Is Italy Dangerous?

If you or one of your loved ones is thinking about moving to Italy, one of the first things you may wonder is: is Italy dangerous? I get it, the fear of the unknown, all these rumors of mafia, well and now more so Covid. Of course, even visitors coming for a quick trip also have these concerns.

For someone who hasn’t looked deep into it or who has never experienced Italy, it is normal that maybe a few wrong rumors (or right ones out of context) might be a little disconcerting. But don’t worry living in Italy is safe! At least much safer than many other places, and as safe as one can be in the urban areas.

Let’s go ahead and just dive right into some statistics to ease your mind.

First, it is good to know that crime rates throughout the whole country have been continually falling year after year since about 2012. In 2021 crime overall was down 12,6% compared to 2019. However the crimes on the rise, doubled since 2019 were online scams. Kidnapping and domestic violence were also on the rise.

As of 2021, Milan was the city with the highest crime rate at about 4.8% (calculated based on statistics per 100,000 residents it has been the highest crime city for a number of years now). Followed then by Bologna and Rimini. Of major cities, as you can imagine most were higher up, with Venice one of the lower of the “touristic”cities. Of course places like Aosta, Matera, Cuneo were all very low.

Theft rates have also fallen in the last years, with a total of 730k thefts reported in 2020-2021, compared to over 1.2 million in the years pre-pandemic. Milan, Rimini, Bologna, and Rome have the highest theft rates, while Pisa and Bari are some of the cities with the lowest theft rates. Now, under theft and financial crimes, it is interesting to compare extortion rates which are highest in Foggia. 

Murders in Italy have also more than halved in the last five years, with 2021 being a total of 289 throughout the whole country. Over the last 30 years, murder rates have fallen and the percentage of which is related to organized crime has gone from 37% to 9%. In fact, Italy is one of the safest countries in the world for the risk of being a victim of “voluntary homicide”. The violence that is on the rise is inter-family homicide, which mainly stems from a growing epidemic of femicide, these are not cases at random, but of dangerous domestic situations. These made up 116 of those 289 murders.

As far as sexually violent crimes, as of 2021 Trieste, Gorizia and Parma were the highest cities. While in 2019 Lombardy had the highest reported statistics. In 2019 they had 947 reported incidents, while Lazio reported 516, Piedmont 396, Tuscany had 336, and the lowest reported was Valle d’Aosta with 13. I am hesitant however to differentiate the regions. These crimes are committed by individuals and the region does not entirely reflect that, plus even one can make you feel uncomfortable. However, it is good to just see the numbers and have an idea. 

Now from a personal standpoint – is Italy dangerous?

I never really hesitate on this one, to me living in Italy is perfectly safe! Most Italian cities seem to me to be way safer than US cities like D.C. New York, or Chicago.

Now I will admit a time or two, on the late bus or train at 2 AM through Milan I may have felt a bit uncomfortable. The same uncomfortable feeling we as women get nearly everywhere though, it wasn’t specific to Italy. I also grew up in a small rural area, so big cities always feel a bit weird to me. 

I would suggest the usual precautions, tell people where you are going, make sure to keep in touch, try to head home with someone, or take a cab direct.

Don’t wander off with people you don’t know or who don’t make you feel comfortable. If someone is creeping you out, head into a near store, someplace with more people, or call 112 immediately.

Other things to know

Big tourist cities are popular also with pickpockets and thieves, you do need to be very careful and aware of where your belongings are and what is going on around you.

You also want to be sure to close the shutters when you head out, it has happened quite a few times that people climb the buildings and come in through the balcony. Particularly in Rome. 

It is better to keep your personal belongings in a bag with a cross-body bag, that closes well. Keep your bags on your front where you can see them when in busy areas.

Another thing to know is, don’t open the door to people you don’t know. Even if they say they are with the gas or electric company, if you did not receive an official notice beforehand, don’t let them in and don’t speak with them. You can ignore them or tell them you will call the police if they insist. That should get them to go away.

If you do end up in a dangerous situation with a partner or family member in Italy, here is what you can do.

You can of course call the Carabinieri or Police, or have a friend call for you to come and pick you up to take you to a safe center.

But the number specifically to call for Antiviolenza Donna is 1522, it is active 24/7. You can also call this number if you are afraid of stalking situations. They speak IT, EN, FR, SP, and Arabic.

There is also an app developed by the police – YOUPOL, which allows you to report a situation without calling.

To clear up those mafia rumours

Listen, the mafia is very much real and active in Italy. And actually, they do still commit violent crimes, as well as set off small bombs (which very rarely harm anyone, only meant to damage property). These organizations do not exist only in Southern Italy but are diffused throughout every region, and every major city.

HOWEVER

They aren’t street gangs. They aren’t out committing drive-bys or anything of the sort. Rather, these groups are often very much into business and extortion. While it is true they dabble in the drug world, it is usually at a higher level. And frankly, they know how valuable tourists and foreigners are to Italy. It is our business that often puts money in their pockets, so they definitely aren’t out to harm any of us.

You don’t have to be scared of mafia activity, but if you are living here, it is good to stay educated and understand their involvement in Italy’s society. Learn more about the ‘Ndrangheta, and Camorra.

Find more statistics: https://lab24.ilsole24ore.com/indice-della-criminalita/ [updated yearly and very interesting to page through!]

https://www.statista.com/topics/4051/crime-in-italy/#dossierKeyfigures

https://www.istat.it/it/archivio/253279

Evelyn Hill

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