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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Italy 2020 Crime & Safety Report: Rome

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in central Italy. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Italy country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State at the date of this report’s publication advises reconsidering travel to Italy due to a recent outbreak of COVID-19. However, the Travel Advisory in effect prior to the outbreak assessed Italy at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution in Italy due to terrorism. Do not travel to Lombardy and Veneto due to the level of community transmission of the virus and imposition of local quarantine procedures. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Rome as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There has been a decrease in non-violent crime in 2019 (with the exception of extortion, which had a stark increase). Consult with credible local experts and local law enforcement to ensure your organization is not impacted by, infiltrated by, or inadvertently doing business with a criminal organization.

U.S. visitors are generally safe in Italy, and are not specific targets based on nationality; however, criminals do often target foreigners for petty theft such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, and thefts from parked vehicles. Passport theft is of particular concern.

Criminals commonly employ diversion techniques. One common example involves criminals who ask unsuspecting victims for directions. While the victim is offering assistance, an accomplice will covertly take an unattended piece of luggage or bag. Thieves will offer assistance when checking into hotels with bags or strollers, picking up one of the bags and disappearing into the crowd. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security. The large crowds and chaotic atmosphere provide an ideal environment for criminals. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Areas identified as being at higher risk for criminal activity include the area near the Termini Train Station, the neighborhoods of Tor Bella Monaca, Romanina, San Basilio, and Corviale. Pickpockets and bag snatchers are more common near the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and Termini Train Station. These are well-known tourist locations and transportation hubs. Car thieves prefer the areas outside of the Centro Storico, like Giovanni and the Appia areas, where there is less of a police presence.

Take extra care and attention when visiting tourist areas. Exercise heightened security awareness while visiting public parks, especially after dark. While parks are attractive locations for exercise, it is a good idea to travel with another person or with a group in twilight or evening hours. Do not venture down isolated or dark alleyways.

According to Italian National Police reports, there has been a slight decrease from previous years in home burglaries and vehicle break-ins involving the Roman public in general. Vehicle break-ins are more likely to occur when parking on the street. Perpetrators target electronics and other valuables left in plain sight. Park cars in a garage or in a well-illuminated area.

The rate of violent crime (e.g. homicides, aggravated assault, rape) in Rome is below the U.S. national average. Violent crimes in Rome involving U.S. nationals account for less 2% of the total average of all reported criminal incidents in 2019.

Recent incidents of crime against U.S. Embassy employees include:

  • While driving in Rome, an Embassy employee’s vehicle was hit by an unknown object intended to simulate a vehicle collision. The perpetrators claimed the employee had hit their vehicle and demanded the employee pull over to assess the damage. The employee stopped, exited the vehicle, and engaged in an argument with the other driver. While the employee was distracted, another individual took the employee’s purse from inside the vehicle. Stolen items included identification documents, cash, credit cards, and house keys.
  • An intruder broke into an Embassy employee’s residence, gaining access through an open balcony door. They escaped unnoticed with an estimated US$3,300 worth of property.
  • An intruder broke into an Embassy employee’s residence, gaining access through an unlocked door. Stolen items included jewelry, wallets, and a coin collection.
  • A thief broke into an Embassy employee’s vehicle by smashing the passenger side window. Among the items taken were a wallet, work phone, portfolio, and keys.
  • A thief stole an Embassy employee’s bankcard information at a retail location. The thief used the information to withdraw money fraudulently from the employee’s account.
  • A taxi driver assaulted an Embassy employee after a dispute over a taxi fare. It was only when the employee told the driver, in Italian, that he was a U.S. diplomat, that the driver stopped and fled.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is a growing concern for Italian authorities, and should be a priority for anyone conducting business in Rome. According to authorities, credit card fraud, ATM skimming, and identity hacking account for 75% of all financial crime in the city. The U.S. Secret Service in Rome is assisting Italian law enforcement authorities in investigating an increase in the appearance of ATM skimming devices. Use ATMs located in well-lighted public areas or secured inside a bank/business. Cover the keypad with one hand as you enter your PIN. Look for gaps, tampered appearance, or other irregularities between the metal faceplate of the ATM and the card reader. Avoid card readers that are not flush with the face of the ATM. Closely monitor your account statements for unauthorized transactions. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Italy. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings/profiles or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. Common scams include Romance/Online dating; Money transfers; Lucrative sales; Contracts with promises of large commissions; Grandparent/Relative targeting; Free Trip/Luggage; Lotteries; Inheritance notices; and Work permits/job offers. Use common sense, avoid deals that are “too good to be true,” and never give money to someone you do not know.

