An aerial view of the coastal town of Moneglia, Italy
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Travelling safely in Italy

Italy currently ranks 34th on the Global Peace Index, in line with most other European countries. It’s generally considered a safe country to visit as a tourist, but there are some aspects to take into consideration.

Although it may not directly affect tourists, something to be aware of is that Italy has been affected by the European migrant crisis. There has been a rise in people crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, culminating in the arrival of 3,000 migrants in three days in 2023.

Italy also has the tallest and most active volcano in Europe, as well as issues with immigration and organised crime. While Italy is an extremely popular destination for tourists, and for good reason, that can have negative connotations too, such as petty theft and scams.

Staying safe outdoors in Italy

Tides can be unpredictable in Italy, it’s best to stick to beaches with lifeguards and follow the advice on safe areas to swim in. The lakes and rivers inland can be extremely cold, even in summer, so make sure to research safe areas to swim beforehand.

When skiing, snowboarding or hiking in the Alps be mindful of changeable conditions and always have a plan in the event of an emergency.

Heat exhaustion

Italy can be unbearably hot in the summer. Places like Florence become very muggy and humid, while Rome’s sights can really expose you to the sun.

Always carry a reusable bottle and make use of the free water fountains throughout the major cities - the tap water is generally safe to drink too.

Do as the locals do and avoid the hottest part of the day, exploring in the morning and taking a more leisurely approach in the afternoon.

Petty theft and common scams in Italy

Tourists are unfortunately easy targets for pickpockets, especially in major cities and tourist attractions. Theft is surprisingly common, with around 1 million cases reported every year. Be especially cautious at Fiumicino Airport and on the public transport surrounding Rome.

The Circumvesuviana Train between Naples and Sorrento is another hotspot to be aware of if travelling in the area. Other targets include ports, cafes and restaurants, and busy main squares.

A common sense approach of hiding valuables and using the hotel safe for your passport is advisable throughout Italy (it’s Italian law to have an ID on you at all times, but a photocopy is fine).

Fake designer goods are common all over Italy but particularly in places like Milan and Pisa, It’s best just to avoid street sellers completely and not get involved, as fines for purchasing them can be as high as 10,000 Euros.

Other scams to be aware of include drive-by purse snatching, thieves pretending to be beggars, and unlicensed taxis overcharging fares.

Road safety in Italy

Driving standards can be very different to what you may be used to at home, and crumbling roads and bridges can be a safety concern for travellers - particularly in the south of Italy.

In cities like Rome, accidents involving scooters and mopeds are common, so make sure to familiarise yourself with local laws and driving customs if you plan on renting one. The same goes for pedestrian crossings - be vigilant, as drivers won’t always stop.

Natural disasters and organised crime

Natural disasters

Mount Etna is the most active volcano in Europe, with fresh lava flows regularly appearing on its slopes. The second largest city in Sicily, Catania, lies just under its steaming summit, but seismic activity is heavily monitored and it’s generally safe to visit the area.

Other natural disasters like avalanches, forest fires, and earthquakes are also something to take into consideration when visiting areas that are at risk.

Organised crime

Organised crime rarely affects tourists, but it is worth remembering that there are five mafia organisations in Italy that are still active today. Southern regions and the island of Sicily are particularly notorious for a lack of police control, with visible issues like poor road maintenance and fly tipping that aren’t present in the north.

Local people and businesses deal with the threat of the mafia on a daily basis, so it’s best not to make light of it or discuss it too openly. It’s a part of the country that many tourists wouldn’t really notice, but it is a part of the culture regardless.

Women travellers in Italy

Italian men are often less subtle than in other Western countries, which could be seen by many as verging on harassment. A firm no usually is sufficient, but female travellers may be more comfortable in pairs or staying in female-only dorms.

It also pays to be conscious of drink spiking in bars and nightclubs. Prostitution is legal and widespread in Italy, which may come as a surprise to some travellers.

Planning a trip to Italy? Read our Italy travel guides.

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Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 7 September 2023


Italy is one of those countries that has something for everyone, from food, beaches and mountains to art and ancient history.