As we traveled through Italy and France, we came across a number of scams and pressure tactics intended to take advantage of tourists. Our first was when the man running the lobby at Hotel Martini in Naples tried to pocket my passport. My husband reminded me to ask for it back, and the guy acted all flustered and pretended he was going to photocopy it. No harm, no foul, but it was an important reminder to make sure that we got our passport back from anyone we handed it to.
The next scam was at a gelato stand outside of the Pompeii Ruins- the gelato was labeled at 3 euros/cup, but the sodas behind the counter did not have a price. When we attempted to pay, the man behind the counter kept asking for more money, as if he had misrang the original price. We should have walked away, but ended up paying 6 euros for a can of coca-cola.
The Amalfi coast seemed to be blissfully scam free- when we asked for a locker at the beach to lock up our things, the person running the restaurant/beach laughed and said, “No one steals here”. It was a breath of fresh air.
Letting my packable hippie purse swing wild and free in Amalfi
In Rome, we were regularly warned to “watch your pockets”. Outside the Colosseum, there were huge crowds selling tours and trinkets, waiting in lines to get inside. Joel (my husband) got sidelined as soon as we left our tour by a man with friendship bracelets- the man claimed that he was giving them away because it was good luck in his culture after his wife gave birth. As soon as Joel attempted to walk away, the guy would begin to pressure him into giving him money- Joel just laughed and walked away. Joel said he thought the guy was casing him to pick his pockets. Otherwise, we weren’t messed with as much in Rome; Perhaps we were on our guard enough that the majority of them avoided us. I got into the habit of tying my purse up so it was directly under my arm, and keeping my hand on my phone in my pocket at all times.
We saw a few people who were obviously homeless in Rome, but we saw way more in Venice. Joel had a woman who was begging for money aggressively come up and grab his clothing- he thought this was also a pickpocket attempt. The vendors who were selling flowers were also aggressive- they would attempt to hand me a flower, then guilt Joel into buying it for me. In Paris, he learned the best way to get them to back off was to say, “She’s not my girlfriend” (which was hilarious, as it was both true and effective).
Paris was the breeding ground for scams and pickpockets, however. In the subways, we saw a man wearing a fake badge and attempting to “help” tourists. Another person in the subway was selling fake tickets. As we were walking back to our airbnb late at night, one man walked behind me and tried to reach his hand into my purse. I had loosened the knot in the strap to let it hang loose after our visit to Lake Como, and never tied it back up. It didn’t have much of value in it, but it did have an extremely heavy phone charging brick in it. I swung it at him multiple times, hard. Joel was a few meters away, but by the time he came back to see what was going on, I had obviously injured the pickpocket. The guy held his arm, shocked that I had fought back. He ran off without much further ado, still clutching himself.
Overall, I was not worried for my physical safety in Italy or France. While the pickpocket certainly felt like a violation, and I reacted violently from instinct, at no other time did I feel threatened. I often walked down allies at night in many of the major cities. Every time, I was more concerned with my goods then with my person. When we traveled from city to city with cash and our passports, I wore those strapped to me under my clothing using a flipbelt, and left everything except what I needed for the day hidden in my hotel when we were settled. We lost nothing to pickpockets or scam artists *toots horn*.