Pickpockets in Italy: Here's How to Avoid Them & Stay Safe

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.

For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.

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

City crowds and opportunistic crime go hand in hand across the world. Italy’s petty crime rates have plummeted in the last decades, and the risks to travelers are statistically no more than they are in similar-sized cities in the US or UK. That said, pickpockets are definitely still an unfortunate part of Italian city life and are something every wise traveler can take steps to avoid.

Look confident in Italy

The standard advice to ‘look like a local’ in Italy is not so helpful. Dressing like an Italian is something of an art, and yes, well-dressed Italians do get pickpocketed too. Cultivating situational awareness and confidence – understanding the context of where you are, what other people are doing and what’s appropriate in that setting – does however make a difference.

Pickpockets search out the distracted – those who are tired from a long flight or swamped with heavy bags, those who are visibly lost and out of place, someone who is enthralled with their phone or overwhelmed with the extraordinariness of their surroundings, or even someone simply walking up crowded stairs – as well as staging distractions of their own.

These distraction tactics are varied but should be easy to spot: fake altercations to create chaos, spilling a drink or ice cream on you, sudden bumping or tripping, holding a sign or piece of paper while asking for assistance or even holding a pizza box up to your face. If anything remotely feeling like this happens to you, immediately secure your bag, never assume the person you are dealing with is acting alone, and don’t be afraid to loudly draw attention to what is happening.

Don't stereotype pickpockets

Romani people (known as Roma or, offensively, as zingari in Italy) are part of Italy’s multi-ethnic makeup and are particularly marginalized. Groups of Roma can often be found in heavily touristed areas throughout Italy, mostly begging, though, especially in the case of children, also riffling the pockets of the unsuspecting. While it’s easy to identify the Roma by their characteristic clothes and be on your guard, note that just as many pickpocketing crimes are committed by very well-dressed Europeans, who blend right into any crowd.

Where pickpocketing happens in Italy

Crowded public transport routes in big cities and the bustle of major rail stations like Milano Centro, Roma Termini and Florence’s Santa Maria Novella, have long been pickpocket hotspots, as are the express airport trains in Milan, Rome and even Pisa. When heading to or from the airport, ensure your suitcases are locked and keep a hand on your personal bag at all times. When using city buses or metro lines, try to avoid the peak hour crush.

Also, exercise caution in these city locations:

  • The Ponte Vecchio and San Lorenzo Market, around the Duomo, and outside the Uffizi and Accademia galleries in Florence, as well as its central bus lines 7 and 10 and regional services to Livorno
  • Around the many tourist draws in Rome, but especially the Spanish Steps, Pizza di Spagna, the queues for the Coliseum, and the streets immediately around the Vatican, as well as Trastavere’s terrace dining at night and the No. 64 bus
  • ­In Verona, be careful around the Portoni della Bra, and the crowded porto to the centro storico
  • The five train stations that link the Cinque Terre villages get hugely crowded in summer and its crush can be targeted
  • The throng around the steps up to the Rialto bridge in Venice, and the vaporetto stops for San Marco and at Santa Lucia
  • Naples is famous for crime, petty and not so petty, but this reputation is rather outdated; still, keep your wits about you on the Circumvesuviana train to and from Pompeii and Sorrento, and around Piazza Garibaldi, especially at night (if you are particularly spooked by the city’s centro storico, stick to the well-to-do Chiaia or Vomero neighborhoods).

How to avoid pickpocketing in Italy

While you can’t entirely avoid being a target, simple measures such as not putting wallets in pockets or backpacks and only carrying a small cross-body bag, worn to your front, zipped shut and held with one hand, can mitigate risk.

Only carry one credit or travel cash card and store a backup card in the safe or in your locked luggage at your accommodation, and keep records of bank and credit cards digitally and on a hard copy printout. Only carry small amounts of cash for drinks and snacks – you should be able to use a card for any transaction over €10 or so – and keep this separate from your other valuables. Try to use ATMs away from major sights and always be attentive to who is around you when you do.

If you are robbed, call and cancel cards as soon as possible, then head to a police station (Questure, Commissariati di Polizia di Stato or a Carabinieri station) to make a report. Ensure you receive full documentation (ask for a Denuncia di Furto). It’s also worth checking for your wallet or bag in rubbish bins and gutters nearby – some pickpockets only want cash or late-model unlocked phones and will quickly discard all else.


Get a travel insurance quote for Italy

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Related articles

Travel Insurance

Simple and flexible travel insurance

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Get a quote


  • Andrewapobe said

    Awesome course of expression. Keep it up!

  • David Henry said

    Naturally this applies also to any other city or place in Europe or around the world. My advice is keep nothing in your back pockets, withdraw enough cash for you daily needs, then leave the bank card in your accommodations. It's simple, really…

  • Pam S said

    Travel in Italy or Spain does not have to be risky. As an older woman I travelled to Venice, Pisa, and Florence alone with no problems.
    ATTITUDE. You must appear confident and aware of those around you. Stare at anyone that seems suspicious. People walking too close behind you? Stop, stare, let them pass.
    HARSH NO. Flower ladies, beggars, strangers offering help, they all get a harsh no and I walk by. If they persist, I yell at them. I’m 5’2” and 110 lbs., but they move on for an easier target.
    NEED HELP? You decide who to ask for help. Never accept a stranger’s help. Shopkeepers, waiters, people employed in any job, or that well dressed person in front of you at the train station - these are the people I ask and I constantly ask.
    DRESS SIMPLY. Wear comfortable clothes, nothing sexy, no expensive jewelry or bags. I always use a cross body bag carried in front of me. By dressing like a local, not a tourist, I feel I get treated better by locals and am less of a target.
    NAVIGATING A STRANGE CITY. Immediately get a good paper map so you have a general idea of where things are. Plan your day before you leave your hotel so you know where the train stops, metros, etc are. I’ll write down major points and street names so don’t have to constantly look at the paper or Google Maps as I walk around.

    Be relaxed, have fun, just don’t be innocent.

Add a Comment