I had lots of emails this week, plenty of sympathy for getting robbed on the bus, lots of stories from people to whom similar things have happened, and this from Gerry:
I was most interested to learn the word anagrafe which I did not know but I was also surprised that you went to the Caserma to make your denucia rather than the Questura. Putting this another way, I hadn’t realised that the Carabinieri which, as you say, is a division of the Italian Army and concerned with state security, also deals with what might be called ‘ordinary crime’ which I would have expected to be the responsibility of the Polizia Comunale or the Polizia di Stato … perhaps you could touch upon it … in one of your thrice weekly epistles to your faithful subscribers.
Good question, Gerry, and one I remember asking myself, decades back.
The answer is more complicated than it seems, but let’s start with the dictionary entry for ‘forze di polizia’ (police forces), which states_
Ai sensi dell’art. 16 della l. 121/1981 ne fanno parte: la Polizia di Stato, l’Arma dei Carabinieri, la Guardia di finanza, nonché la Polizia penitenziaria e il Corpo forestale dello Stato.
‘Ai sensi di’ is used to refer to the relevant legislation, the section, number and year of which being given right after (try Googling it to see what Italian laws are like), and that pesky ‘ne’ is a pronoun, referring back to ‘forze di polizia’. So we have something like ‘of them do/make part’, or much more simply in English, ‘they include:’, followed by the list of the main ‘police’ forces.
Now bear in mind that lots of countries, probably most countries, have different law enforcement bodies, as anyone who watches American TV series can attest, so the Italian situation isn’t so weird with ‘la Polizia di Stato’ (‘stato’ being the Italian state, not the regions that make it up), l’Arma dei Carabinieri (the one Gerry is asking about), la Guardia di finanza (tax crimes and customs), la Polizia penitenziaria (prison police) and last, and indeed rather least, il Corpo forestale dello Stato (countryside and food safety).
Though the dictionary doesn’t mention them, there are also local/municipal police forces, check out the website of Bologna’s (La polizia locale di Bologna) to get an idea. They look like real cops, don’t they? And have guns. But don’t waste your time telling them you’ve been robbed, or you’ll likely get written up for a traffic violation.
Knowing the dictionary entry wouldn’t leave you much wiser, next I asked some handy Italians (my wife and her cousin’s daughter, a college student) why I had to do my ‘denuncia’ at the carabinieri. The girl came right back with, oh they’re the military police, to which I replied something like, err yes, and so?
I wasn’t surprised to get a non-answer to my question, as I’ve never actually found an Italian with an intelligent explanation of why ‘normal’ police activities are shared by ‘polizia’ and ‘carabinieri’, even after twenty years of English conversation classes, in which the topic has come up often.
Everyone here knows that the carabinieri are the military police, though few appreciate that the term means something different in English, and no one knows why the carabinieri are the go to for missing wallets.
So, Gerry, I’ll have a go at offering my own explanation, which is, of course, pure guesswork!
Let’s start with term ‘military police’, which in British and American English refers to the vicious guys and gals with hard hats and long sticks who keep soldiers and sailors in order when they’ve had too much to drink. If you live in a military town, you’ll be familiar with them. If not, then not.
Starting with that, then we should be clear – that’s NOT what the Carabinieri are. Yes, they have by far the nicest uniforms, yes they shine their shoes and iron creases into their trousers (the polizia seem to take pride in doing neither, and the regular army is basically shabby), but the carabinieri’s primary role is not, as far as I understand it, keeping troops in order. Troops are an uncommon sight in Italy, the esercito (check out the five pointed star logo on their website) being a modest affair, at least since they ended national service, a decade or two back. The carabinieri, on the other hand, are ubiquitous.
Carabinieri are military, agreed. And some who I taught English to years back were rotated to Afghanistan and to other peace-keeping/war-fighting destinations. But they appear not to be, primarily at least, ‘military police’. Got that?
Who’s read Pinocchio? Hands go up around the classroom (not really…) If not, don’t bother, as it’s rubbish. We have an easy reader, by the way.
Back in the ninteenth century, police forces, if they existed at all, were a new thing. London’s disreputable ‘met’ was created in 1829, for instance, when Italy was still not even a thing.
Wikipedia suggests that there’s evidence of organised policing going back thousands of years (sorry, I lost the link), but also confirms that civilian police forces are a much more modern thing. Only recently common.
Which brings us back to Pinocchio, who the sarcastic soldier in Shrek describes, accurately enough, as a ‘demented toy’.
When the puppet does something illegal in the book (I forget what now), then the local law that comes after him are two carabinieri, so called because, Wikipedia informs me, that was a word used across Europe to describe a soldier on a horse with a rifle (carbine).
Insomma, there were no police forces, and Italy wasn’t a state yet, but there were, of course, military bodies, and those were expected, to some extent or other, to keep the peace. By dealing with, for instance, demented toys, and these days, stolen wallets.
Back in the day, every town or city in Italy would have had a ‘caserma’, barracks. Soldiers would, to some extent at least, have been dispersed across the territory. Perhaps for defence purposes, perhaps to help with recruitment, perhaps because they were easier to feed that way, perhaps because (before railways) there was no way of moving them over long distances easily and cheaply.
So the carabinieri would have been embedded in Italian territory, performing limited police duties, even before Italy itself existed, and certainly before the new Italian state created its johnny-come-lately ‘polizia di stato’.
Google ‘fare una denuncia’ (report a crime) and the second result is the Carabinieri website. Their slogan is ‘We can help you!’
Hope that answers your question, Gerry.
‘Select your own Half-price Ebook of the Week offer’ ends Sunday!
As explained on Wednesday, we’re experimenting with a different format of promotion over at our ebooks store, EasyReaders.org. The idea is to offer a coupon code that’s equivalent to a 50% reduction in price on any ‘easy reader’ ebook, so £4, then let potential customers pick one out for themselves.
The coupon code is:
It’s valid until Sunday night. It’s one use per person. It’s a fixed £4 discount on the cart contents, so buying more items won’t get you more discounts, if you see what I mean.
Browse our online Catalog, downloading sample chapters for anything that interests you, until you find one or more titles that will liven up your studies and provide valuable extra reading/listening practice.
Add them to your Cart, in the usual way.
Then copy and paste coupon code Save £4! into your cart (before proceeding with the payment, obviously…) and that’ll reduce the total of whatever’s in there by the promised £4.
Just buy one title, normal price £7.99 and (assuming you remember to use coupon code Save £4! ) the amount charged will be just £3.99.
This offer ends during the night of Dec. 3rd 2022. Please note that it is one discount, not one discount on each product. Also the technology is set up to be one use per customer, so if you mess up your order (say you choose the wrong payment option), then try again with a new order, the coupon won’t work the second time.
In which case, just email. I’ll fix it for you by deleting the messed-up order, and you’re good to try again, more carefully.
So, ready to pick out your own, personalised -50% BotW (Book of the Week) from our Catalog page?
Don’t forget to take a look at the free sample chapters before you decide what to spend your £4 discount on!
Don’t know where to start? Then try exploring these categories:
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