Protect sensitive computer-based programs and operations. It is not uncommon for private corporations or government agencies to fall victim to hackers or other cyber-related attacks regardless of their location worldwide. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, and Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions in Rome meet U.S standards. Roads are well maintained, and extensive lighting exists. Vehicle accidents are common, as are accidents involving pedestrians.

Driving in Italy can be stressful. Drivers often do not follow traffic laws. Traffic enforcement includes extensive use of cameras, but enforcement by local traffic officials is limited and inconsistent. Scooters and motorcycles do not often follow the rules of the road, and use the sidewalks and median to get around vehicles at traffic lights and in moving traffic. Drive defensively and prepare to brake quickly and avoid scooters and other cars that can cut quickly across lanes or turn across traffic. Pedestrians frequently cross the street outside of crosswalks. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Drivers frequently pass on superhighways (autostrada) at very high speeds. Rural roads are generally narrow, often have no guardrails, and inconsistent speed limits. Seat belt use is compulsory. You must use headlights year-round, and at all times, outside of urban areas. During the autumn/winter months, you must have either winter tires or carry snow chains if driving outside urban areas. Be careful when crossing streets, even when using a marked crosswalk with a green walk light illuminated.

Police traffic control checkpoints are common; police can pull you over without probable cause. If this happens, do not be alarmed or assume you have done something wrong, simply cooperate and present them with your driver’s license. If police stop you, under certain conditions you may pay the police officer issuing the ticket immediately. Be prepared to pay in cash in local currency. Local police can confiscate your car if you cannot pay the fine. Police impose fines for those driving without the proper permits in historic downtown areas of cities and towns throughout Italy. Cameras photograph the license plates of cars illegally driving in parts of the city that require a permit. Authorities forward the fines imposed for these violations to the driver’s home in the United States to request payment. For definitive legal guidance or to contest a fine, consult a lawyer licensed to practice in Italy.

Individuals involved in a traffic accident should take the following suggested actions:

  • Car Accident with Injuries

Call 112 to inform the dispatcher of your location, details regarding injuries, and the accident. Wait for emergency services to arrive. They will provide care and transport of the injured, reestablish traffic flow, and complete an accident report form. Note the name and destination of any injured persons to be transported by ambulance from the scene. A police report will be helpful in this regard. Do not sign any documents that you do not clearly understand or that do not conform to your grasp of the factors surrounding the accident.

  • Car Accident without Injuries and No Agreement on the Facts Relating to the Accident

Call 112. If vehicles are blocking traffic, Italian law requires you move the vehicles if possible. Before moving your vehicle, document the position of the vehicle by any means possible. Extensive photographs can help, but do not consider this the sole source of evidence. Search for skid marks, broken glass, debris, or any other evidence that may help in determining the facts of the accident. Take photographs of all damage to both vehicles and pay particular attention to any pre-existing damage. Try to establish a third-party witness; even if this person is another motorist who cannot wait for the police to arrive, obtain names and phone numbers of actual witnesses who the police can contact. Witness fabrication is not uncommon. There have been reported cases of family members who were not actually present acting as witnesses to accident scenes. In incidents without injury, the police will not issue a police report. The expectation is that the parties will exchange insurance information and the insurance agencies will assign fault.

  • Car Accident without Injuries and Agreement on the Facts Relating to the Accident

Consider the above paragraph first. Wait for the police to arrive and document the incident. Complete the Constatazione Amichevole di Incidente Automobilistico (CAIA, Agreed Statement of Facts on Motor Vehicle Accident). Give a copy to each party. Do not sign the completed form if there is disagreement regarding the version/sequence of events represented. Contact your insurance company; obtain guidance on how to send them the CAIA and inquire about further steps regarding damages/related expenses.

