Tips to stay safe while travelling in Italy

Italy, is generally considered a safe destination for travellers.

Out of the millions of tourists who visit every year, the most common complaints are around bad traffic, petty theft and being scammed by gypsies and beggars. The most important thing is to stay vigilant, particularly in areas that are popular with tourists.

In big cities, there is a risk of being targeted by pickpockets, bag snatchers and hi-tech robbers. These crimes increase between the peak tourist season of June and August. Also, the number of lost and stolen passports increases during these months.

  • Hot spots for thieves include high-traffic areas such as the Termini station in Rome and transport to and from the Fiumicino airport — but be careful around all busy transport hubs.
  • Thieves may work in gangs — one person will try to distract you while the others take your bags or pick your pockets. A common tactic is to spill ice cream or tomato sauce on tourists, and then the ‘helpful’ person that comes to their aid will rob them.
  • Rental cars are often broken into, especially in Rome and Milan, and also while parked around historic sites. Always lock your vehicle and try to place items so they are not visible from the outside.
  • Card skimming devices are sometimes attached to ATMs or used by shady vendors, so stick to mainstream sellers and only use ATMs in banks and busy shopping centres.
Passports are often targeted by thieves — you could be out of pocket for an emergency replacement and unexpected cancellations or delays to your travel plans. Consider travel insurance that covers you for these unexpected costs.

The locals are infamous for hustling tourists. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to ignore ‘friendly’ strangers and do not accept anything handed to you. A couple of common scams include:

  • The ‘friendship’ bracelet or ‘free’ rose - A stranger will approach you and tie a cheap bracelet on your wrist, claiming it is a special friendship or travel bracelet (in another version, you’re given a flower). They will then demand payment and, if you refuse, their friends will appear and begin to hassle you.
  • The undercover cop - A plainclothes ‘policeman’ asks to search you and your bags for illegal items, or demands to see your passport. Ask for their ID and watch them scurry.
Hiring a car is a great way to see the countryside, but driving in the main cities can be a hair-raising experience. Italian drivers tend to be fast and aggressive, and even when parking they will do so creatively and with minimal clearance between vehicles. Plenty of streets pre-date the invention of motorcars and some are barely wide enough for a scooter. Watch out for ‘ZTL’ signs  — they mark reduced traffic zones in historic centres, and if you drive past one you may be fined.
You may still have to pay your rental car insurance excess even if the damage was not your fault. Check that your travel insurance has cover for rental car excess to help you cover any unexpected costs.
Make sure you’re not ‘robbed’ by a taxi driver. Only travel in licensed cabs, which have proper signage and a fare meter. Unofficial taxis often charge tourists large fares for short journeys. And even in licensed taxis, always keep an eye on the meter — the fare has sometimes been known to increase significantly (and mysteriously) within a matter of seconds.
Be aware that waiting times in public hospitals can be long, and there may be a language barrier when dealing with hospital staff. Treatment is also limited to addressing the primary medical concern — you may have out-of-pocket expenses for further care or emergency transport. Private hospitals will usually demand upfront payment before commencing treatment.
The medical cover is one of the best reasons to buy travel insurance. It means you are never alone in a time of need — the 24/7 emergency helpline can direct you to good hospitals, ensure you are receiving the correct medical care and provide a guarantee to help pay bills.
Italy is prone to severe events that can delay or halt travel plans. Mt Etna is Europe’s most active volcano and the ash clouds from its eruptions often ground planes. Many parts of Italy lie on an earthquake fault line, and there are hundreds of small tremors every year. When major earthquakes hit, they can shut down infrastructure in affected regions. Heavy thunderstorms can also cause flooding and landslides, and coastal areas are occasionally hit by tropical-like cyclones.
Look for travel insurance that provides cover for out of pocket expenses related to cancelled or delayed flights, accommodation, activities and other similar bookings.

NOTICE: While the Information is considered to be true and accurate at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. We strongly recommend verifying the travel advisory of your destination prior to departure.

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information as at the date of publishing, Allianz Global Assistance does not accept liability for any errors or omissions. Allianz Global Assistance strongly recommends seeking the guidance of a professional travel agent/agency for further information on a specific destination. On your next trip, whether to another province or country, ensure you have travel insurance as it may assist you in cases of unforeseen medical emergencies and other types of mishaps that can happen while you travel. Travel insurance does not cover everything, please always refer to the policy document for full terms and conditions, including limitations and exclusions. Allianz Global Assistance is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc. and AZGA Insurance Agency Canada Ltd.

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