Safety Tips in Italy

  • ZTL sign in Gubbio (Via Savelli)
    ZTL sign in Gubbio (Via Savelli)
    by Trekki
  • Read the sign!
    Read the sign!
    by toonsarah
  • Ceri - on Piazza Grande, just before the alzata
    Ceri - on Piazza Grande, just before the...
    by Trekki

Most Viewed Warnings and Dangers in Italy

  • theenglishway's Profile Photo

    Toilets

    by theenglishway Written Apr 12, 2014

    Having a bowel disease, a little problem for me is the quality of Italian toilets. I've found that in both Sardinia and Milan that a lot of times, the toilets aren't up to scratch. Especially in Sardinia where a lot of toilets have no paper, no seat or no soap so come prepared! Also, a lot of them don't even have locks on the male toilets, though there are always locks on the female toilets. I was surprised to see in Milan that 'hole in the floor' toilets exist in a modern, developed country such as Italy. However, once again, the female toilets have a proper toilet. Do men not need to defecate in Milan? That's pretty bad, but what's more disgusting are the toilets where you have to throw your used toilet paper into a paper basket next to it and not into the toilet itself! Though again, this was more common in Sardinia, but come on. We're supposed to be in Europe!

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  • sourbugger's Profile Photo

    avoid this car hire company

    by sourbugger Written Sep 7, 2013

    Goldcar are a Spanish outfit that have recently expanded into Italy. Do not book directly with them and check if you use a car hire booking agent that they are not your local supplier. All of this information is reality available elsewhere, so don't just take my word for it.

    They operate the following practices amongst others :

    1) Insist that you purchase their insurance policy, whatever policy is already being in place being seen as irrelevant to them. I was charged 70 euro for just 3 days extra. I eventually had it refunded on condition of leaving 1,200 euro open on the credit card.
    2) They have a 'take full, return empty' fuel policy. If the hire is 3 days or less they will return the appropriate fraction unused. Over 3 days and they gain whatever is left in the tank. They also overcharge the tank of petrol (which they charge to your card at the start of the hire) from what must be the most expensive petrol pumps in Italy.

    I can personally vouch for those scams.

    Other users have reported extra charges appearing on credit cards later for scratches to cars, extra cleaning charges, tyre damage and the like. All of which are fictional.

    You have been warned.

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    No warnings, just learn some "rules" :)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    When I look at the warning & danger section in the Italy travel guide I come across so many “warnings” which are actually no warnings but clear cases that someone missed the rule “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” or learn the rules before setting a foot into a foreign country. Things are not like at home.

    First of all there is the thing with coperto. That’s the cover fee in restaurants and it is not meant to rip off tourists. Italians pay the same. And it is completely irrelevant if this isn’t done at home or any other country. It is done in Italy and .. take it or leave it (it = Italy) is what I want to tell everyone who rants about it. The background of this cover fee is simply the cost for laying the table, including washing the linen and providing bread. In other countries tips are not included. Is this classified as rip off? No, it counts as common knowledge. So please prepare and add the coperto to the common knowledge of Italy.

    Then there is this eating snacks on a piazza. That is not yet really forbidden, except in Venezia on Piazza San Marco and most probably also in other touristy places. The reason in Venezia is simple: the city officials are just sick and tired of the trash that had accumulated by people who come only for a day and try to save money by buying snacks and eat them while sightseeing. But apart from that, it is simply not an Italian thing. Do people watching and you will see that the locals don’t eat while walking. Eating is something that should be celebrated, in a restaurant or at home. And even in the small Pizza snack bars people will either take their pizza pieces back home or eat it inside. Apart from that, in Singapore it is also strictly forbidden to eat in public places.

    At the fresh produces markets it is forbidden to touch the goods. One has to point to the pieces one wants and the seller picks them and wraps them. The sign “non toccare” is clear enough and very often it is also clearly written in English. Do not touch. In rural parts of the country there might be no sign, but then these are the parts where not many tourists flock and the locals do know their rules.

    English might be the prime language worldwide but not necessarily in Italy, except where the tourist masses gather. This means that sometimes menus in restaurants or signs in museums might be in Italian only. Bring a dictionary or learn a bit of the language. It will not only help to translate menus but also serves as the key to the locals.

