The Italian Mafia are a network of organised crime groups based in Italy and some parts of America. These groups engage in practises such as drug-trafficking, loan sharking and fraud. However, they mainly engage in protection racketeering where they use violence to intimidate people into doing whatever they desire, particularly to manipulate the economic activities in their favour.
They are mainly found in Southern cities of Italy, like Sicily and Naples, but the stereotype has spread to make people believe that it encompasses all Italians, thanks to Western movies, like the Godfather and the controversial Italian-American car ad below.
These stereotypes perpetuate fear in prospective visitors causing avoidance of the country and affecting tourism all over Italy, including cities like Rome. Whilst, not a lot can really be done about stopping the Mafia (otherwise it would have been done already) the fear can be distilled with the facts.
Not every Italian is in the Mafia, in fact most are ashamed of that culture and would be very offended to know that some people avoid traveling to the country in fear of them. True, they are dangerous, and true, they do exist. But 99.9 times out of 100 they’re not going to care about what some tourist is doing; they’ve probably got bigger things to worry about.