tourists florence

10 tips for staying safe in Florence, Italy.

ggnitaly in florence

Look at me, I’m a tourist in my own city! Next to me is my cousin Val

Lately there has been a lot of talk about safety traveling alone (especially women). In light of recent horrific events in Turkey of a woman killed on a solo trip or in other parts of the world, it’s a worthy topic in my book. The reality is that bad things happen to good people everywhere we go – the difference is what gets press coverage and what no-one ever hears about. I will say after living here full-time since 2007 that I feel very safe living in Florence, Italy and for the most part, Europe in general.

While for some it may ‘feel’ safer in America because you can very much live in a certain kind of bubble  [car-work-gym-house], the statistics don’t lie. Here, while there might be a slight chance of getting my purse/wallet/phone stolen – I do not fear getting killed in the process which I really can’t say the same when I am in America. The facts are that random, violent crime is much less in Italy than in the United States {just my example} and murders are rare.

There are a lot of personal {read common sense} things I make sure to do on an every day basis which I would like to share with potential visitors to Italy and Florence specifically. Please feel free to leave me a comment if you have had an experience you would like to share or a tip you think I may have missed. I love hearing from my readers!

  • Use common sense. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Yet even smart people make stupid decisions on a daily basis –  myself included. My biggest idiot-move is walking around with my ipod earbuds stuck in my ears all of the time. Honestly, it’s not safe or smart to do this. You can’t hear if a bus is hurtling towards you on a tiny sidewalk nor a potential attacker/angry nonna coming from behind. Put your ear buds in only once you have arrived somewhere safe or are on the bus etc. Also a lighter volume helps as well, you don’t want to be a future Helen Keller like me.
  • Buddy-System. While I know this may not be possible on a daily basis. I recommend the buddy system for getting home late at night or at least getting to a well-lit place where you can wait for the bus, taxi or with someone. Crimes in Italy that I hear about the most are petty thefts. Whether that be someones wallet stolen {just one example – I avoid a certain juice bar  in the center because I know multiple people who have had their things stolen at this location} at a laundromat, Iphone taken at knifepoint, or one of the famous ‘scooter robberies’ where two people on a scooter fly by and grab your purse while you are walking, these things happen but not often! If you have a friend with you, you will be a less desirable target, especially late at night.
  • Avoid side-streets & always take well-lit roads. I used to live on a tiny street off of via ghibellina when I was a student, studying abroad the first time. Via ghibellina is a lively street any day of the week with some popular student bars and restaurants, whenever I got a sixth-sense that I wasn’t alone walking home – I never-ever went down my street by myself. I just kept walking until I hit the viale that goes towards Piazza Beccaria which always has passing traffic. Whenever you can, take larger well-lit roads and explore the tiny {often really pretty} isolated streets only during the morning/day. If you feel like someone is a little too-close to comfort, call someone or pretend to and speak really loudly and avoiding showing them where you live!
  • Pay attention! T-man once almost got his wallet stolen by a gypsy long ago at a cross-walk in front of the Duomo. The only reason he saved his lire was an alert passer-by across the street spotting this person with her hand near his pockets and let him know! Remember thieves are really, really good at what they do. Often you won’t know about a theft until it’s already happened and most of the time its over with in a blink-of -an-eye. Now with smartphones, Ipads, cameras, and the like, make us more distracted than ever {I put myself in this category}. Don’t be a victim and try to pay attention to what you are doing especially in the busy center in areas like the San Lorenzo markets, Santa Maria novella station and anywhere where tourists congregate. Also if you have a smart phone that has a lost-phone app download it and you may thank yourself with some prosecco later. It’s the first thing I did when I got my Samsung Galaxy SIII. 
  • Don’t carry all of your cards/cash/documents with you. This is what I do. I have a wallet and in it are many crumpled esselunga receipts, a membership card to Montecarla bar that I haven’t been to in five years and one document. Do I walk around with my passport? Nope!  However, I have made copies of it and carry that with me along with my carta’d identita or permesso di soggiorno. One debit card travels with me along with a change purse and some cash. In typical girl style, I have many random coins populating the bottom of my bag. I try to leave as much as I can at home and when I travel I carry a small purse that can be strapped to my front that holds cash, one card and only one document because I really don’t want to go through the pain of remaking all of my cards if they get stolen. Make copies of every important card/document you have and keep them in a folder in a different place than the original docs. In your cell phone or purse keep a list of numbers you need to call if your cards get lost, plus your at-home doctors phone number and any urgent health info ie: diabetic/need certain medication just in case. 
  • Let someone in on your plans. While I assume that everyone traveling lets a family member back home know about their whereabouts, not everyone temporary living somewhere does, but they should! If you are visiting Italy, register with the state department and let your family know your itinerary, names of hotels and cities visiting and the best way to reach you. It’s nothing one email couldn’t solve. If you are studying abroad or just living here, let a friend know where you are if you plan on a solo day trip in the countryside or to another city. Don’t rely soley on twitter and FB. If you have a non EU cell phone you should be able to use wifi abroad on your phone abroad and you can purchase a cheap, cell phone and rechargeable sim card when you get here near the train station at any phone shop. You can stop by the tourist office to get the address. 
  • Don’t do anything abroad that you wouldn’t at home. For some reason, people at times treat Italy and especially Florence as their very own Disney World. Why? I couldn’t tell you but really they should remember it is a normal city with normal city problems. If you plan to go out drinking, great! Just bring a friend and make sure they walk you home or put you in a taxi with the agreement to text one another when you arrive home. Don’t take that shortcut if it means going down a dark road, especially if you have been drinking. If you need help, call someone! Also, please don’t leave your purse on the ground while you snap photos which yes I have seen, or stand in the middle of the sidewalk/street, it’s annoying – and dangerous. 
  • Hold tight! Play a game with yourself where you stash all sorts of different goodies around your body. Honestly, I don’t have a money belt or see myself buying one in the near future. As I already mentioned, I prefer a method of keeping things in different places, and carrying a purse that can zip, not snap. Hold that purse like it’s your baby and you wouldn’t let your baby out of sight – right? {By the way I have no kids but it’s the best example I can think of}. Keep your purse and backpack in front of you, not behind you. Too many times have I seen tourists or students with large backpacks behind them just walking around crowded areas or on the bus with all of their stuff scattered about. Not a good idea. Pack less, and hold your purse tight! 
  • Try the “one or other system” when it comes to clothes. This is for you ladies. “One or the other means” – if you want to show off your cleavage, that’s nice –  but… wear pants or a longer skirt. Wearing a low-cut top, plus a shirt skirt + heels in Italy means – harass me! Want to wear a short skirt? Pair with a more conservative top and again take it easy with the heels because the cobblestones will do their best to wreck them anyhow!  Carry a pair of bendable flip-flops in your purse. Italians are pretty harmless, but I remember being a student and wearing some pretty crazy outfits while wondering why men were yelling, barking or why I was getting asked out by a  high-school student, married men or nonni at the bus stop. Want to wear a sexy dress? Put on a coat or shawl over it until you get to your destination. Believe me, you will thank me later :). 
  • Don’t be scared of Italy or of Italians. Of course, I need to add this because I have seen comments on other articles/blogs about people not wanting to visit Italy because they thought it was unsafe and ‘scary’ just because said poster was just being honest. Someone a year os so ago emailed me saying she was scared to let her daughter study abroad because of all of the ‘crime’. My response was to do a five-minute research of the crime rate in her daughter’s own college town and compare that to Florence. You can just guess which one was worse. Really if you just follow the above steps and just use common sense and your own personal intuition, you will be just fine and have a wonderful time. Police are everywhere in the center and here is my own list of useful numbers & info everyone coming to Florence should know

