Safety and security
Crime levels are generally low but there are higher levels of petty crime (particularly bag snatching and pick-pocketing) in the big city centres, such as Rome. Be aware that thieves can use a variety of methods to distract you.
Take care on public transport and in crowded areas in city centres, particularly in and around Termini station in Rome, where incidents of street muggings have been reported, and at other main stations.
Be particularly vigilant on trains to and from airports and cruise ports in Italy (especially Fiumicino airport), as well as the Circumvesuviana train between Naples and Sorrento, and when unloading your baggage from trains and coaches.
Use a hotel safe for valuables where possible.
Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Don’t leave food or drinks unattended at any time. Victims of spiked drinks have been robbed and sometimes assaulted.
Those in cars can sometimes be targeted by thieves. Robberies from cars have been reported particularly in and around Rome, Milan and Pisa, as well as at motorway service stations. Always lock your vehicle, never leave valuables in cars and avoid leaving luggage in cars for any length of time. Be aware that thieves may use a variety of methods to distract you or encourage you to stop your car. These may include asking for help or directions, or pointing out a fictional fault with your car.
Make sure Euro notes received from any source other than banks or legitimate bureaux de change are genuine.
Only use officially licensed taxis. These will have a taxi sign on the roof. Make sure the meter in the taxi has been reset before you set off.
Tickets on public transport must be endorsed in a ticket machine before you start a journey. The machines are usually positioned at the entrance to platforms in railway stations, in the entrance hall to metro stations and on board some buses and trams. Officials patrol public transport and will issue an on the spot fine of 100 to 500 euros (reduced to 50 euros if paid immediately) if you don’t hold an endorsed ticket. Tickets can be purchased from shops displaying the ‘T’ sign, and are usually bars or tobacconists.
Traffic can be busy, fast and chaotic especially in the larger cities. Pedestrians should use zebra crossings, but take care especially where lines are faded and not clearly visible to drivers. Vehicles don’t always stop, even though they are required to under the Italian Traffic Code. The green pedestrian crossing signal also allows cars to turn onto the crossing, so cross with caution.
Transport strikes are often called at short notice. For more information visit the Ministry of Transport website (in Italian).
You can drive in Italy with a UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. However, if you move to Italy with your British-registered car, you must re-register your car with Italian licence plates within 60 days or you may incur a large fine. If you’re driving a vehicle that does not belong to you then written permission from the registered owner may be required. On-the-spot fines can be issued for minor traffic offences.
In 2016 there were 3,270 road deaths in Italy (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 5.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 in 2016.
Private and hire cars are not allowed to enter the historic centre of many Italian cities without an official pass. If your hotel is in the centre of one of these cities, you can buy a pass from most car hire companies. The boundaries of historic centres are usually marked with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. Don’t pass this sign as your registration number is likely to be caught on camera and you will be fined.
There is a congestion charge for Milan city centre. For further information see the Milan Municipality website.
To reduce pollution, the city authorities in Rome sometimes introduce traffic restrictions on specific days whereby vehicles with odd or even number plates are not allowed on the roads in the ‘fascia verde’ area (covering most of Rome). For further information, including exceptions, see the Rome Municipality website.
Trucks over 7.5 tonnes (75 quintali) are not allowed on Italian roads (including motorways) on Sundays from 7:00 am until midnight, local time. These restrictions don’t apply to trucks that have already been granted an exception (eg those carrying perishable goods and petrol supplies).
If you are planning a skiing holiday, you should contact the Italian State Tourist Board for advice on safety and weather conditions before you travel. Address: 1 Princes Street, London W1R 9AY. Telephone: 020 7355 1557 or 1439.
Off-piste skiing is highly dangerous. You should follow all safety instructions meticulously given the dangers of avalanches in some areas. Italy has introduced a law forcing skiers and snowboarders to carry tracking equipment if they go off-piste. The law also obliges under-14s to wear a helmet. There are plans for snowboarders to be banned from certain slopes.
Read more about how to stay safe on the slopes.