Should you find yourselves in tricky situations, here are the public law enforcement authorities in charge of the safety of citizens and foreigners staying in Italy.
The State police is a civil force under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in charge, among other things, of the prevention and repression of crimes, such as robbery and theft, and of the bureaucratic handling of residence permits and tourist visas. State police officers are easy to spot because they wear a blue uniform which is also reflected in the colour of the cars in which they travel: the so-called flying squads. In all of the 107 provincial capitals into which Italy is divided, you will find a Questura (Police Headquarters), the main operating station for the police in that area. In larger cities, in addition to a Questura, you will also find several police detachments, one for each district or area, the so-called commissariati (police stations).
The Carabinieri police corps is a symbol of Italy: in the most isolated mountain villages, it is often the most evident sign of the presence of the State. Established as a corps of guards protecting the king in 1814 (and therefore almost 50 years before Italian Unification), the Carabinieri are a proper army corps, engaged both in missions abroad as well as in safeguarding public order in Italy. As a military force, the Carabinieri police corps is under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. They can be recognised by their characteristic black uniforms with a red stripe, and the cars they travel in are the same colour.
The Guardia di Finanza, or finance police, specialises in the battle against tax fraud, financial crimes and drug trafficking. It is a military body under the authority of the Ministry of Economics, but it is not part of the armed forces, but rather of the police force. As a matter of fact, it shares with the State Police the responsibility of border control. Its officers are easy to spot because they wear pale grey uniforms. The Forestry corps is the Italian State police in charge of protecting the environment and the landscape. It is also in charge of Alpine rescue, avalanche forecasts, the fire-fighting service and civil protection in the event of earthquakes or other natural disasters.
Last but not least, every city or town has its own set of traffic wardens, the Vigili Urbani. They are the ones you should contact for information on the city’s street network, such as no entries and one-way roads, or to challenge a parking ticket or to retrieve your car if it has been towed away or clamped.