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Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller

Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
95 posts
82 reviews
Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller

I'd appreciate thoughts and views about how safe it is for a lone female traveller to venture into Sicily.

I've read up some websites that caution that Sicily isn't exactly a safe destination for single women travellers on their own. There's talk that it's very unsafe to be out on the streets after dark, threats of rape, theft and other petty crime.

After hearing all sorts of hearsay, I thought I'd post in this forum to get some feedback from people who actually know the place, rather than folks who get their opinions from Hollywood Tall Tales (movies).

Another worry that I'll stick out like a sore thumb and get into more trouble than bargained for is the fact that I'm Chinese, and not European. Will I get more grief than normal, since it's more apparent that I'm the outsider?

Also, I'm particularly worried about petty crime like snatch thieves on motorcycles/scooters. I hear they're rampant, especially in Sicily.

Would appreciate any advice and thoughts. My trip is in 2 weeks, and I haven't booked my accommodations, as I'm having second thoughts, in case I decide to cancel. At least, I'll only forfeit my air ticket, which though painful... will not be as bad as adding the cost of accommodations for 2 weeks onto the bill.

Level Contributor
17,790 posts
1. Re: Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller

I have travelled in Sicily six times as a woman alone, and I have encountered no problems. I exercise caution but I do not wear a money belt. At night in Palermo, I take care to return from a restaurant to my hotel by streets that are well frequented. On Ortygia in Siracusa, I have never felt uneasy, even at night. Catania is a city that I have visited only briefly; I understand that it is the most unwelcoming in Sicily.

I cannot speak to the experience of being a Chinese woman in Sicily, but the population of Sicily has become much more diversified in recent years, due to the - heavy and sometimes resented - influx of refugees from Africa, Albania and Arab countries.

Palermo, Italy
Level Contributor
88 posts
3 reviews
2. Re: Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller


I've lived in Palermo for the last 8 years on my own. Palermo compared to other European cities is really quite safe for women on their own. Of course it should be said that all the precautions and common sense that you'd have in a big city are necessary - avoiding to wear flashy jewellry, using a knapsack as opposed to a shoulder bag or fanny pack, using a taxi at night as opposed to public transport, etc.

Why in the world would you feel out of place? Palermo has it's own Chinatown and lots of other Chinese - owned shops (and OF COURSE Chinese restaurants!). Don't think for a minute you'll stick out like a sore thumb; in fact, you just might be taken for a local!

I hope this helps...should you need more info, just whistle!

Here & There
Destination Expert
for Sicily, Taormina
Level Contributor
1,14,493 posts
3. Re: Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller

Violent crime isn’t a problem, but petty crime could be, especially in Catania and Palermo, but with proper precautions and the same street smarts you exercise in London, you should have no problems. Sling your bag across your body, wear a money belt, and leave your jewelry at home. You didn’t mention your destinations, but in towns like Taormina, Erice, Cefalu, Ragusa and Siracusa, you will feel perfectly safe. If you still have reservations and feel uncomfortable, avoid Catania. Many Asians travel though Sicily every year, so being Chinese will not be an issue at all.

Here are some tips that may be helpful!

Best of Sicily tips for women traveling alone.....


Any special advice for a woman traveling alone (or with a few other women) in Sicily?

There's no cause for paranoia. Just remember one thing: Even at the beach, in a hotel or in other public places, keep in mind that gestures or actions which might not be considered provocative in Canada, the United States, Australia or Northern Europe could be construed this way in Italy. That's why a Sicilian woman might seem somewhat reserved when she's alone with a man she doesn't know, even in a business situation. We discuss this below. (But it's not only a Sicilian thing; a lot of guys in Milan, Turin and Rome behave the same way.)


Public Lust: During the passeggiata (afternoon stroll) in larger Southern cities, it's not unusual for undisciplined young men to call out to attractive young women they don't know with remarks like "Bella!" and "Pupa!" Sicilian women are quite accustomed to such behavior, though they usually don't encourage it. In itself, such practices may seem innocuous, but they do reflect the persistent attitudes of some Italian men accustomed to viewing women as potential sexual conquests rather than social equals. Throughout Italy, sexual harassment is somewhat common in the workplace (or at least more so than in the US and the UK), and southern men seem to do it more openly than northerners.

You might observe that many Italian women, though well educated, conform to "traditional" roles in society. Some of these things are quite subtle, others less so. Legally, of course, Italian women have the same rights as men. Socially, that's not always the case. In such an old society, old habits disappear slowly.


Are the cities safe?

As far as violent street crime is concerned, Italy's largest cities are quite safe compared to London, Paris, Moscow, and certainly New York and Los Angeles. Since purse snatchings are commonplace (the creative Italians even use motor scooters to ride by as they snatch handbags), women are advised against carrying large purses, especially in the cities. Though assaults are rare, they do occur, especially in certain parts of Palermo and Catania. An attractive young woman walking around some parts of these cities alone after 10:00 PM could be a tempting lure for an unsavory male. (As we describe below, many younger Sicilian men entertain a rather unenlightened view of women.) The prevalence of violent street crime shouldn't be exaggerated, though its potential presence is worth a bit of prudence.

Organized crime doesn't pose a threat to visitors. Mafia shootings are quite rare; you're far more likely to see one described in the newspaper or on the evening news than to witness one firsthand.

Inside Sicily: Health & Safety


Sicily is a safe environment, safer than you'd believe from the hype. There are relatively low crime rates in both the cities and the countryside. While the Police have been trying to crack down with some success, generally the Mafia still remains in control. Certain towns like Taormina might have some degree of petty crime, but for tourists it is no worse than anywhere else.

Sicilians are generally extremely nice and outgoing to visitors. Sicilians are proud of their homeland and culture, and they want you to experience that happily and have a good time, and they will try to do the best to see that you do.

However in recent years (and Sicily isn't alone in this, it's spread from the north of Italy to the south and most major cities have been suffering from this) there has been a rise in moped robberies - where two youths on a moped will scream past you snatching your purse/handbag/pack. These are easily avoided though by taking simple precautions. When possible use a money pouch to keep your valuables (especially, money, credit cards and your passport or ID card) in. Don't walk around with your handbag just hanging off your shoulder making it easy to snatch, if possible have it around you neck.

It's not as bad as the movies portray it, but if you're traveling in the large cities, it's like ANY city anywhere in the world. Petty crime happens. Try not to look TOO much like the tourist. You're safer wandering around with your pack in your hotel room and your valuables in a pocket.

An excellent site to check for women travelers is Journeywoman. This site includes information on safety, dress and etiquette.



Safety and Security for Women Who Travel (2nd Edition) by Sheila Swan & Peter Laufer is another excellent resource.


November is low season in Sicily, so the crowds dissipate, and it’s an especially nice time to visit.

Enjoy your stay! There will be many beautiful things to see! :-)


Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
95 posts
82 reviews
4. Re: Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller

Thank you so much, everyone! I've made up my mind and am definitely going to Sicily! Can't wait.. and am trying to read up as much as possible before I go.

Have just booked my accommodations in Palermo, and have gotta plan out the rest of my trip.

Am grateful for all the advice thrown my way. :)

Here & There
Destination Expert
for Sicily, Taormina
Level Contributor
1,14,493 posts
5. Re: Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller

Good decision rosieonvacation! Glad that we were able to put your mind at ease so that you are comfortable with your decision and looking forward to your trip!

If you need help with the route, don't hesitate to ask!

Buon Viaggio!


6. Re: Safety in Sicily for a lone woman traveller

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