How to avoid pickpockets in Italy

pickpockets italy - how to avoid pickpockets at tourist sites like the spanish steps in rome

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Italy is generally a very safe country however tourists visiting the cities are sometimes targeted by opportunistic thieves. In this article we share how to avoid pickpockets in Italy and keep your belongings safe. 

We’ve included tips on how to prepare for your trip and what to do if you are one of the very unlucky people who fall victim to these crimes.

It is important to note that general crime in Italy is low and the main tourist areas are heavily guarded by security personnel. If you take some precautions your trip will be stress free and you’ll be winging your way back to the land of la dolce vita as soon as your schedule allows.

Planning a trip to Italy? Join our free Italy Travel Planning Facebook group and read our detailed guide for tips, information and advice for planning your travel to Italy

Be prepared

Just being aware of the environment and situations you are likely to find yourself in will go a long way to keeping your belongings safe. Here are some pre trip things to know and do so you are prepared.

There will be crowds

rome pickpockets target the trevi fountain area

Italy is our favorite country to visit because it is full or history, cobbled streets, gorgeous piazzas and picturesque towns. And we are not alone. Almost 60 million visitors made the trip to the Italy in 2017, making the country the fifth most visited in the world.

Most of the cities are small so these millions of tourists make for a crowded atmosphere. And at some of the major attractions you’ll encounter thousands of people – the Colosseum has 30,000 visitors a day in peak season.

Like most places in the world, crowds are the preferred workplace of petty thieves. You need to be a little more alert than usual, particularly as may be tired from your travels and excited by the incredible but different surroundings. There is more information on how to stay alert below.

Money matters

You do not need to carry a lot of cash with you in Italy. Cash is needed at small cafes and shops but for the rest of your purchases you can use your credit or debit card.

We recommend carrying €50-€100 in cash at the most at any time. You should take two credit or debit cards with you. Your main one and a back up in case of emergencies.

Leave your main wallet and unnecessary cards at home and swap everything into a smaller wallet like this one that has RFID protection if you are concerned about electronic pickpockets.

Packing, jewelry and valuables

Consider your outfits and make some effort to blend in. Of course you will probably look like a tourist no matter what you wear.  But, here’s the thing, in a crowd  thieves will pick out people who are most likely to be disoriented and distracted. Don’t let that be you!

There are outfit ideas and packing tips for your Italy trip in this article.

I always wear my wedding and engagement rings as well as nice earrings in Italy but it’s probably not a good idea to bring your entire fine jewelry collection. Cameras and smartphones are fine too. Just keep them close to hand.

As a general rule, minimize the amount of valuables you take with you.

Documents 

stolen passport italy

Italian law requires that you keep your passport with you at all times. In practice this means you keep your passport secured in a safe at your hotel or accommodation but carry a photocopy with you either physically or online in your email, Dropbox or Evernote account or similar. Make sure it is secure and encrypted.

We also take copies of our cards, insurance information, driving licence, international driving permit and flight details and keep them online.

Travel insurance

There are many reasons to get travel insurance for your trip and actually theft or loss of belongings is not the most important (to find out what is – read this).

But, you will be glad you have it if you are unlucky enough to have something stolen and need to replace items.

If you’re reading this just before you are about to depart, don’t worry. You can get cover right up to departure with last minute insurance by World Nomads

Take the right gear

pickpocket proof bag for italy

Before your trip, review the activities you are going to be doing and plan how you are going to take everything you need with you and keep your belongings safe. 

Handbags and purses

I prefer to carry one of my usual crossbody bags on my travels in Italy. A crossbody bag keeps your hands free and your belongings close by and in your line of sight. They also look stylish, helping you to blend in and not stand out as much like a fanny pack or bum bag does (even if they are back in fashion – I still can’t believe this!)

I have several crossbody bag like this one that can fit my wallet, phone, collapsible water bottle, some makeup and even my mirrorless camera. All of them have at least one internal zip compartment where I keep my wallet

Some people want extra security and in that case I recommend the Travelon and Pacsafe brands. They have a series of anti-theft features including:

  • slash-resistant body panels and shoulder straps
  • locking compartments
  • lock down straps
  • RFID blocking card and passport slots

Best selling secure crossbody bags 

All the bag below come with the above features so it comes down to a question of style and what colors you prefer. The Travelon anti-theft crossbody bucket bag is the most popular travel bag on the market because it is roomy, has the secure features and comes in a wide range of colors and patterns to suit your outfits. 

Click on the images below for more pictures, product information and reviews

Pacsafe Metrosafe Anti Theft Crossbody bag
Travelon Anti-theft Classic Small Cross Body Bag
Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bucket Bag
Pacsafe womens daysafe crossbody

Day packs and backpacks

Personally I don’t like wearing a backpack because I can’t see what is happening behind me.  But my husband does use one because we have kids and need to carry all their stuff.

If you choose to wear a backpack, make sure you keep your wallet well hidden inside a zippered compartment of the bag or in your front pocket. These days you can get backpacks made with slash proof fabric and hidden or inbuilt secure locks on the zippers so they are much more secure. 

Best selling secure travel backpacks

These backpacks all have great security features and are stylish too. The latest models, like this one, even have a usb charging port so you don’t have to remove your power pack from your bag.

