Rose Scam in Italy

The Rose Scam

A little poorer, but a lot wiser, Europe

It is straight out of every girl’s Italian fantasy. She is at an iconic landmark like the Spanish Steps, the Rialto Bridge or the Piazza Navone, and she is approached by a handsome, charming Latin Lover with a bad boy look but a soft heart.

He tells her she is beautiful. He offers her a rose. She takes it. She rides on the back of his motorbike all over Rome, they fall in love, get married and have a giant wedding and live happily ever after.

It starts out like this:

Rose Scam in Italy

This above scene does play out countless times per day in Rome, Venice and Florence, as young men approach tourists and offer them a rose, trying to steal their hearts, or scam them out of a few Euros, to be precise.

After getting the rose, the girl takes a closer look to realize the man who just gave her the rose is not the Latin Lover of her dreams, but a guy from India or Bangladesh. And he wants money for the rose.

Indian Man Italy Rose Scam

Usually, the girl isn’t single and does not fall in love with the man, but does want the rose. The rose giver then refuses to take the rose back and asks for small money, badgering the boyfriend for the cash if she won’t pay up.

At the Spanish Steps, I caught this tricky maneuver on camera. This may be the first time the Rose Hustle has been photographed, so I will probably win an award in investigative journalism for this.

The Italian Rose Scam

Rose Vendor Scam Rome

As you can see above, the unwitting blonde tourist has taken the rose from the vendor and is trying to give it back. The boy gives the universal thumbs up sign saying he only needs small money.

Rome Rose ScamThe rose vendor turns away and refuses to take the rose back as boyfriend laughs.

Rose Scam RomeJust small money, he tells her, refusing to accept the rose.

Rose Scam in RomeOH! She is reaching into her pocketbook! She is going to BUY THE ROSE!

Rose Scam Rome Spanish Steps

Rose Scam Spanish StepsShe pays up and as the couple leaves, the Rose Hustler taps Boyfriend on the back, the universal sign for “sorry about that, bro.” You can see the embarrassment plastered on the girls face. She was duped.

Rose Hustle Fail

The Rose Hustle does not always go according to plan. I saw some pretty serious arguments break out between would-be vendors and would-be rose takers. Below, I captured a scam gone awry.

Ipad Rose HuslteGirl poses for photo and opportunistic vendor offers her some roses to accentuate the photo.

Rose Scam Ipad Spanish StepsBefore the megapixels have even processed the vendor is in their business, asking for money.

Rose Scam fail in RomePreoccupied with the photo, Boyfriend #2 brushes aside the vendor as the girl tries to return the flowers.

Rose Hustle Ipad Spanish Steps in Rome. This did not end well for the “vendor.” The man feigned not having any money and the rose was given back after some debate.

Why Not Sell the Roses Straight Up?

Watching this charade begs the question: Why not simply sell the roses to the tourists? I guess that has been tried to no avail. The laws of economics lead me to believe that this way is more successful than simply selling the roses.

Having been to India last year, I learned to pretty much not talk to anyone trying to sell anything, anywhere. So we Bells didn’t get scammed. I have evidently learned from my past mistakes. And Kristi already has a Latin-ish Lover in the form of me, so she wasn’t tempted.

If you find yourself on the Spanish Steps of Rome, with romance in the air, accept the rose at your own risk.

Have you ever accepted a rose from a local boy, fallen madly in love and had a storybook love affair? 

Have you ever been hustled for your money with the ruse of romance? 

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

28 thoughts on “The Rose Scam”

  1. Lol, the illustrations are funny. I was almost a victim of this in nyc once–my friend stopped it before I even knew what was happening. I guess she knew this trick since she studied abroad in Rome!

  2. Love this, and it’s especially helpful since I’ll be staying near the Spanish Steps in a few weeks. However, as a general rule, I never take anything anyone hands to me because I know that there are usually strings attached. Love the drawings and great journalism!

    • You are a wise girl for not taking things. But now I fear that you may ignore the Latin Lover of your dreams and miss out on your one true love while in Rome.

