Is Italy Safe? Top 5 Travel Safety Tips

How safe is Italy? Our travel safety expert shares her tips on what you need to know about health, theft, women's safety, train travel, drink spiking and the mafia.

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Piazza Navona, Rome Photo © iStock/fazon1

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.

1. Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy – February 2020

Italy has the highest number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Europe, with more than 150 (current Feb 24, 2020). Various towns are in lockdown to contain the virus, so stay up to date with the news and contact your travel provider to find out if your plans have changed.

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.

Check the latest information from your government's travel advisory.

2. Women's safety in Italy

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 here. Plus, covering up will help keep potential Italian casanovas from harassing you or catcalling on the streets.

Italy has many sacred sites, and lots of these have religious significance. Ladies, it's a good idea to carry a scarf with you, 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.

3. Train travel safety in Italy

Traveling by train is one of (if not the safest and best way to get around) Italy. However, opportunistic thieves do cruise the carriages. But there are ways you can stop your belongings from becoming the next five-finger discount.

  • Keep what is valuable and important close to you
  • Keep an eye on your belongings especially at crowded train stations
  • Use carabiners or a short cable style bike chain to attach your belongings to racks, bunks or any other fitting. This will make potential thieves think twice about a quick snatch and grab
  • If you are traveling overnight and staying in a cabin, make sure you lock the door from the inside. Generally, once it is locked from the inside, it typically can not be unlocked from the outside
  • Try to minimize the amount of cash you carry on you while on the train. Keep whatever cash/cards on you while you sleep.

4. Drink spiking in Italy

Drink spiking isn't just a problem in Italy – it's something all travelers should be aware of no matter where you are. Whether you're experiencing the nightlife on your own, or with a group of friends, you should always be careful with your drinks.

The bars around Piazza Navona and Campo di Fiori have been mentioned in past reports for incidents of drink spiking. You should also be cautious when visiting bars associated with 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 really want to take up their offer, but never take a drink from someone. 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 genuine friends for assistance. Or, if you're alone, get out of the bar as soon as possible and call the police.

5. Street crime in Italy

Street crimes such as pickpocketing and scams are reportedly increasing in the main cities across Italy, mostly due to high numbers of visitors who are not always paying attention to their surroundings.

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 of the mafia.

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1 Comment

  • a random guy said

    I think you're exaggerating a bit here.

    I don't know about Rome, but in northern Italy cat-calling is the same as it is in the rest of western Europe, some rare pleb may do it but I've never seen anyone doing it.

    As far the mafia goes, they do organized crime, they don't mug people. The likeliness of witnessing a mob killing and getting killed in the process is extremely low, you're thousands times more likely to get run over by a car when crossing the street (remember that you're in Italy :P). It's really a non-worry.
    In the south you have more risk of mugging simply because it's a poorer area and the rule of law is weaker so e.g. in Naples even natives do theft and scams (mostly through pickpocketing), but the same can happen in the big cities in the rest of Europe if there's a nomad presence, the natives don't do the crime but the end result is the same.

    You're right that rallies of any kind (political or sports) should be avoided because hooliganism isn't really under control, and the extreme left and right organizations often organize rallies and make it a point to clash with the police.
    This applies especially to anti-austerity and anti-infrastructure protests, they go there equipped for a fight with shields and all.

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