First of all, there is no 911 in Italy. There is 113. There are other emergency numbers too, but there is also a language problem. When you're in a traffic accident, or in the middle of a medical crisis, it's often difficult to say things correctly in English, no less in another language. I remember one time when calling 911 for a small fire in our house, I stumbled over the address a few seconds. It can happen to all of us.... so when traveling in Italy or especially when planning an extended stay there, a little emergency planning is well worth the effort. First off, here is a list of emergency numbers. I suggest programming them into your mobile phone before leaving for Italy, with a description of each. Or simply create a list and print it on a business card to place in your wallet.
Useful Numbers in Case of Emergencies:
The Fire Brigades
The Vigili del Fuoco, literally the Firewatchers, (official name Corpo nazionale dei vigili del fuoco or CNVVF), Italy's institutional agency for fire and rescue service. As a national service it is under the oversight of the Ministry of the Interior. Much of Italy (depending on which region you are in, and what deal they have with Rome) have nationally funded fire brigades. There are also volunteer fire fighters at the local level. In general, in case of fire, call 113 to report a fire and say:
"Vi è un incendio _say the address_"
("There is a fire at _address_", Click the link then click the speaker icon for pronunciation).
Emergency medical services in Italy consist primarily of volunteer organizations providing ambulance servicea, and by physicians and nurses who perform all advanced life support procedures. The emergency telephone number for emergency medical service in Italy is 118. Emergency medical services are under Public Health Authorities control in each Italian Region; the ambulance subsystem is provided by a variety of different sources.
The method of delivery can vary considerably from one location to another. In some locations, responsibility for the provision of EMS has been undertaken by the local hospital, while in others, services may be provided by a range of volunteer organizations, such as the Italian Red Cross (Croce Rossa Italiana), ANPAS (National Association for Public Assistance), Confraternite di Misericordia, other associations commonly known as "Cross" (Croce), usually followed by a colour (White Cross, Green Cross, Yellow Cross...), or by private companies.
In a life-threatening emergency, such as a heart attack or serious accident, call the free public first-aid number 118. State clearly where you’re calling from and the nature of the emergency, and give your name and the telephone number from where you’re calling. Don’t hang up until the operator asks you to. The appropriate emergency service is sent to you. Provided you call in response to a genuine emergency, you won’t be charged for the use of the emergency services. Two basic phrases to say:
"Ho bisogno di aiuto medico!"
("I need medical help!" Click the link, then click the speaker icon to hear the pronunciation).
"Sto male, aiuto!"
("I am hurt, help!" Clink the link then click the speaker to hear it spoken)
Spelling on the Phone in Italy
In Italy there is some help, albeit a bit confusing and new to the American traveler. When spelling on the phone in Italy they use the alfabeto fonetico—the Italian phonetic alphabet. It is similar to the U.S. method of spelling.... such as, "Alpha Bravo Charlie" (A B C) used in the military (or when speaking to company service representatives) to avoid miscommunication when speaking on the phone. The only thing is, Italians use names of Italian cities--some you might not have heard of--Ancona, Bologna, Catania, etc. To spell my last name, I would say "Firenze, Imola, Napoli, Zara, Imola"... F I N Z I.
A come Ancona
B come Bologna (or Bari or Brescia)
C come Catania (or Como)
D come Domodossola
E come Empoli (or Enna)
F come Firenze
G come Genova
H come Hotel (acca)
I come Imola
J (gei or i lunga) come jolly (the joker in Italian card games) (or Jugoslavia)
K (kappa) come Kursaal
L come Livorno
M come Milano
N come Napoli
O come Otranto
P come Palermo (or Padova or Pisa)
Q come Quaderno
R come Roma
S come Savona (Sassari or Siena)
T come Torino (Taranto)
U come Udine
V come Venezia (Verona)
W (vi/vu doppio) come Washington (Wagner)
X (ics) come Xanto (xilofono)
Y come ipsilon (York or yacht)
Z come Zara (Zurigo or zeta)
Or, believe it or not, an easier way is to simply practice saying the Italian alphabet... the way the Italians do. Learn it. Sure it will take a little practice, but it's very helpful when in Italy. I had to spell my name several times when I was there and never resorted to the military style above. Really try to say each letter with an Italian accent. Here is an excellent video which will teach you not only about how to say the names of letters in Italian, but will teach you what sounds the letters make when used in words:
Words and Phrases
And for more, here is a link to a more comprehensive list of phrases to use in emergencies...
So, there you have it, a little primer on how to call for help in Italy. I hope and pray you won't even need this stuff, but it pays to be prepared (and I was never a Boy Scout!). Stay Safe!
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Copyright, Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy, All rights reserved