Since 9/11 the U.S. government has issued gloom and doom travel advisories for Italy, the main point being to scare the bejesus out of tourists who were coming anyway.
For example: “The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning.”
Terrorist attacks. Demonstrations. Rioting.
Sounds dangerous. And is not what one bargains for after traveling a long way to throw a coin in the Trevi fountain or wander around the ruins of Pompeii.
As far as I can make out, it’s an effort to say, “we told you so” should anything happen.
The latest one paints Italy as a hotbed of out-of-bounds political protests leading up to April 9 national elections.
Milan is a catalyst for this particular warning. A demonstration here a few weeks ago got ugly and as stated in the warning: “became violent, resulting in broken windows and streets blockages; fifteen police officers were injured and 40-45 individuals were arrested.”
Admittedly, that doesn’t sound good. It happened on a Saturday in main shopping drag Corso Buenos Aires, there were burned-out cars and demonstrators nearly getting lynched by angry shop owners.
The powder keg wasn’t so much the upcoming elections but a rather stupid decision by city officials to allow a neo-Fascist group to march nearby, sparking the violent counter protest.
Friends of mine who live a few blocks away said they first saw it on the news. When out walking the dog later that day, they realized the damages were much more circumscribed than they appeared.
Of course, I don’t have the luxury of leaving because the state department considers Italy dangerous. But from here on the ground, one random violent protest does not a dangerous place make.
I also like to think that my fellow U.S. citizens are not innocents abroad, that they know how to evaluate information and understand that in many parts of the world, Italy included, they travel safely.
You wouldn’t think so reading the bulletin, where U.S. citizens who decide to venture out anyway are “urged to monitor the local news” and “exercise caution in public places or while using public transportation…” which seems to assume a complete lack of travel savvy.