Safety and Security

PICK-POCKETS: Make sure you carry your cash/wallet/documents in your front pocket, in a fanny pack or money belt (if you’re a man), or in a closable purse that you can hold tightly in front of you (if you’re a woman) for when you’re in highly crowded areas like buses and other public transportation. Predictably, most thefts occur at crowded tourist sites (it’s so easy to dive into somebody’s pocket when their gaze is fixed upwards on the Duomo or the Leaning Tower) on public transport, or at the major rail stations, (where people are invariably confused and distracted). Leave big, flashy jewelry at home (both the real AND fake stuff - theives can't tell the difference). It's just not worth getting the unwanted attention and looking like a "rich American".

Pickpockets take advantage of distractions like sudden noises or particular activities, so please always be aware of your surroundings and your belongings. Backpacks are not recommended, because they offer an easy access from the back. Don't carry your wallet or purse in your hand; you may think you’ve a tight grip on it, but you’re just making it more visible and easy to snatch. Take that bag off your shoulder and pin it tightly under your arm with the opening facing inward. And don’t have an expensive camera swinging from your neck.

Some pickpockets are easy to spot, they may be looking shabby and unclean, some of them are “gypsies”, kids and adults who beg for money and steal your cash as you pull out your wallet!! Some others instead wear a suit and tie and you can never tell. So to be safe, never pull out your wallet unless you’re purchasing something in a store. And if you want to give some money in charity, give it to street performers, artists, and musicians, who won’t steal from you. Keep some loose change in one of your pockets that you can use to give to them so you don’t have to take out your wallet. Don’t sign petitions or anything that seems a bit sketchy! Pick-pockets are on public transportation, so you want to hold on to your purse while on the bus/subway. A zipper purse is fine, as long as you always keep the zipper opening in front of you. For the record, a money belt is something that only tourists use…so being smart and aware of who’s around you will be sufficient.

DOCUMENTS & MEDICATIONS: Make photocopies of all your documents as well as credit cards before you leave. Leave a copy of everything with a family member or friend, including phone numbers of hotels. If you take medication, be sure to pack exactly how much you'll be taking, plus take a copy of your doctor's name and phone number, a list of your current immunizations, and the generic name for any medications you are taking: this way, if you lose or misplace your medicine in Italy, an Italian pharmacist can help you.

COMMON SENSE: If a thief does try to take your purse, scream loudly, but let go - you'd rather lose your valuables than risk assault. When on the streets, use good judgment: avoid dark, empty streets, and when in crowds, be aware of everyone around you. Don’t walk around train stations after dusk, these are considered areas full of drug-addicts, dealers, beggars, and homeless people.

Expensive or extravagant clothing may give a would-be thief the impression that you're carrying a lot of money, and skimpy or revealing attire could attract unwanted comments, propositions or even groping. Stick to blue jeans or khakis and t-shirts. Flashy logos and big jewelry (even if it’s obviously fake) are unnecessary and will only attract attention. Still, even the most unassuming woman might receive comments from the very open and friendly Italian men. If this makes you uncomfortable, walk erect and purposefully and ignore them. If harassed, look them in the eye and say "no" loudly or call for help. Never give strangers your hotel name or room number. Once in your hotel room, use common sense: keep the door locked, do not open the door to strangers, and always use the main entrance of the hotel, as back entrances are sometimes hidden or remote. Never leave valuables out in your room; most hotels offer a safe either in the room or at the reception.

CAR BREAK-INS: Theft from parked cars and purse-grabbing can be a problem in large Italian cities. Thefts of small items from parked cars can be a problem, and though you won’t be car-jacked, robberies do occur. If you’re a woman, always walk on the side of the sidewalk that is nearest to the building, not the street. If you happen to walk along the side next to the street, make sure your purse is facing the building, so it’s not an easy target for drive-by thieves. If you are renting a car, make sure no belongings are in sight, especially when the car is parked. Don’t take a risk by parking a car full of luggage to go site-seeing. If you need to stop on the ‘Autostrada’ (highway) at a gas station or Autogrill (convenience store franchise), make sure you lock your doors and park the car in a spot that is not hidden or isolated. These areas are highly targeted by thieves. Never leave your navigator (GPS system) showing on the window, but also don’t leave its stand, which would only be a clue that you’ve hidden the GPS under your seat. When driving, hit the central locking, keep the windows up, and stow your valuables out of sight. If you’re waiting at a traffic light and a ‘window-washer’ comes over, quickly lock your car and wave ‘no’ with your finger. There are some quite elaborate scams. Being flagged over by a helpful motorist who tells you you’re running a flat is one. As you talk, his pal is slitting your rear nearside tyre. You get out to inspect, accompanies by your new friend, while the second robber filches your belongings from the car.

LEARN A FEW PHRASES IN ITALIAN: Attempt to learn at least a few rudimentary Italian phrases. At the very least, know how to say 'hello', 'please', 'thank you', 'excuse me', 'yes', 'no' and ask for a restroom, hotel room or table. If you must ask for help in English, ask your hotel desk clerk or a friendly waiter over coffee. Most Italians speak English, but you'll have more fun and blend in better if you at least make an effort to speak a little Italian. Italy is not a destination to be feared. It is however, one to be wary. DO NOT be loud or obnoxious, but rather polite, observant & considerate. You'll find your visit to Italy a pleasant one if you accept the Italian quirks and refrain from expecting things to be as they are in the US.

WOMEN TRAVELING ALONE – First of all, the chances of getting your ‘bottom’ pinched are highly unlikely. Italian men are known to be pretty forward when talking to a woman, so they may easily compliment you in a way that may be considered highly inappropriate in the US, while in Italy it is expected. Usually compliments are said quite frequently, but that’s about it. If a man is actually trying to get information from you or is just too pushy, say ‘No’ firmly and walk the other way. Women, especially traveling alone, may be the recipients of wolf-whistling or hissing; the best way to respond is to ignore it and stride confidently on. Don’t get angry and don’t be tempted to respond, it’ll just keep them going. And while you are unlikely to be mugged in a public park, there are flashers. Parks can also be popular pick-up places, so beware. Something that happens quite frequently is a man on a crowded bus who takes advantage of the situation to ‘push’ himself on a woman. If this should happen, just try to walk away from him through the crowd until you get close to the bus driver. Than, just say the word ‘MANIACO’ out loud, which in Italian means ‘sexual molester’. Although there is little the driver can do, other people will hear you, and hopefully so will the molester, who should be driven by shame to get off the bus.

IN CASE OF THEFT : Go to the nearest hotel to find someone who you can trust that will be able to help you. They will make the appropriate phone calls if necessary. If in a restaurant or shop, ask where is the nearest ‘Questura’ (police station) where you will go to make your police report.

Emergency phone numbers are as follows. 113 for general emergencies, 115 for the fire service, 116 for roadside assistance and 118 for an ambulance.






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