I know it has been said a million times before about all cities....
But please be careful with your belongings, especially when you are in a crowded place, like the San Lorenzo Markets for example.
Don't keep your wallet in your back pocket, zip up your bags and hold them close to you when it is crowded - it is all common sense really.
Also, be wary of the gypsies that hang around the main tourist areas begging for money.
Sometimes a group of them carrying cardboard/newspaper will approach an unsuspecting tourist....they will surround the poor sod and use the cardboard/paper to cover the fact that they are trying to pickpocket/steal from bags etc
Also, if you feel sorry for one of the gypsies and give them some money, be warned - my sister gave one lady a small amount of money....but the gypsy then followed my sister yelling at her that she wanted more and that she knew my sister had more!!!
Gipsies, often old ladies or young girls work the buses and you should always, always stay away from them.
One street that's particularly subject to pickpockets is via dei Cerretani (from the train station to the Duomo). In this area, little children, usually gypsies, are what you need to look out for. During the summer, one way to avoid their incredibly quick hands is to walk on the sunny side of the street. Pickpockets usually use the shady side because they have to "work" all day.
The police is usually powerless. Normal clothes cops patrol the streets, they spot the pickpockets and sometimes manage to stop them as they commit the crime. But the legal system in Italy doesn't work very well, and these kids are out again in no more than 48 hours.
Other top sites for pickpockets are Internet Cafes and Laundry rooms. In this second case, you might be approached by south American (Peru or Chile) women in their thirties: one of the two asks for help with a machine, you're kind enough to explain and naive enough to leave your purse sitting on the chair behind you! On July 17, 2002 I actually busted these two women robbing a young American college girl. The police officer that arrested them explained that they were part of a large band that pulls this kind of trick.
Another case: two northafrican looking men approach you on the street in the evening pretending they are drunk. One puts a hand on your shoulder and asks you how you'd react to this (he gently steps on one of your feet without hurting you): the act is made to distract you. Your attention goes to the first guy and your foot, so you don't notice or feel the second guy taking your wallet or cellular phone.
Another street case (NOT very common): a group of young gipsies surrounds you holding newspapers they claim they want to sell you. Eight quick hands will be searching your pockets in no time. Don't be defensive, be assertive: phisically push them away, they won't engage in phisical confrontation. No need to hurt anybody, just be resolute.
MAY 21, 2006 UPDATE: I CAN'T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH SINCE I HAD MY WALLET TAKEN OUT OF MY PURSE THE OTHER DAY. AND I THOUGHT I WAS BEING SO CAREFUL. FORTUNATELY I HAD ALREADY STARTED CARRYING MY CARDS AND MONEY IN ONE OF THOSE TRAVEL POUCHES.
You must be absolutely alert and awake at all times for pickpockets. The most obvious, of course, are the small groups of women with their children in tow and a baby in their arms. They work as a group and they usually carry a newpaper with them. I never found out what they do with it, but it plays a roll in their thievery. Don't let them intimidate you. I even yelled at them to get away (learn how to do this in Italian) and they scrammed.
They are not the only ones who earn their living this way though, so, in general, just be careful. Nothing is worse than having your money and your passport stolen.
We were warned that pick pockets operate in the Ponte Vecchio, Galleria degli Uffizi, Duomo and San Lorenzo areas.
In a way you kind of expect it!
I didn't see anything dodgy at all during my time in Florence, however I was vigulent all the same.
Generally Florence is a city which is safe to be in, so enjoy your time here!
The San Lorenzo Market is in one of the most beautiful blocks of central Florence. Unfortunately this block is becoming more and more the dormitory of gipsies and illegal immigrants who do not have any respect of the ancient monuments (there is an awful stink all over the streets, because these people probabily do not even know that streets are not public toilets!!!), and of tourists as well! And the problem is that our local government does not care about what these "animals" do to the San Lorenzo Block and to tourists. So be careful and when you go to visit the San Lorenzo Market (which is very nice), pay attention to your wallets, watches and whatever precious you have. I would suggest you not to walk through the San Lorenzo block during the night unless you want to be hit by some illegal immigrant.
Pickpockets are everywhere, but it's especially a problem in some of the larger cities in Europe. Gypsies operate in and around the train stations. They will wait for passengers to disembark the train and in the chaos, they will rip you off. They will also come up to you quite directly and ask for money and will get on and off the trains at random points looking for luggage that is easy to grab. Since there aren't so many train conductors who come and check your ticket, it's an ideal area for thieves to operate in and it's really something travellers should be mindful of. In Florence, pickpocketing is such a problem that the police have made significant efforts combat this problem (both as visibly dressed uniform officers parading up and down the historic district and as uncover officers). This should alleviate any worries but always be street-smart because pickpocketers are everywhere. Another method pickpocketers will use is by setting up an vending area (often a simple cardboard box with fake sunglasses or scarves or handbags attached). They try to sell you something and as you pull out your wallet, they snag it. Selling in this manner is illegal and they try to avoid the police but you will see them everywhere....just stay away from them, be firm with saying 'No' and don't pull out any money around them.
Beggars (gypsys) in Florence (and all of Italy) are widespread and will come right up to you. Treat it as you choose, but just be ready for it.
Pickpockets in the center of Florence are a pretty well-known danger. Be careful! Keep money either directly on your body (like a little change purse around your neck and down your shirt) or if you carry a purse hold it directly in front on you. I've known people to carry purses but keep important things (like cash, credit cards and passports) in a sparate change purse just to be safe. Too many stories already, so don't make yourself one of them.
Travel in groups as much as possible when in the center. Things are much safer, though, when you move to the outskirts a bit.
As with most cities, you are warned to be aware of your surroundings and of potential pick pockets. Travelling all over Europe and being from Detroit, I would consider me and my family experienced at being aware of what is happening around us. Nevertheless, Florence is the only city where we have had something snatched. They got it from under our table at an outdoor cafe near Pitti Palace. The cafe was actually about 5 meters back from the road and had a little fence, which still didn't stop them. I cancelled the cards within 5-10 minutes and still had 3 different charges of $1000 a piece. Be careful!!
As with any big city, Florence has a higher incidence of pickpockets. By aware of gypsies who frequent almost all areas of Florence. They will send their children into pubs and restaurants, and while you're admiring the rose they're trying to sell you, your wallet will disappear. Sounds harsh, but don't be fooled by doe-eyed children. Their favorite trick is to surround you in a group and start pointing and talking wildly to distract you. Keep purses zipped closed and close to your body. Men, do not keep wallets in back pockets.
When you are near the train station, or near santa Maria Novella- Be Careful! Watch for little girls, they grab anything and pass it along. As soon as you grab one the other gets away with your belongings. You watch them get arrested one day, and back the next. Also be careful of ATMs. A friend tried to take out money, he never recieved it, but it was taken out. We still dont really know what happened.
San lorenzo's area and all the area of the market is a great place where to make shopping during the day but during night it's not the most quiet area of Florence.It's better that you go around in couple or in group,'couse you can find some foolish,so,i suggest just..pay attention and take a look about the people you have around,also 'couse there are lots of extraeuropean people in this area(expecially northafricans)
There are a lot of gipsies in the street. Be very careful especially when you see young girls and boys who come close to you grabing newspapers which hide their hands. Usually the walk in couples. They go close to tourists and one of them starts to touch the tourist in order to bother him, and the other gipsy quickly steels the wallet with his hands hidden from the newspaper. So BE VERY CAREFUL!!!