For the first time ever, police women in Rome have climbed the famous traffic-cop pedestal and are running the show from within the chaotic Piazza Venezia in the ancient city's historic centre.
Monday at noon, the pedestal re-opened after months of repairs and refurbishing, and -- in a move suggesting an opening of male minds at police headquarters -- two women traffic cops took on the high-profile (and likely, rather dangerous) gig.
According to the Italian news agency ANSA, the two police officers, Alessia and Alessandra, are the latest recruits to a 12-strong force of volunteers for one of the hardest jobs in traffic control.
''Your head spins a bit at the start,'' Alessia told reporters after her first shift Monday. Added her colleague Alessandra: ''It was hard to get through to the drivers, although I suppose they were a little taken aback to see a woman in front of them."
(Photo above from the excellent blog, eternallycool)
With their distinctive white gloves, helmet, whistles, and pantomime performances, traffic cops at this focal point in Rome's historic centre have become something of a tourist attraction, as well as a part of the landscape in many movies set in Rome (such as Roman Holiday!)
But the pedestal where traffic cops have worked since 1898 has taken a severe beating in recent years, with increasing amounts of traffic buzzing around the base of the Capitoline Hill and the massive Victor Emmanuel Monument (known to some as the giant white typewriter or wedding cake) which broods over the square.
In response, two years ago police unveiled a high-tech "periscope" version, which used hydraulic pistons to raise the pedestal from ground level whenever traffic cops went on duty. Alas, heavy traffic rumbling over the area's cobblestones took a toll, and the system was shut down for repairs last September.
At noon Monday, it rose again and the two police women took up their posts.
ANSA reports that although Romans may make fun of it, traffic officials are very proud of their hub.
''It's the most visible position in Rome,'' said Angelo Giuliani, the head of Rome's traffic police.
''And I can say with the greatest satisfaction that it has been admirably filled by women, an important step forward.''
Alessandra and Alessia shrugged off the attention and vowed to be just as strict with traffic wrong-doing as their male colleagues.
''The drivers can wheedle all they want but we won't give in to anyone.''