Useful Notes: New Roman Legions

"The German soldier has impressed the world, however the Italian Bersagliere has impressed the German soldier."

The military of modern day Italy.

A brief history

Historically, there have been two Italian armies: the Royal Italian Army (Regio Esercito, operating from 1861 to 1943/46) and the present-day Italian Army (Esercito Italiano, established in 1946). Italy has a mixed record on warfare since its unification. While they did a good job during the Crimean War (1856) and in Libya, defeating the Ottomans during the Turkish-Italian War (1911) - where the first aerial bombing in history took place - Italy was humiliated at the battle of Adowa, in Ethiopia (1896), a loss they would later avenge in 1936 under the rule of Mussolini.

Italy won WWI or, at least, won on its front by defeating Austria-Hungary, completely destroying its army and that of its German ally after three years (1915-1918) of bloody fighting over the Alpine arch; this triggered the collapse of the multi-ethnic Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

However, the country - due to a combination of factors such as lack of resources, scarce indutrial production, inadequate equipment, poor training, inept officers, poor logistics and coordination, mutual distrust between allies and... fighting a war it didn't want against an ex-ally it din't want to fight, all while being forcibly allied to Germany (which most Italians despised) - did not, as you may have guessed, fare so well in World War II; it was occupied by both the Germans and the Allies, lost all its overseas possessions and some of its Italian territories.

Nowadays, Italy's military consists of the standard features - namely, an Army (Esercito), a Navy (Marina Militare), an Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) and the Carabinieri, military police who also do domestic law enforcement. Italy is a NATO member and its forces have seen combat action in Lebanon, Somalia, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Due their historical and current engaments, Italian armed forces also have a well-deserved reputation for Combat Pragmatism, born from such things as inventing aerial bombing back when dropping bombs from aircrafts had been preventively declared a war crime and doing it on barely-equipped bedouins, strapping torpedoes to commercial speedboats and sending them into enemy harbours to sink battleships, developing the Human torpedo to complement and replace the above speedboats (the speedboats were useful against Austria-Hungary, but had become obsolete by the time of World War II), and still fielding and using man-portable flamethrowers. In spite of this, they have managed to earn and keep a reputation as 'nice guys' when deployed for peace-keeping missions, mostly by honestly policing and bringing food and useful things to the civilians living in the areas they control.

Italian Law Enforcement

Italy has eight police forces, but... we'll only see those with some current military relevance (the State Police, the Jail Police and the Forestry Corps (the Park Rangers used to be part of the armed forces, but have been demilitarized respectively in 1981, 1990 and 2004).

1) Carabinieri - Formed in 1815 (before the Unification of Italy: they served in the Piedmontese Kingdom and were inspired by the French Gendarmerie), their names coming from the carbines they used as a weapon. The Carabinieri have been historically the First Corps of the Army, and were upgraded to full branch (alongside Army, Navy and Air Force) in 2000. The Carabinieri handle serious cases of law-enforcement in Italy, by conducting operations against the mafias, organized crime, and unsanitary preparation of foods and drinks (given how much food and drinks Italy exports and a surprisingly high number of scams involving altering them, sometimes in poisonous ways, it was necessary). During World War II, after the fall of Mussolini, many Carabinieri joined the Resistenza, or the Allied forces and fought bravely against the Germans. In more recent times, Carabinieri are often emplyed in peace-keeping operations (Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq).

They are also are the butt of many jokes in Italy, which portray them as Book Dumb and simple-minded. ("Why do carabinieri always go around in groups of three? Because one can read but can't write, the other can write but can't read, and the third keeps in check the dangerous intellectuals!").note  This is probably because in the past many lower-class citizens enlisted in order to earn some money for their families; despite this, they are still nicknamed respectfully "L'Arma" ("the Corps") or "la Benemerita" ("the Meritorous") and are well-respected (and invent many of the jokes on themselves. Telling them such jokes when they're on duty still constitutes an offense, as many have learned the hard way). They also tend to be hated by members of the other military forces due their role as Military Police (unless they show up to close the post's refectory for unsanitory preparation of food, as it means the soldiers will eat in restaurants for a while with the state paying).

The ordinary carabiniere uniform is black with a white sash and a red stripe on the trousers; it comes with a black Commissar Cap with a heraldic grenade (with a spread-out flame) in silver on it, definitely a Nice Hat. In the past, their hats were even nicer. Of course, when employed in war zones and peacekeeping operations they wear sensible camouflage. The Carabinieri also have a paratrooper regiment and a special honor guard regiment called Corazzieri ("Cuirassiers"), who are quite blinged out and whose duty's to protect the President or - before 1946 - the King of Italy. Finally, we've got the the G.I.S. (Gruppo di Intervento Speciale, "Special Intervention Group"), an élite counterterrorism force.

