“Is it safe to visit Italy now?” “I’ve already planned my trip–how can I keep from looking like an American tourist?” “What about the official warnings?”
Our editor answers with personal views & the government line….
Many readers have asked us about safety concerns for visiting Italy, the current safety warning issued by the US Government for Americans is valid until February 2006. For Americans living in Italy the message is also pretty severe — first advising a ‘prepare to flee’ list of things to do and then closing with a ‘but don’t worry too much’ caveat.
My personal take:
Unfortunately, the reason they’re called terrorist attacks is because they are unpredictable. It is impossible to say what is the real level of danger. Just the same, unless you really must, avoid spending lots of time hanging around what would be considered ‘sensitive targets’–e.g. the consulate, McDonalds, American schools or for that matter anywhere with large groups of tourists…
If you’re concerned, don’t bring anything with the American flag on it (in moments like these some people put Canadian flag stickers on their luggage or backpacks) or in general T-shirts, hats, bags with English writing. This last precaution is pretty arbitrary — since many fashionable Italians will be sporting something with English writing on it, but it may help to make you feel less conspicuous…
State Department International Warning
We’ve included the announcement for completeness, it’s pretty gloom & doom…
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Travel)
TThe U.S. Embassy in Rome would like to inform citizens of the following Department of State Public Announcement which updates information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against Americans and interests overseas. This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated March 8, 2005 and expires on February 2, 2006.
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 andrioting can occur with little or no warning. Ongoing events in Iraq have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries; such events are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Nation-wide elections in Afghanistan scheduled for mid-Septembermay also trigger violent anti-American actions.
Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings. Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. The latter may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit, including residential areas, business offices, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels and public areas.
In the wake of the July 2005 London bombings and the March 2004 train attacks in Madrid, Americans are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems. In addition, extremists may also select aviation and maritime services as possible targets. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. For additional information, please refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad” found at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its consular information program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest American embassy or consulate.
As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threatsto Americans overseas, it shares credible threat information through its ConsularInformation Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.In addition to information on the Internet, U.S. travelers can hear recorded informationby calling the Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from theirtouch-tone telephone, or receive information by automated telefax by dialing 202-647-3000from their fax machine.
The U.S. Embassy in Rome is located at Via Veneto 119a.
The U.S. Consulates are located in the following Italian cities:
Florence, at Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci 38.
Milan, at Via Principe Amedeo 2/10.
PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTU.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
General Advice For Americans Resident Overseas
Among the highest priorities of the Department of State and our missions abroad is the safety and security of locally-resident Americans overseas. In the past year, the Department has intervened to assist in the evacuation of Americans from half a dozen countries throughout the world as a result of serious political or economic unrest, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks. Hundreds of expatriate Americans each year are forced by personalemergencies (e.g. death or illness in the family) to return to the U.S. on short notice. Evacuations, especially under crisis conditions, are inevitably very disruptive and distressing for those involved.
The State Department routinely provides standard advice to its employees on prudent steps to take to ensure they would be prepared in the event of such an evacuation. This and other advice on crisis preparedness is available on the Department’s Web site at http://travel.state.gov, and we are summarizing the principal points below. The Department commends these elementary steps to you for your careful consideration.
— Assemble all vital documents such as passports, birth and marriage records, vaccination, insurance and bankrecords in one readily accessible location;
— Check to be sure your passport and any necessary visas are valid and that you are registered at the Embassy/Consulate with your current address and phone number. If you need to obtain a new passport or to update your registration, please do so at the Embassy as soon as possible (fill in the times and days). Visa processing can take several weeks. Immediate family members should keep their U.S. visas current and apply for visas with as much time in advance of planned travel as possible.
— Make or update as necessary a complete inventory of your household effects, in duplicate.
— Maintain an adequate supply of food, water, and necessary medications in your home. Make sure your car is in good working order. Keep the gas tank full and check oil, coolant, tires, and battery.
We do not want American citizens to become unduly alarmed. These are precautionary measures only. Given the potential for acts of violence, terrorism, or anti-American demonstrations, we believe it is important for all citizens to maintain readiness for all possibilities in case of an emergency. We will promptly inform you of any significant developments and advise you accordingly.
The Department of State encourages all American citizens residing abroad to register their presence and obtainup-to-date information on security conditions at the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.