ABOVE: Snatch-and-grab thieves aren't common in Venice, but pickpockets and purselifters prey on tourists--especially during high season or on busy holiday weekends.
Venice is a city that can look and feel creepy, especially at night. But don't let its narrow streets and dark alleys alarm you: Violent crime is rare in Venice, and you can walk anywhere in the historic center with virtually no risk of being murdered, mugged, or raped.
Non-violent crime is a different story. Like many tourist cities, Venice attracts its share of pickpockets, purselifters, and camera thieves. A moment's carelessness can be expensive, as these stories illustrate:
- A friend (who happens to be a professional travel writer) set her camera bag down at her feet while paying for a gelato on Venice's Zattere. When she'd put her change away and reached for the bag, it was gone.
- Our niece set her purse on top of her suitcase for a moment in Venice's Santa Lucia Railroad Station. Seconds later, she discovered that it had disappeared, along with her money, credit cards, and passport.
Fortunately, such incidents are easy to avoid. Just observe these common-sense rules:
- Keep your valuables where thieves can't see or reach them. (Example: Don't carry a wallet, money, or your passport in a hip pocket.)
- Carry most of your cash, a spare credit card, an ATM card, and your passport in a neck wallet or other safe place. That way, if your purse or wallet is stolen, you won't be left high and dry.
- Remember that backpacks and hip packs are especially vulnerable: A pickpocket can easily unzip them and remove valuables such as cameras, smartphones, and passports. (Don't assume that wearing a waist pack in front of your body will keep you safe. While you're looking up at the Campanile di San Marco or the Rialto Bridge, a pickpocket can relieve you of your wallet or cellulare in a few seconds.)
- If you're carrying an expensive camera, don't dangle it behind you where a thief could quietly remove its interchangeable lens or simply cut the shoulder strap, take the camera, and disappear into the crowd..
Please note: For some readers, the advice in this post may seem obvious or condescending. But let's face it: Travelers are victims of pickpockets and other silent thieves every day. In our opinion, even experienced travelers can benefit from an occasional reminder to be vigilant.
Photos: Top image (c) iStockphoto/Victor Neimanis, inset photo (c) iStockphoto/Alistair Scott.