Public Transportation Conditions

The public transportation system (with trains, metro, trams, and buses) in Rome is modern, extensive, and an accepted means of travel. Authorized taxis are white and metered. Only use licensed taxis or a reputable transportation service. Anyone inexperienced in driving in Rome should use public transportation or taxis.

Use extra caution while in/around train stations and transit points, and aboard public transport. There are numerous reports of pickpocketing and purse slashing on public transportation. During rush hour, buses and trains tend to be very crowded, and many victims do not realize they have been targets of robbery. Victims have reported their handbags cut open and their valuables removed, while men have lost items from inner jacket pockets. ATAC Bus Route No. 64 from Termini to St. Peter’s Basilica is a problematic route for skilled theft. Review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Travelers should be alert for transit strikes, which occur often, generally on Fridays.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Several major U.S. airlines service the Rome Fiumincino (FCO), and Ciampino Airport (CIA) international airports. Airline safety is on par with other Western European countries, and meets U.S. aviation security screening and logistic standards. Contract security and various local and national police agencies are responsible for security at airports. Modern equipment helps with passenger, document, and cargo screening. General labor strikes occur throughout Italy, occasionally affecting Milan and surrounding airport operations.

Other Travel Conditions

Numerous tour organizations arrange travel throughout the country, with varying degrees of service. None are off-limits for U.S. Embassy employees.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Rome as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. ISIS, al-Qa’ida, their affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups aspire to commit terrorist attacks against U.S. and Western interests in Europe. Local security authorities believe threats and attacks are likely to be a security concern as European members of ISIS return from Syria and Iraq. There is a general continuing threat in Europe from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. European governments have acted to guard against terrorist attacks, and some have made official declarations regarding heightened threat conditions.

Italy’s concerns for terrorism are exacerbated by its proximity to North Africa and the Middle East. Additionally, Italy has figured prominently in the rhetoric of groups such as ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and al-Shabaab. The Government of Italy has a robust counterterrorism program and actively monitors known or suspected foreign fighters and terrorists.

Terrorist groups and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens abroad. Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack – including knives, firearms, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and vehicles – to target crowds more effectively. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Italy also faces several indigenous terrorist groups and radical elements, primarily consisting of extremist and or anarchist movements. Government institutions and diplomatic facilities have received bomb threats and actual explosive devices. Buildings/offices have been the target of firebombs or Molotov cocktails, although generally at night; such incidents are rare and instigated by organized crime or anarchist movements.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Rome as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Politically motivated violence in Italy most often involves Italian internal developments or social issues. Italian authorities and foreign diplomatic facilities have found bombs outside public buildings, have received bomb threats, and have been targets of letter bombs, firebombs, and Molotov cocktails in the past several years. These attacks generally occur at night, and have not targeted or injured U.S. citizens.

Demonstrations occur regularly in Rome. However, most are small and well controlled by security forces. There are several common locations for demonstrations listed below:

  • The Ministry of Economic Development on Via Molise;
  • The Ministry of Labor on Via Veneto;
  • The Ministry of Economy and Finance on Via XX Settembre; and
  • Piazza del Popolo, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza San Giovanni, and Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus).

Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Anti-U.S. rhetoric comes from groups opposing specific “establishment” referendums that have U.S. cooperation, for example: Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite communications system, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Demonstrations occur frequently and can be anti-U.S. in nature, especially in areas hosting U.S. military bases.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Since 2016, there has been increased earthquake activity in the northern region of Lazio, approximately 80 miles northeast of Rome. According to Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, a 5.7-magnitude quake occurred near Amatrice in 2017. The tremors were felt in Rome, and although very little damage was recorded, schools, metro stations, and trains closed in order to check for possible damage. The region has suffered hundreds of smaller quakes since the seismic activity began. Most recently, Stromboli volcano (small island near Sicily) erupted in July and August 2019; and Mount Etna (in Sicily) erupted in December 2018. According to USGS reporting, activity in this area continues.

