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Bicycle thieves & Co

Card Sharps

Even in European terms Rome is a safe city. It does not suffer from widespread violent crime or firearms incidents. Areas more prone to violent crime are distant from tourist sites and there is little to no risk of accidently straying into them. There is a visible police presence and both the State Police and Carabinieri are in the main part professional.

Petty crime rates have improved since Victorio Di Sica made the “the Bicycle Thieves” but the problem persists especially in places where your body space is legitimately invaded like on public transport or at crowded attraction – fountains, monuments etc. The following article gives practical advice on how to avoid petty crimes like pick-pocketing, bag-snatching, credit card cloning and drink spiking.



Your best line of defence is not carrying anything you do not need on the day and passports fall into this category. Take a colour copy and another original form of photo ID – a driving license, Student card, resident’s ID. However, bear in mind EU nationals under 18 need to show their passport to the clerk’s at the Colosseum/ Forum for free entrance. On other days keep passports in your room safe or hotel reception safe with a signed receipt.

Cash and debit cards

Cash is king in Rome so you need to carry some. We suggest 100 Euro per day per person for food, drinks, tickets and cabs. It’s amazing the number of places that do not accept cards or have their systems (apparently) out of action. You should withdraw cash from a cash point / ATM on a daily basis. The exchange rate at an ATM is far more favourable than a bureau di change. Locate an ATM near your hotel, draw cash before you start your day and then leave the card in the room safe.

Many banks have a 250 Euro maximum transaction limit but some of the larger ones (BNL, MPS, and UniCredit) allow for 500 Euro. Access to the higher sum will depend on how you have your account set up at home. Be sure to tell your bank you are coming to Italy and find out what your daily limit is on each card. Bear in mind that whilst abroad, you often only get one attempt at entering your PIN. To greatly reduce the risk of card cloning, try and use ATMs inside banks and always shield the keyboard when entering your PIN.

Credit cards

Carry one credit card as a group/ couple for gifts and shopping. A good idea is that one person carries the cash and the other the card. Be sure to have the Lost or Stolen number for your card on you.

  • Visa and MasterCard (+39) 800-819-014
  • American Express (+39) 06-67641
  • Diners (+39) 06-3575333

Please note that Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards in Rome.

Get out of jail card

It is a very good idea to have a spare card with back up funds on it or cash (not in local currency else you will spend it) to use in the event of theft or main card malfunction. Do not carry this card / cash with you, leave it in the hotel safe. We suggest a sum of 50 Euro per day per person, so a family of 4 who are visiting Rome for a week need to have back up funds of 1400 Euro / £1000 / $2000.

Nights out

If you are going to have a few drinks then there are a few common sense rules that are valid in Rome as they are anywhere. Firstly, have one member of your party stay sober to keep an eye out for opportunist taxi drivers and bar waiters. Secondly, never leave your drink unattended or accept drinks that you have not seen prepared in front of you. Incidences of drinking spiking (the act of putting drugs in the drink to decapacitate the intended victim) have been reported in Rome in bars frequented by young people.

Dress not to impress

Unless you are in a safe hotel environment then you are best leaving valuable jewellery and watches in the hotel safe. The same goes for exclusive brand handbags. There is still a minimal risk of bag snatches by thieves on foot and on scooter. Do not buy fake bags or anything else from mobile street vendors as in doing so you are supporting organised crime and risk a fine.

Almost every wallet has a silver lining

Stolen wallets often show up (less the cash but with cards and ID) in bins or toilets near the incident so it is worth having a search around, if you become aware of a theft in loco. In some countries it is not a good idea to pick up wallets found on the street as it could be the bait for a scam that sees you accused of theft but Rome does not have fraudsters using this technique.

The numbers to call in the event of being a victim of or witnessing a crime are 112 for the Carabinieri and 113 for the State Police. For emergency travel documents you should contact the consular section of your embassy.

Painting: “Card sharps” by Caravaggio, which is kept in Texas but many of the great master’s works are here in Rome.


Written by...

Stephen content writer Rome

By Stephen Wheeler Licensed Tourism translator