20.07.2005 Auto Italia go to Rome to check out the world's fastest police car - the Polizia Stradale's awesome 200mph Lamborghini Gallardo

This feature appears in Auto Italia - Issue 108 - July/August 2005

The Italian Polizia Stradale has scored a major PR triumph with the fabulous Lamborghini Gallardo. Stop Press – a second Gallardo has joined the force. Both cars are donations: the first from the Lamborghini factory and the second from an independent organisation. Before you dismiss this PR coup d’état as a media stunt, these patrols have teeth so watch out. The officers are the best of the best and go through a rigorous training schedule, while the cars are kitted out with the very latest high-tech equipment. Police forces worldwide are always keen to improve their relationship with the public. Getting people on-side is the key factor in efficient policing. The Italians are doing that.

Earlier this year in the Coppa Milano-Sanremo Historic Rally, this police Gallardo was one of the escort cars. I was driving a Lamborghini Miura and the aural memory of V12 hysteria and V10 boom dicing between the ancient buildings will stay with me forever, as will the massive public approval that greeted the Lamborghini police car in every town. Despite having my collar seriously felt a couple of years ago by the Carabinieri for speeding near Maranello in a Ferrari 360CS, I was more than happy to call a truce and visit the Rome HQ of the Polizia Stradale. You remember in the middle of the First World War when the British and the German troops put their guns down for a while so that they could play football in no-man’s-land? Well, that is what it was like when Auto Italia’s Michael Ward and I entered the Polizia Stradale’s compound. Instead of bomb craters and football we met two of the nicest guys you could ever meet – two of the specially-trained police officers qualified for the Lamborghinis: AS, Massimiliano Finore and ASS, Giancarlo Bravo.

The crew talked us through the high-tech kit before we followed them out onto Rome’s version of the M25 motorway. Traffic was heavy with lots of stop/start, slow/fast traffic. Personal space in Latin countries is much narrower than it is in Anglo-Saxon lands. This translates to close company on the road, which the foreigner should not mistake for aggression. Driving styles are loose with a car’s body language being far more informative than indicators (which are rarely used). Our motorcycle outriders swooped and leaned intimately on moving cars, creating gaps large enough for the Gallardo – complete with blue lights flashing – and our camera car to carve our way through the traffic. It was great.

Mobile phones came out everywhere, not for phone calls but for photography. I got the feeling that Roman motorists were very happy that their police were waving Italy’s technological and style flag. While every Italian will moan incessantly about the deficiencies of their mad country, make no mistake, they are enormously proud of it. Style is important.

In the words of the song, “It’s not what you do; it’s the way that you do it”. One action that says it all came from a police Gallardo driver at the Coppa Milano-Sanremo.

He was standing by his car as the Miura drove over the finish line. In front of a cheering crowd he bowed to the Miura. It’s the stuff of dreams. See what I mean about police/public PR? I’m converted. I want to go straight now.

Gallardo Police Equipment

The front luggage compartment is pretty-much filled by a medical temperature-controlled box for urgent transportation of human organs for transplant. The car also carries defibrillator equipment, which performs electrocardiograms and automatic diagnoses of arterial pressure and the presence of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

Medical kit apart, the Gallardo also carries advanced technological apparatus for receiving and transmitting information and images relating to particularly critical situations, such as road traffic accidents, fires and other disaster situations. The Provida 2000 system records speeding violations and sends images in real-time with direct connection to the police database, as well as the Elsag ‘Autodetector’ system for automatic number plate recognition. Various other gear is carried including cameras, GPS, sat nav and a DVD player so that you can watch your favourite cop shows. Both the police Gallardos are six-speed manual versions.

Driving a Gallardo

At the Gallardo press launch, I spent two days testing these fabulous 4WD 500bhp supercars at Vallelunga race circuit. Both the six-speed manual and e-gear versions were tested. We had a full dry track and a separate wetted track. There is no breed more critical or cynical than motoring journalists on a launch. For once, all were dumbfounded with the then-new baby Lambo. Even Clarkson and Needell liked it.

Italian Police

The Italian police are the best in the world. They are the smartest. They have the best uniforms, the best sunglasses and the best creases in their shirtsleeves. They are armed to the teeth and don’t take any s**t. More importantly, there are thousands of them. Rob a bank in Italy and you will die in a hail of bullets from continual patrolling military personnel, armed police (on- or off-duty) and armed citizens, as it is legal to carry a gun if you are a lawyer, jeweller or anyone else who can justify the need for personal protection.

