Tourist Scams in Italy —4 Ways to Avoid Getting Swindled

Everyone can become a victim of tourist scams in Italy. Scams are everywhere. Even I, who considers myself travel savvy and quite aware of the current scams, can fall for a con artist if I’m not careful. Let me be perfectly honest and tell you I was a casualty my first day in Rome this year.

The Backstory

I arrived in Rome on a hot morning after a relatively sleepless nine-hour flight from the United States. By the time I arrived at my hotel, I was exhausted. While I was supposed to meet someone around noon, I begged to meet later so I could shower and rest.

Around 1:30, my friend texted me that she was ready to meet, so I pulled myself out of bed and hurried out of the door. I ran to the taxi stand near Roma Termini and gasped to a taxi driver, “I need a taxi.” That was my first mistake.

“Ok, signora,” he replied. “Only cash. No credit card.” I agreed, which was my second mistake. I gave him the address, and he led me to the back seat on the driver’s side. Although I thought it a little odd to sit there, I got in. Mistake number three. I did not see a fare meter, which concerned me, but I said nothing. Mistake number four.

We chatted as he drove me quickly through Rome to the Cafe Vaticano. About 10 minutes later, he pulled over in front of a cafe, pointed to it, and said, “44 euro.” The cafe didn’t look like I remembered, but I was in too much of a hurry to pay enough attention. Mistake number five.

The Scam

I had left the US with a total of 40 euro and some change in my purse. Without looking, I shoved the bills and coins into his hand as I got out of the car. Mistake number six.

“Lady, you owe 20 euro,” he exclaimed as he showed me two bills—a 20 and a 5. I was frantic and checked my purse. No other bills. Maybe, I thought, I was wrong. Maybe the second bill was a 5 euro. There was a bank right by us (CONVENIENT), so I got more cash and handed him another 20 as he jumped into the car and drove off.

Two things hit me immediately as he drove off. The first was that I couldn’t have handed him the 5 euro as I didn’t have one. I had been showing the two 20s to Mike the day before. When I looked at the cafe, I also realized that I was nowhere near Cafe Vaticano…a 15-minute walk from my destination. Grrr


Be Aware

Avoiding scams and scammers is easy if you follow one basic rule: Be aware. All of the following tips flow from that one essential key.

That taxi driver got 65 euro from me because I was not careful. Every mistake I made was due to the fact that I was tired and not paying attention to what was going on.

The first thing you need to do is be calm and aware of your surroundings. Most of my errors happened because I was rushing. The cab driver knew he had a patsy the moment I frantically ran up to him.

Follow Your Instinct

I distinctly remember thinking it very odd that I could not see the meter and that the driver wanted me seated behind him. Taxis are heavily regulated in Rome and most of Italy. Make sure you see the meter when you get into the taxi. Hindsight being foresight, I should have moved to the passenger side, and I should have asked about the meter was before we took off.

Take Your Time

Rushing is never a good idea. Had I taken the time to look around before the driver stopped, I would have noticed I wasn’t at the right cafe. Even if you have never been to a place before, check the address when you arrive and before you pay. In addition, take the time to go over your bill in a restaurant before you pay it. Why? Good thing you asked.

The other night, we were in a restaurant close to our hotel, and the waiter rushed around all night. He brought over our bill, and we noted that he had charged us for three bottles of water and two orders of bruschetta. We had ordered only two waters and one bruschetta. Had we not gone over the bill before paying, we would have paid 10 euro too much. Multiply that by the more than 50 tables in the restaurant, and that’s quite a haul they can take in.

Count Out Your Money When You Pay

By no stretch of the imagination am I saying every taxi driver, waiter, or vendor is crooked, but throwing money at them without looking is asking for trouble sometimes. If I had taken the two 20-euro bills and handed them to my driver individually, he could not have switched the bills on me.

Tourist scams in Italy - metro in Italy

By the way, I ended up taking the Metro back to my hotel.

Chris Cutler

Travel Editor

Christine Cutler is a writer, photographer, editor, guide, teacher, traveler, Ohio native, Florida resident, and world citizen. she lives in downtown St. Petersburg with her husband and crazy Welsh terrier, and she considers Italy, where she holds dual citizenship, her second home. in addition to being travel editor and writing for live in Italy magazine, she maintains her own websites ( and, guides small groups through Italy, and is a travel advisor for Adventures by Jamie ( a travel, non-fiction, and memoir writer; photographer; and editor whose work has appeared in various publications, she spends as much time as she can exploring—and living and breathing—Italy.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Build your authentic life in Italy! Live in Italy Magazine is an experiential lifestyle news site dedicated to anyone who has or will make Italy their home away from home. Read stories from expats and Italians. Named the Best Italy Magazine by Feedspot!

We feature in-depth articles and interviews covering:

  • Expat Life
  • Food & Wine
  • Travel
  • Lifestyle
  • Design, Art, & Culture
  • Real Estate, Hotels/Resorts & Long-Term Rentals

We are committed to creating great content. Please consider becoming a Sponsor by donating on Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Our Contributors:

Lisa Morales, Editor-in-Chief (Miami)
Christine Cutler, Travel Editor (St. Petersburg, FL)
Lorenzo Diamantini, Food and Wine Editor (Gubbio)
Adriana Suarez, Top 8 Editor (Miami)
Bel Woodhouse, Contributing Editor (Cozumel, Mexico)
Giulia Marchetti, Contributing Editor (Viterbo)
Angie Kordic, Visual Arts Contributing Editor (Stockholm, Sweden)
Feuza Reis, Breaking News Contributor (Miami)
Patrizia Vigolo, Contributing Wine Editor (Vicenza)
Natalia Bell. Food Contributor (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Emma Prentice (Ferrara/UK), Contributor
Justin Patulli (Ottawa, Canada), Contributing Editor
Annalucia Scotto Di Clemente (Rome), Contributing Editor
Sandra Diaz-Velasco (Miami), Interior Design & Architecture Contributor
Carrie Convilli (Venice), Veneto Events Correspondent

Al Esper Graphic Design: Digital Edition Art Director (Tennessee)
SQLHardhat: Aaron Morales, Website Design and SEO (Miami)
Visual Popcorn: John Craven, Video Editor (Miami)
Colls Fine Art Photography: Armando Colls, Contributing Photographer (Miami)
Sabrina Negro, Translator (Piemonte)
Giulia Ferro, Subtitler EN/IT (San Michele all’Adige)


Submit Your Press Release: lisa @

Guest Contributors:

Guest Contributor applicants should have a good understanding of WordPress. Email links to recent articles along with your social media handles to: lisa @