General information about disaster preparedness is available online from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The “Io non rischio” campaign by Italy’s Department of Civil Protection has information on how to avoid risks including floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis, and has information in English. The interactive maps for each category may be especially useful for determining levels of risk for personnel working or living in Italy.

Critical Infrastructure

A catastrophic event will likely disrupt response services significantly. Develop a personal plan to overcome an expected disruption.

Personal Identity Concerns

Students are often targets of theft or sexual assault. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Italy. Same sex civil unions are legally recognized in Italy. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Narrow, streets with cobbled stones are pervasive in Italy. Many sidewalks lack ramps, and some streets lack sidewalks altogether or, as in Venice, feature stairs and narrow pedestrian bridges. Many hotels, attractions and means of public transportation do not have ramps, elevators, or accessible bathrooms.

Train stations in Italy have accommodations for wheelchair riders; with advanced notice, those with a disability can receive assistance when transiting through a station. Hand-controlled rental cars are available in Italy from major car rental companies; contact the car rental company well in advance of your trip to reserve the vehicle. Guide dog owners must present the documentation required by European Union Member States in order to enter Italy with a dog. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crime

Travelers have reported incidents in which criminals used drugs to assault or rob them.

Kidnapping Threat

Do not discount the threat of being kidnapped. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Police Response

The line for emergencies and carabinieri in Italy is 112. The police line is 113, and the fire emergency line is 115. The services have location detection and multi-lingual operators. Police response and services throughout Italy are good. The Polizia di Stato (state police) and the Carabinieri (military police) are well trained and equipped. These two police groups offer the full range of police services. For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Italy has a higher level of police presence than most countries. In 2008, Operazione Strade Sicure began adding military patrols throughout major cities to supplement civilian police patrols and to deter both crime and terrorist attacks. Today, it is common to see police and military patrolling areas throughout the city, especially at popular landmarks.

Thieves sometimes impersonate police officers. If a plainclothes police officer stops you, ask for a uniformed officer or insist on seeing an officer's identification card (documento). Do not hand over your wallet. Immediately report the incident to the actual police at a police station or by dialing 112 from a local phone. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Medical Emergencies

The emergency line for ambulances (First Aid only) is 118. Adequate health facilities and ambulance services are widely available, but training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards, and facilities may be limited outside urban areas. Medical staff may speak little or no English. Generally, in public hospitals only minimal staff is available overnight in non-emergency wards.

Public hospitals, though generally free of charge for emergency services, may not maintain the same standards as hospitals in the United States. Private hospitals usually require advance payment or proof of adequate insurance before admitting a patient. Travelers should make efforts to obtain complete information on billing, pricing, and proposed medical procedures before agreeing to any medical care. In most cases, patients bear costs for transfer to or between hospitals. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.

The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.

The Italian Health Ministry sets rules defining importation of prescriptions and medications into Italy. However, the Health Ministry website does not have information in English. According to the Health Ministry, foreigners entering Italy may bring personal medications for a period of 30 days, but should also bring a copy of their prescription with them. Travelers should not bring excess supplies of prescription drugs into the country, and cannot bring prescription drugs for other people. Italian Customs laws strictly regulate the importation of medications into Italy by courier services or by mail. Italian customs clears all incoming shipments of medications -- even small amounts for personal use -- and will allow them to clear customs only upon presentation from the receiving party of a statement signed by a physician licensed in Italy, certifying that the medication is essential for the patient; that he/she would be put in a life-threatening situation without it; and that there is no substitute or equivalent medication available on the Italian market. Delays in the release of medications by Italian Customs received by mail or by courier services are common. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

In parts of Italy, the lack of adequate trash disposal and incineration sites has led to periodic accumulations of garbage in urban and rural areas. In some cases, residents have burned garbage, resulting in toxic emissions that can aggravate respiratory problems.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Italy.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Rome. Contact OSAC’s Europe team for more information.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

Via Veneto 119/A, 00187 Rome

Regular hours: 0830 – 1730, Monday – Friday; Closed Saturday and Sunday, and on U.S. and Italian holidays.

Embassy Operator: (+39) 06-4674-1

Marine Post One: (+39) 06-4674-2112

Website: https://it.usembassy.gov/

Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts In Italy

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

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