ROME: Six police officers were wounded, including one seriously, as clashes broke out with protesters at anti-austerity demonstrations in Milan and Turin on Wednesday, Italian media reported.
Around 20 activists beat a riot police officer with a stick and baseball bats in Turin, while five officers were hurt during running street battles in central Milan.
The violence came during a day of action led by Italy's biggest trade union CGIL, which called protests and strikes in dozens of cities across the country.
Workers in other southern European nations also turned out en masse to protest austerity measures.
Thousands of students and workers took to the streets of Rome, Milan, Turin and around 100 other towns and cities, calling for more safeguards for jobs and pensions and protesting against Prime Minister Mario Monti's government.
"Europe is waking up today -- from Rome to Madrid to Athens," said Mario Nobile, a 23-year-old university student.
"The 'PIGS' are rebelling!" he said, using a derogatory acronym for the most troubled eurozone economies.
Francesco Locantore, 38, a school teacher, said: "With the excuse of austerity, they're attacking our fundamental rights."
"That's why today is so important," he said.
In Rome, the protest passed off mostly peacefully except for a small group of students who threw stones and tried to break through police lines to get to
Prime Minister Mario Monti's offices in the city centre. The demonstration in the Italian capital included many very young protesters like 16-year-old Nicole Romani, who said: "We just want a better future. We don't even know if we'll have a job when we get a degree."
The leftwing CGIL union also staged a four-hour strike covering all sectors except for public transport in cities.
An elderly woman at the protest said: "I am here to ask for an increase in pensions because we can't live like this any more.
"I get a pension of 650 euros ($765) a month and once I've paid all the taxes, it's 400 euros!"
Communist activists held up a banner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform with a euro sign on the armband.
"The European Union is a Dictatorship of Banks and Monopolies," it read.