Can you put my mind at rest?!

Jun 20th, 1999, 09:11 AM
helen tray
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Can you put my mind at rest?!

Author: Helen Tray ([email protected])
Date: 6/12/1999, 1:57 pm ET

Message: Up until now it had never occured to me to be afraid in Italy, but reading all the postings regarding the 'Gypsy' problem I'm becoming concerned. I live in a medium-sized town in the north east of England, where for the most part I feel quite safe. My fiance and I are getting married in Verona in two weeks time, then honeymooning in Venice. Can someone put my mind at rest? Just how bad is the problem of pickpocketing, 'Gypsy' or otherwise in these two cities? I would really appreciate a reply, to either put my mind at rest or at least make me more prepared. Thanks!

Jun 20th, 1999, 09:29 AM
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I was in Venice for three days last July with a group of 20 people, half of whom were teenagers. None of us were robbed or plagued by the gypsies at all. I didn't even see any. However, in Florence we were approached and tested by the baby trick, which we just walked away from, no harm done.
Jun 20th, 1999, 11:44 AM
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Hi Helen, I was in Venice May 1998 and never encountered any problems there or Rome, Naples, etc. Didn't see any gypsies. Just make sure you don't flash your money and don't wear expensive jewlery.

Have a wonderful time in Venice! It's one of my favorite places!
Jun 20th, 1999, 05:21 PM
Cheryl Z.
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Helen, in all the times we've been to Italy, we've never had a problem. However, Once while stopped at a train station in Milan, gypsy kids approached me (a small blonde) while I was seated alone on one side of a compartment, ignoring my husband (a bigger man, and obviously Italian looking) and the elderly Italian lady next to him, waving their newspapers and sort of whining and singing. I just put my foot up as if to kick them and told them (in nasty voice and look to match) to get away from me before my husband could even react. They just ran off to the next car. Just be prepared and use common sense, and pay attention to your surroundings. They work quickly. Don't be trusting of kids or moms with babies! One other time on a tour bus in Florence, my husband looked out the window and saw kids (gypsies) about ll-l2 years old getting into the backpack of a guy waiting in line for the bus. The guy's friend saw it, and smacked their hands away and started yelling at them, the kids just nonchalantly walked away, probably to look for another victim. That wouldn't deter us from going back though, which we hope to do again next year. In fac, some of our fondest memories of Italy have to do with the honesty of the local people on at least three different occasions. Read all you can on here about how experienced travelers deal with it. Don't let fear and worry ruin your trip. Have a great time.
Jun 20th, 1999, 08:46 PM
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Dear Helen,
Poor you! Are people making you crazy with their admonitions? I know I experienced much the same concern last month as I was embarking on my trip to Florence and Tuscany and would be traveling with two other women only. Please, let me assure you that as three WOMEN traveling (and my one friend is a very attractive blonde to boot!) we were NEVER hassled at any time no matter what the hour. We were out late frequently and always walked home.
Well meaning family members kept trying to convince us we should not be going (their main concern was that "there was a war on") and their fears were for anti-American sentiment. Perhaps we were just extremely lucky but I can honestly say we NEVER felt the least bit threatened ANYWHERE in Italy.
Surely, you will use common sense and in doing so I would bet money that you will only have the most glorious wedding and honeymoon. (Coincidentally, I might add, my husband and I honeymooned in Verona and Venice 10 years ago and loved every minute.....Venice was pure magic....especially the walking around at night.) Best of luck....and please take what the nay-sayers have to offer with a grain of salt, use your head always, but I'm certain Italy will not disappoint. stephanie
Jun 21st, 1999, 03:21 AM
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I don't think you should take the nay sayers with a grain of salt but listen to what they say and use caution. I think it depends on being in the right place at the right time. Just because one person had no trouble doesn't negate the experiences of others. I am a petite blonde in my thirties and I have personally had no trouble HOWEVER I have witnessed many such problems. Paris, saw two different wallet and purse snatchings within 5 feet of me. In Florence, a couple that we met had rested their backpacks on the ground and had some kids run off with them and their passports.In Rome my father-in-law had the baby trick done to him by the gypsies while we were all there in Rome and swung a newspaper at them. My brother who is 6 foot was surrounded by gypsy kids trying to pilfer him, and he just punched them off of him. So my advice is not to be scared just very observant of who is around you. I don't think you have to worry about personal safety as much as just having your purse lifted.
Jul 28th, 1999, 11:02 AM
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I am resurrecting this because I will also be traveling to Italy soon, and would like to hear more about the "baby" trick as a deception? Another thread has also mentioned warnings about italy (no need to weigh a definite "good" or "bad" rating for italy regarding tourist scams, I understand that things CAN happen)...
But, for myself and others, would anyone who seriously is familiar with this "baby" thing, please help me beware? Thanks, Posters
Jul 28th, 1999, 01:14 PM
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About a month ago in Rome, while strolling down the street, I turned around to see my husband push away from him (not hard!) one small child (think she was around 10 or 11). He said loudly 'leave me alone'. Thought he got off free and clear, but later discovered travelers checks missing from his pocket -- after I had told him not to put anythng in his pocket that he didn't want to lose. These children are very quick! This did not detract from our enjoyment at all. Just be on the lookout and use common sense about how you carry items.
Jul 28th, 1999, 01:58 PM
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The Baby Trick: We heard about it and saw it used in Rome. While resting with our group near the Colieseum and getting something to drink two women walked up both nursing a baby in one arm and holding a newspaper in the other arm. They were asking for handouts for them and their kids. We stayed away from them but they did manage to pick the pocket of another man in our group. The newspaper hides their hand in a crowd. We again noticed the newspaper trick one more time in Rome. So, if you see a dirty looking mother holding a kid and a out, you are the target. Just walk away quickly.
Jul 29th, 1999, 08:49 AM
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I just returned from Italy last week, having spent part of the time in Venice. I don't know if I'm the only one who encountered no problems with gypsies, pickpockets, etc., but had absolutely none. In addition, we never really felt uneasy at any time. There are places that are very crowded, most especially the streets that go from San Marco Square to the Rialto Bridge area, but you just have to be smart enough not to make yourself a target by keeping your money, purse, etc. in a place that's not easily accessible. Good luck with the wedding and if you enjoy Venice even half as much as we did, it will be one of the most charming places you've ever visited!
Jul 29th, 1999, 09:04 AM
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During my current [and continuing] trip to Macedonia my wallet was lifted in a small gallery in Macedonia by Bulgarian gypsies. {identified as such by the gallery worker) Fortunately I noticed it quickly and the gallery owner ran after them and got it back.
Jul 29th, 1999, 09:29 AM
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I have been to Italy many, many times and have never once, either with others or alone, had problems. The people I know who've had problems looked and acted like tourists (see topics on this forum re: dress, not looking like a tourist, etc). If you blend, your chances of getting hit go way down. Do take care, like in any other city, and heed what the other posters have said and you should have no problem. But if you walk around with a fanny pack, big white running shoes, wear your camera, and talk really LOUD...don't say you weren't warned!
Jul 29th, 1999, 02:46 PM
F Taylor
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I know of three "baby tricks", one I have only heard of, the other two I have seen in person.

