Every major attraction in all big cities have annyong street vendors. Many cities regulate their vendors while others turn a blind eye to the problem. While legal street vendors usually stay posted in a set place, the illegal vendors patrol the attractions moving quickly in and out of crowds staying one step ahead of the authorities and one step too close to the tourist. We have encountered these vendors in every city we have visited. The worst we have ever experienced illegal street vendors was is in the city of Rome.
The two places in Rome where the illegal vendors annoy tourist the most, is at the Vatican and the Colosseum. By far, the Colosseum is the attraction where the illegal vendors harass people the worst. There are various reasons why the illegal vendors flock to the Colosseum more than any other attraction. The first is obvious; the sheer size of the Colosseum and the amount of people it attracts every day. It is also extremely hot at the Colosseum during the summer months. Most people who visit the Colosseum spend an average of three hours inside. That does not take into account the amount of time one may spend online waiting to get in. By the time tourists leave the Colosseum, they usually have consumed any of the water they brought with them. The illegal vendors know the tourist are hot and dehydrated. As soon as you leave the Colosseum, there is a wall of illegal vendors throwing water bottles in your face. The water they are selling that can be brought in any store in Rome for half a Euro is being sold by the illegal vendors for between five and ten Euros.
It can get very crowded when leaving the Colosseum as a bottleneck can start to occur. If you get stuck in the bottleneck, these water vendors will be in your face with no where to escape, until the crowd moves forward. This can leave you in a very uncomfortable position having to deal with these illegal vendors inches from your body. Here’s how to deal with the situation.
Guide To Street Vendor Harassment At Rome’s Colosseum
As you are leaving the Colosseum stop in the outer hallway before the final exit. Wait until there is a lapse in the crowd exiting the Colosseum. Once you spot a small lapse, head out quickly. Make sure not to exit just by yourself. Exit with at least a few other people. If you exit yourself. you will have at last a dozen illegal vendors all attacking you at once. When you leave, make sure not to look at the dealers. A look at a dealer is a definite invite. Keep you hands down by your sides. I have seen dealers selling wristbands actually grab people by the hand and try to put the wrist band on their hand forcing them to buy it just to get rid of the vendors. Move quickly, don’t look at them in the eyes but make sure to be aware of everyone around you. The exit is also a place in which there are many pickpockets. They actually have signs around the Colosseum warning tourists about the pickpockets It’s sad, but its true.
The other important point to remember when dealing with illegal vendors is do not be tricked into getting into a conversation with them. If your tell a vendor you are not interested, they will say okay and then ask you where your from. They will continue to try and engage you in a conversation conning you into thinking that they are friendly. Eventually it will turn into an even harder sell that will become even more difficult to escape. Do not look at them, do not talk to them, simply ignore them. That is one of the most important aspects in learning how to deal with street vendor harassment At Rome’s Colosseum.
One other very important pint that we would like to make in how to deal with Street Vendor Harassment At Rome’s Colosseum is not to engage in a confrontation with the vendors unless your defending yourself. In other words, do not start a confrontation by telling a vendor to get lost or cursing at them because you are frustrated by there aggressiveness. This will backfire immediately as they will argue with you ferociously defending what they do. I saw that happen a few times and it got ugly. It happened to me one evening.
I was eating at a restaurant in Rome when a vendor came up to may table that I was sitting at and tried selling me a wooden box. I said to him, “not while I’m eating.” I was tired, dehydrated and I just wanted to sit peacefully at the table with my son and have a meal. When the vendor heard my response, he went crazy. I should have just waved him off, but I got upset that he would bother me while I was eating. I learned my lesson in that moment not to confront the vendors. It also taught me how to choose a restaurant and seats in Rome. Many of the restaurants in Rome have tables on the streets. If you sit at a street tabel be prepared to deal with vendors trying to sell you their goods while you are trapped at a table. It is just the way of life in Rome. If you don’t want to deal with that, make sure you choose a table inside off the street.
Some people will argue that the vendors are just poor people trying to make a living. That may be true in most cases. However, many of them are also running pickpocket scams. Do you really want to risk losing your vacation money or even worse, your passports to a criminal element that works in conjunction with the illegal vendors. Be safe, and follow our advice. Try to enjoy your time in Rome, there is so much to see, but be careful, it is a city that also sees you.