Beggars and Cons, Rome
Last year (2009) we were in Rome, and this guy in a black suit, white shirt and tie was buzzing around from room to room, looking very official. He told two of the ladies on our tour that there was a problem with their room, and they were being moved. He then told them to go to the front desk to get their new key, and he'd transfer their luggage. Well he transferred it right out of the hotel.....the front desk didn't know what they were talking about. Unfortunately, they had all their spare money and their passports in their luggage. What a disaster.
I just find out a good article explaining how the taxi drivers in Rome rip-off people and how to not recieve this treatment at http://www.iloverome.net/don%E2%80%99t-get-ripped-off-by-rome-taxis-take-the-limo-instead/
They also advise http://www.limoserviceitalia.it/ and I'll use this guys next time I go to Rome.
Holiday of a lifetime. You work hard all year to earn enough to see the Eternal City. And then as soon as you land, there they are. BEGGARS. Sometimes they are dirty, filthy, vile drunks and drugies. Often they are dressed nicely. And then they have the children. Sick, twisted women with access to a Socialized Government Housing and Benefits Scheme. And they take babies into dirty areas and use them as bait. Sick. Take the kids off them I say. If they cannot feed them, as they say, why allow it to go on? A few coins won’t help, but the orphanage will.
LIARS, DRUNKS, DRUG ABUSERS, THIEVES. Would you give money to drug dealers? No? Then don’t give the beggars money. You just make more Beggars! Where do you think their next high is coming from? You! Don’t do it.
Rome is not unlike any other large city. They do have beggers and gypsies looking for a handout or to pull a fast one. So be alert and pay attention to your bag, belongings and pockets. We found beggers around every corner some with children to try and add to the "sympathy" factor.
You will see beggars all over the town: in front of all the attractions, on main boulevards and anywhere you can think of. There are not too many of them when the weather is bad, but they show up in cohorts when the sun is shining and there is no rain in sight. Just ignore them and they will leave you alone.
BTW: the one that was always asking us for money (in the Pantheon area) was not more than 24 years old. He pretended to have trouble walking and holding things. We saw him on a daily basis, rain or sun. One late evening when we were checking out emails in one of the Internet Cafes, we saw him walking in there with no problem. He sat down at one of the computers and started to browse the web. So if you really want to help the poor, put more money in the boxes you will find in all the churches you visit or throw more coins in the Trevi Fountain (the city collects the money from there and use them to feed the poor).
If you go to Rome you will most likely run into friendly people that offer you flowers or anything you can think of. They come straight to you and push a flower, for example, very close to your face. They will give you a big smile and say "this is for you, please". Once you take the flower from them, they will ask anywhere between 5 and 10 Euros for it. Just say "No, thank you" and keep walking. They will follow you for a while and give up eventually.
I have to admit that I got pretty frustrated at one point during our vacation (by the Trevi Fountain) when I was followed and offered the flower for about 5 minutes. We had to shout "carabinieri" at one point in order to get rid of this person that kept insisting to offer me a red rose.
At Termini, I had to get some money from the ATM machine and I noticed that there were several beggars hanging around by the ATMs, maybe hoping to ask for money from people that had just made withdrawals. I didn't want to get harrassed by them, so I walked around for a few minutes and came back, and by then the beggars had moved along to another spot.
You will see the gypsies hanging around street corners, bus stations, train stations anywhere that there are lots of people they can beg from. They will hold out their babies to you who looked dead to me but from what I've read are just drugged and while they're sobbing their other kids are picking your pockets. DON'T STOP WALKING when you see them. You'll also see gypsies with deformities who are positioned on populated streets, begging. Again, don't stop.
Be careful of people that come up to you and tell you that they are police when in fact they are not. If they come up to you and ask for your passport, don't give it to them. Police in Italy are always in uniform and these people are not. Police only come up to you when you have done something wrong. These people come up to you out of the blue when you have done nothing wrong.
This was my only bad experience in Italy... Be very careful of the Gladiators around the Roman Coliseum.. They will ask you if you would like your picture taken ,with your camera for a tip...
