Strikes are so common in Italy, the word for them—sciopero—is one of the first Italian words we learned. If you’re in Italy for a week or two, you probably won’t encounter a strike. But since it can wind up throwing a real wrench in your plans, it’s best to be prepared.
The good news? Even though strikes in Italy are more common than back home, some things about them make Italian strikes a little easier to deal with.
When dealing with—or planning for—strikes in Italy, here are 8 tips to keep in mind.
Plan ahead with travel insurance
If you haven’t already, it’s worth considering taking out a travel insurance policy on your trip. However, choose your policy carefully: Many don’t offer cover in case of “industrial action,” like strikes. Make sure yours does.
Keep your eyes open for news of a strike
In Italy, strikes tend to be (but aren’t always!) announced in advance. The easiest way to stay informed for an English speaker, therefore, is to ask at your hotel if any strikes are expected while you’re there.
Otherwise, information about when and where any planned transport strikes are occurring usually posts on the screens in metro stops and on buses. If you’re in Rome and have internet access, upcoming news of transport strikes also show up on the home page of the ATAC Rome site; in Florence, you can find them on the ATAF Florence site. For the train, check the Trenitalia site.
Words to look out for include not only “sciopero” (strike), but also “manifestazione” and “dimostrazione” (demonstration), which also often affect transport. Also be alert for “sospeso” or “sospesa,” meaning “suspended” (as in “linea sospesa,” suspended line).
If you have a smart phone, this is even easier. On Twitter, follow us at walksofitaly—we always try to tweet when we hear of a strike. You can also search for “sciopero” to see if there’s news of a strike trending in Italian.
Recognize when a strike is happening
Sometimes, it’ll be pretty obvious: No one will be at a normally-popular bus stop and you won’t see a single bus go by for 15 minutes, or the metro station will be closed.
But sometimes, a strike affects, say, only some lines of national trains. In that case, at the train station, look for the train you’re planning to take on the list of departures. If it says sospeso, again, that means “suspended”—not running.
Remember that Italian strikes are short
So there’s a strike. The good news: As annoying as a strike is, it’s usually very temporary. Strikes here aren’t like they are back home, where locals strike and strike until they get what they want. Instead, strikes in Italy usually last for a day, maybe two, tops.
Even on transport strikes, you can still use some public transport
Making things easier, Italian strikes also have breaks. Even the worst local transport strikes will call it off over rush hour—meaning that you usually can still take a metro, tram or bus from 6am-9am and again from 6pm-9pm, Mondays through Saturdays.
Particularly popular long-distance train routes, meanwhile, also continue during strikes.
Don’t count on taxis
During a transport strike, everyone will try to take a taxi, so it’ll be all but impossible to get your own. Whenever possible, walk.
Sometimes, museums and sites will be closed, too
Some strikes involve museums and archaeological sites. And that can be a bummer.
But a couple of things are worth remembering. First, it’s rare that all of the city’s sites and museums will be closed. Various groups (say, the city versus the nation versus a private corporation) run various sites. So even if all nation-run sites Rome are closed, like the Forum and Colosseum, municipal museums, like the Capitoline Museums, Trajan’s Markets, and Ara Pacis, may well be open. That’s not to mention, of course, all of the churches, piazzas, fountains, restaurants, and shops there are to visit!
Second, take heart that the sites probably will reopen the next day.
And third, if you’ve booked a tour of one of a site that’s been closed with Walks of Italy, know that we’re working our hardest to rearrange schedules. We’ll never simply cancel a tour on you, but always work to make sure that we can make what you’ve booked, happen!
The Vatican isn’t Rome
Strikes are common in Rome. But if you hear of a strike in Rome, remember that that does not mean the Vatican. The Holy See is a separate country, and so unless it’s an extraordinary and coordinated circumstance, its offerings—mainly the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica—will be open.
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