Rome street sellers: all ok until tourists finds themselves paying a big fine

Just before you go to Rome, make sure you know who you buy from. That stolen purse could cost you your trip.

On a sunny morning under a bright blue sky, tourists line up in the park for a morning tour of the well-known tourist attraction, The Colosseum in Rome. Two guys who appear to not be locals because of their accents, walk up and down the line offering people ice cold bottled water. Another man works the line trying to get the tourists to buy bracelets from him. These men try to convince the tourists that the bracelets are free, which is a sales tactic to get people to buy. He tries to attract the attention of some teenagers with a trendy dance gesture, but they are not interested in his bracelets so they walk away. Another man tries complimenting a tourist’s clothes and beauty to get them interested. On another occasion, a man gives a lady a rose in an effort to get her boyfriend to buy the rose so he doesn’t feel guilty.

The alleys and plazas of Rome are filled with people hawking their items to tourists: from roses to squeaky toys, water, and even stolen accessories such as handbags. Often, refugees from North Africa, India, and elsewhere. These street sellers can be seen as a nuisance by some, but they are trying to make a living to support themselves and all they want to do is make enough money to eat and live. They will do whatever it takes for a sale, even if it takes all day of walking up and down city plazas or standing at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in the scorching heat with portable chargers.

Visitors who choose to purchase goods from street sellers should take caution. If you make a purchase of stolen goods, according to you can be liable for a fine from up to 3333 to 10000 Euros. That’s roughly $4850 to $14500 Cdn and the last thing you want to do is spend your vacation budget on fines just for a 30 euro purchase. So it’s better to stick to the mini shops scattered across Rome that contain handbags, purses and other accessories without the risk of getting into trouble.

The street sellers in Rome continue to sell products that seem to be stolen, but as I was walking around exploring Rome during this summer, I noticed that the police or military that stand around tourist attractions do not seem to approach these street sellers or even ask them what they are selling. It seems like they have been approved to sell goods or maybe they just haven’t been caught yet. I asked experienced travelers that have been to Rome recently and they said, “They aren’t doing anything bad, so they won’t get caught.” But I still wonder if the police could possibly be waiting for a tourist to buy from them and catch them on the spot.

There are plenty of places to get water if you aren’t interested in buying it from the street sellers. continuously running water fountains are scattered across Rome which may or may not have good quality water but local grocery stores across Rome contain ice cold bottled water and a variety of local beverages if you are worried about using tap water in a forign country. There are places everywhere to buy accessories and tech without the risk of getting a huge fine. Plus you may even get a warranty for tech that you wont get from street sellers. 

So stay safe on your big vacation. Hopefully, in the future, these street sellers can support themselves without having to sell all day on the streets and alleys, but that won’t be any time soon.

Image Credit: Pexels/Anastasia Dav

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