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FocusMM - Mediterranean Guide

What You Should Know Before Coming to ITALY

Everywhere you travel in Italy you will find warm, generous, sympathetic people ready to help you enjoy your stay. There is little random violence in Italy like anywhere else. If you are a female traveller, you may be bothered by a flirting male, but you're not likely to be harrassed, followed or threatened. However, Italy has as many petty criminals as any other country. We have to remind you afew warnings before you come to Italy.


THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU GO TO ITALY

Take all your valuables out of your suitcase! Do not take irreplaceable or expensive items on your trip.

Try to buy a cheap watch that actually looks cheap. Take only that one and wear it.

Buy a small travellers' bag that straps around your waist, big enough for your passport, tickets and money. Carry everything in this bag at the time and keep it turned towards the front of your body.

 

ONCE YOU ARE THERE

Keep your eyes on your belongings always.

In obvious touristic places like the airports and the train stations, be wary of anyone who approaches you. Thieves often operate in pairs. A recent tactic is to ask for directions; distracting your attention while the partner swiftly grabs one of your bags. There are certain cases where tourists were bumped into, had coffee or some other messy substance spilled on them, and then were wiped clean by one criminal partner while the other partner stole the unattended goods. Of course, there's no need to be paranoid. Just be wary and keep your eyes open. When you sit in a cafe or restaurant, don't leave your bags, etc. on the ground. Pile them up on an empty chair in front of you.

Another real danger in the vicinity of tourist sites is groups of marauding young children. They approach you in a swarm and literally pick you down to the bone. If you see a group of kids clearly heading your way, especially if they are carrying pieces of cardboard held in front of their bodies as shields, do not hesitate to shout at them loudly, Go away! Leave me alone! and so on. The first thing that will happen is that any Italian adults in the area will come to your aid. You'll also throw the kids off guard: they expect foreigners to have a soft spot towards children. If they still approach, wave your arms and run.

The third thing to watch out for is pairs of young men on motorbikes. They'll swoop up behind you and grab the purse off your arm. If you're unlucky, they'll pull you off your feet and drag you, almost always causing injury. If you have a fur coat, wear it. Don't ever drape it over your shoulders. When you walk down those picturesque narrow streets, carry your bags on the side of your body that faces away from the traffic. And it's astounding how many parents walk with their kids on the traffic side. Put yourself between those youngsters and the racing cars!

Lastly, if you are traveling in overnight trains, especally across the Swiss and French borders, be aware that there are gangs that have keys to the compartments. They enter and use chemicals to knock you out while they rob you blind. There's not much you can do to stop that, except place all the luggage you can find in front of the door so it makes an infernal racket when it's opened (but you'll find this is not practical if you're in a couchette with strangers who use the toilets often....). One trick we've tried successfully is to place our money and jewelry in our socks and wear them. You can slip your passport under the rear side of the mattress - but don't forget it in the morning!

Remember, if you keep all this in mind, you are bound to have a most wonderful experience and return happily to Italy time after time after time.