As much as I rhapsodize about train travel in Italy, it’s not without its problems. One of the issues that’s become the stuff of legend is the train strikes in Italy. Italians are up on the latest strike news – they speak the language and watch the news – but travelers can get caught in the middle of a strike without knowing what’s going on. No amount of pre-trip preparation will keep a transportation strike from happening while you’re in Italy, but knowing how to deal with it can save you loads of anguish.
Luckily for foreigners, the Italians don’t exactly keep their strike plans secret.
Yes, really. I know, right? It sounds crazy. It sounds like it would utterly defeat the purpose of a strike. And yet it’s true. There’s even a website that lists most transportation strikes in Italy for months ahead of time. It’s only available in Italian, but you can decipher enough of it to at least have a heads-up about whether you’ll cross paths with a strike and, if possible, change your plans accordingly.
The transportation strike tracking site is Commisione di Garanzia Sciopero (the word “sciopero” means “strike”). This post on my friend Madeline’s Italy Beyond the Obvious blog details how to read the site; here are the basics of what you’ll need to know.
There’s a section on the Trenitalia site that “guarantees minimum transport services” even during strikes, which means even during a strike there are a few trains that continue to run during peak hours (6-9am and 6-9pm Monday-Saturday). As you can probably surmise, tickets on these trains are hot commodities – for Italians and travelers alike. If you book your trip well enough in advance and get one of these tickets, consider yourself very lucky.
In fact, I daresay that’s as good a reason as any to buy a lottery ticket.
First things first – in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC. As I said, when you look up strikes before your trip that gives you a chance to figure out alternate plans if need be. Some things to remember:
The bottom line is that if you’re surprised by a strike and there aren’t viable transportation alternatives (or the tickets are all sold out), you’ll need to try to find a way to be patient, calmly consider all your options, and – most likely – enjoy another day where you are. You won’t be alone in this predicament. There are far worse problems to have. And this will all make for a really great story to tell when you get home.
Get your tickets before you leave home from ItaliaRail, a US-based company that partners with Trenitalia to offer real-time connectivity to the Italian rail reservation system. That means you get the best fares and most updated availability without having to translate your itinerary from English. Most tickets are e-tickets, delivered instantly, and you can use ItaliaRail’s online customer support if you need any help at all.
Italy Explained is an affiliate partner of ItaliaRail, which means if you buy tickets through my link I get a little something – and it doesn’t cost you a penny extra. Thanks for your support.