2) Guardia di Finanza - Also known as the Fiamme Gialle ("Yellow Flames"), from the golden color of their uniform's collar patches, they are in charge of financial crimes: smuggling, money laundring, drug trafficking, frauds and such. They depend from the Minister of Economy and Finance, but they're still technically a military corps (like the Carabinieri, although they don't count as a full service branch), so, in the unlikely event of a full-scale war, might well still be employed on the front. They have a Commissar Cap like the Carabinieri, but it's grey instead of black (like the uniform), and with a golden grenade with an upright flame instead of a silver one with a spread-out flame (the female version of the hat is flat on top but looks to be some odd combination of a bowler hat, cowboy hat with the sides pushed up to the crown, and top hat. Here's a look at the female version of the uniform).

3)4) Guardia Costiera' - (Coast Guard'') They guard the metric fuckton of coastline Italy has, obviously. They work for the Ministry of Transports and, despite being a police force, is technically part of the Navy. Oddly enough, they seem to prefer the baseball cap.

...can you say "Interservice Rivalry" and "Jurisdiction Friction"?

Special Forces of the Italian Army

Besides "ordinary" infantry, the Army has a few special corps:

1) "Folgore" ("Thunderbolt") Parachute Brigade - formed in 1941, they're an élite airborne unit (among the best in the world) that fought bravely at El Alamein. After the war, they were deployed in Lebanon, Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan.

2) Bersaglieri ("Marksmen") - founded in 1836, they're a high-mobility, light infantry Corps with a penchant for sharp-shooting (as the name suggests). They fought at the Battle of the Chernaya River, during the Crimean War, where they earned a fame as Crazy Awesome for countercharging the Russian cavalry and routing it (to be fair the Russians got charged on the side while they were busy, and could have won by regrouping and charging again but panicked when they tried and saw that those madmen with strange hats were not only giving chase but almost on top of them); they were also the first corps to enter Rome on September 20, 1870, thus ending the temporal rule of the Pope and completing the Unification of Italy. Being the shock troops of the Regio Esercito (Royal Italian Army), they suffered enormous casualties during WW1. In WW2, they fought in Africa (distinguishing themselves at the battle of Marsa Matruh and El Alamein), Greece and on the Eastern Front; after the war, they served in Yugoslavia, Somalia and Iraq. They're easily recognisable due to the wide hat decorated with black feathers and their fast pace they keep on parades (instead of marching) while playing trumpets. Their hat outside of combat and parades is the fez, given to them by the French Zouaves as a sign of admiration after their performance during the battle of the Chernaya.

Their Old Shame is that Benito Mussolini served as a Bersagliere in World War I, distinguishing himself for zeal and valour, and would often wear his Bersagliere fez in public.

3) Alpini ("Alpines") - They are the mountain troops of the Italian Army; and, having been founded in 1872, they are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world (and, arguably, one of the best). They fought all over the Alpine arch during WW1 and took part in some of the bloodiest battles of that war and engaged in a contest on who would manage to blow up more pieces of mountains with their Austro-Hungarian counterparts (the Austro-Hungarians won: they blew up the top of an Italian-held mountain before the Alpini could do the same with them, and at that point they both decided to stop before escalating too much); during WW2 the Corps fought in Greece, suffering heavy casualties due to the valiant resitance of the Greek soldiers, and in Russia, where they were deployed in the plains (as the Axis never quite reached the Caucasus mountains) and terrified the Red Army by outfighting them in winter (there is a rumour in Italy that the Red Army declared them the only invading army that left Russia undefeated). After the war, they served in Iraq and are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Have a rivalry with the Bersaglieri, as the former filled the role of mountain infantry until the foundation of the Alpini.

They can be recognised by their traditional hat with a bird feather on it.

4) Sassari Mechanised Brigade - The brigade - whose soldiers mostly come from Sardinia - dates back to WW1, when many Sardinians were hastily called to the arms after the defeat at Caporetto. The brigade suffered heavy casualties through the war but was nevertheless one of the most feared by the enemy. Nowadays, it's one of the toughest Corps of the Army (they've been nicknamed dimonios, that is, "devils"); their anthem, written (and sung) entirely in Sardinian language, is also called Dimonios.

Special Forces of the Italian Navy

The COM.SUB.IN. is the élite combat frogmen force of the Italian Navy; their origins go back to WW1 (Italy developed the idea of modern combat frogmen forces). Their rooster: sinking of the Austrian-Hungarian warships Szent István and Viribus Unitis (1917, 1918); raids against the British naval bases of Souda Bay, Gibraltar and Alexandria (1940, 1941); sinking of the HMS Valiant, of the HMS Queen Elizabeth and of other Allied ships throughout WW2. After the war, the early U.S. Navy SEA Ls were partially trained and advised by former Italian frogmen...

