Sciopero. Strike. It’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of travelers in Italy (pun intended).
A little info, tips & advice on train strikes in Italy…
Strikes in Italy are unlike strikes in other parts of the world. I like to call them “convenience strikes.” Being an American expat, I’m used to strikes that go on indefinitely until either something is accomplished or an agreement is reached (or, worst case scenario, our government intervenes). Not so in Italy; rest assured that the strike will only last for the hours indicated and everything will resume “as normal” shortly thereafter (although it may take a few hours to get things running on time again).
In Italy, there are three potential scenarios when a train strike is announced:
- The strike is called off last-minute and things resume like any other day(with no inconvenience to travelers).
- The strike is minimal and will affect some, but not all, trains. This is usually the case with regional train strikes. These strikes can be inconvenient for travelers, but manageable.
- The strike is full-fledged (usually national) and only minimal service, as required by Italian law, will run. These are the sorts of strikes that I don’t usually recommend trying to brave (unless you have a plane to catch or something similar). When there’s a full-fledged strike, see the alternative travel options below or speak with your host to see if it’s possible to stay on a day longer (chances are the next guests to arrive will have the same problems getting in as you will getting out). Usually hosts are understanding when there’s a strike as there isn’t a whole lot you (or they) can do to change matters.
TIP: It’s worth keeping in mind that Italy’s Freccia trains (the premier high-speed trains run by TrenItalia) are usually completely unaffected by strikes and will run as usual even during a strike.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to travel during a bona fide train strike in Italy and a Freccia train is not available, there are alternatives (but keep in mind that some of these can be quite costly):
- Taxi Nobody loves a train strike quite as much as the taxi drivers. These are their best and busiest days. Watch out for taxi drivers trying to scalp travelers in a pinch (they should have rates posted in the taxi). If you can, ask your host to ring a taxi for you and get a price quote up front. Don’t forget that the rate is per taxi and not per person, so if you can find other travelers heading to the same place you can carpool and split the cost.
- Buses Some regions in Italy are better connected with buses than with trains (think: Tuscany). Check with your host as they’ll know if this is a viable alternative.
- Boats The Cinque Terre are unique in that they can also be accessed by boat. During a strike I recommend for my guests to take the ferries between the villages of the Cinque Terre.
- Car rental If you absolutely, positively have to move during a train strike this is another possibility. Keep in mind that it can be costly (I recommend booking online versus just showing up at the rental counter) and that, depending on your home country, you might need to have an international drivers license. An international drivers license is nothing other than an official translation of your license from your language into the local language (but you’ll need to pick one up at home before coming to Italy).
The best advice I can give is to take a deep breath. Everything is going to be okay. One way or another you’ll survive the strike and down the road you’ll have a good story to tell (it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?).
Cinque Terre Insider