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This is the main problem in Italy. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers operate in most major cities and are particularly active in Naples and Rome. The best way to avoid being robbed is to wear a money belt under your clothing. You should keep all important items, such as money, passport, other documents and tickets in a safe place in your host family's home.  If you are carrying a bag or camera, ensure that you wear the strap across your body and have the bag on the side away from the road to deter snatchers, who often operate from motorcycles and scooters. Since the aim of young motorcycle bandits is often fun rather than gain, you are just as likely to find yourself relieved of your sunglasses - or worse, an earring - as something more valuable. Motorcycle bandits are very active in Naples, Rome, Syracuse and Palermo.

You should also watch out for groups of dishevelled-looking women and children. They generally work in groups of four or five and carry paper or cardboard which they use to distract your attention while they swarm around and rifle through your pockets and bag. Never underestimate their skill - they are lightening fast and very adept.

Their favourite haunts are in and near major train stations, at tourist sights and in shopping areas. If you notice that you have been targeted by a group, either take evasive action (such as crossing the street) or shout "Va via!" (Go away!) in a loud, angry voice.

Pickpockets often hang out on busy buses (the No 64 in Rome, which runs from Stazione Termini to the Vatican, is notorious) and in crowded areas such as markets. There is only one sure way to avoid losing everything to pickpockets: simply do not carry any money or valuables in your pockets and be very careful with your bags.

Even the most cautious are still prey to expert thieves but there is no need to be paranoid. By taking a few basic precautions, you can greatly lessen the risk of being robbed.

You should also be cautious of sudden friendships, particularly if it turns out that your new-found amico or amica wants to sell you something.

Parked cars are also prime targets for thieves. Never leave valuables in your car - in fact, try not to leave anything in the car if you can help it and certainly not overnight. Throughout Italy, particularly in the south, service stations along the motorway are favourite haunts of thieves who can clean out a car in the time it takes to have a cup of coffee. If possible, park where you can keep an eye on your car.

In recent years there have been isolated incidences of armed robberies on the motorways south of Naples, when people have been forced off the road or tricked into pulling over and have then been robbed at gunpoint. Fortunately, these incidents are rare.

When driving in cities you also need to beware of thieves when you pull up at traffic lights. Keep the doors locked and, if you have the windows open, ensure that there is nothing valuable on the dashboard. Car theft is a major problem in the regions of Campania and Apulia, particularly in the cities of Naples, Bari, Foggia and Brindisi. It is also a problem in Rome. Beware also of unofficial parking attendants who say you can leave your car double-parked as long as you leave them the keys: you will return to find that both the attendant and your car have disappeared.

Some Italians practise a more insidious for of theft: short-changing. If you are new to euros, take the time to acquaint yourself with the denominations. When paying for goods, tickets, a meal or whatever, keep an eye on the bills you hand over and then count your change carefully. One popular method if short-changing goes something like this: you hand over 50 for a newspaper that costs 1.50; you are handed change for 10 and, while the person who sold you the paper hesitates, you hurry off without counting it. If you'd stayed another five seconds, the rest of the change probably would have been handed over.

In the case of theft or loss, always report the incident at the questura (police station) within 24 hours and ask for a statement, otherwise your travel insurance company won't pay out.

totalnannies.com privacy policy comments disclaimer last updated 24/10/2013 06:58:27   .

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