Every once in a while while I'm walking in the streets of Florence alone, a man will often inch up alongside of me and talk to me. My reaction is to look straight ahead and ignore him. The guy gets frustrated and even if he says something rude, he eventually stops.
When I lived in Paris, some men were even more aggressive and would want to talk to me. I was a little more na´ve and thought I had to be "nice" to them. When I used to smile and shake my head at them, the guys would not stop talking to me and then I couldn't shake them. Any reaction to them was like leaving the door wide open for a conversation. So, I learned after a few times that if I snubbed them, they might react harshly by calling me names, but at least it was the end of it. I could look back and they'd be gone.
A week or so ago, one of my girlfriends was approached by a guy (and I will also preface this by saying that they are generally not Italians who do this) who wanted to talk to her. She was a perfect target walking out of a bar at around midnight alone near the Santa Maria Novella church. She responded by telling him to get lost, which is something I would not suggest. He kept on following her and wouldn't stop talking to her. Feeling frustrated, she turned around and slapped him. Instead of him leaving her alone, he got upset. He began yelling obscenities at her and she was forced to take refuge in a bar. She called her boyfriend and he came to pick her up.
I will not say that something bad could have happened to her, but unfortunately a girl was recently assaulted on via de' Benci after walking out of a bar at night alone.
I love Florence and I love that I feel quite safe here, but that doesn't mean that one shouldn't be cautious and smart when dealing with strangers. My modus operandi is to ignore men I don't know who approach me and so far, it works well for me.
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