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Petty Crime in Rome -
Watch Out !

In Rome, as in any large city, tourists have to be
extremely careful
to ensure that their valuables
and documents are not stolen. Although you can
be robbed at any time in many different ways,
from our experience
the following are the main ploys
used by thieves
in Rome. There’s a sucker
born every minute and ten thousand new suckers
jetting into Rome every day, so the thieves and
pickpockets don’t need to change their methods
much; they just practice them until they've got it
perfect. If they successfully rob you, it will be
because their method was new to you, but not to
In the train while still in the station - especially
if you are in a compartment
alone - someone comes
in and asks you a question in Italian. You reply that
you don’t speak Italian and the person goes into the
next carriage. Almost immediately another person
comes along the platform to the window of your
carriage and asks directions in English. You naturally
go to the window to answer and while you are there,
his or her
accomplice sneaks into the compartment
behind you and takes your bag, knowing already that
as a non-Italian speaker you are likely to be a tourist
with a bag of goodies, (rolls of cash in different
currencies, passports, camera etc).
Indeed, as in any city where you are a stranger,
try to
avoid looking and sounding like a tourist.
This tactic
can even save you money, as market-stall holders will
often jack up the price of an item if they hear an English
or American accent. And with the exchange rate as
good as it is for Brits in Italy at the moment, they know
you can afford to pay over the odds. Try to go shopping
with an Italian friend and let them do the talking for you,
while you keep a low profile.
As a foreigner you will stick out like a sore thumb anyway
and there is little you can do about that, but use discretion
and try to make it less obvious, especially when you are
alone and unsure of your directions. Just like wolves,
thieves and other ne’er-do-wells can smell fear or weakness.
spend their entire day looking and listening for
a vulnerable animal
to pick off from the herd and make
a meal of.
Try not to make a big show of getting a street-map out,
or going through all your pockets looking for this roll
of film or that bus ticket. It only serves to draw attention
to you on the street and to better indicate to the
which pocket your wallet is in.
On the street - the ‘mess on the back’ trick:
Someone draws your attention to a mark on the
back of your jacket (usually ketchup or mayonnaise
squirted on, or cold water squirted on the back of your
shirt in hot weather) and offers you a tissue to wipe it off.

While he is helping he is also
helping himself to your wallet.
(This happened to me, but I was ready
for it and asked him to do the wiping, which
he declined! I walked off, but he was
most insistent that I really did have something on my
back, and followed me to 'assist' me further. I still
ignored him, and when I got home and checked,
sure enough there was absolutely nothing there,
except his damp palm print on my shirt which
had remained in the humidity!) Both here and
on the train,
the thieves are usually well dressed.
Interestingly we can also observe a trace of the Italian
sense of humour here, bound up in their culture and
even expressed in the craft of the pickpocket. It’s almost
a slapstick routine which you’d be less likely to come
across in England. Likewise the next trick:
A group of
gypsy children approach you
holding pieces of card or newspaper which they
hold under your chin. While you are reading it
one of their number nips underneath and clears
your pockets or bags. It's the absurdity of these
routines which catches the staid Brit or American out!
We are just not expecting such a zany, impudent way
of being ripped off...
If you carry a bag with a shoulder strap, beware of
coming up behind you and snatching or
cutting the strap. Wear the bag on the side away from
the road, and unless you want to show off the Chanel
buckle, wear it flap inwards and put the strap over
your head. Of course, you’ll look even more like a
tourist like this, so the trick is
not to carry too many
with you anyway, or learn to look more
like a Roman and less like a tourist. It’s a bit of a
balancing act between common sense and
street-hipness really.
You must also be especially careful of your bag
the main railway station (Termini). If you
have left some of your baggage in the station
left-luggage office and the bag you have retained
with you is stolen with the ticket inside, return
immediately to the left-luggage office (before the
thieves do) and report it, before reporting to the police
or the Consulate. Otherwise you will be left
in Rome with
nothing but the clothes you stand up in
If you put down your bag and your attention is
distracted, even for a moment, your bag will quickly
On a crowded bus, if a group of gypsies and/or
gypsy children get on,
keep a hand on your purse.
At the beach, don’t leave your bag unattended
while you swim. Don’t leave your luggage or
valuables in a parked car.
The Italian police are the first point of contact
for reporting the loss or theft of documents,
property or money. They will give you a
multi-language form called a
‘denuncia’ to
complete. They will then stamp it and give you
a copy, which you will have to show to the
Consular section of the Embassy if you need
a new passport.
Your insurance company will
need to see the copy
if you are making a claim
to them.
Any thefts which happen in or around
the main railway station (Termini) or on
a train arriving at Termini, should be reported
to the Railway Police (Polizia Ferroviaria) at the
station. Otherwise reports from foreigners will
normally only be accepted by the Foreigner’s
Branch of the main Police station (Ufficio Stranieri
della Questura di Roma), Via Genova. (off Via
Nazionale). Telephone 46861 and ask for the
Ufficio Stranieri - Denuncie). Outside Rome you
should contact the nearest police station
(Commissariato di Polizia) for help or information,
it is not always possible to find an
English speaking police officer


In addition, when taking a taxi, especially from the
airport or the station,
make sure it is an official cab, white
(sometimes yellow, the older colour) taxi with a light
on top. If you’re working undercover or suspect you
are being followed, always take the fourth cab in the
taxi-rank. (No, just joking there actually! If you were
working undercover you wouldn’t need to be reading
this junk for travel tips… But this website’s supposed
to be fun: it’s been getting a bit serious for the last few
paragraphs - Thought we’d lighten up a bit there for
a second or two!)
Oh well, back to business. Serious face on again now chaps:
The taxi fare is indicated on the meter but can be increased
by supplements for night fares or luggage. In case of a
dispute over the fare write down the number of the taxi
and the date and time. Also request a receipt showing
the fare, the pickup and drop-off location and the route
taken. This should then be taken or sent to the Rome
Tourist Board (Ente Provinciale per il Turismo di Roma,
Via Parigi 11, 00185, Roma, tel. 488 1851)


You may be approached on arrival at the airport
and train station by
people fraudulently claiming
to be employees of the Rome Tourist Board
offer to help you find a hotel. Do not trust them.

This information is only a brief summary of some
of the legal ins and outs of visiting Italy. It is not
exhaustive in it’s scope however, and while every
effort has been made to provide accurate
information, neither RomeLife Website, the
Consular Section of the British Embassy, Rome
nor HMG can accept responsibility for any errors
or for any problems arising from its use.

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