FYI: I am working on another post about common ‘scams’ and how to avoid them which is a whole other ball game. I remember watching Italian Tv program striscia della notizia and one of their undercover cameras caught a taxi scam artist at his best, short-changing Japanese tourists and then shamelessly asking them out for a pizza afterward. classy!

Best motto you can live by “Stay safe but don’t stay home!”

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  1. Judith A. Greenwood

    My number one tip is good anywhere, Don’t get drunk. We (almost) all drink wine here, many drink beer, a meal may end in a digestivo. It can add up, but as long as you are consuming food you probably will still have your head about you. If you just knock them back, drinking for the sake of getting high, tiddly, and in the end drunk — and that can sneak up on you — your judgment will be impaired and all the safety tips in the world won’t help unless you just go home, go to bed and sleep it off.
    With all the stimulation of being in a fascinating foreign country, why put yourself in the position of turning the dream into a nightmare?

  2. kat

    I studied abroad in Barcelona, which probably has a much higher crime rate than Florence, and I have to admit that at one point or another I did all the things you are not supposed to do… wearing a short skirt, walking home alone after a few drinks, etc. I was lucky I guess though and nothing ever happened to me. However one thing that I think helped was, if you do need to walk home late at night or find yourself in a not-so-desirable neighborhood all of a sudden, walk quickly and as if you know where you’re going, even if you don’t. It sounds kind of silly, but I know from growing up in NY that it’s really easy to spot the people who are wandering around, looking up at the buildings, etc. and unfortunately those people make an easy target for thieves and so on.

  3. D

    Very good tips, and I think the scam post will be helpful too. I try to catch ‘Strisica’ and marveled at the one in Pompeii and the Napoli area as a whole with the fake “tour guides”. So many tourists (Italians included) ripped off, but not only that….giving money to non-certified guides who carry false badges.
    One thing I’ve noticed time and again, however, is something that I don’t intend to come across as racist, but as fact. I’ve seen so many American (female) students being grabbed at, smooth talked and led away by men who are clearly not Italian but pretending to be so. Living here helps discern who is who by accents and grammar, but to the new 19 year old not used to the language, they fall for any guy claiming to be named “Fabio” or “Gianni” then have a drunken fling with “an Italian.” I cringe when I see a groups of students being leered at, followed by, or plied with drinks by someone I certainly know is not Italian and yet the charade is on.

