Pickpockets in Italy: Here's How to Avoid Them

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Where there are crowds, pickpockets are waiting to rid you of your valuables. Don't be alarmed, be aware. Here's how to protect yourself from Italy's petty crims.


Crowd of tourists on Spanish Steps on Piazza di Spagna in Rome Photo © Getty Images/VvoeVale

So where is the danger, and how do you avoid it? Here's how to NOT be the next victim of pickpocketing.

Pickpocketing Hotspots in Italy

The danger lurks in the same place as other cities; metro stations at night, overnight trains, crowded tourist areas, and is most prevalent in Europe's Summer months - a prime time for vacationers.

Thieves are also known to strike when travelers are taking their bags from the airport or city coaches. You might not be able to easily spot a pickpocket, as many of them dress very well, disguised in business clothes.

Pickpockets of Rome

In Rome, specifically beware of Termini, the railway hub, the No. 64 bus (which shuttles back and forth to St. Peter's Square), and the trains to and from Fiumicino (the international airport).

Actually, my family were targeted while we waited for a train at Rome Termini. A couple were meandering around, reading the billboard advertising with unusual interest, which brought them within arm's reach of our bags. Direct, obvious eye contact and a raised eyebrow from me was all it took to let them know I was aware of their game. They moved on.

The Via dei Fori Imperiali, which stretches between the Coliseum and Piazza Venezia, and tourist hotspots like Piazza di Spagna, also attract ill-intentioned Italians.

Really, you should watch your valuables and be aware of your surroundings around any of the major tourist attractions in and around the city center, including the Trastevere, a major nightspot.

Also beware in the area around St. Peter's Basilica, including Trionfale, Via Emo, Prati and Piazza Cavour.

Pickpockets of Milan

In Milan, another traveler recommends avoiding Central Station and after 9 p.m. Tourists should not walk the city late at night and instead opt for a taxi. Take special caution in Milan's Malpensa Airport.

Pickpockets of Verona

In Verona, avoid Portoni della Bra, the City Gate, which is the entrance to Centro Storico of Verona. It's packed with tourists and pickpockets. If you need to stop at the Pisa station to change trains, be on the lookout for shady people.

Pickpockets of Naples

Naples is notorious for pickpockets. Beware of dark alleys and streets, the Spanish Quarter, the main train station, and the Piazza Garibaldi.

Keep your eyes peeled in Internet cafes (if they still exist!) across the country - they're prime spots for theft.

Thieves in the city often use the "bump" technique to knock into a person and steal his or her wallet at the same time.

Also, use ATMs during the day and in well-lit areas. Check all transactions after using the machines, as "skimming" fraud, where your data is stolen, occurs in Italy.

How to Avoid Theft in Italy

Going without expensive jewelry and dressing like the Romans are ways to shake the stealers off your scent. Class it up a bit, and you'll blend in more. Even if you don't look Italian, some locals might assume you live there.

A traveler online echoes the sentiment, saying, "If you are standing on a street corner in shorts, flip flops, a University of Iowa T-shirt and a Nascar #3 hat, you are going to be hounded constantly."

Many travelers say not to put wallets in pockets ever. If you must, stash money inside pockets. As unstylish as they are, money belts may be your saving grace, but still only try to carry enough cash for the day in case someone does make off with it.

Go even further and don a neck-type of money belt. Sling bags are another option, but if a thief sees something valuable poking out of it and tries to rip it from you, an arm injury could occur.

Always look around, and if in a crowded area like a packed bus, hold your bag or purse in front of you tightly.

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  • Apple-Anne said

    Thanks for the heads up. we are going to italy and i found in your post some great tips that i will surely do when travelling there.

  • Ben said

    First visit to Italy coming up -- NYC native here -- I know what to look out for. Our itinerary has NO overnight trains (I know from what friends have told me about Italian night trains), and I also know to be especially careful in Rome (and Barcelona before that). Have secure document holders for everything, and a day pack that can be worn like a snugli carrier when in a crowded Metro train for example, that clips to me the same way backwards and forwards. Thank you Mountain Hardware. Best advice I have when travelling in Europe: take ONLY what you need for the day, NEVER put anything in your pockets, and, leave ALL TRAVEL DOCUMENTS locked in your hotel safe.