They take around 5 pictures with your camera.. When you hand them a tip of 3 Euros . They get really angry. They Then demand you give them 10 Euros for their time.. "A tip is a tip and is whatever I wish to give".. I yelled back .. "are you crazy?" They still insisted I give them 10 euros. That I was cheating them... My wife then walked away and I yelled "You said a tip and give me my 3 Euros back you crooks". They refused and I then walked away.. They still insisted I owed them 10 Euros... They then saw a Policeman walking nearby and they shut up and went back to trying to hustle a new person.. Here is their faces.. BE WARNED..
On my last evening in Rome a group of us went to the Piazza Navona, i wanted to buy an original local artists oil painting to take home.
There were many local artists displaying their art works in the Piazza, it was really beautiful to see them at work, alot of the artists had folders showing all their art work.....i chose 2 oil paintings of bright beautiful colours, for 60 euros, i requested the oils be rolled into a cylinder case so they would not get crushed on the plane trip home, he kindly did that for me and i was very happy with my purchases.
I got home the next day and the oils were prints!!!! not happy, but what can you do, it is very dissappointing...so my advice is watch them wrap your goods.
There are sometimes homeless, or beggars at the front to try your patience. They even are allowed to sleep at the side of the entrance. apparently it must have something to do with sacred rights? Either way, it is ugly, and takes away from the magnificence
Rome, like any other major European city, has it's share of beggars and pickpockets. Beggars will be a fairly common sight around the Vatican (especially standing in line while entering the Vatican Museum). Some can be quite pushy about getting money from you and will use their kids to make you feel guilty. Just ignore them, and be firm with saying 'no'. Also, the street sellers all along the tourist sights are there illegally. During our 4 days in Rome, we witnessed 2 police busts on these groups. You can clearly see who they are, they sell junk and are usually grouped by their ethnicity (asian women selling scarves, african men selling purses). It is illegal and while some are simply trying to make a few dollars, others will work together to try to rip you off. So if you buy something, buy from a legitimate shop and not a vendor on the street.
Rome has such a problem with pickpockets that the gentleman we rented our flat from actually decided to pick us up from the airport in order to avoid Termini Station. I feel that was fairly warranted because in the week preceeding my trip, I had spoken with 3 people who had been robbed in Rome. Therefore, you must be smart and take precautions. Lock everything. Keep your valuables very close to you. A fanny pack or inside pocket to keep money and passports isn't good enough. On buses wear your backpack in front so you can clearly keep hold of it. Pickpockets work mostly on crowded busses (nr. 64), subways, in and around tourist sites, as well as the main train station Termini. Also, for transport to and from the airport, rely on public transport or pre-book a private car for a flat rate. Taxi drivers often don't adjust their meter for tourists and overcharge.
We went to the Spanish steps and found out that we wanted a drawing of the two of us.
We got one of the "artists" attention, and he gave us an offer. I am sure we payed way too much for the drawing. But it was our first day, and we was kind of dragged into it.
He did the drawing, and it looked ok. But when we looked at the finished product it looked so awful.
This is a memory we will NOT put up on the wall. We are embarrassed to have bought such a bad product.
So be warned, choose wisely if you want your picture drawed.
Sometimes there are gypsies aggressively begging in or near the train station, on subways, etc. You need to pay attention if they are around, but don't worry obsessively. Most of the time, especially on my last few visits, I don't see them and am not bothered by them.
However, it can happen. It is especially disturbing if a young woman carrying a baby accosts you.
A good strategy is to say, "Vai via!", (vye VEE-ah!) It means simply "Go away" but they'll be surprised that you said it!
Polizia! (poh-leet-TSEE-ah!) - which means "Police!" - is another good word.
Also, it pays to be suspicious of anyone who offers to help you if you haven't asked for any help. This is especially true around train stations. Do NOT let anyone take your ticket to "help" you find your train. As my VT friend and Rome guru, Bill McCalpin, says, just put on your New York face and New York attitude.
Italians in tourist towns see so many tourists, it is possible, but unlikely they will try to help you unsolicited. Often, only a con artist is there to "help."