In Italy we say: “tutte le strade portano a Roma” (all roads lead to Rome), but are those Italian roads safe? The answer is yes, with some minor exceptions.
Italy is ranked 32nd, on the 2021 list of the world’s safest countries. This is surely a great indicator that travelling in Italy is pretty safe. However, we understand that facing the unknown can be challenging and this is why we’ve decided to write this article, to let you know what you can really expect when travelling in Italy.
This is my take. I was born and raised in Italy and I have been going back regularly since I moved to the UK in 1995. This is what you should be aware of.
Around tourist attractions and train stations pick-pockets and bag-snatchers are quite common. Be very vigilant when taking crowded buses especially the bus 64 going to Roma Termini rail station. Do not leave your belongings unattended. Pick-pockets and bag-snatchers mainly target tourists who unknowingly draw attention because they dress differently.
Click here https://www.languagesalive.com/how-not-to-look-like-a-tourist-in-italy/ to learn how not to look like a tourist while visiting Italy and learn basic Italian clothing vocabulary at the same time. So, let’s get ready to hit the city!
Unfortunately scams are quite common in big cities and especially in Central and Southern Italy. Pay extra attention to the Roma Community, especially in Rome, they target everyone, not only the tourists. Do not give beggars money as this encourages them and the women beggars usually sedate their babies in order to beg for longer hours without the need to attend to the babies.
With this community you also need to be extra careful not to lose sight of your own children. According to the law enforcement authorities, they are known to kidnap children in order to make them beg.
Violent crime and terrorism
On the plus side, violent crime is much less common these days. Organised crime in the form of the mafia has been going on for centuries with camorra, ‘ndrangheta and the cosa nostra pretty much active in the whole territory. The most affected parts of the “bel Paese” are the Southern and Central areas. The good news is tourists are not targeted. Also, mugging and kidnapping are extremely rare, but always pay attention to your surroundings.
Terrorism risks fluctuate according to how high is the alert in other European countries. So far, luckily, Italy hasn’t suffered any terrorist attacks related to ISIS or other international terrorist organisations.
The most dangerous natural disasters that can happen in Italy are mainly avalanches; hence make sure you check the weather forecast before adventuring skiing off- piste for example. In this case, always carry with you a tracking device: it is required by law and could save your life. Always follow local advice and rules for skiing and snowboarding and be aware of severe weather warnings.
If you decide to visit the Mount Etna or the Vesuvius volcano hire an official guide as access to certain areas can be restricted. Moreover, it will be definitively more interesting knowing the history and fun facts explained by your local guide, than just walking around.
In summer, watch out for fires in the woods in pine tree forests which can be located close to the beach. The fire can swiftly change direction with the wind, so do not take any chances and leave immediately.
Familiarise yourself with the Italian beach’s flag system, strong currents, jelly fishes or other dangers are always indicated by flags and signs.
Earthquakes happen rarely so you should be fine. The latest catastrophic one took place in the “Lazio” region in 2016.
Female solo travel
During the day is usually safe for female travellers to explore Italy solo. On the other hand, it is always advised to look over your shoulders with a bit of extra attention. Be aware that in crowded public transports groping can happen. Shout out loud: “Che schifo, vergogna” (how disgusting, shame on you), you will find loads of support especially from women.
In the North explicit catcalling like “ciao bella” with men trying to pick you up even in the street might be lower, but be prepared to face it in Central and Southern Italy. Do not wear over revealing clothes, be aware Italian men are overtly flirtatious check here the chat lines they can use https://www.languagesalive.com/how-to-flirt-in-italian/
I wouldn’t walk by myself at night as most of Italians drive and it can be very dangerous to walk when there are no people around. Same for public transports, I would get a taxi to be on the safe side. Make sure you get an official one and ask for a rough quote before getting in.
Do not binge drink if you decide to go out to bars or clubs. Rarely a woman even goes to the cinema on her own, let alone going out and about in bars and night clubs. Always, share your location on whats app with family or friends, do not engage with suspicious men, do not leave your drink unattended and do not get drunk.
Is the food safe to eat in Italy?
Food and tap water are very safe in Italy and the hygiene standards are extremely high as the law is very strict. Only in case you read a sign saying “acqua non potabile” water is not safe to drink so you shouldn’t. There are many “fontanelle” (little fountains) spread around cities and towns where you can kill your thirst.