  • Paul said

    The cities are fine if you have a good local contact to guide you. I prefer the smaller towns and villages in the countryside. The people will bend over backwards for you if you show a little humility and interest in their area and people.

  • Valerie said

    I just got back from Italy, 3 weeks in Pescara and then took a tour to Naples, Pompeii and the Amalie coast. When the tour bus arrived back in Rome they dropped us off 2 streets from our hotel and said here's your luggage, bye. I was a sitting duck for thieves. While walking to my hotel someone threw a brown liquid on my back and suitcases and then another man says I have shit all over me. They used this as a distraction so another guy could pretend he was wiping the mess off of me while he cut my purse off me. I lost everything, all my money, credit cards, passport, prescription drugs and everything else that is in a women's purse. My advice is never let a tour bus drop you off anywhere but directly in front of your hotel.

  • Debbie in NC said

    As soon as we stepped off our bus in front of the Milan train station 5 Syrian men huddled around me while I was trying to open my bag to get my umbrella. They started beating me. My life flashed before my eyes. I thought of my grandchildren and stood up and beat the men back. I rounded up the energy to hit them back and they eventually ran off. I felt like Superwoman! Then another Syrian refugee gypsy woman attempted to rob me at the Venice train station. Three teens from Singapore encircled me and protected me in order to buy my train ticket.

    While at St. Mark's District in Venice, the refugee all force "roses" on you. If you don't buy, then they rub your boobs acting as though they are placing the flower on you, or removing it. All a scam.

    I felt completely violated and will likely never return to Italy because of the refugees resorting to petty crime in order to survive.

    I love Italy and feel so bad for the locals who will ultimately suffer for the actions of others in foreign, neighboring countries.

  • Janica said

    It's sad to hear the scams from tourists. Italy is such a beautiful place and intended to visit soon despite of the negative news i heard. Because of this, i will postpone my trip to italy and will go first to a nicer, clean place. Thank you

  • Steven Schiller said

    Go to Salerno. Beautiful, inexpensive, small, safe city south of the Amalfie coast. Day trips; train to Paestum and Tragetti ( ferries ) to Amalfie, Positano, etc. Just be careful crossing the streets.

  • David said

    I've spent a total of over 2 months in Italy during the past 3 years, visiting many of the big tourist spots such as Milan, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Pisa, Siena, Florence, Rome, Bologna and Venice. I also spent an entire month in Sicily.

    Here's what happened to me: I had a great time.

    No robberies, no pickpockets, no assaults. No worries.

    Yes, there are those who want to rob you or take advantage you, but you need to stay alert and not make yourself an easy target. Of course, even with caution, something bad can happen, but the same goes for anywhere you.

    Don't let this piece stop you from traveling to Italy.

  • Stacey in NC said

    I spent 10 days in Rome the first/second week of Nov 2016 as a solo "middle aged" woman, first time travel to Italy. First time internationally, for that matter. Like another comment, here is what happened to me:

    I had a fantastic time (and got a tattoo there on my last day to prove it!)

    I had no issues on the train from/to the airport (FCO) to Rome.
    I had no issues on the train to/from Ostia Antica.
    I had no issues on metro.
    I had no issues at Termini.
    I had no issues on the train to and from Venice, even arrived back into Rome after 11p and walked back to my hotel.
    I had no issues wandering some of the city at night (several times) taking night photos (amazing, btw).
    I had no issues in and around Vatican area, even at night.

    I used a money "fanny pack" under my shirt to hold some money, passport, ID and credit cards.
    I used a messenger bag cross slung over my body, held in front for my camera stuff, some money and phone. I didn't keep stuff I couldn't live without in easy to access pockets of the bag, I tucked them inside that would take a flap and zipper to get to. Not 100% safe, but the more trouble it takes to get to stuff, the harder it will be for others to get to as well.

    The same things that happen in Rome exist in every other major/large city. If you don't know how to adopt a "big city" mentality (SF, NYC, LA, etc) or have never been to a big city to know how to navigate, you'll look like fair game anywhere you go. The good news is, you can probably fake it. Look and carry yourself like you know what you're doing and where you're going.

    Just be aware of your surroundings, have a game plan to keep your stuff close to you and not easily accessible, don't flash expensive stuff, don't pull out a wad of money, don't leave your stuff unattended, don't looks like a deer in the headlights everywhere you go... and really, you'll have a great time.

    Rome is an amazing city!

