Author & Photographer:  Ian French

The Guardia di Finanza is a military police force reporting to the Ministry of Economy & Finance.  It is responsible for financial crime and smuggling and is Italy’s primary agency for countering the drugs trade.  It has significant activity over territorial waters as reflected in its fleet which comprises some 600 boats and 100 helicopters and aircraft.

Whilst the origins of the Guardia di Finanza can be traced back to 1774 its current structure came into being in 1959.  Like other Italian military forces it is headquartered in Roma (Pratica di Mare) and is organised into regional and provincial commands.  It has a military structure and supports the other military forces.  It has authority for all police tasks at sea.  It is divided in Land Departments, Specialist Departments and Air Navy Departments.  Today the force comprises approximately 60,000 personnel of which 5,500 are in the Air Naval Department.  There are 15 Air Stations and 15 Navy Stations.  The Air Stations are located as follows:

  • Bari
  • Bolzano
  • Cagliari
  • Catania
  • Genova
  • Grottaglie
  • Lamezia
  • Napoli
  • Palermo
  • Pescara
  • Pisa
  • Pratica di Mare
  • Rimini
  • Varese
  • Venezia

The Centro di Aviazione is based at Pratica di Mare and approximately one third of the entire fleet is based here.  The remainder of the locations usually operate approximately two to three helicopters.  Cagliari, Catania, Grottaglie and Pisa house Sezione Area di Manovra units.  These units do not operate to a strict geographic area and may be called upon by headquarters to deploy to or operate in other regions.  The remainder of the above locations house Sezione Aerea units which only operate within those regions.


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The main tasks of the Guardia di Finanza comprise sea and land patrol, Search & Rescue and environmental policing (pollution and rubbish dumping)

Aviation Press Ltd would like to thank Paolo Di Biagio and Mark Forest for their help in arranging the visit and the Guardia di Finanza for hosting us, in particular the Sezione Aerea at Grottaglie, Palermo and Practica di Mare.

Aviation Press Limited owns the copyrights to this article & associated photographs.