    © Ingrid D., October 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo
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    Some motorway mergers can be deadly!

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    From my driving experience in Italy, the autostrade are excellent roads which are really safe despite the chaotic traffic otherwise. There is one exception I know of though (and there might be more with such a merger scheme): the connection between Autostrada del Sole A1 (Roma-Firenze and then northbound) and Autostrada Adriatica A14 (along Adriatic Sea, Rimini and then Bologna) west of Bologna. At the point where the two meet and merge they run parallel for approx. 100 metres with a continuous line like any other merging motorways; A1 with three lanes and A14 with two lanes. I drove on A1, direction from Firenze, was driving on the rightmost lane and wanted to change to the rightmost lane after the merger but already at the part of the continuous line (= lane crossing forbidden) a guy coming from A14 obviously ignored this line and crossed, cutting me almost dead not only literally speaking. The strange thing was that I had looked into rear and side mirror nanoseconds before and didn’t see anyone so I was only waiting for the line to allow me lane crossing. But then he was there and I only saw him through the side window...Panicked and jumped on the brake, which was good on the one hand since he would otherwise had collided with me but horrible on the other hand, with a speed of approx. 130 km/hrs.... Luckily no one was behind me and I speeded again to change to the right lane. Thanks sweet guardian angel wherever you are!

    © Ingrid D., October 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Bring warm clothes, official heating periods

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    This might sound silly for some ears, including mine, but Italy has a law for official heating periods. Since the weather nowadays gives a **** what month or season it is, cooler periods than “normal” for the time of year can result. Depending where you stay, don’t expect the heating systems to work. This has to do with the fact that energy is rather expensive in Italy. Some houses have alternative or independent heating systems, which makes heating outside of the official heating periods easier. When I was in Gubbio mid May 2010, the temperatures dropped at a point in time and Federica told me about this law. But since I was silly enough to have packed not enough clothes, she brought me additional blankets. In between, when I had my language lessons, I was so happy that I my teacher Edvige has a pellet heating system – guess who curled around that one from time to time....

    In case you book a rental home for a while, make sure to check the small print about heating and if they provide blankets anytime of the year.

    The dates of Italy’s five heating periods depend on the region. For each region, a certain amount of hours is allowed, as well as a “fixed” time span, from six hours in southern Sicilia to 24 hours in northern Italy. See website below, which is easy to understand even though it is in Italian.
    For the most popular parts of Italy it is:
    Zone E:
    Venezia, Milano, northern Italy: Oct. 15 – April 15, 14 hours per day,
    Zone D:
    Toscana, Umbria, Lazio (incl. Roma), Marche: Nov 1 – April 15, 12 hours per day,
    Zone C:
    Napoli, Amalfi, Bari, Cagliari (ect): Nov. 15 – March 31, 10 hours per day.

    © Ingrid D., September 26, 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo
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    Counterfeited banknotes – check twice

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Since January 1st, 2002, the currency in many European country is the Euro, also in Italy. And since then the counterfeiters are active. European Central Bank, ECB, publishes statistics on a biannual base; the latest are the January 2011 statistics. They show that the most popular denomination is 50 €, followed by 20 € and 100 €. The discussion about safety of the Euro banknotes against counterfeiting is as old as the Euro itself, but as always it is a question of information and education. European Central Bank and the Euro country national banks do publish the security features in extended length even with videos. It does help a lot to carefully read these and remember the three words: feel – look – tilt. So it is impossible to counterfeit the banknotes 100%, because these features just cannot be copied to 100%. It is us (and the cashiers) who have this 100% in our hands and are frauded or not when we don’t know how to detect the genuine ones from the counterfeited ones. In my opinion, the best (and definitely not 100% counterfeitable) feature is the colour changing number on 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euro. It changes colour from pink to greenish and this change to greenish is not imitable even with the latest inventions counterfeiters have access to. Even if the ECB’s video of the colour change or my photos don’t show this properly on the monitor (it all depends on our monitor settings), it is pretty obvious on the banknote itself. In case a future counterfeiter stumbles upon this through google search – believe me, there is no way to imitate this, and by all means there will be always someone who properly identifies your fraud with modern and unique methods and is even able to trace you back to your shop :-). Ha!

