Safety and security

Canonisation Mass of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II

The Canonisation Mass of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II will take place in St. Peter’s Square on 27 April 2014. Over 1 million pilgrims are expected to visit the Vatican and Rome for this occasion.

Accommodation in Rome will be scarce so make sure your travel plans are confirmed. A special transport plan will be in place and the Rome underground public transport system will be operating for 24 hours non-stop from 5.30am on Saturday 26 April to 12:30am on Monday 28 April.

The Canonisation Mass will start on Sunday 27 April at 10.00am at St. Peter’s Square and access to the square will be free of charge on a first-come first-served basis. There are no tickets on sale, so be wary of anyone claiming to be selling them. Take particular care of your personal belongings especially in crowded areas and keep your passport in a safe place.

Full details of the event are available on the Roma Capitale website.

Crime

Crime levels are generally low but there are higher levels of petty crime (particularly bag snatching and pick-pocketing) in the big city centres. This often involves co-ordinated gangs including minors. Targets are often hassled and jostled to distract them, while other members of the gang go into action.

Take care on public transport and in crowded areas in Rome, especially around the main railway station ‘Termini’ and on the number 64 bus, which goes to and from St Peter’s Square.

Be particularly vigilant on trains to and from the main airports in Italy (especially Fiumicino airport) and when unloading your baggage from trains and coaches. Thieves sometimes rob sleeping passengers on overnight trains.

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.

Cars, at rest stops and motorway service stations are targets for robbers. Be wary of offers of help for flat tyres, particularly on the motorway from Naples to Salerno. Tyres have sometimes been punctured deliberately. Always lock your vehicle, never leave valuables on show and avoid leaving luggage in cars for any length of time.

Police in Europe have issued warnings that counterfeit Euro notes are in circulation. Make sure notes received from any source other than banks or legitimate Bureaux de Change are genuine.

Local travel

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 buses and trams. Officials patrol public transport and will issue an on the spot fine of Euros 50 to 60 if you don’t hold an endorsed ticket. Tickets can be purchased from shops displaying the ‘T’ sign, and are usually bars or tobacconists.

Pedestrians should take care at Zebra crossings. Vehicles don’t always stop, even though they are required to under the Italian Traffic Code.

Pre-planned strikes

Transport strikes are often called at short notice. For more information visit the Ministry of Transport website (in Italian).

Road travel

You can drive in Italy with a UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. If you are 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 2012 there were 3,650 road deaths in Italy (source: DfT). This equates to 6.0 road deaths per 100,000 of population compared to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.

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 whereby vehicles with odd or even number plates are allowed into a ‘green area’ on alternative days. For further information see the Rome Municipality website.

See the AARAC and Italian Police guides on driving in Italy.

Road hauliers

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). Both the Mont Blanc and Frejus road tunnels linking Italy and France are open but restrictions introduced following fires in 1999 and 2005 are applied to HGVs. These can be summarised as follows:

Mont Blanc: height restricted to 4.7m; minimum speed 50 km/h; maximum speed 70 km/h. Further details from www.tunnelmb.com or by telephone on 00 33 (0) 45 05 55 500.

Fréjus: Vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes are subject to 1-hour alternate traffic flows starting at 8:00am leaving Italy. Special regulations apply to vehicles carrying dangerous loads. Further details from http://www.tunneldufrejus.com.

Rail travel

Information on rail travel in Italy can be found in English on the Trenitalia website.

Winter sports

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.

Swimming

Follow local advice if jellyfish are present.

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