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Forget the stereotypes and myths about Italy. Here are five things you should know before you go to stay safe no matter where you are in Italy.
Italy has the highest number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Europe. On Monday 9 March 2020, the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced all of Italy will be placed under lockdown conditions to contain the virus.
Check with your government's travel advisory for the latest information, and contact your travel provider to find out what this means for your travel plans.
It is important all travelers exercise increased levels of health and safety precautions to avoid being contaminated by the virus, and if you begin to feel the symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Italians are devout fashionistas, but it's about style, not how much skin you can show. Women don't have to dress neck to knee, but what is worn on the beach generally stays on the beach. Plus, covering up will help keep potential Italian Casanovas from harassing you or catcalling on the streets.
Italy has many religious sites of great significance. For women travelers, if you are visiting a church or holy place, it's a good idea to carry a scarf, so you can easily cover your shoulders if you are wearing a singlet top, and be mindful to wear something which covers your knees, too. Also, ditch the heels in favor of comfortable shoes – you be walking around a lot, and many places in Italy have uneven, cobblestone paths and roads.
Traveling by train is one of (if not the safest) the best ways to get around Italy. However, look out for opportunistic thieves.
In the bars around Piazza Navona and Campo di Fiori there have been reports of drink spiking. Be cautious when visiting bars at transport hubs, such as Roma Termini and Florence's Santa Maria Novella station.
Never accept open drinks from strangers or new friends you have just met – insist you join them to the bar if you want to take up their offer of a drink from. Watch the bartender pour your drink, and never leave an open drink unattended.
If you start to feel woozy, or unusually drunk for the amount you've had, ask friends for assistance. Or, if you're alone ask the bar staff to call the police.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Stay away from dark alleys, secluded parks at night and neighborhoods with obvious signs of poverty. Always walk in well-lit areas at night, and preferably with another person or group of people.
If you are unsure, ask your accommodation staff about areas of town to avoid – and take their advice if they say it is safest to catch taxis at night.
Many countries are lacking the infrastructure and services to cater for the influx of refugees seeking asylum in Europe. As a result, begging has increased across Italy. There are also those scammers who use begging as a tactic to distract you while another takes your valuables.
Pickpockets will particularly frequent well-known, crowded tourist spots and transport terminals. Keep an eye on your belongings and keep your valuables close. Don't casually leave your phone or wallet on the table while dining especially outdoors. Never leave your bag over the back of the chair.
As for the mafia? They are more concerned with turf wars than tourists. So long as you aren't dealing with drugs or meddling in any shady dealings on your trip, you have no reason to be afraid.
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