Monday, July 2, 2012

How careful should you be going to Rome

Pickpockets are a big problem in Rome. When you're out wandering the streets or riding the metro, make sure that your wallet, phone and other valuables are stowed securely (and not in the outside pocket of your jacket, or back pocket of your jeans). If you carry a handbag, keep it with you at all times.

For a large city, Rome has a relatively low rate of violent crime. In recent years there have been more reports of robberies targeting businesses, but overall Rome is still a safe city.

However, for the tourist, there is a danger from pickpockets and bag snatchers, who might not be out to hurt you but could still ruin your holiday if they make off with your wallet. Confidence tricksters are also common, especially in major tourist areas like Termini station, the Vatican, and other popular sites. These scammers lose their power if you already know the game, so you may want to familiarize yourself with the information on taxis scams and other tourist scams.

Crime hotspots

As is often the case, the criminals congregate where the tourists are: crowds of lost, tired, overheated tourists make for easy pickings. Be careful around the Vatican, and other crowded areas like the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, and the Catacombs.

Public transport is another danger zone: be cautious in main transport hubs like the airports and downtown stations, on buses, trams, and the metro (especially on the more crowded routes that lead between tourist sites). As an example, the bus route from the Catacombs to downtown is especially notorious for pickpockets.


Pickpockets vary in appearance from gangs of itinerant teenage gypsies to well-dressed businessmen and often carry something to cover their activities: a shopping bag, a map, or just a big piece of torn cardboard. There are also gangs of children who will mob you and, by the time you've shooed them away, your pockets have been systematically emptied.Watch out for obvious distractions: if something's causing a scene and making a crowd gather, whether it's an impromptu musical performance, a street argument, or a woman taking her clothes off (it's been known), there's a good chance it's all been arranged so that a pickpocket can work the crowd. If you are confronted by children with newspapers to hide their hands, step back from them and say, "Basta" in a loud and authoritative voice. This means "Stop" in Italian. I have gone so far as to place my hand on the paper and push it out of the way. But, don't accost the children, you can be sure that an adult criminal isn't far away. You just want them to pick an easier target.

 Bag Snatchers

The criminals cruise around on mopeds can also be a danger. If you must carry a bag, try to sling it over your head and across your body, with the bag hanging away from the road in front of you. (Some others advise the opposite: to carry the bag loose off one shoulder, so if it is grabbed by a passing motorist driver, you aren't dragged with it.) The common ploy is for a moped to cruise behind you as you cross the street and grab the bag. They carry razors so the they can quickly cut the strap of the bag and yank it from your grip.

I have been fortunate when traveling to Rome a few times, nothing has ever happened to me. But I watch my purse! Cross-body in front  is a great option. Some travel bash even include a steel cable in the strap to foil the razor toting thief.
Several years ago,a good friend of mine went to Rome expecting the trip of a life time.
But, she was lulled into carelessness by the many motorcycles used for legitimate purposes such as  delivering things. As she crossed the street close to Piazza Navona, two guys on a moped silently slipped in behind her and took her bag, dragging her to the ground as she clutched onto the bag. They won. Unfortunately, she had all her documents, all the cash for her trip, some credit cards and travel checks in her bag. She lost everything and the trip was ruined!

So, PLEASE watch your purse if you go there and have a great time!

 My Advice

After years of travel, my best advice is,
  1. Don't carry all your valuables with you every day. Only take one credit card, some cash, and your passport. 
  2. Secure your passport next to your body. I put my passport in one of those holders, like a belt that I wear under my clothes.
  3. Store your valuables in the hotel safe. This assumes you stay at a reputable hotel.
  4. Take imitation jewelry with you. Keep the good stuff at home. I have some good recommendations in my Amazon shop.
  5. Use a Credit Card while traveling, not a debit card. If you do get your card number stolen by a dishonest waiter, you don't want your bank account cleaned out.
  6. If you catch a thief stealing from you, don't try to be a hero! This is not the time to play Rambo, now you need to be Sherlock Holmes and gather as much info as possible and go to the police. You can bet the thief has accomplices close by who will defend them.


  1. I agree that Rome is definitely a popular spot for pickpockets.

    When we visited there we watched with interest on a train one day as two gypsy girls walked through the reasonably crowded train. One had a baby with a flap of cloth dangling below which was perfect cover for her hands.

    We protected our stuff and did not become a victim, but we have lost to thieves in other places. We had a camera stolen in Assisi right off my shoulder, but travel insurance repaid us for this item.

  2. Hi
    Thank you so much for writing me. Sorry that you lost your camera.
    Indeed we have to be careful anywhere we go, it does not matter if people say it is safe, we always should be careful.