  4. D

    Exactly. That’s what is so shady about it. On one hand I’m sorry they feel they need to lie, I suppose… OTOH, it’s gross and annoys me.

  5. Skippy

    Glad to hear that Florence is a generally safe spot for people.…I started doing research when I returned hope from vacation there. I was sexually assaulted on a street just beside the Duomo, at 11 AM. A man kept grabbing me, making lewd comments, and trying to pull me into alleys. No one helped, maybe because I couldn’t speak Italian. I am glad to hear, however, that this is a rare occurrence.

    • ggnitaly84

      Bad things can happen anywhere and I find Florence to be a much safer city than Los Angeles or even my hometown of san antonio, it tends to ‘feel’ more dangerous because you are among people much more walking around and not in the bubble of your car, mall, or office.

  6. Kathy

    We will be visiting Florence soon and we are considering renting an apartment as opposed to a Hotel…could you recommend a reliable comapany to rent an apartment from or a Good Hotel.
    Thanks, K

    • ggnitaly84

      I am a big fan of Airbnb.com as an apartment rental agency, I used them in Berlin and will again in my upcoming trip to Portugal. I would check there first and see what options are out there. Otherwise, I really like Villa Landucci by Piazza Alberti, gourmet B&B gem of a hotel!

  7. madallison

    Hi, I’m going to Florence and have found two apartments. One in Via della vigna nuova and another in via della vigna vecchia. Which is better safety-wise? And if they’re both equally safe which is better in terms of casual dining, groceries, sights to see, and more festive with more people? Thanks for your help!

    • ggnitaly84

      they are both great safety wise, I wouldn’t worry about either one. I think personally, I would prefer via della vigna vecchia. Your close to the Bargello and I just love that area. :)

  8. Norma Allen

    Leaving Venice on June 17th and coming to Florence. My daughter and everyone else traveling to Paris. I have been there several times. Can you please tell this Tennessee girl which train I should take into Florence as well as a good bed and breakfast to stay in for 3 nites…maybe also a day trip to Tuscany. Will be leaving Florence and flying to London for a few days. Starting trip in Rome with 20 somethings then this 60 year old on my own for a few days…Need English speaking people…Can not wait this is on my bucket list…

    • ggnitaly84

      Hello Norma, you take whichever train you can catch to Firenze Santa Maria Novella (or Firenze S.M.N) which is the main train station to Florence. The bed & breakfast I really love is Villa Landucci (easy to reach by bus from the central train station in Florence) http://www.villalanducci.it/en/ (great prices, beautiful rooms and good customer service). Most of all have a great time! There are so many things to do and if you get the chance, visiting Siena, San Gimignano are wonderful day trips from Florence

  9. Niki

    Hi, nice blog. I am a Florentine and have lived in San Francisco for 11 years and found it much more dangerous than Florence will ever be. Nevertheless in the many years when I was working a night shift that forced me to walk the 4 long blocks to Market to catch my bus to the Height Ashbury, only once I was followed through the panhandle by a masturbator, who finished his business when I confronted him and left. This because I tried to look aware of my surroundings, appearing tough potential trouble if approached. If you look like a potential victim you’ll be easily spotted. In Florence I never had any problem returning home late at night even on my own. Sure, there are the pick-up attempts, the occasional man exposing himself, the old man blurting obscenities, but not much more. Italians are all about show and even when two men fight they rarely arrive to blows, preferring chest-to-chest shouting and then parting when the situation has exhausted itself. To Norma Allen if she asks about Via di Monteoliveto, it’s a hill in the proximity of via Pisana, below Bellosguardo… :-) ciao!

    • GirlinFlorence

      ciaoo! I could not agree with you more! When people write me to ask if Florence is safe, I more than happily screensnap and send them the latest stats on violence in their area which is always higher than ours. People just need a fair amount of common sense (like not walking in a low lit area at 5am etc) and they will be just fine. There were areas of Los Angeles that I always avoided because there lurked true danger!

  10. Susan

    Hi, I’m a college student going to Florence to study abroad this summer. As of now, my plan is taking a bus from the Pisa airport to the main Florence train station and then walking to a hostel/hotel from there. The only problem is I will most likely be arriving at the train station around 11:15pm. So do you think it would be safe for me to make my way to a nearby hostel at that time if I am tugging a big luggage, traveling by myself, and also a Chinese girl with a small built. My alternative plan would be looking for a hostel in Pisa around 8pm and staying the night there instead. Thanks in advance for your advice!

  11. Donna

    Hello I love your blog. I have learned so much about Florence reading it. I am coming to Florence for 3 months alone. I am a 50 year old woman. I rented an apartment on Borgo degli Albizi. After doing some research It seemed to be a good location in walking distance to most everything. Hopefully I choose the right area. What is your opinion

  12. mdpambati

    Hi Girl in Florence…randomly searching in google about backpacking in italy and it brough me to ur wonderful page, my wife would be travelling alone next week in italy and would be in florence for 2 nights, could you suggest a good hostel which u know? Thanks in advance


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