I mentioned to my mom recently that I was relieved my clients were going to miss the scheduled national train strike. My mom, a very seasoned traveler who has actually been to Italy several times under my care, was completely confused (what do you mean, the strike is scheduled?). Then she started in on the questions (how can the trains just not run?), and finally, she was speechless. I gave her the 101 on Italian strikes, and she suggested I share the info. Okay, mom.
Italian strikes: The basics
Strikes in Italy are common, and could definitely affect your trip.
Strikes are so common in fact, that one of the first words I learned after moving to Italy was sciopero, the word for strike. After I’d lived there a few months, I got used to them as the Italians do, and learned another useful Italian word: arrangiarsi, to figure it out. Yes, strikes are inconvenient and disruptive, but you can’t do anything about them. However, you can plan around them, because….
Most strikes in Italy are planned in advance and communicated to the public.
Announced a few weeks or months ahead of time, most strikes are conveniently published so that you can work around them. Check the list on the website of the Commissione di Garazia Sciopero (screen shot below) to see which group is striking, and when. Since the website is in Italian, I’ve provided the screen shot below to help you understand the information.
It’s also worth checking the Easy Travel Report, which has a less comprehensive but still useful list of Italian transportation strikes (scroll down to Italy) published in English. However, you’ll need to check these lists again right before you leave because…
Strikes in Italy are frequently rescheduled from their originally published date
Double-check the strike schedule right before your trip to see whether the strikes are still planned. And before you panic when you see a strike scheduled for one of the dates you’re in Italy, remember….
Strikes in Italy are usually a specific group and location, so may not mess up your plans
So although the baggage handlers at Rome’s airport are going on strike, the rest of the airport will be working perfectly normally (pack carry-on). Or, the transportation strike may affect trains but not buses. Or, the post office is on strike and while it’s certainly inconvenient that you won’t be able to mail home your Italian ceramics, at least you know about it.
Strikes in Italy may last a few minutes a few days, or anywhere in between. If you’re lucky, you’ll know in advance.
Sitting on an airplane on the tarmac in Milan once, I asked the Italian sitting next to me what the delay was. “Sciopero” he responded. Air traffic control had gone on strike for about 10 minutes, and then they were back to work.
On the other end of the spectrum, my husband and I were flying to Sicily via Munich for a holiday and arrived in Munich to find Italian air traffic control was on strike. We decided not to hang around and wait, and instead visited a travel agency in the airport. We cancelled our Sicily hotels and spent a lovely week in Barcelona. The point is….
If there’s a strike, it’s up to you to figure out alternate plans
If you know about a national train strike ahead of time, you can plan to stay an extra day in the city, or leave a day earlier, or plan an alternate mode of transportation to get to your destination. But if you show up at the train station with all your luggage and then discover there’s a strike, don’t expect a help desk or hotline phone number to help you make other arrangements. Strikes are normal in Italy, and the Italians work around them. You’ll need to as well.
Do you have any other tips on dealing with strikes in Italy, or have you been caught in one and had to deal with it?
Photo of Milan train station by a.j.b
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