Safety at Roma Termini

It’s deteriorated, not unlike how the WordPress dashboard has gone to the dogs, what with wholly unnecessary and unwieldy ‘widgets’ compromising control panel navigation.

Roma Termini is the central station in Rome. A magnet for lowlife, ergo drug dealers, drug users, prostitutes, and a small army of exclusively male immigrants who arrive here from north Africa. It’s hell in waiting for tourists who arrive at night, especially late on a Friday or Saturday.

Consider the flood of economic immigrants into one of the great capital cities of western Europe. Add a few thousand young, displaced men who have seen some kind of combat in the third world, add a few thousand more escaped criminals therefrom, and it’s easy to see how dangerous Termini station can be. Add prejudice dished out 24/7 by the locals, add the aforementioned drugs and prostitution problem, and then add a few thousand tourists filing through the station from Fiumicino airport connections every day, and what you get is dangerous situations at every turn.

Not that the Italians who work around Termini station are any better, far from it! While desperate homeless migrants and their associates may have an eye for the main chance, taxi drivers at Termini station will rob you blind all in a day’s work.

The advice you need is as follows:

When you arrive at Termini, DO NOT GET INTO A TAXI. Ignore the legions of idiotic smiling drivers who swarm around newly arrived tourists. They will not hesitate to double or even quadruple your fare if you engage them in conversation. It doesn’t matter how many suitcases you have, you must drag them down the slope to Piazza della Repubblica and hail a taxi there. Drivers park up at the rank on the other side of the fountain and are generally honest, decent, jovial folk. If anyone approaches you offering a driver service or accommodation, ignore them.

For the record, taxi fares in Rome start at 2,80 in the day and 5,80 after 22:30. Always watch the meter and never pay a penny more. Never tip, always watch the change they give you. Count your change very carefully before leaving the vehicle. Don’t give your driver the impression that his small talk in English is worth paying extra for.

Always pay attention and stay close to other Italian passengers or tourists. As a general rule, the safer side of the station is Via Marsala, so if in doubt when leaving Termini, bear right. The left hand side, namely Via Giolitti and Via Gioberti, is strictly off limits unless you want to be robbed, or worse, threatened and beaten. Don’t expect Italian police to come running to your aid and your assailant/s to be apprehended. It won’t happen.

Most bag thefts and robberies occur at ticket machines, when tired tourists drop their luggage and either leave it unattended for a minute or two or forget about it completely. Romanian beggars with or without children ‘own’ many ticket machines. They occupy the space where one must feed coins until they are kicked out at last orders by couldn’t care less security. Of course they are back at work the following morning at 06:00, ready to relieve you of your money. ‘Secure your bags and your wallet before approaching ticket machines’ is perhaps the most important golden rule for tourists inside Termini station.

Good luck!

About Rome #2 (Public Transport in Rome)

When the public transport workers of Rome decide to go on strike, they don’t hold back; the city grinds to a halt. Great care is taken to time their industrial action with political demonstrations, making it even more difficult for the rest of us to move across what fast becomes a suburban quagmire.

For the rest of the year, if you haven’t been to Rome or are coming soon, here’s a quick guide!

Bus tickets – if you’re a tourist it can be hell finding a place to get some. If you don’t, you might be fined by inspectors who love the 40 and 492 routes in town. It’s a 50 euros on the spot fine or about 110 euros if you have no cash. You’ll have to take the bill you are given to any post office and pay up there, but of course you won’t care about that when you’re back home. You can buy bus / metro tickets in the Italian equivalent of a newsagent, just look for ‘tabacchi’ on any street. Some bars sell bus / metro tickets too.

Bag sellers, umbrella sellers, picture sellers with nowhere to sleep at night unless you buy one occupy at least 10% of all available legroom on all buses in Rome 24/7. Call it free temporary storage. When buses in Rome get busy, Italians get stressed and begin to lose control, at which point we advise you to get off and hail a taxi.

Metro is better. It’s quicker and it’s cleaner, but with a downside. Gypsies move through each carriage destroying traditional songs from back home and expecting to be paid for it by parading their most vulnerable looking child while the music plays. It’s an uncomfortable experience for the rest of us to say the least.

An Italian student, Vanessa Russo, was stabbed through the eye with an umbrella at Termini station a few years ago by teenage Romanian prostitute Doina Matei. Vanessa allegedly annoyed her killer (and friend) during an altercation getting on / off the train and as a result, died in agony a few hours later in Policlinico hospital nearby. Rare incidents of random acts of violence aside, the metro is pretty safe.

Football supporters will occupy Linea A for an hour or so after either Roma or Lazio have played at home, but they’re usually on the right side of rowdy, and, being Italian, prone to bursting into song. Just keep an eye on your jacket pockets and bag. It is said that 500 pickpockets work Rome’s metro system every day.

To be continued…