Ever since the Paris attacks a few weeks ago, security has been noticeably stepped up in Rome. But that’s not the only reason for the heightened security. Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year, starting December 8th. Millions of visitors to the Vatican are expected over the next year. So the security has gradually been increasing anyway.
The week after the Paris attacks, armed security appeared at the subway stations. The subway stops with higher foot traffic tend to have up to four guards, with military vehicles parked outside. Some of the guards are serious and stand at attention, others talk casually to each other while surveying the stream of people. There have been a few evacuations of subway stations due to unattended items that required further examination. The area over Rome is now declared a “no fly” zone, including drones. The US Embassy in Rome now sends regular email updates. But in general, the mood is one of “business as usual”, just with more surveillance.
I have expressed concerns to friends about the ability of Rome’s government to really handle a Jubilee Year and an ISIS threat to the Vatican. After all, Rome is mayor-less right now, ever since Ignazio Marino stepped down this fall. But they have assured me that more goes on undercover than what we are all aware of. I was stating that I didn’t see any additional security measures at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport when I traveled to Munich last weekend. But I was assured that police are there – just out of sight.
Today I took advantage of the crisp, yet sunny morning to do a 10K run around the city. It was such a gorgeous day, with the trees along the Tiber River changing color, and the morning sunlight illuminating all of the beautiful old buildings. The colors here are just stunning; there really is nothing like the light in Rome. Traffic was minimal and I decided to change my route and run past Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum on my way home. As I ran past the “Wedding Cake” and turned onto Via dei Fori Imperiali with the Colosseum in view, I felt nothing but calm. There were some tourists, quite a few runners, and some police posted along the long boulevard. It was a beautiful run.
Overall I don’t fear for my safety, and neither do Romans. They are tough and resilient, and aren’t prone to sit around and worry and fear for themselves. Instead, they focus on the positive, encouraging you to have another glass of wine or to “stai tranquilla”. Worry is not an accepted emotion. It’s comforting to be here and be reminded to relax.
If you’re coming to Italy (and you should!), or just traveling for that matter, here are some security measures that you can take:
- Inform your government of your whereabouts. In the US, enroll on the State Department’s Smart Traveler website. They will send you emails/texts to alert you of any security updates in your travel area.
- Monitor local media and information sources in English, such as The Local or Ansa, to stay aware of any incidents.
- Provide your air, hotel and travel itinerary to family members, including phone numbers of your whereabouts. Keep in touch with them during your trip.
- Think carefully about how you use social media during your travel. Instead of posting your current or future whereabouts, consider waiting until after you have visited a place or until the end of your trip to post updates.
- As much as possible, avoid crowds.
And most of all, Keep Calm and Eat Pasta.