, especially those within arm's length.
  • Be especially vigilant if a distraction (a loud argument or whatever) occurs near you.
  • Be vigilant when going up escalators or stairs, especially if the person in front of you stops suddenly.
  • Don't engage anyone that asks "do you speak English" or wants you to sign a petition.
  • You'll probably be approached by sad looking children holding a tin cup (especially in the Metro), perhaps playing a small accordion that produces something resembling music. Your choice whether you want to give them a donation.
  • You'll probably see older women, perhaps stooped over with a cane and unsteady on their feet at the entrance to some Churches or other attractions holding a cup. THIS photo shows an example in Rome. They're not hard to spot. Again, your choice on whether you want to make a donation.
  • You may be approached by people at ticket Kiosks in larger stations offering to "help" you with the ticket purchase. They can sometimes be persistent, as I found with a group of teenage girls in one of the Metro stops in Milan recently. A polite "NO" didn't work so I simply walked a few feet to the nearest ticket office and purchased a day ticket - problem solved and I didn't have to put up with that annoyance for the rest of the day (the police rousted that group just as I was leaving).

Take reasonable precautions and most likely you'll have a wonderful time in both cities.

Buon Viaggio!

Posted by
4557 posts

Rcarl65,

Mph is right, you just need to take precautions & be aware of your surroundings.
I've traveled to Europe, including Italy, with my elderly mother (80's) and have not had any issues.
Here are a few precautions that we take:

  • travel light- carry-on sized suitcase.
  • avoid carrying purses-- I only carry a small backpack to carry water bottles but never kept valuables in it.
  • avoid commotions/distractions
  • act like you know where you are heading even if you don't-- go to tourist information office if you need directions, etc...
  • avoid staying out late at night
  • only go to ATM's attached to a bank & during the day.

A few years ago, I made the stupid mistake of going to an ATM at dusk in Florence & as soon as my money came out of ATM I found myself surrounded by a group of gypsy children begging. I just walked very quickly back to the hotel which was only about half a block away.

I only take a small camera & it's case is attached to my belt & I carry it in the front of my body (not on the side or back)

RS offers this very helpful information here: http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams/outsmarting-pickpockets

{Edit]: Another tip-- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry- I basically only wear my wedding ring which is a gold band.

Happy travels!

Posted by
134 posts

Florence is a small city and security was lately reinforced in the station.
I find that Italian young people are generally rather well educated and I have not seen them around the station doing the things you mention and I am in Florence three days each month and it is a relatively safe city. Nothing has ever happened to me there. Be a bit more careful in Rome but still for a big city, Roman people are very helpful and love to joke with ladies. No harm to that. do not be afraid at all. Joke all the same with them. I don't know if you are going to Milan, but there watch out, especially in the metropolitan.
Before in the stations were 'zingari' which used to ask one or two euros to help you take the ticket from the machine. If you see some give them 50 cents coin and they leave you alone.

I phones are very expensives here in.Italy and therefore it is true it can be stolen out of your hands as a lot of traffic is going on. This happened to me in Torino. Two pieces of advice: 1. Should it happen to you, shout ,'Mi hanno rubato il telefonino' and at least 2 or3young Italian young guys will chase the robber. 2. Do not make photos with a iphone but with a Huawei or Nokia. Should you have a iphone do not use it in public areas.
Enjoy your trip to Italy and do not stress. Experience the dolce vita.

Posted by
4557 posts

Rcarl65,
Don't know if you're aware of this but you actually posted this topic 4 times.

You may want to delete the other 3 so you can keep all your replies in one place, as Ken has suggested.

Posted by
12173 posts

Violent crime is virtually non existent in Italy, at least compared to the U.S., and nobody will snatch anything out of your hands. Pick pockets operate in crowded situations, therefore be careful on crowded city buses and subways, which are the places where 99% of pick pockets happen.
Pickpockets don't operate on high speed trains, because those train tickets are too expensive, however you need to be vigilant at the station because some skillful thieves occasionally might steal bags while people aren't paying attention (for example while they are purchasing tickets or buying food at some of the vendors). So always keep an eye on your suitcases anywhere you are. These incidents are however very rare, but they do happen, so just exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
I have never known anybody personally who was pick pocketed, however I worked at the Florence SMN station during my military service and often we had tourists reporting the loss of a bag to some thief (often because they left them unattended or weren't paying attention). The police presence at all sensitive sites (including stations and all crowded tourist sights), both in uniform and plain clothes, is truly massive these days, therefore you don't have much to worry about. You will be amazed at the number of policemen you see around you, especially in Rome.

Posted by
5883 posts

I am going to assume (perhaps wrongly) that you are from the US -- where it is always odd to hear the fear of travel from people who live in a country where being gunned down as a tourist is a decided possibility. I am an old lady and have traveled in all these places you mention and not long ago spent a couple of months in Florence which included early morning walks across town. There is almost no chance of violent crime against tourists in Rome or Florence. Every second person has a camera and cameras are not particularly sought after by thieves; the bigger and clunkier the camera, the less desirable it is. Fancy phones are more envied for resale; a small camera left sitting on a cafe table might be snatched -- in 50 years of travel in Europe always with expensive camera equipment I have never had the slightest problem nor ever seen or heard of anyone having a camera 'snatched from their hands'. The only person I know who lost a camera in Europe left it in a restroom stall to find it had been 'stolen' when he returned minutes later to retrieve it. (my husband on the other hand has left our camera bag in restaurants and his computer in bars more than once and never lost it yet.)

Pickpockets work mostly by stealth so if you are not a walking buffet you will be unaware of them. Carry valuables in pockets or backpack and you may discover them gone. If you don't carry easily accessed valuables or leave things sitting on benches or tables where someone walking by could take advantage of the opportunity you shouldn't worry.

I use a money belt in transit and the hotel safe when in town. And happily photograph without fear of loss.

Ignore anyone trying to sell you something on the street, or get you to sign a petition or otherwise engage you. Use your judgment about exchanging cameras to get photos at tourist sites (what are the odds you would choose a thief to take the snapshot of you and your daughter in front of the Pantheon?) and don't worry.

Posted by
4557 posts

Rcarl,
You can simply delete your own duplicate posts.
All you have to do is click on the posts & hit delete (blue letters at the bottom left of your post)

{Edit} You did it! But there are still 2 posts-- you may want to keep only one :-)

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks to all that have replied. Italy actually seems safer now than some of the US cities that I have travelled. It is a relief to know .

COWBOYS LOST. Sad.