Italy 2013..The good, bad, the ugly.

We just returned from 16 days in our beloved Italia.
It was mostly wonderful. I'd say the thing that has changed most since I was there last, (in 1975), was the amount of illegal street vendors. The streets are already loaded with tourists and then you have thousands upon thousands of illegal vendors from Africa, India and beyond. They're in your face, bombarding you with cheap wares from hats, parasols, FAKE purses, etc.... they're very aggressive and are hurting the economy of the legitimate Italian vendors. It takes away from the experience and isn't safe to have them running at you when you're trying to get on and off buses, in and out of cabs, etc. BUT, Italy has always been and always will be beautiful and wonderful!! Bella Italia!!!!

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

How do you know they are illegal vendors? Sorry, it's a bit of a loaded word. I know there is some tension in welcoming non-native Italians to Italy, but I'm wondering whether your use of illegal was justified. If others live there, make their home there, and try to make a living there, it may be "their beloved Italia" too

Posted by Bruce
Minnetinka, Minnesota, Usa
2 posts

I think Agnes may be a bit naive One notes that when ever the police appear, the vendors rapidly wrap up their wears and quickly run away. Yes, most of them are indeed Africans and no, I'm not being racist by agreeing that they are clearly illegals. If they weren't, why, pray tell, would they scurry away as the police approach.
With that said, I can tell you that my wife, daughter and I have enjoyed several trips to Italy in the last several years and simply ignored the constant press of the "illegal" vendors. If you stride purposely and don't dress and act to draw attention to yourself as "Amerikans" you won't get hassled or even approached.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Annoying yes, but dangerous? Dangerous is the crossing they make stuffed into rickety little boats. Thousands drown each year, unknown, alone, while their families wonder what happend to them. Smile, buy a trinket and give'em a break. These are human beings.

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

Yes, they can be dangerous, I've witnessed it a few times. And no, do not buy anything from them, especially the knockoff bags sold by the Africans, it is a front for organized crime. Every so often (usually around election time, my Venetian friends tell me) the local politicians decide to crack down and post warnings that anyone caught buying illegal knockoff goods from the street people will face a fine of up to 10,000 euros or so. It can be comical to see them get busted by the polizia or Caribinieri though.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I think the vendors run when the police appear because their activities are illegal. Whether the vendors are there illegally or not, selling "illegal goods" brings on the cops. Notice how the sunglasses, etc. are attached to a board that can be grabbed and moved quickly. I ignore this activity. I'm not in the market for fake goods.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

"... Africa, India and beyond" India is a bit unlikely, but I'm more intrigued where "beyond" might be. Virginia?

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

India is VERY likely, at least in Venice. There are many people from that area selling crap in the streets there.

Posted by Christine
Philadelphia, PA, USA
15 posts

The behavior or venders varies wildly in different parts of Italy. In Tuscany they are more mild, passively offering to sell you flowers and then leaving with a simple "no." In Sicily on the other hand, they are downright aggressive. They will place the flower on the plate at your table in an outdoor cafe and insist you buy it. Often won't take a kind or mild "No," for an answer. I had to be very firm (probably a little rude) and say "I said NO!" one time for the man to leave (which he did). Bottom line, most of the time you are fine (even in Rome) but you might have to aggressively say no if they are being aggressive.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

If you're easily offended by street people, you need to stay out of Jamaica.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

If you're easily offended by street people, you need to stay out of Jamaica. David, do you mean Jamaica, Queens - to which I used to go weekly in a former life -, or the entire country of Jamaica - to which I have never been?

Posted by Cindi
Montclair, Virginia, United States
56 posts

Agnes,
First of all, there may be people there that are not natural born Italians that ARE legal and ARE legally selling goods, BUT, I am referring to the ones that that are grab-and-run when they see the Garda/police. And in certain cities certain ones are more aggressive than others. I'm not showing prejudice against any race, color, creed or country of origin when attempting to describe these folks. Just going by what an older Italian vendor told me. Also, NO one should assume that I don't consider these people unfortunate or in bad situation. I give money to every begger I see, and am always told I shouldn't. It breaks my heart. But I also empathise with the Italians having their businesses affected.