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  • Should You Cancel Your Upcoming Trip to Italy in Light of Terrorist Threats?

    Determine how risky travel to the homeland is right now and what kind of precautions are underway
    Our Paesani

    By Francesca Di Meglio

    It's that time of year again, when many of us begin planning our spring and summer getaways to Italy. But after warnings of the possibility of more terrorist attacks in Europe, you might be second-guessing your decision to go.

    Terrorists associated with the ISIL group of radical Islamic fundamentalists carried out attacks on a concert hall, dining establishments, and outside a soccer stadium in Paris in November 2015. More recently, in March 2016, suicide bombers associated with ISIL attacked the airport and subway in Brussels, home of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and European Council. It is also the second seat of the European Parliament and the headquarters for NATO. Between the two attacks, more than 160 people were killed, including many of the perpetrators.

    All of Europe is on high alert as threats of more attacks arise and investigations into these previous atrocities continue. At the end of 2015, the United States warned that Italy was on the radar of terrorists and that specific targets could include the Vatican and La Scala opera house and Duomo, both in Milan, in addition to general sites, such as restaurants. Italy found itself in the spotlight again after Brussels when one man alleged to have created forged documents for the terrorists involved was arrested near Salerno on Italy's Amalfi Coast. At that point, authorities realized that two of the other suspected terrorists in the cell that carried out the attacks in France and Brussels had traveled through Italy without notice in the summer of 2015. Investigators are looking into how this happened and what they were doing there.

    Wondering about the rest of Europe? Maybe you were planning on rooting for Gli Azzurri live and in person. Well, reports have also surfaced in recent days that the terrorists attacked Brussels when one of them had gotten arrested amid plans to bomb the European Cup soccer championships scheduled for the summer 2016 in France. Of course, none of this is definitive proof that it is dangerous for you to travel to Italy or anywhere else in Europe.

    You will drive yourself crazy if you try to use all these headlines to come up with a formula to determine the likelihood of attack should you head to Italy for vacation. Many a statistician will tell you that the odds are still in your favor because the likelihood of getting injured or killed by a terrorist in the exact place you're going on the exact date and time is slim. But all this news should give you pause.

    The fact is that none of us are as safe as we used to be. And there are people out there, who are willing to commit murder-suicide in the name of their warped sense of religion and lack of respect for life. Europe, for all its wonder, is not prepared for these new realities. Anyone who has watched CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News recently realizes that Europe has a failing, outdated system for tracking terrorists, and they don't share intelligence information among the agencies in different countries.

    I myself have walked into the airport in Naples, Italy at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning without even getting my passport stamped. I just went through the doors, picked up my luggage, and left, thus entering a foreign country without a trace. True story, although it was a long time ago, at least nine years ago now. While I've seen Italian military patrolling the airports ever since I started traveling there as a child more than 35 years ago, I still see holes in the security, especially in southern Italy. The same is true in the United States. We've all heard the stories of how poorly TSA has done on tests of the security, during which guns and fake bombs made it passed the agents. However, my husband, who recently traveled from the United States to Italy and back again, says the Italians have beefed up security, especially in Rome, where he had a layover in light of the recent attacks. I've heard similar stories from friends who traveled to and from Italy and the United States between the attacks in France and Belgium. News agencies report that Italy has also increased military presence near sites, such as the Vatican.

    Still, you're wondering what to do about your upcoming trip. Ultimately, it will be your decision and some of it depends on your own comfort. There is a bit more risk than usual at this time. If this is for vacation, you have to decide if it's worth it. You don't want to be nervous about safety when you're supposed to be unwinding.

    If you're still unsure, you can turn to the government for more information. The U.S. State Department has issued a rare warning explaining that it expects more terrorist attacks to happen in Europe in the coming months. It also suggests being vigilant and reconsidering trips to large public sporting and religious events, dinners out, and other site seeing spots. You can see for yourself on the State Department's Website. Town and Country recently offered up advice on how to stay safe when traveling to Europe, and it includes great tips, such as registering your trip with the State Department, so the government can reach out to you if something does happen, and photocopying your passport.

    For some, the love of Italy (or Italians) will draw them home regardless of the threats. After all, in many ways, not going to Europe might just be exactly what the terrorists want.

    Di Meglio writes the Italian Mamma blog at www.francescadimeglio.com. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10


    Article Published 4/17/16

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