Italy has several police forces, all heavily armed. The Carabinieri are distinguished military police who operate internationally as peacekeepers and domestically as crime-fighters. They are normally armed with pistols and machine guns. They are easily identified by their black/blue uniforms with a red trouser stripe and white diagonal shoulder strap.

The Polizia di Stato also has a crime-fighting role as well as more day-to-day law enforcement duties, including highway patrol (the Polizia Stradale). The Polizia are identified by their two-tone blue uniforms. The Vigili Urbani and Polizia Locale deal with local issues – like your local UK ‘Bobby’ but armed, of course. The Guardia di Finanzia operates in any economic area where money, tax or fraud is involved. They also have ‘frontier’ duties. If you buy anything in Italy, including a coffee in a bar, you are supposed to have the receipt with you when you leave the premises.

Other police forces include: Corpo Forestale dello Stato (environment police), Corpo di Polizia Penitenziaria (prison police), Guardia Costiera (coast guard police).


There are several traffic laws in Italy that tourists may not be familiar with. And it’s no good telling the nice Italian policeman that you are British, and that in the UK you don’t have the law that you are being accused of breaking. Let me explain. It’s like murder: it may be legal for members of certain Amazonian tribes to kill members of other tribes, and according to Rowan Atkinson it is still legal to kill a Scotsman if you come across one on any beach on the Isle of Man. But murder an Amazonian or a Scotsman in Italy and it is against the law. Likewise it is illegal not to have photo ID or not to have your car registration and insurance documents with you. Random roadside checks are common, including the inspection of documentation for any goods being carried.

Headlamp converters are compulsory and it is required that you drive with your headlights switched on at all times of the day, except in towns in good daylight. It is illegal not to carry a warning triangle and at least one homologated reflective jacket inside the passenger compartment of your vehicle. Italy’s drink driving limit is 30% less than in the UK.

Motorway speed limits vary, with a maximum of 150km/h (93mph) on some three-laners with an emergency lane. Speed-traps are on the increase with heavy on-the-spot fines. It was reported in last month’s Auto Italia that there are now special parking bays for pregnant women. This will lead to a cushion shortage as Italian women (who have the world’s lowest birth-rate) rush to their new parking spaces. Parking in Italy is still a world away from the vicious war-zone of London parking.

More important than any motoring law is that when driving in Italy, you should avoid having an accident. This means looking at what the traffic is doing rather than fathoming out whether you have right of way. Don’t be too worried by all these laws; driving in Italy is great and it still has that sense of freedom long-gone from the UK. Finally, the use of car horns is officially banned within built-up areas; see what I mean?

by Roberto Giordanelli / Photography by Phil Ward


Polizia Stradale Lamborghini Gallardo - Technical Specifications:

Engine: 4961cc V10 mid-mounted; Bore x stroke: 82.5mm x 92.8mm; Ignition and fuel: Lamborghini LIE, drive-by-wire OBD system; Power: 500bhp @ 7800rpm; Torque: 376lb ft @ 4500rpm; Transmission: 4WD 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed e-gear paddleshift; Body: Aluminium spaceframe with some composite panels; Brakes: Brembo; 8-pot, 365mm discs front; 4-pot, 335mm discs rear; Wheels: 8.5x19 front; 11x19 rear; Tyres: Pirelli P Zero; 235/35ZR19 front; 295/35ZR19 rear; Kerb weight: 1430kg; Performance: 0-62mph: 4.2sec; Top speed: 193mph; Cost: £117,000, plus £6250 for e-gear (does not include police equipment)





You now have two Gallardos. How did the second Gallardo come about?

It was donated to the Polizia Stradale by the Peretti Foundation of API Industries at the recent 152nd anniversary celebrations of this police force.

The law enforcement work of the Polizia and the Carabinieri are different. Are the Carabinieri jealous that you have Lamborghinis?

No. There is great friendship and a great rapport between the two forces. Anyway, they had Ferraris in the 1960s.

Who drives the Gallardos?

There are eight officers qualified to drive this car. And there will probably be another eight for the second Gallardo.

What will the second Lamborghini do?