  • Federica said

    5 Syrian men, a Syrian refugee gypsy woman and three teens from Singapore: Debby, you sound a bit confused... It's amazing you had the time to check the nationality and status of all these people! ;-)

  • Chrissy said

    I am currently in Milan now. Travelled from France took the train to central station where we got robbed. We were headed to the exit a row of stairs going down. Very hard to bring your luggage down. A man approached us offering a trolley. We declined and moved on he watched us go down the stairs. As I exited two women pretending to be tourists blocked my way. Wouldn't budge even got down to tie her shoes. That's when I didn't realized they were able to move my purse from front to my back. I got to the taxi hub and my bag was open. Lost passports and money and credit cards. I was in a panic and was on the verge of crying. I went back to the exit where I felt they crowded over me didn't see anything. Went back after 5 minutes and found the pouch of where our passports were. Thankfully they only took the cash.!! We went to to the station to report the theft there was a queue more Indians and Asians like us who also got robbed. 3 of us got robbed in the central station. I wonder why they didn't have police in the exits? It's so terrible to experience this. We are here for our honeymoon and we will be traveling across itlay and now we are really scared for our bags. The other people i met in the station got their bags stolen and even a guys wallet in His front pocket got taken by a woman. It's not safe in Italy. Asians and Indians are targetted. Beware!

  • Chris said

    My purse got stolen from out of my back pack( right at bottom) during the 30 mins I walked from Pisa station to the leaning tower. I did not feel a thing and the only opportunity was when I stopped at a red light to cross the road. I went to the police station and they told me there were about 50 Romanian gypsies operating in Pisa. When I got back to the plane at least 3 others had also had their purse snatched. It has left me very upset. The police at the train station Escorted me to the airport as I had not a penny to get back. Luckily it was my last day and I still had my passport and flight tickets.

  • Utsa said

    We were on our way to the colleseo in the Rome metro when a lady pretending to be pregnant on Termini station rushed out of the train and pushed me to get out of the train ..the doors of the trains closed and its then I realised that she had unzipped my bag and taken my wallet.
    Fortunately there was no money in the wallet, our passports were in the hotel room locker . We got our credit and debit cards cancelled straight away. No financial loos but the whole experience was very overwhelming.

    As per our tour guide Italy as a whole is a country of theives ..Rome is the worst. It is a shabby and dirty city. I would suggest you to e very very careful if you have to visit.

  • Rosana Howard said

    I became aware of how not to be naive while traveling in Rome.
    Im not wearing my wedding ring, but a decoy ring. I'll leave my passport in the hotel, wear a safe money belt with copies of the passport, some money, and only one credit card.

    I'll wear a decoy little cheap bag so that the person will ill intention can grab and go and find nothing of value or use in it. It would give me enough seconds to become aware and fight back.

    I'm not taking a train but a taxi from a safe to safe location. Too bad I cant bring my teaser and gun, or I'd give them hell.

  • Jamie Whitney said

    One September In Rome during a Family Holiday we had trouble with pickpockets 1. A man on the metro underground stairs tried to take dad's wallet from his trousers pocket Granny said " Your wallet" the pickpocket put his hands up and ran downstairs into dark lights, 2. A man was giving flowers away then expected money ( mum left the flowers and we walked off) 3 a old woman kept patting my shorts pocket on a shop pavement making money sighs and a shop keeper stopped her talking in fast Italian ( be careful in Rome and the traffic is a early death wish it is so dangerous!)

  • ASuther said

    Our cash was stolen on a crowded MET train after we boarded from Colosseum station in the afternoon of December 22, 2017. There were 3 people squashed in the door after we boarded, two of which were young female, I could not be sure whether the third person was a man or another young female. Cash was skilfully stolen from an anti-theft bag, under the coat of one of us, and we didn’t feel a thing, only to realize it much later when trying to use the cash, we had some ideas about what was happening when thinking back.

  • Z said

    We were pickpocketed while boarding a bus in Pisa (the one close to the Leaning Tower). Not gonna talk much... beware of an old lady who might tell u where to buy bus' ticket and a group of girls who look annoyed with one of em being so friendly by helping you to buy tickets. They will keep their eyes on where you keep your wallet while you're buying tickets, they will surround you when you're boarding the bus, and if you feel like someone pickpocketed you and they run away, make sure your other family members aren't being too concern about you because that is when the pickpockets steal their wallets when they try to get off the bus!

  • Megan said

    We just got back from Italy and we were completely fine. Yes we experienced some beggars, some gypsies wanting money and the immigrants selling roses or African bracelets. Basically, if you currently live in a big city and have any kind of street smarts, you'll be just fine in Italy. Dont walk around with bulging backpacks and purses with your valuables streaming out. Dont let your purse out of sight (keepcrossbody in front of you or purse clutched tight). Men keep wallets in front pockets or cargos that zip in front. People will bump into you, shove you, etc...this is the culture in Italy. Dont give anyone a reason to grab your stuff when they bump into you though. Dont accept handouts or anything from a stranger-they aren't being friendly and will expect payment. A firm look (or plain disregard) and "NO" go a long way. I wouldn't get on a bus in San Fran, Denver, or NY with a bulging backpack/purse, and not be aware of my surroundings...the same goes here.

  • Stephanie Lee said

    Hmmm i have been planning to visit Italy for quite some time now, tbh i dont think it is THAT bad because my friends visited Italy just recently and they really enjoyed it! Didnt really have any issues there except for that one time they got lost in rome haha https://qompanion.my/articles/items-stolen-from-travellers-on-holiday i also found this article when i was looking for information about this issue, hopefully it’s relevant!

  • Eric said

    I love Italy. Best country I've ever visited. Been to Rome a half dozen times, Florence 4 times, Venice 8 times, along with trips to Milan, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano...really, too many to mention. People are friendly, food is great, and history, architecture, art and culture like nowhere else. For those who think it's dangerous, dirty and overrun by "immigrants", may I suggest Disney World for your next trip?

  • Serbian said


    Some rules : your cash/ID/Passesport credit card always in a bag CLOSED inside hard to get for people

    Most of pickpocket look same : gipsies ! when you saw them be careful, they try to approach SCREAM and be aggressive even if they didn''t start anything, you will scare them, they use for nice and cupid tourists show them you have balls.

  • GM said

    I just returned from Italy. As soon as I arrived into Italy, the Malpensa Airport security stole money from my carry-on. While one security guard falsely accused me of having metal on me, the other security guard pocketed any cash he could find while digging through my carry-on.

    Next, hotel staff would skim cash from my purse while I was eating their included breakfast down the hall in their dining room - I didn't think I needed to carry all my stuff to their dining room just for breakfast. The same occurred when using common wifi rooms (not all accommodations had wifi in each room - you had to go to a common room. They skim so you don't immediately notice cash is missing. This also occurred in a monastery stay - someone kept unlocking my room door for the theft. Sad when you can't even feel safe in a monastery.

    Metro ticket person tried to short change me a couple of times but I counted my change & got my 1 or 2 euro back. Grocery store cashier tried to do that once as well. So, count your change.

    Trenitalia ticket clerk tried to trick me into buying the 1st class train ticket. You can't buy train tickets to Sicily from the machines. She told me they were sold out then told me a higher price for overnight. Know what the going rate is for the train ticket.

    Oddly enough, I never had any issues with the street beggers or pick pockets. They were the most polite asking for change for food & spoke the best English.

  • Loren Vail / USA said

    I was in Rome walking down an empty street. A young man was walking towards me and passed me. All of a sudden he turns & grabs a hold of my necklace, behind me. I grabbed the front of the necklace to hold onto it so that he could not steal it. It was a thick necklace and he couldn’t break it off of me so we struggled for sometime. He threw me to the ground, cracking my rib, and kept pulling on my necklace. He grabbed my arm to make me let go of the necklace and I sustained multiple blood blisters & a twisted wrist When he was finally able to break the clasp off the necklace he pulled the necklace so hard it cut my hand and bruised my face & neck very badly. NEVER wear expensive jewelry in Italy

  • traveller said

    Why bother going at all? The slavic countries are 200% safer, almost never a pickpocket totally safe. Why go somewhere has a reputation for this kind of behaviour? Avoid it and maybe the authorities will clean up the country.

  • Eliza said

    Watch out for locals who are usually dressed in tracksuits ans baseballcaps. Their ‘job’ is pickpocketing and cheating. Speaking from experience...My iPhone was located in Africa a few days later (Find my iphone). And also got harassed by an African who wanted to change money, but then just grabbed my money and ran away.

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