Pickpockets & Gypsies – Oh My!

UPDATE on the problem with Gypsies!This summer has seen more “gypsies” in Venice than normal and they have gotten progressively more aggressive. Their newest business ventures  are selling vaporetto tickets, baggage handling and tourist information.
But there’s a bit of a hitch in these new ventures.
(1) They are selling used vaporetto (imob) tickets they have recovered from the trash, so totally worthless.
(2) They charge 5-15 Euro promising to take your baggage all the way to your hotel only to vanish a short distance from where you started.As you paid them in advance. Well you are truly left holding the bag (yours, we hope). And if you entrusted camera bags or computer bags, those may disappear as well.
(3) Selling tourist information, well maybe disinformation, since they actually know little about Venice.

The “helpful” baggage handlers are positioned at the foot of the Calatrava Bridge (Piazalle Roma across the canal) and they are competing with Italians looking for this work as well. And they can be found as you descend from your train at the train station, offering their services.However, unless your hotel is very close to the train station, getting over this bridge will not really help you. You’d be much better off taking the vaporetto to the closest stop to your hotel.

Know before your Go: Search on line, buy a map, but know where your hotel is. Print out a copy of the name and location (and telephone number) of the hotel. Know which vaporetto gets you closest to the hotel.and the vaporetto stop name. (All hotels will have information online about how to arrive, print that out and have with you.)

My favorite Venice Guide Book:
Venice, Knopf Guides ISBN 0-679-74918-7  The best part is the fold out center which names each of the palazzo along the canal. A little Caution: This summer has brought some new nuances to traveling in Venice. So here’s your heads up if you are traveling. Last week in Venice is a good example of everything that can happen.An unsuspecting Japanese tourist had her purse lightened by 35,000 Euro, all in Yen, which for sure makes finding the suspects a bit easier as they will need to exchange to Euro to make it worth their while. This happened near the train station, Santa Lucia. Hint: hanging out in the train station is never a good thing as you are always a target, in any town! So if you must wait, find a café, spend a few Euro to improve your chances of not being subject to (1) pickpocketing and (2) fall prey to a really good scammer.  A few years ago, in Milano as we waited for a train, we spotted a young American girl who had been “befriended” by a very good looking young man. Right before our eyes, she left her entire earthly possessions with this young man and went into the tourist office. As soon as she entered the doorway, the young man scurried away with her belongings. Imagine her panic when she came out of the station with absolutely nothing. Fortunately, she did have her passport, but little else other than the clothes on her back. Hint: Don’t give your valuables to a stranger anywhere – no matter how friendly they appear. Remember this when you are traveling.  Little things, like someone who offers to carry your briefcase up the stairs at a train station.  Sounds like a really helpful person and maybe there are some saints in training around – but imagine your dismay at the top of the stairs when this helpful person has disappeared with your computer and belongings.  BlackBeards in Action in VeniceIl Gazzettino also reported they arrested a couple of guys dressed as monks in the traditional cappuccino and with a rosary – looking very official who were soliciting for the “poor” on the bridges near Piazzale Roma. As a rule, monks do not stand on the street and beg. In an effort to control these unwanted solicitors, the Veneto Region has begun a campaign to disband the encampments of the clans of zingari (gypsies, known locally as Blackbeards because the head of the clan wears black and has a beard) with the head of the group who sends out his band of thieves and beggars each morning, including babies and old ladies, like pendolini (Italian slang for commuters). At night they return giving all they have begged or stolen to the boss, who in turn is padding his bank accounts out of Italy. Organized crime at its lowest level – it’s hundreds of years old. However, as it turns out begging is not a crime in Italy, so the local municipalities are having trouble controlling the presence of these groups. So, even though I say Venice is the safest city in the world, it is not without it’s unsavory characters. As a tourist in a strange place, you are always a target.Hint:(1) Avoid the train station in Mestre (the last stop before Venice). A large band of gypsies are making even locals passage difficult. (2) Keep your valuables near you, most of all your passport. Don’t have anything in your back pockets.(3) If you are arriving/departing by train, get out of the station as quickly as possible. If you must wait, there are several nearby cafes, spend a few Euro to be safer. (4) Be sure your purse is zipped closed at all times, if you are in line to purchase an item, put your money away and close your purse before you walk away. Google

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