When traveling abroad, safety is of the utmost importance. That means being aware of your surroundings and knowing which local areas are safe and which are dangerous. It's also essential to have all the pertinent information when it comes to emergency services.
In the unlikely and unfortunate event an emergency arises during your trip to Italy, you won't be able to dial 9-1-1 as you would in America, but there are several national telephone numbers for emergency services. Services include the Carabinieri, the fire department, the polizia, and roadside assistance.
Depending on whether you're dealing with an emergent fire, a medical crisis, or a domestic disturbance while in Italy, dialing one of these numbers will connect you with Italy's first responders.
- 12: Telephone Directory Assistance
- 112: Carabinieri
- 113: Emergency Police Help
- 115: Fire Department
- 116: A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club) Road Assistance
- 118: Medical Emergencies and Ambulance
- 1515: Forest Fires
112: The Pan-European Emergency Number
For American tourists traveling to Europe, one of the most important numbers to keep in mind is 112, which is the pan-European emergency contact number. No matter where you are in Europe, you can dial 112, and an operator will connect you to an emergency service line for the country you're visiting.
The 112 service functions alongside existing national emergency numbers, but it may take a little longer for you to get help than dialing an Italian emergency service directly. As a result, memorizing or keeping handy, all seven individual numbers can go a long way in helping you resolve your crisis more efficiently.
After all, if you need to report an emergent forest fire or a medical emergency that's critical, you might not have time to talk an operator through your exact needs. Instead of going through 112, you should default to dialing the number for your particular emergency first.
Small medical emergencies can sometimes be handled by an Italian pharmacy (farmacia), and you can typically find one that is open 24 hours a day. Otherwise, you can call either the 112, 113, or 118 numbers, or look for an emergency room nearby (pronto soccorso).
In some cities, you can call both 112 and 113, and they will be answered by the same office, but it's best to try 113 first. The country code for calling Italy from outside the country is 39.
Carabinieri vs. State Polizia
As with everywhere else in Europe, public phones have virtually disappeared in Italy, but nearly everyone has a mobile phone. If you are outside your hotel and don't have a mobile phone, you might have to ask a shop or even a passer-by to make an emergency call for you.
The functions of the Carabinieri and the police in Italian society tend to overlap. The Carabinieri is a sort of local branch of military police derived from the ancient Corps of the Royal Carabinieri instituted by Vittorio Emanuel in 1814. He gave the Carabinieri the dual function of national defense and local policing with special powers and prerogatives.
Carabinieri offices are located in many villages across Italy, and there tends to be more of a Carabinieri presence than a police presence, especially in rural areas of Italy. In fact, if you're driving in the country and are near a collection of villages, you'll see signs directing you to the village where the Carabinieri office is located, with the emergency number printed below the name of the village.