    Interpol gives advice on their website what you can do to check if you got a counterfeited banknote:
    ###If you are a member of the general public:
    * look at the banknote carefully;
    * compare it to other banknotes of the same denomination at your disposal;
    * feel the raised texture on the printed area of the banknote;
    * if you still have doubts about the authenticity of the banknote, refuse to accept it and report it to the proper authorities. ###

    © Ingrid D., March 2009, spelling edits & website exchange March 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo
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    Endangered plants – please do not pick them!

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Wildflowers, no matter if they grow on meadows, at creeks or in the mountains are beautiful to discover, to look at and to take photos of. But many of them are classified as endangered species and thus are forbidden to be destroyed or being picked. Unfortunately I didn’t find a proper list with photos of the endangered plants in Italy (there must be one, I am sure, maybe in Italian only), but the rule of thumb is very easy: leave the flowers where they are, admire them, take photos but don’t pick them. I know of heavy fines for tourists who have picked Edelweiss. Locals saw this, reported them and they were traced at their hotel. If you are in doubt, ask the locals and they will tell you about the protected flowers and plants. Or check with the park rangers, in case the region you visit is a national park or national reserve.

    The ones in my photos (taken in the mountains of Mauls, Alto-Adige) are definitely endangered species: gentian (gentiana clusii), Edelweiss (leontopodium alpinum), stemless carline thistle (carlina acaulis), alpine pasqueflower (pulsatilla alpina) and alpine rose (rhododendron ferrugineum).

    Update, September 2009:
    Thank you dear Jean-Louis for your the links you gave me for protected plants in some of the regions of Italy:
    protected flowers in Lombardia,
    protected flowers in Sondrio,
    protected flowers in Montagne della Duchessa,
    protected flowers in Piemonte.

    © Ingrid D., March 2009, spelling edits & website exchange Sept 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Keep your bill for everything you pay for

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    When you pay for anything, be it meals, drinks, books and postcards, gifts, remedy, hotel room, entrance tickets, petrol, taxi drive, shopping items, well just anything for which you hand over your money, you will get a bill or check. You must keep this until you are minimum 50 metres away from the shop, hotel, taxi, supermarket etc. It is simply Italian law. The reason is that the fiscal authority wants to reduce black market money and has installed the hand over of bills for anything paid for to anyone who delivers service or sells anything. If you buy something and you won’t get the bill, ask for it. It is called ricevueta fiscale (for bill, check) or scontrino (for bon, voucher, usually in bars or enotecas). And it is not that a foreigner could claim not to have known this – the Italian guardia finanza or financial police is very strict with this. They might come and check customers who leave a shop (or the alike) and if they don’t have the bill for anything they bought within a radius of 50 metres from the shop (or the alike), they will fine customers and shop owner.

    Italians have a mixed relationship with their tax authorities (well, who does love the tax authorities??) and I almost collapsed from laughing when I saw the cute little graffiti at the tax department in Venezia: a little rabbit that sh**s on them.

    © Ingrid D., March 2009, spelling edits Sept 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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  • pepemorris11's Profile Photo

    Be careful of tickets which stick together

    by pepemorris11 Written Jun 1, 2013

    When validating tickets, make sure they are not stuck together. Once i accidentally validated 2 tickets together,without realising that they were two tickets as they were stuck together. Although the back of one ticket was validated with the time and date, and the back of the other had no print on its back, i still could not pass it through the machine. It gave off a beeping sound and a red light.

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  • pepemorris11's Profile Photo

    Validate your public transport ticket

    by pepemorris11 Written Jun 1, 2013

    Always validate your transport ticket especially to the one going to the airport. If caught , will be heavily fined. That money can be used for other things.
    I was told if the machine is not working then you need to write the date and day and time you boarded the bus/tram

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  • RoscoeGregg's Profile Photo
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    Pay Cash If You Are From The States

    by RoscoeGregg Updated Apr 29, 2013

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    Americans visiting Italy be careful with your American credit and debit cards. We are not issued the micro chipped cards that most Europeans are. This means that the banks there can and sometimes do tack on pretty large fees.

    The store owner will not even know about this. So they cannot warn you.

    We reviewed our purchases at home and found that in some cases the bank charge was more than the item we purchased. For example we bought a wallet as a gift for a neighbor that kept an eye on our place. It ran just 20 euro. The bank charge was 27 euro.

