Safety in Florence
From a girl’s perspective…
In general, the best advice I can give you is to not be stupid. To help you avoid a negative experience here are a few, general tips:
- Unless it’s between the times of 8:00 (sunrise) and 20:00 (sunset) DO NOT walk by yourself. Walking by yourself is just asking for trouble, if it is absolutely necessary then walk in the middle of a well-lit street and keep your head on a swivel.
- As a rule, if it is past midnight and you are still out, take a taxi back home unless you are in a group with more than three girls.
- Walk on the sidewalks with your purse cross-body and with the physical bag part away from the street. If you are walking with your purse towards the street, avoid it being cross-bodied and just keep it on a shoulder.
- My FSU director tells a story where she was walking on the sidewalk with her purse cross-body and towards the street. A vespa (who generally travel at a very fast speed) drove by her and attempted to snatch her purse. Well, as you can imagine, since the bag was around her entire body she went with the purse as it was being snatched- unpleasant.
5. Do NOT under any circumstances give gypsies money, or the little gypsy children. The gypsies will not leave you alone if money is given to them, they won’t leave you alone even if you look at them. Case and point- don’t engage gypsies, just look straight ahead. Do not take or look at the seemingly-free beads or roses, they will follow you until it is paid (EVEN IF THEY SAY IT’S FREE) and they will not accept it back.
6. How to identify a gypsy: dressed in all white with neon or crazy-coloured socks. Generally in dresses and may sometimes have little children to pull on your heartstrings.
7. Do NOT engage the men on the sides of the road who are selling purses/scarves/sunglasses/electronics/umbrellas/art/selfie sticks/etc. If there is a man on the side of the road selling things on a makeshift table or a blanket DO NOT buy anything or respond to their calls. Especially the men with the purses, they work for the equivalent of the Italian Mob, if you are caught buying items from these men (specifically purses) you will get arrested and forced to pay a fine.
8. If you are looking to buy an Italian Leather purse, don’t fret, they’re literally everywhere. Whether they’re in the leather markets, stands on the road (legal ones), or the stores you will be able to find them no problem. Be careful on what you buy, “Made in Italy” is allowed to be imprinted on anything as long as the main functioning part of the item was put-on/produced in Italy. An example of this could be the leather of a purse was made in/treated in China, but since the zipper was put on in Italy, it will be allowed to say “Made in Italy”. Instead, look for the stamp of genuine leather (Vera Pelle) on the bag. Another good way to tell if it’s genuine leather, scratch the outside of the bag with your nail or a key and see if the scratch easily wipes off, if so- genuine.
9. If you are going to eat, keep your backpack close or underneath you (in between your legs). When we first got here, there were a couple cases where students were sitting at a bar/restaurant with their backpack next to them, but not paying attention and their laptops were stolen, mainly, along with a few other items.
ATM’s and how to avoid getting your card stolen:
- First-off, do NOT go to a stand-alone ATM. A stand-alone ATM are those that are so conveniently placed throughout your journey home or to major attractions. Always go to an ATM that is attached to a cash-exchange (where there is a live human being behind the counter inside) or inside/attached to a bank such as BNL (Bank of America’s “sister bank”). Generally, if you see the “Plus” symbol on the back of your card and the ATM, it is a safe bet- especially if its attached to a foreign bank, look for that “Plus” symbol.
- Know your PIN. Don’t be that obvious teenager that is unaware of their 4 digit PIN to access their debit card. Avoid that embarrassing phone call to the bank, who sometimes cannot re-set your card.
- No matter what, even if you’re inside, have your body try to take up the front of the ATM and keep your hand over the keys when submitting the PIN, you never know who could be watching.
- Due to the ridiculous exchange-rates and ATM charge, try to withdrawal the max on your card (as scary as it is) and then book it home and put most of it in your safe. Honestly, even if you are withdrawing an immense amount of money, in the long-run you will be saving money by taking-out the max (savings are in the limit of withdrawal and exchange rates).
If you are going to a bar or a club:
- Do not bring your phone unless it can easily fit in your bra or on the inside of your pants. Do not bring a lot of money, max 35–50 euro (I generally take a 20) and put that in your bra, if your phone is on one side-put it in the other cup, less room for slippage. Pockets are too easy for someone to reach into (no matter how tight you think your pants are, they have a way) to keep money/valuables in.
- ALWAYS WATCH YOUR DRINK. End of story; and if you’re with friends, watch their drinks too. Just keep your hand over-top of the glass or bottle at all times… just watch the drinks.
- For the keys to your apartment (again with the bra) take the split ring that the keys are on and attach it to your bra strap on the front of your body. If you don’t want to do that, attach it to your belt loop somehow (carabiner, clip, hair tie, etc.) and put the physical keys in your front pocket while they’re attached.
- Don’t wear shoes that you care about/can’t be cleaned easily- the toes will be stepped-on and turned black.
- The men in Italy are ridiculous, they are touchy, grabby, and relentless. ALWAYS have a dancing buddy that will gladly step in and dance on/with you to get the men away from your body. As bad as it sounds, it’s true… just be careful and expect to have no personal space when going to a club.