The Reggimento San Marco is the Italian Navy's Marine corps; the so-called Lagunari (lit.: "lagoon troopers") are under its jurisdiction but, actually, they're the amphibious troops of the Italian Army. Their origins go back to the jolly good ol' times of the Venetian Republic, their "ancestors" being the 17th-century Fanti da Mar - that is, "Marine Infantry" in Venetian dialect. They're still based in Veneto, more precisely at Mestre (near Venice).

Equipment of the Italian Army

- Beretta AR70/90, standard issue assault rifle

- Beretta ARX160, standard issue assault rifle (which will soon replace the obsolescent rifle above)

- M4 Carbine - 5.56 mm assault rifle

- Beretta 92FS - 9 x 19 mm pistol

- Minimi - ''5.56 mm light machine gun

- MG42/59 - MG3 - 7.62 mm machine gun

- Franchi SPAS-15 - Shotgun

- Sako TGR-42 - .338 Lapua sniper rifle

- Barrett M82A1 - .50 BMG sniper rifle

- OD-82 grenade

- M203 - 40mm grenade grenade launcher

- Breda Folgore - Recoilless Gun

- Tirrena T-148/B - Flamethrower

- Panzerfaust 3 - Anti-tank rocket launcher

- MILAN 2T - Anti-tank guided missile

- Spike MR/LR - Anti-tank guided missile

- FIM-92 Stinger - Man-portable air-defense system

Combat Vehicles:

- Ariete ("Ram") Main Battle Tank

- B1 Centauro ("Centaur"), Tank Destroyer (according to the Italian Army, it's a reconnaisance vehicle who just happens to have an MBT's firepower, and can also pull double duty as a light tank)

- VBM Freccia, ("Arrow"), Infantry Fighting Vehicle

- Puma 4x4/6x6 Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier/Recon Vehicle

- VTLM Lince ("Lynx"), Infantry Mobility Vehicle


- M109L, Self Propelled Howitzer

- PzH2000, (same as above)

- FH70, Howitzer

- SIDAM 25, Self Propelled AA weapon

- 120mm F1, Mortar

Equipment of the Italian Navy/Air Force

Italy's upgrading navy possesses also:

- Giuseppe Garibaldi STOVL aircraft carrier (it will be "soon" equipped with F-35Bs)

- Cavour STOVL aircraft carrier (same as above)

- AV-8B Harrier IIs

The country's Air Force owns:

- Tornado IDS

- AMX International AMX Ghibli, ground-attack aircraft

- Eurofighter Typhoon, multi-role fighter

- A-129 Mangusta ("Mongoose",) attack helicopter

- some MQ-9 "Reaper"

The Air Force was also notorious for holding to the F-104 Starfighter (and in fact fielding the Italian-designed F-104S version) for a long time in spite of the fighter having very poor reliability (and in fact the Italian version was developed specifically to correct the reliability issues. Being faster and capable of acting both as interceptor and fighter-bomber were just bonus). The last F-104S has been retired in 2004, being replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Conscription and other amenities

Conscription was mandatory for every able-bodied male who turned 18; it was established in 1846 and suspended (not abolished) in 2005. Since 1999, women are allowed serve in the Army.

The Forze Armate in fiction:

  • In Gunslinger Girl, most of the SWA's black ops personnel are either from the ranks of the Italian military, police or intelligence services. For instance, Amadeo and Giorgio are formerly with the Gruppo di Intervento Speciale before they were placed in Section 2 to support the cyborg operators in the field when needed. The Croce brothers were ex-Carabinieri officers stationed with the Tuscania Regiment. Raballo was also ex-Carabinieri with GIS forced to retire due to a leg injury when his rifle misfired (anime)/pistol misfired (manga).
  • In Jormungand, R used to be with the Italian Army's Bersaglieri during the 1990s in Bosnia as a UN peacekeeper before Koko recruited him. And he became a double agent working for the CIA.
  • In the Rainbow Six series, Antonio Maldini is with GIS prior to his Rainbow assignment.
    • In End War, he is a Colonel with the European Federation Army's Battlegroup 4 and is their commanding officer.
  • The Italian military is represented by their A-129 Mangusta attack helicopters as part of the NATO faction in World in Conflict.

The Polizia in fiction:

  • In Gunslinger Girl, Marco was with the Polizia di Stato's Criminal Police Central Directorate, plus he had combat experience with NOCS. Priscilla was an ex-officer with the Guardia di Finanza.