How To Avoid Pickpockets in Italy

Italy has a pickpocket problem. In fact, much of Europe has the same pickpocketing problem. Petty crime, as much as an inconvenience it is, is a problem. As of 2021, there are roughly 59 million people in the country. With such a historic charm, beautiful architecture and friendly people, you wouldn’t think twice about getting robbed? Or would you?

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This is by no means a way to scare or prevent you from visiting Italy. It’s simply a way to bring to your attention that it does happen. Don’t let it happen to you! A little bit of common sense goes a long way, so let’s get right into it.

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Is Italy Safe?

Yes! Italy is safe and petty theft is really its only problem. A violent crime in Italy is very rare. 

While Italy is considered a safe country, you should be cautious in your approach. If this is your first time visiting, always be aware of your surroundings. Do a little research on the places you are going and the areas to avoid.

Pickpocketing can come in many shapes and sizes. What I mean by this is, don’t be caught off guard by a child “bumping” into you and saying sorry, only to realize they were distracting you while their father stole your wallet and vice versa.

If you follow the tips and suggestions throughout this article, you should have no problems in navigating Italy safely.

Why Does Italy Have a Pickpocketing Problem?  

With the amount of high tourism numbers that it brings each year, it also brings opportunity for thieves. Pickpocketing is a full-time job for some people, and they make a lot of money from unsuspecting tourists. The most common areas for pickpocketing are in high tourist areas- Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, Almafi Coast, Cinque Terre. The most common places pickpocketing occur are on the metro, subways, crowded streets and alleyways. This is because there are a ton of people and its like catching fish in a barrel.       

Conversely, even locals complain about getting robbed in Italy, it’s not just limited to tourists. It can happen so quickly and to anybody, stay aware of your surroundings.

How to Avoid Pickpockets in Italy

1. Keep your bags in front of you

Do not wear your bag and swing it around your hip to your backside. Keep it under your armpit or in front of you in crowded places. Not to worry, fashion models, if you’re not around a big crowd you can continue to wear it per usual. It’s just that keeping your bag in front of you, allows you to see it at all times. Therefore, nobody can steal anything unless its right in front of your eyes.

You will be surprised at the lengths in which pickpockets go to steal even worthless belongings. They figure, everybody has a price and something is worth more than nothing.

Use caution and bring a bag that is sealed. A bag with a zip is much better than an open tote-style bag, and make sure that the zip is facing forward to stop people sneaking their hand in behind.  Keep your hand on the bag as much as you can remember. Especially in the very crowded Metra trains. Always, always, wear all bags in front of you at all times on the train. Here are some bags that I recommend to prevent theft.

2. Put your wallet and phone in your front pockets 

I’ve been carrying my wallet in my front pocket for many years. Mostly because sitting on a wallet has never felt good to me. This is also the case with my phone. However, I see a lot of folks who like to carry their phone in their back pocket. Guess what, you’re an easy target when your phone is sticking out of your back pocket.

Related: Italy Know Before You Go

3. Try to fit in like a local

Italy is a fairly classy city, as much of Europe is. Tank tops are seldom worn in the city and swim shorts in town are a dead giveaway that you’re not from the area. Other clothing items like mini skirts, backward baseball hats and flip flops tell a pickpocketer all they need to know. Gotcha! But, it’s not just clothing that will give you away. Selfie sticks, instagram models and luggage will give you away too.

Oh, and another thing. Take your phone out of your face and act like you know where you’re going. It’s quiet clear when a tourist has their phone out and following a map or GPS and that just begs for trouble. Thieves know that your already distracted by your next destination and not paying close attention to your belongings.

As always, just like at the airport, be cautious of those asking if you need help. While there are many good people in this world, your initial reaction should be to put up a theoretical wall and see what they are after. Maybe they are a good samaritan and truly willing to help you. That’s great! But always be aware of your surroundings.

tourists in barcelona | tourists checking their map in barce… | Flickr
Tourists in Europe looking at a guide book

4. Don’t party too hard– Prevent pickpocketing by staying alert

Your on holiday, you want to let loose, I get it. Unfortunately drunk, sleeping, or lost tourists are the easiest targets for Italy pickpockets. If you want to get crazy, do so with your pockets empty, but I’m guessing you wont get many free drinks. In other words, handle your booze and be aware of what’s going on or find yourself a babysitter.

If you can muster it after your 4th Sangria…find yourself a helpful sole that will call you a taxi. Be careful not to fall asleep in the taxi or on the metro as that will make you a very easy target.

5. Keep your cash hidden

Don’t pull out your wallet with all your euros/cash in it. If you are using a bag, use it to hide the contents inside your wallet by thumbing through cash inside. Try not to pull your entire wallet outside of the bag, only the funds that you need. If you have a wallet, try reaching for your cash before its your turn to pay and have it at the ready. be aware of your surroundings when pulling out your wallet and putting it away. Alternatively, keep smaller bills and spare change in your front pockets, instead of needing to go into your wallet in the first place. Thirdly, if you like to stack or wrap your bills, keep the bigger bills in the center and the lower denomination bills on the outside. This way, if you must pull out your cash, you wont flash your big bills.

Traveler Tip: Don’t take all your cash with you, only take what you need and a little extra. Leave most of your cash locked away in your hotel room safe.

Honestly, the best place for your money is a travel belt or fanny pack that’s around your waist and in front of you. Like this one here, https://amzn.to/3qHbla8.

What to do if You Are a Pickpocket Victim?

Report the theft as soon as you can to the police – pickpockets happen all the time, in fact, hundreds of times a day. Police are well aware of this issue. Reporting the theft also lets you claim it on insurance if your belongings cannot be found. However, this will take away some valuable sight-seeing time out of your day.    

Cancel your credit cards immediately.


Do you have any tips to add to this list? Add them in the comment section below!


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