Avoid tourist traps and do not expect to find Italian-American dishes such as pizza pepperoni or carbonara pasta with cream. If you are heading to Rome and surroundings check our dedicated post to Roman specialities and where to go and eat them https://www.languagesalive.com/top-10-foods-to-eat-in-rome/
A good indicator is a busy place filled with Italians. Familiarise yourself with authentic Italian dishes and learn basic Italian at the same time with our course book “Live and learn Italian through my family’s recipes” now on offer on Amazon kindle for $23.99 USD including audio or free for members of kindle unlimited. You can take a peek to the first lesson featuring the dad Vincenzo’s carbonara pasta for free.
Here are the links
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The health care in Italy is quite good and cheap for Italian citizens and for European citizens in case of emergency. In case you will be travelling from America or UK make sure you have a medical cover even if seeing a private doctor for minor issues is still very affordable.
Hospitals are more functional and equipped in the North and in Central while the South suffers from a lack of renovation of the facilities and medical equipment. In rural places health care might not exist, so always make sure you spot the nearest hospital if you decide to adventure in to the “wild”. You can get many medications over the counter like basic medication and also drops and cream with antibiotics without needing a prescription.
In case you need contact lenses head to the “ottica” shop and tell the optician your eye grade; you will be able to buy them without prescription. In big cities English is spoken, but in towns and villages be ready to learn our super helpful Italian travel phrases in case of emergency.
Helpful Italian phrases and emergency numbers
- Mi scusi, dove si trova la stazione di polizia più vicina? (Polite form),
- Excuse me, where is the closest police station?
- Mi hanno rubato il portafoglio
- My wallet/purse got stolen
- Mi hanno rubato il passaporto
- My passaport got stolen
- Mi hanno rubato la patente
- My driving licence got stolen
- Ho perso i documenti
- I lost my id documents
- Mi sono perso
- I’ve got lost
- Ho perso la mia famiglia
- I lost my family
- Mi hanno rubato tutti i soldi
- All my money got stolen
- Mi hanno rubato la valigia
- My suitcase was stolen
Listen to the audio
- Dove si trova l’ospedale più vicino?
- Where is the closest Hospital?
- Dov’è il pronto soccorso più vicino?
- Where is the closest A&E?
- Scusi, può chiamare un’ambulanza? (Polite form)
- Could you please call an ambulance?
- Scusi, può chiamare un dottore? (Polite form)
- Could you please call a doctor?
- Mi sono fatto/a male
- I am injured
- Non riesco a respirare
- I can’t breath
- Mi sento svenire
- I feel like I am fainting
- Mi gira forte la testa
- My head is spinning badly
- Dov’è la farmacia piú vicina?
- Where is the closest pharmacy?
- Penso di avere un’insolazione
- I believe I have sunstroke
- Ho bisogno di una pomata per bruciature da sole
- I need a sunburn cream
- Vorrei una confezione di tachipirina
- I would like a paracetamol box/pack
- Ho bisogno di un antidolorifico
- I need a painkiller
- Vorrei qualcosa per dormire
- I would like something to sleep
- Mi sento male di stomaco
- My stomach hearts
- Non riesco a digerire
- I am not able to digest
- Mi viene da vomitare
- I feel like vomiting
- Mi fa male la schiena
- I have backache
- Mi fa male il collo
- My neck hurts
- Mi fa male la testa
- I have a headache
- Mi bruciano gli occhi
- My eyes burn
- Ho mal di denti
- I have toothache
- Ho mal di orecchie
- I have earache
Now listen to the audio
Useful emergency numbers
- 112 – A specific Italian type of police
- 113 – National police
- 117 – Italian finance police
- 115 – Fire brigade
- 118 – Medical emergency
- 1522– National anti-violence and stalking free number
- 1518 – Information on road safety
- 803116 – Breakdown assistance
- 1530 – Coast guard
- 800900999 – Gas company emergency no
- 1515 – Environmental emergency
- 114 – Child abuse help number managed by “telefono azzurro”
We certain your trip in Italy will be a great one. Keep in mind this advice and you will be less likely to experience diverse hiccups which could ruin your vacation. If you want experts to organise an authentic Italian experience, get in touch and take a look at our live and learn Italian experiences in Italy. https://www.languagesalive.com/learn-italian-in-italy/ so that is all from us now, till next time “arrivederci”.
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