There are lots of fun reasons to learn Italian, but there is one word that is no fun at all but that you really have to learn if you are going to travel in Italy. Sciopero. Sciopero means strike and there are a lot of strikes in Italy.
Strikes in Italy can occur at any time but they are always announced in advance. If you are going to be in Italy during a strike, then you will probably need to come up with a plan B for that specific day. This is particularly true is the strike is planned for a day when you need to travel.
Here is what you need to know about Italian strikes and how to survive one.
Upcoming Strikes in Italy
The best place to find information about upcoming planned strikes anywhere in Italy is on the website of the Commissione di Garanzia Sciopero. This website announces all of the planned strikes (in Italian) but it is fairly easy to use. Remember that dates are written DAY/MONTH/YEAR.
The next major national strikes in Italy are:
- 1-2 August 2019: Cash strike. This is a new one for me – but the company which transports cash to ATMs is going on strike. Standalone ATMs will only function until they run out of money. ATMs that are located at banks should remain stocked because they are managed by the banks themselves. Be sure to have enough cash with you starting on 31 July, just to be sure.
- 25 October 2019: General national strike of all sectors.
Keep an eye out for signs that say “sciopero” and try to find out more information. The English language press sometimes covers these when the planned strike is national or at least large scale.
Italy Strike Facts
Strikes are usually transportation-related and paralyze Italian cities- which is exactly what they are designed to do.
Trade unions are almost always required to guarantee minimum service, even during a strike. For trains and other forms of transportation, this usually means that they will operate during major commuter hours. This is typically between 6 am and 9 am, then again between 5 pm and 8 pm, Monday through Friday.
If your train or bus arrives and departs the station, you are probably fine. It would be unlikely for them to suddenly join the strike if they are already en route. You should reach your final destination without any additional problems.
Even if you are not relying on trains, taxis or public transportation, you will still need to plan more time to get from point A to point B. Strikes always lead to more traffic as people who normally would use those services are forced to drive their own cars.
We like to joke in Rome that strikes are most common on sunny Fridays – it seems that everyone at the union wants to have a long weekend. However, strikes can be called at any time during the year and sometimes occur mid-week.
Strikes are called for a specific day and time. If you are planning to travel the day before or the day after a strike, you should not be impacted at all.
What to Do if You Are Caught in a Strike
Strikes are common in Italy but they are not an everyday occurrence. There is a good chance that you will never have to deal with one if you are simply traveling through Italy occasionally. However, bad luck and bad timing can ruin your trip so travel insurance is your friend.
If it is a bus/metro strike, there is very little you can do other than take a taxi or walk. Note that taxis will be much more difficult to find during a strike because so many more people will be using them.
If it is a train strike and you bought your tickets from a company like ItaliaRail, their 24-7 customer service team can help you request a refund. If you booked directly, head to the nearest customer service counter at the station to be placed on the next available train.
If it is an airport strike, your airline should rebook you but you should go to the airport unless told otherwise because it is possible your plane will arrive or depart.
If you need to get to the Rome airport during a strike, the Leonardo Express train should be guaranteed but you are safer booking a service like Welcome Pickups. You can also pre-book a taxi but there will be high competition to get a taxi on strike days.
If it is a taxi strike, then plan to use the bus or the metro system to get around. Uber is also legal in Italy but it is only available in a few cities.