You don’t want to be chased by  this one. Luckily they own only one of these 500 Hp Lamborghini Gallardo

The Italian Police

There are at least four different varieties of policemen that you’re likely to meet on an Italian road. There’s the POLIZIA which is the true State Police, then there are the CARABINIERI, which is a military Police force that performs civil Police duties. Then there is the GUARDIA DI FINANZA, the fiscal Police, but endowed with full Police powers. And within the city limits you can meet the POLIZIA MUNICIPALE or POLIZIA LOCALE or VIGILI URBANI, the local Constable Police.

Each Police force has different uniforms and their vehicles are painted in different colours, but all can be a blessing if you find yourself in trouble, or a curse, if you are the one who’s causing trouble.

 

Why so many Police forces? When Italy was a young Nation, a National Police force did not exist yet. But the State had to cope with a troubled Country, full of brigands and where everyone had learnt to respect a local code of “law” rather than the National law. So a special military corps, the Carabinieri (from carabina = rifle) was appointed to keep order and enforce the law in this awful mess. Still today, in small faraway towns or on deserted backroads, you’re more likely to meet a patrol of Carabinieri. The Carabinieri wear a black uniform with a red stripe on the side of the trousers and a white bandolier across the chest. Their vehicles are dark blue with a red “lightning” stripe on the sides.

 

When a National Police force was created, the Polizia di Stato, it did not replace the Carabinieri, but worked side to side with them. Usually, the Polizia is present on highways, major roads and around major towns, while the Carabinieri are more spread out in the territory. The Polizia wears a blue uniform with grey trousers and their vehicles are light blue with white markings.

 

The Guardia di Finanza, which belongs to the Ministry of Finance, was initially supposed to deal with financial felonies such as tax evasion and bribery. But it enlarged its scopes to include drug traffic, smuggling of art and archaeology, illegal immigration and weapons traffic. So you are warned.

The Guardia di Finanza wears a grey uniform. Their vehicles are grey with green and yellow stripes.

 

The Polizia Municipale, or Vigili Urbani, is the local Police, and takes orders directly from the local town authority. Small towns can have one Vigile, while larger cities may have a force of thousands. You will meet the Vigili on urban roads but not on inter-city roads. Their uniforms vary from town to town but are usually white, blue or black. Colours of vehicles vary accordingly.

 

Depending on where you go in Italy, you may stumble onto other different Police forces: the Guardia Forestale, which patrols wild areas, the Polizia di Frontiera, which guards the boundaries, the Capitaneria di Porto if you wander on the sea and around ports, the Guardia Carceraria if you end up in jail.

 

The attitude of Police towards small infringements is somewhat tolerant, usually. Speeding is tolerated, to a certain extent. Italians tend to interpret and bend the law so if there’s a 50 km/h limit on a perfectly safe road, most will drive at 70 km/h. Also modifications to your bike will be tolerated, to an extent. You may be frowned upon for a noisy silencer, but your bike may be seized for a completely unsilenced megaphone.

 

Law enforcement varies somewhat from place to place. In some towns of the South of Italy nobody wears a helmet when riding a motorcycle. But on the other hand, speeding is generally less accepted in the South than in the North.

Policemen are usually patient and kind with foreigners, after all Italy is a Country that lives also on tourism. But don’t expect them to speak languages. Things are changing of course, but generally the knowledge of foreign languages shown by Italian Police is the same as that of the general population. You’d better provide yourselves with a basic dictionary to get on.

Contacts:

Or: how to know who’s about to fine you (and maybe avoid the fine)

Speeding is tolerated in Italy… almost

The Carabinieri used to ride only Moto Guzzi. Now they ride BMW’s. I wonder why?

Now this Carabiniere can ask my documents any time!! TV star Manuela Arcuri was the main attraction of the fiction “Carabinieri”

Good doggie… take your dirty nose away from my precious dope! The Guardia di Finanza are ruthless chasers of  drug smugglers….

Some town’s Local Police: they must be from the North of Italy, judging from their German style green striped van