At the start of the year I went on a vacation to Italy to visit some of the famous sites in the popular tourist destinations of Rome, Naples, Venice and Verona. My intention was to take a dslr camera and Canon L series lenses and capture stunning photos of my travels, however after doing a bit of research (on what lenses I should take to get the type of photos I wanted to) I soon realized this was not a good idea.
From what I read on the internet there are some pretty unsavory characters in the large Italian cities, and these low lives prey on tourists and are only too happy to pickpocket lenses and small items of photography equipment from camera bags, even when they are on the photographer. I also read there are other individuals who won’t think twice about mugging tourists for their expensive photography equipment. I didn’t want to be a target for these low lives, and neither did I want my expensive photography kit to be stolen so I decided to buy a more discreet camera that didn’t look like it was worth pinching, but could also take decent photos.
Before I went to Italy I posted some questions on a few of the photography forums I follow and contribute to just to see if things were like I had read and if muggings and being pick pocketed had been exaggerated. Needless to say I got a variety of responses and a few very harsh responses from Italian photographers living in the cities I was visiting (as I guess I should have expected) saying that pick pocketing is rare, muggings are rarer and if I didn’t flaunt my equipment and try to make everyone aware I was some wannabe professional photographer I would be fine with my dslr and L series lenses. Many people thought I was over reacting and I got accused of being “scared” numerous times and was told that if I looked vulnerable and constantly kept looking over my should I was more likely to be targeted. Despite the “re-assurance” (if you can call it that) I decided against taking the dlsr and took the Canon G1X instead, and boy am I glad I did…………
First off, I have to say that Italy is a fantastic country with loads of breath taking scenery and stunning towns and cities. My wife and I had no problems whatsoever, however we were very vigilant with our bags, wallet/purse and made sure they were securely strapped to us at all times and never left our sight. We also made sure we stayed in the touristy parts and didn’t stray too far down the back streets, no matter how much we wanted to go and see the “real” towns and cities. Whilst we didn’t stray too far away we did get far enough in to the towns and cities to the places where the tourists milling about were at a minimum, so we did get to see a little of what real Italian life is like.
Some of the others on our tour didn’t fair so well……..
Whilst seeing the sites of Rome a couple of older ladies on the tour were the victims of a pickpocket, where both were relieved of their purses. The two ladies were fortunate in that they were both carrying around a limited amount of cash (both were warned about pickpockets and told to take just enough cash for the day and leave the rest, together with any bank cards etc. at the hotel) so their loss wasn’t so bad. Even though the loss wasn’t that much it was a still an inconvenience for them, but that’s not really the point because no-one likes to be robbed regardless of how much the thieving scum gets away with.
Another fellow traveler, who was a passionate amateur photographer was the victim of a mugging whilst photographing the back streets of Naples. It’s strange because whilst we were talking ‘photography’ on the first day I happened to mention what I had read and my reasons for leaving the dslr at home. During the conversation I was told I worry too much and was over reacting (this from a bloke whom I had never met before) and that the forums scaremonger. Needless to see when we all met to board the coach back to the hotel after our day in Naples his attitude had changed somewhat, and the worst thing was he was going to struggle to claim on his insurance because a police report was required and, despite going to a police station to report the crime and get a number, they failed to co-operate (because of a language barrier and lack of interest) so the bloke was basically stuffed.
After the day out in Venice I was talking to another fellow traveler who said that whilst standing alongside the Grand Canal he felt a hand slip inside his jacket pocket and have a good root around. Fortunately for this man the only thing he had in his jacket pocket was his own hand (he was sensible and kept his cash in a money belt strapped to his waist out of the way) so he didn’t suffer any loss. Another one of our group experienced the same thing not only in Venice but also while looking at Juliet’s Balcony in Verona.
The moral of this article is that pick pocketing and mugging is rife in the large touristy Italian cities and I don’t care what anyone says. When visiting the large Italian cities you need to make sure you are careful and take all necessary precautions to protect yourself. If, like me, you are bullied and verbally bashed for being “over the top” or “too cautious” ignore it and follow your gut instincts like I did. So some people may have seen me as too cautious but at least I came home unscathed, I still had my camera and all my belongings and I wasn’t exploited by some low life scum. Goes to show there are times when it pays to be over cautious.
I was in Italy for a week, I traveled around with the same small group (there were 47 of us) and out of that I know of one case of pick pocketing, three cases of attempted pick pocketing and one mugging, and I didn’t speak to everyone on the tour either. For all I know there could have been more incidents that I didn’t know about. The other thing to remember is that we were just a handful of tourists out of millions, and if some of our group were pick pocketed and mugged I am sure it would have happened to other groups. There is no way the group I was in would have been specifically singled out.
Since this is a photography ramblings blog I thought I would end it with some of the photos I managed to take of my Italian vacation. Sure, I would have like to have used my dslr and L series lenses but I think the G1X did an oaky job. I would have liked to capture a different perspective however there was no way this was going to happen, what with the time of day I managed to get to the cities, the amount of tourists in each city and the camera and fixed lens I had with me.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.