Safety Tips for a Perfect Visit to Rome
Ah, Rome. Buzzing with great food, historical sites, friendly people and a busy nightlife. It’s a great city to be in as a foreigner because it’s easy to find places that are completely Italian and others that cater to tourists. It also is incredibly crowded, and with that comes the risk of thieves and scammers, which, unfortunately, are easy to find, as well as the oft-quoted stereotype of Italian men being particularly amorous, which is a whole other risk.
Rome is a pretty safe city, but let’s not be stupid. It’s also a big city, and after having been pickpocketed twice and grabbed at by various drunken men inside bars and out, I know to be careful. So, what’s the biggest piece of advice I can give?
Use common sense. It’s cliched, but also tried and true. Keep your belongings safely secured about your person, or better yet, don’t bring them out at all if you can avoid it. Walk home with a friend (not a stranger) or call a taxi if you are unsure how to get home and/or unable to at night. Yes, the taxi driver will take advantage of you and your wallet by gouging the price of your ride to an unbelievable level, but it’s better than ending up on the streets alone and lost in the middle of the night. If you must walk home alone (as I have done before), keep an eye out for strangers and don’t meander through the streets–now’s not the time.
I know it sounds like I’m a nagging mom preaching to her naive daughter(s), and many of you are probably thinking, “Yeah, I know all this, what else is new?” I thought the same thing when I first came to Italy and then Rome. But after the experiences I’ve had and seeing and hearing how some men behave towards women in broad daylight during a weekday while sober, (a friend told me that two men drove past her honking their horn and flashing her in front of the police while she walked along the river at 9 AM on a Sunday morning in the Vatican), I have no desire to see what happens at night when we’re both possibly under the influence of alcohol.
With the the biggest issue covered, what about other safety tips? For example, “How can I cross the street without dying?” or “Can I take public transportation at night and be safe?”
If you don’t decide to cross the street, you won’t cross at all because the cars aren’t stopping until you’re in the road.
When it comes to crossing the street, it’s really a matter of having the guts to do it, as well as a look to give cars that says, “Excuse me, but I’m walking now, and I dare you to try to stop me.” You can’t be afraid. It really goes against our belief (or mine, anyway) that politeness will get us further in life, but it is what it is. If you don’t decide to cross the street, you won’t cross at all because the cars aren’t stopping until you’re in the road.
As for public transportation at night, I’ve never had any issues. Since I’m an English teacher, sometimes I have lessons that end in the evening, meaning that it’s dark when I get home. That doesn’t stop me from taking the bus or metro to get there. In general, I’ve found that the closer you are to the city center (which in this case means anywhere within reach of the metro or bus lines, not just the popular tourist sites), the safer you are. I’ve also taken the night bus service that runs after midnight when I am out with friends, and although I’ve been pickpocketed twice on it, I’ve never actually been threatened or felt unsafe. It’s more a matter of securing your belongings, especially as the buses can be absolutely jam-packed with people at times.
When it comes to daily life in the city, you’ll find many Romans who are polite, friendly and willing to help you if need be (assuming you can speak a little Italian and they can speak a little English. If not, it’s not for lack of desire that they don’t want to help you.)
View everyone with a little suspicion, because you just don’t know what their intentions are, and it’s important to protect yourself.
But not everyone who lives here feels this way. And as painful as it is to say it, another of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to view everyone with a little suspicion, because you just don’t know what their intentions are, and it’s important to protect yourself. Maybe that also sounds like a given, but one of the biggest things I miss about living in the States is the friendliness of Americans who are willing to help you in return for nothing. Of course, it’s not always the case in the US either. But again, you have to use your common sense with this one.
This isn’t to say you should be afraid of meeting new people for fear they will rob you. Don’t be! I’ve found Italians, while not always my type, are wonderful people. There are so many new experiences to be made by meeting new people and getting engrossed in the local culture, that it would be a shame to miss out on that opportunity. Just be careful while you’re out exploring.
Top photo by Giampaolo Macorig (Creative Commons)