The same duty as ours but we shall patrol the centre and the south of the country, while the new car will patrol the centre and the north of Italy.

How does policing the north compare with policing the south of Italy?

This is a generalisation but let us say that the further south you go, the looser the interpretation of the law.

What are the Gallardo’s duties?

Medical activities, some escort duties, PR work, traffic duties and crime-fighting. The automatic number plate recognition system automatically flags up any nearby suspects.

How did you get the job?

The Ministry of the Interior selects the officers by examining their driving record.

So only the best are chosen?

No (with a modest shrug). There are many fine officers in the force who could do this job.

What does it take to be a traffic cop?

Assuming you have met the requirements for police duty and successfully qualified, you then need a further one-year training for traffic duties.

How did you train to drive the Lamborghini?

We did a one-week course with the car at the Vallelunga race circuit with Lamborghini’s chief test driver Giorgio Sanna.

Have you ever been in a car with Lamborghini’s legendary test driver Valantino Balboni?

No, but I have heard stories that make your hair stand on end from those who have. I believe that Lamborghini is building its own test track to solve the problems associated with high-speed road testing.

Are the Gallardos used every day?

Most days yes, but not every day. When not in use they are on standby for immediate action should the need arise.

Is there such a thing as a typical day for this car?

No; every day is different.

Has this Lamborghini been reliable?

Yes. Extremely reliable. We have covered 34,000km since Lamborghini gave us the car last year.

What is the public reaction?

Very enthusiastic. It creates lots of attention and lots of questions from people of all types. The police motto is ‘Get close to the people’. These cars certainly help us achieve a closer collaboration with the community.

What crimes in Italy are on the increase?

There has been an increase in crime committed by armed criminal elements in the immigrant community, mainly from Eastern Europe, but that is the concern of the Carabinieri. Our job is that of traffic cops. Drink-driving is common, also driving without insurance or on false papers. All of which need cops on the ground, not cameras.

Why bother to stop speeders instead of just sending them the fine and penalty points?

A car owner can choose not to declare who was driving his or her car at the time of the offence. This incurs an extra 300 euros fine on top of the speeding fine but does not affect the penalty points.

In the two years since the introduction of penalty points and tougher enforcement of motoring laws in Italy, have you seen any improvements in the accident statistics?

Yes. Fatalities and injury statistics are steadily falling but we still have a long way to go.

You have many accidents at weekends involving young drivers. What is being done to address this?

If a young driver commits an offence, he receives double points for the first three years of driving. Where permitted, his maximum speed limit is 100km/h instead of 130km/h.

What is the reaction of drivers who are stopped?

Amazement. We have to be careful as sometimes in heavy motorway traffic, issuing a ticket can cause jams as onlookers slow down for a look.

Do you ever take the car to its 200mph top speed?

No. There is no need, and the speed differential would be dangerous for other traffic. We do sometimes travel at very high speed, and this is where the Lamborghini scores. Other police vehicles at their top speeds are less stable and less safe than the Gallardo. Being four-wheel drive, it is extremely sure-footed in the wet. We have also used it to good effect in snow with the appropriate tyres.

Recently in the UK a British traffic cop was caught testing a car at 160mph. The magistrate let him off but the press made a meal of it. What would have happened in Italy?

The same. The Italian press would have eaten him alive.

You have little room left for any extra equipment. How do you manage?

If we need back-up it soon arrives.

What do you drive off-duty?

A Ford Ka and a Peugeot 206. Both are suited to everyday battle in Roman traffic.

This Lamborghini caused quite a stir when it went to New York for the Columbus Day celebrations. Did you go to the USA with it?

Unfortunately not, two other officers went. But we would like to come to London if you organise an invitation!


This feature appears in Auto Italia, Issue 108, July-August 2005. Highlights of this month's issue of the world's leading Italian car magazine, which is now on sale, includes a road test of the new Alfa Romeo 159 sedan and the Fiat Stilo Schumacher GP, plus an Italian road-trip with the Maserati GranSport, the Villa d'Este Conconso d'Eleganza,  a Fiat 130 sedan, Alfa Romeo 155 buyers guide and a look at Carrozzerria Boneschi, a less well known coachbuilder. Call +44 (0) 1858 438817 for back issues  and  subscriptions.

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Text & Photos: Auto Italia; © 2005 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed