The merits of visiting Rome hardly need expounding upon: The Eternal City is one of the world’s greats, boasting world-class architecture, food, art, culture, and history—not to mention a vibrant, modern version of Italian city life. But is Rome safe for tourists? The Rome crime rate ticks upward thanks mostly to pickpockets and other thieves who target travelers. And there are seedier places to avoid in Rome, which travelers should know about. If you’re looking to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of crime in Rome, read on.
Tips for Safety in Rome
- Theft in Rome is the key issue that most travelers should be concerned about. Pickpockets in Rome are notorious for distracting, then robbing their victims. To protect yourself from pickpocketing in Rome, as well as other forms of Rome crime, stay alert, especially in crowded places, and invest in a slash-proof purse or backpack.
- How safe is Rome? That depends a lot on where you go. If you know which areas to avoid in Rome, you’ll be better off. The city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods include Tor Bella Monaca, Romanina, San Basilio, and Corviale. In addition, certain Rome train stations, including Termini, are hubs for pickpockets in Rome, especially at night.
- Although there’s no official dress code for Rome, it’s smart to know what not to wear in Rome, in part to show respect and modesty if you’re planning to visit famous churches such as St. Peter’s Basilica or the Pantheon, which require covered shoulders and knees. Another reason to dress to blend in with the locals? Rome pickpockets and thieves target those who look most like tourists.
How to Get Around Safely in Rome
Overall, Rome is considered a safe city to travel to, but petty crime—especially bag-snatching and pickpocketing—remains a problem. Part of the issue is that thieves in Rome will try anything to distract you so that they can steal your stuff—they’ll work in pairs or groups to ask for help or directions, point out something wrong with your vehicle so that you’ll stop, pretend to be beggars, or drop valuable items on the bus or train. Don’t let yourself get taken—be particularly vigilant in Rome’s crowded city centers.
Rome theft also occurs when perpetrators use motor scooters to snatch purses or bags, so never leave your bag loose or unattended, and when you’re in a car, keep your doors locked and windows up.
As for public transportation, stay alert when taking buses, trains, or other forms of shared transit in crowded city-center areas, especially in and around Termini Station. Indeed, many travelers question whether Termini Station in Rome is safe, especially at night, and the answer is that petty criminals do frequent the station and victimize its passengers, slashing purses and stealing valuables.
This is also true of certain bus lines; the Rome Bus 64 pickpockets, in particular, are notorious. During Rome’s rush hour, the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) warns, “Buses and trains tend to be very crowded, and many victims do not realize they have been robbed. Victims have reported their handbags cut open and their valuables removed, while men have lost items from inner jacket pockets. ATAC Bus Route No. 64 from Termini to St. Peter’s Basilica is a problematic route for skilled theft. Buses and metro cars are often crowded with tourists; therefore, use vigilance.”
If you plan on taking taxis, stick to officially licensed cabs that have a taxi sign on their roof. Many taxi drivers will claim that Uber is illegal in Rome, which isn’t true. Uber is in fact legal in Rome, albeit possibly more expensive and fancier than you’re used to. If you do choose to hire a driver from your smartphone, remember that Uber lets you share the progress of your ride with a friend or family member so that someone always knows where you are. When waiting for your ride in Rome, choose a busy, well-lit area. And when your car arrives, confirm that the driver’s face and license plate number match what comes up on your phone, then sit in the back seat, never the front.
Another common crime in Rome is ATM skimming; to protect yourself against these stealthy devices, use only ATMs in well-lit public areas or inside banks; hide the keypad as you enter your PIN; look for gaps in the device or a tampered appearance; monitor your account for suspicious transactions; and if the card reader isn’t flush with the face of the ATM, don’t use it.
Something else to be aware of is that beggars in Rome are abundant. How you respond to beggars in Italy is up to you; most Rome beggars are desperate and in need of money. Many African migrants sweep streets and do clean-up to justify asking for charity. Although there are some fake beggars in Rome, most of Rome’s panhandlers are legitimately in need of assistance.
Finally, beware of spiked food or drink in Rome, especially around Termini Station, the Colosseum, and in bars and cafes near Campo Dei Fiori and Piazza Navona. Criminals drug tourists’ beverages or meals, then rob or sexually assault their victims. For this reason, never leave anything that you’re planning to consume unattended for any period of time.
Areas to Avoid in Rome
There are certain Rome neighborhoods to avoid if you don’t want to end up being part of the Rome crime rate. These key places to avoid in Rome include Tor Bella Monaca, Romanina, San Basilio, and Corviale, according to OSAC.
In addition, the Termini train station and its surrounding area are at higher risk for criminal activity, especially pickpocketing and scams. That said, this particular train station in Rome is hard to avoid—so be vigilant and make sure to keep any valuables out of view. Petty theft is also common near the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and other popular tourist spots and transportation hubs where travelers should always be on high alert. Car thieves in Rome prefer the areas outside of the Centro Storico, like Giovanni and the Appia, where police don’t monitor as much.
It’s also worth noting that in 2015, Rome voted to create a red-light district in the EUR business area, despite opposition from the Catholic Church and sex workers. Steer clear to avoid crime, diseases, and other things that you don’t want to bring home from your trip to Rome.
The Dress Code in Rome
While there’s no formal Rome dress code, tourists should try not to look so much like, well, tourists if they want to fit in with the locals. Don’t dangle a big camera around your neck and don’t wear super American gear like branded T-shirts. Also, keep in mind that denim shorts could top any list of what not to wear in Rome.
In fact, shorts of any kind violate the St. Peter’s Basilica dress code, as well as the Sistine Chapel dress code; if you’re stepping into a church or another place of worship, cover your knees and shoulders to comply with the church dress code in Italy. This isn’t just for the sake of respect or modesty—it’s also because you’ll be compromising your safety in Rome if your sartorial choices make you stick out too much.
The St. Peter’s Basilica dress code is particularly strict: no low-cut or sleeveless clothing, shorts, flip-flops, miniskirts, or hats. The Pantheon dress code is similar, since that’s a church, too. As for the Colosseum dress code, there really isn’t one, although you’d be wise to wear comfortable shoes.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Is Italy Safe? Warnings and Dangers You Need to Know
- 8 Travel Safety Tips You Probably Ignore (But Shouldn’t)
- What to Do in an Emergency Situation Abroad
—original reporting by Avital Andrews