A good friend of mine has a pastime of cataloging the various police forces of Washington, DC (he started 20 years and is still going, there are so many!). In Rome, you will also see a number of different (but all chic) police uniforms. Here’s a brief, non-exhasutive guide.
Some police forces are military and others civilian. This being Italy, some also have some splendid uniforms.
Carabinieri These world-famous officers are considered military and at times can be heavily armed. They have very snappy dress uniforms consisting of dark black trousers with a jaunty red stripe, bright white shirt, and a dark blue jacket — and a saber when mounted on horse. When not in dress uniform, they will be in bright blue shirts. Their cars are also dark blue, often with a red stripe.
Women have been allowed to join this force since 2001.
Guardia di Finanza This force is considered military and deals with tax evasion, money laundering, smuggling, immigration, and counter-narcotics. Their cars are grayish in color, matching their uniforms. For some reason, I often see them sitting in their tiny cars near Castel Sant’Angelo. As you can image, your average Roman does not want to see one of these officers on their doorstep: for one thing, they enforce the television tax.
Yes, there is a tax on every television — a tax that many people hate to pay. Rest assured, I am one of the people who do pay it. One of the few people. Actually, that should be in the past tense. After many decades dealing with evasion of this tax, the government recently managed to get the TV tax inserted into everyone’s electricity bill.
Polizia di Stato This is the civilian national police of Italy. They handle law enforcement activities such as traffic and speeding tickets. And, all lodgings have to submit tourists’ passport information to them when the guest is checking in. This police force uses bright blue cars with a white stripe.
Polizia Municipale Rome’s own police force drives around in white cars with a dark blue stripe emblazoned with the words “Polizia Roma Capitale.” You’ll also see them occasionally on bikes — which we love here in the historic center!
There are other police forces of course, all there to keep you safe. But these are the ones you would see around the city more than others. All the officers we’ve ever encountered have been friendly, courteous, and professional… and clearly willing to pose for photos!