  3. It’s shame this stuff happens but it happens every where. This didn’t happen in to us in Rome but I remember a purse snatcher in Paris who had an eye on my wife’s purse while I had my arm around her. I kept looking to my left, out of the corner of my eye until he gave up.
    On another brazen note, I am still amazed at the prostitute who was propositioning men with there girlfriends as they walked by on a New York city street corner years ago.

  4. Elodie says:

    An extremely pushy rose peddler forced a rose in my hand at the Spanish Steps. When he asked for money, I tried to give back the rose. When he wouldn’t take the rose back, I kept it and walked off! He lost on that deal! But I also had a rose I really didn’t want.

    • Elodie – that is awesome. He didn’t chase you down and take back the rose? I did witness that once.

      I still don’t understand why they don’t simply sell the roses.

      • Elodie Reavis says:

        Jeff. I was afraid he’d chase after me but I was mad and took off in such a hurry it was pointless for him to follow. Lose, lose for him!

  5. Tiina says:

    I did get scammed with this today. I wasn’t really prepared for it (as it was on a busstop in finland, in the middle of winter and im a bit socially awkward tbh)
    I had given him 2 euros but he kept asking for “a bit more”. I then pushed the rose back and he quickly walked of with the money still on him.
    I’m feeling a bit bitter about it, but I guess it cant be helped anymore.

    • Tina, I call that being a little poorer but a little wiser. You know for next time.

      Good to see that this happens in Finland in the winter too. The scam is spreading.

      I trust that you will now be a faithful reader of this blog so things like this don’t happen to you again 🙂

  6. gb5 says:

    Hahaha my wife and I have been in Venice for the past few days, and rose scammers are everywhere. One of them tried to pretend he was crippled to try to get some pity, but walked off just fine after we refused to take the rose. It was a pretty bad act. They always insist the rose is for free, and after you take one, they hang around for a few minutes and talk to you and eventually try to guilt you into paying for the rose, which they forced into your hand in the first place. We were approached 4 times by the same one during a period of three days on one of the bridges over the Grand Canal. The forth time my wife had had enough. When the man gave her the rose and insisted it was free, she thanked him and then threw it into the canal, and said it looked beautiful on the water. He gave of a pretty mortified look and tried to guilt us into paying for the rose, but we didn’t pay. We felt no guilt, since he told us it was a free gift, so we figured we could do whatever we wanted with it once be gave it to us 🙂

  7. In Crete they had not caught on to this scam yet. Instead, it is little children attempting to sell you the roses, and they fail quite miserably. They badger, hound, follow you around, attempting to guilt you into buying a rose from them since they’re a poor little kid… I can see why, with their rate of failure, that they would resort to the technique you brought up in mainland Europe. Thankfully, after just traveling by myself through some areas of Portugal, Spain, France, and Croatia, I was never approached by anyone attempting to force a rose on me. By the way, though, those same “poor children” walk off, messing with their smart phones…

    • Interesting. I did not have any trouble with kids in Crete (I was mainly in Hania). I never, ever give anything to kids because I feel like they are being exploited or learning bad habits.

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  9. Just drop it and walk off, it really isn’t that hard. No one had a gun pointed at their head!

    • You are on to something here! It may be rude, but it is also rude to give someone a rose then expect money!

  10. Oh, this reminds me of the airport in Argentina. When I arrived I thought I was paying for a taxi but apparently there were people hanging around waiting to “find” you a taxi. When I told the driver I had already paid his “partner” he had a fit. I imagine he went back and found his “partner” to get his share. They didn’t have roses there but they had little colorful cards they “gave away”. But mine never asked for money and I didn’t know he wasn’t just flirting.

    • Ha, that is a good scam. I’d like to say I never fall for these things, but I still get swindled from time to time. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Ugh. Financial gain in the name of love and romance? I want to say I’ve heard it all, but I know I haven’t…

  12. My girlfriend and I came across a guy trying to pull this stunt about 7 years ago. We didn’t get it, he tried to put the rose in her hands and we were just completely confused (probably the language barrier). We didn’t pay anything and because of our ignorance, we made him look like a complete fool in public. He did not like that, so he walked away.

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