    So now we use cash at shops and restaurants. We have not had this problem at hotels but we often receive a discount for cash at hotels so we do not use a card for that anyway.

    So remember cash is king.

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  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo

    Transport Strikes

    by GentleSpirit Written Dec 13, 2012

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    The Italian labor movement is very active. Strikes can unfortunately be a big inconvenience for the tourist. Luckily, many of the strikes are announced beforehand so there is some chance to make alternative plans.

    Based on my own experience, one suggestion would be to email the hotel you are staying at before leaving home. Ask them if they can check if any strikes are coming up. You might be able to make other arrangements in time so your vacation isn't interrupted.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Eating/Drinking in Public

    by goodfish Updated Dec 4, 2012

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    New laws have popped up around Italy - notably in Venice, Rome and Florence - about eating and drinking in public places. Besides the usual problem of sloppy people leaving trash all over, it appears that Italians feel a bit differently about the indiscriminate noshing so common in the US. While they do indeed have their version of fast food, it is often eaten where it was purchased or discreetly in a quiet corner. I've read various online comments from Italians who are puzzled and repelled by tourists vigorously chewing away anywhere and everywhere in public and especially on, or near, their national treasures. Where most valuable antiquities in the US are safely behind glass, not so in Italy. Tourists may not realize that the fountain they're about to spill tomato sauce all over is 1000 years old?

    Food left about also draws pigeons: the scourge of historic monuments and valuable architecture.

    That said, it's not always clear where, and where not, you can chow down your panini, and fines can be steep so while you may not see a sign, a good rule of thumb is not to eat or drink on or in just about any site listed in your guidebook: monument, church, ruin, building, fountain, etc. Parks are the exception: Italian green spaces are excellent places for a picnic - although you may not always be allowed to graze in the grass. Gelato? It's usually perfectly acceptable to stroll with cup or cone in hand but be careful where you sit: watch what the locals are doing and follow their lead.

    One more thing that makes the locals crazy: public snoozing and sunbathing. The piazze, church steps and monuments are no places to nap or catch some rays so keep your eyes open and your shirts on, OK?

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  • Matchello_Lulu's Profile Photo

    Warning: Rude people everywhere!!

    by Matchello_Lulu Written Dec 1, 2012

    After spending 25 days traveling around Italy, this is a warning I must give to anyone intending to go to Italy: don't expect any local to be polite with you just because you are spending tons of cash during you visit to their country. Seems like that even with the crisis they just don't care. Rudeness is everywhere!!

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    Cleaning and Renovation

    by goodfish Updated Jul 12, 2012

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    It can be an enormous disappointment to finally get to Italy and find that must-see building, painting, fountain or other piece of antiquity covered in scaffolding, shrouded in plastic or missing entirely. Light, pollution, weather and crowds take a costly toll on these things and they all need the occasional sprucing up and/or inspection for damage. Sometimes they become too fragile altogether to be on display for very long. Fortunately, careful attention will keep these treasures intact for many centuries to come and, sad as it is to find them blocked by construction or missing in action, there are thousands of other fascinating things to see.

    More annoying can be temporary events which obstruct/disrupt historic sites with staging, very large pieces of amusement equipment, noise, incompatible contemporary art, etc.

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Comments (1)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Apr 4, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    I just found an article about manipulated ATM machines in Italy. Although it is in Italian only, but the photo they show speaks for itself.
    Be careful and check the bancomates! These will more likely be in the tourist centres and bigger cities:
    notiziario360.it/truffe-sui-...

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Apr 4, 2013 at 11:47 PM

      Yes, similar has happened here too. It's also a good idea to make sure you keep a hand or something over the buttons as you type in your PIN: there have been tiny cameras used, fixed above the keyboard, as well as things which 'skim' the card details on insertion. It's always a good idea to check all ATMs, anywhere, before you start and, preferably, use bank ones when the bank is open.

    • Trekki's Profile Photo
      Apr 4, 2013 at 11:55 PM

      Yes, it seems to be quite popular, happens in Germany since ages and surely happened in Italy as well since ages. I found the photo helpful.
      And yes, never draw money in evenings - always when the bank is open :-) I do that too :-)

Italy Warnings and Dangers

Reviews and photos of Italy warnings and dangers posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Italy sightseeing.
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