Rome Walk-About: When Pickpockets Strike… Mediterranean Ports

One of the joys of walk-about is you come on treasures you might not see otherwise. This delightful elephant carved by Bernini is located near the Pantheon. It serves as the base for an obelisk.

One of the joys of walk-about is you come on treasures you might not see otherwise. This delightful elephant carved by Bernini is located near the Pantheon. It serves as the base for an obelisk.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know we like to walk extensively when visiting a new city. It’s a good way to become acquainted with the region and its people. Plus it’s great exercise. While Rome is huge, the historic section is confined to a relatively small section. It was large enough, however, that we used mass transit for longer distances.

There were two challenges. The first was figuring out the where and when of catching a train in a language we didn’t speak. The second was that the subway is a great place for pickpockets, especially during rush hour. Rick Steves, in his book on Mediterranean Ports, was constantly admonishing us to be on theft alert.

Peggy, who is more paranoid than I, is always urging me to transfer my wallet to my front pocket when we are in a crowd. Sometimes I even comply. Once, she didn’t even have to ask. We were in Amsterdam and the city had put up huge banners across the streets warning people about thieves.

Neither did I require urging in Rome. Folks in Southern Europe were suffering from serious Euro Deficit Dysfunction. Times were tough. We both wore money belts.

The stories are legion about various scams. Travelers love to share tales. One of my favorites is a woman will ask you to hold her baby while her compatriots grab your wallet. No way was I going to hold a stranger’s baby. Heck, I’ll hardly hold the baby of a woman I know. Babies are known to burp and pee on you. Can you imagine the insult added to injury if a baby was burping and peeing on you while someone was stealing your wallet?

While the stories are fun, the problems are real. A man staying at our hotel lost 2000 euros. A woman on the ship told us she was waiting at the airport when a nicely dressed couple told her something was sprayed all over the back of her jacket. The woman took it off. Sure enough, the jacket was covered with green goop. While her husband took the jacket to the restroom to wash, the couple kept her company. They left when her husband returned. Only later did she realize that her purse left with them.

We were at the Termini, a major transfer point, when our turn came. It was at the peak of rush hour and the train was crammed full. John, Peggy’s brother, and his wife Frances had climbed on first. Four little kids, maybe eight years old, jumped on in front of us. Peggy and I were squeezing in when John shouted. He had felt someone reaching in his back pocket. Meanwhile, the four little kids were trying to jump off the train. Peggy, being the ex-elementary school principal she is, thought the kids were confused and tried to shove them back on. The little pickpockets, of course, thought she was trying to collar them. They managed to escape just as the doors were closing. Fortunately, John was also wearing a money belt. He kept his euros and we had a story to tell.

Besides our experience with the pickpockets, we had managed to visit Trajan’s Column, the Trevi Fountains and the Pantheon on our day’s walk-about.

Victor Emmanuel Monument in Rome Italy

This monument to Italy’s first King, Victor Immanuel, is huge, measuring 200 feet high by 500 feet wide. The statue of King Emmanuel, in the middle, is the largest equestrian statue in the world.

The emperor Trajan apparently had lots to say about his victorious Dacian campaign circa 103 AD. He told it on this column.

The emperor Trajan apparently had lots to say about his victorious Dacian campaign circa 103 AD. He told it on the bas-relief making its way up the 140-foot column. See below for detail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Trajan's Column Rome, Italy

This photo shows how much detail is included on Trajan’s Column. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Remember the song, "Three Coins In A Fountain?" Maybe not. Anyway, it was about Trevi Fountain, one of the must-sees on most tours of Rome.

Remember the song, “Three Coins In A Fountain”? Maybe not. Anyway, it was about Trevi Fountain, one of the must-sees on most tours of Rome.

Horse with yellow ears in Rome

I found this horse with its yellow ears waiting patiently outside the Pantheon. I took the photo for my cousin Alice who lives in Ohio and is a great horsewoman. I figured the ear-covers might be appreciated  by horses living through cold Ohio winters.

The Pantheon, built to honor all of Rome's gods, there were a lot, is one of the world's most famous structures. It's dome served as a model for domes ranging from St. Peter's Basilica to the US Capitol building.

The Pantheon, built to honor all of Rome’s gods, there were a lot, is one of the world’s most famous structures. Its dome served as a model for domes ranging from St. Peter’s Basilica to the US Capitol building.

This is a view of the Pantheon's interior.

The interior of the Pantheon is quite striking.

It was common practice for the Catholic Church to take over sites that had been used to worship Roman gods. The Pantheon was many.

It was common practice for the Catholic Church to take over sites that had been used to worship Roman gods. The Pantheon was one of many.

Rome's Pantheon from the back.

Another perspective of the Pantheon from outside.

Peggy caught this wonderful knocker on our Walk-About... (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Peggy caught this wonderful knocker on our Walk-About… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Rome lamp

As she did this dragon lamp near the Pantheon.

I will conclude with these colorful buildings... again part of our fun walk-about.

I will conclude with these colorful buildings and narrow street… again part of our fun walk-about.

NEXT BLOG: On to Florence.

8 comments on “Rome Walk-About: When Pickpockets Strike… Mediterranean Ports

  1. I enjoyed walking in Rome, it is not a difficult town to navigate. However it is another story of trying to depart Rome in my small car rental. Finally just kept following the sun and we were on the road to the Adriatic again. Vowed never to drive in Rome again.

  2. Sounds as if I better take a crash course in kung-fu if visiting Rome so I can do some tricks in the event someone tries to lift my money.
    Another great set of photos and your commentary is hilarious..

  3. We’ve always been big believers in money belts, and luckily, we’ve never been picked. Once (in Rome of all places) a small group of gypsy women with babies in arms surrounded me begging for money. I was wearing a small butt pack (in front) and as I walked away, I realized that the zipper had been opened. There was nothing of value inside, so it was no big loss, but it was an eyeopener. I carry a small wallet in my front pant’s pocket with a bit of walking around money and nothing else. Everything else goes in the moneybelt. All this hassle is a nuisance, but it’s better not to have to worry. ~James

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