Baby Trick #1: A woman begs with a crying baby. Out of view, she is sticking the baby with a pin so that it will keep crying, drawing sympathy from tourists who would give money voluntarily (because they believe the baby is hungry), and distracting tourists who get pickpocketed involuntarily.

Baby Trick #2: ( One of my friends who travels more than I do says that this has largely replaced Baby Trick #1) A young woman is breastfeeding a "sleeping" baby which has actually been drugged to keep it sleepy (perhaps a calm, sleeping baby draws more sympathy than a loud crying one). She is making no effort to cover her breasts, and this draws the attention of men, especially from countries like the USA where all forms of nudity are taboo. While the horny men are staring at her breasts, the lightening-quick pickpocket children go to work.

Baby Trick #3: This one is horrible. A woman holding an infant suddenly tosses it at an unsuspecting tourist. The tourist instinctively catches the baby, and instantly gets cleaned out by the pickpockets. I have never seen this one, and hope it isn't true, but a credible friend of mine swears that he saw this happen in Rome. I keep wondering whether I personally would dodge a flying baby! I just hope I never experience this.

Bottom line, as stated before. Be aware of your surroundings, blend in, be careful.
Jul 29th, 1999, 04:27 PM
M & J
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We were pickpocked in a large hotel elevator in New York. We had a waist pack disappear at the New York airport.
Jul 29th, 1999, 04:32 PM
M & J
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continuing---we were cursed and screamed at when we said "no" to a panhandler in San Francisco. In Milan, we were approached by two children but firm loud "no's" chased them off. Walking out of the a dark subway in Rome into the bright light, we stumbled upon a family with the baby--but we were prepared. In France, our son, a teenager back then, had a newspaper waved in his face and within a few seconds, they and his wallet were gone.There are creeps and criminals in every country.
Please--look around, be alert, carry your tickets, credit cards, passport and money you don't plan to spend that day---all securely in a money belt.
Aug 29th, 1999, 12:35 PM
Helen Rennie
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Okay, we're back now from our wonderful wedding in Verona and unforgettable honeymoon in Venice and guess what? Nothing happened - no pickpockets, 'gypsies' or boogeymen!
We loved our first experience of Italy SO MUCH it definately won't be our last, but we will continue to be cautious. Thanks for all the advice.

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