Click on the images below for more pictures, product information and reviews

KOPACK Waterproof Anti Theft Laptop Backpack Usb Charging Port
Travelon Anti-Theft Urban Backpack
Compact Anti-Theft Laptop Backpack with USB port
PacSafe Vibe Anti-Theft Backpack

Men, if you are not sold on the backpack and still want a bag to carry your items, my Dad (and several of his friends) have this masculine secure travel bag. It stores all your important documents and has many thief deterrent features like a slash proof strap and interlocking clips. 

Money belts and neck wallets

Many people like wearing money belts or neck wallets as they can keep their important belongings and cash close to their body and it feels more secure. Call me vain but I find them uncomfortable and sweaty and think they get in the way of great photos. If you are thinking about buying one for your trip find a solution that isn’t too bulky. This neck wallet is a bestseller because it is lightweight and the mesh pockets make it breathable for comfortable wearing.

Zero Grid Neck Wallet
Cable luggage lock
RFID money belt
Neck wallet for travel

Luggage locks

If you are worried about traveling on the train with your luggage then the best deterrent is a cable luggage lock. Use the cable to link your pieces of luggage and connect them to the luggage rails. You could even use a bicycle lock but if you want to buy a lock this one is lightweight and strong. 

You might also like to read our complete packing guide for Italy – includes sample outfits, packing lists and more

Stay alert and aware

There are some places you will likely visit on your travels where you need to pay more attention than usual to your surroundings. 

Train stations and ferry ports and to a lesser extent airports are pickpocket hotspots. Be extra careful around ticket machines and ATMs when you have your wallet out. On crowded train and buses, especially during rush hour, hold your bag across your front and close to your body.

When you need to withdraw cash, choose ATMs or Bancomats in general carefully. If you can, go inside to make your withdrawal and put your wallet back in a secure place when finished. 

Places to be extra vigilant

  • Rome – Roma Termini train station, Colosseum main entrance, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps/Piazza di Spagna, Vatican entrance, no 64 bus going to and from the Vatican, Leonardo Express to and from Fiumicino airport
  • Venice – Piazza San Marco, Rialto Bridge, vaporetto stops, Piazzale Roma, Santa Lucia train station
  • Florence – Ponte Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella station, outside the Uffizi and Accademia galleries, San Lorenzo market
  • Cinque Terre – the train stations tend to get very crowded 
  • Naples – Napoli Centrale station, Circumsvesuviana train to Pompeii and Sorrento, Piazza Garibaldi

Known diversion techniques

Unfortunately you also find some more persistent thieves and groups of thieves operating in Italy’s major tourist cities and close to the attractions. Here are some of the tactics they use to distract you  be aware of. 

  • “Helping” with luggage at train stations or on the street
  • Bumping into you or pushes up against you on a busy train
  • Cute kid bearing flowers asking for money
  • Street vendors selling unwanted goods
  • Petition spruikers
  • Offering to take photos

If anything like this happens, stay calm and walk away from these situations.  The thieves will move on as you’ll be seen as too much hard work.

Be smart with your belongings

beware of italy pickpockets - hand in open bag

As we mentioned, petty thieves are opportunists and will strike when they see an easy target. With that in mind, here’s a reminder of what not do and what to do with your belongings

Don’t keep your wallet, phone or valuables..

  • in open pockets
  • in your back pocket
  • in open bags or purses
  • on table tops in restaurants or cafes

Keep your bag

  • within your view and in reach (not on the back of chairs)
  • on your body in crowded areas
  • zippered shut

When you are on intercity trains

  • keep luggage in overhead racks or in middle of seats
  • use a luggage lock 

If you are driving do not

  • leave valuables in your car unattended
  • leave items in the front or back seats while the car is unattended
  • park in secluded places – choose a secure parking garage where possible

What to do if you are robbed

italy pickpockets should be reported to police

Even if you do all of the above you may be very unlucky. Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, these things just happen. Try not to take this invasion of your privacy personally. It’s easier said than done, but if you remain calm and get some help you may recover some, even all of your belongings. 

1. Before you do anything have a quick look around for your belongings. Most thieves are only interested in cash so will dump everything else close by.

2. Report the theft to the police (Polizia di Stata) or Carabinieri (military police – they are the police carrying guns at major sites in Italy) straight away. You should file a theft report known as a denuncia di furto or smarrimento if you want to make a claim against your insurance at a police station:

  • Main emergency phone number – 112, police – 113
  • Rome police station – Questura Centrale – Piazza del Collegio Romano 3 
  • Venice police station – Calle San Zaccaria, Castello 4693
  • Florence police station – Via Zara 2
  • Naples police station – Polizia, Via San Cosmo Fuori Porta Nolana, 44

3. Cancel your credit and debit cards immediately so you can prevent any fraudulent activity

4. If your passport was stolen contact your nearest embassy or consulate to organize a replacement:

Go and get a gelato and/or wine

gelato rome

Do not let this event ruin your vacation. You are in one of the most amazing countries on earth and you may never will be back. Enjoy a huge gelato or glass of wine and move on.

Hopefully if you followed our advice above the impact is minimal and can be chalked up to an annoyance and learning experience.

Italy here we come!

The purpose of this article was to help you be prepared and alert, so you can avoid pickpockets in Italy.

Unfortunately thieves do operate in major tourist areas in this otherwise very safe country but if you follow our tips you should bring all your belongings home from your trip as well as some incredible memories.

Check out the articles on our Italy travel blog for ideas and inspiration for your trip including our Rome itinerary, favorite things to do in Florence and our guide to magical Venice. You might also find our 101 tips for Italy and best travel sites for Italy useful

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