We were checking out of a cheap hotel in Italy many moons ago. It was early; light squeezed glumly through the grimy windows. The desk guy was busy. “Why early?” he asked in his chopped-to-the-bone English.
“We have an early train,” we replied.
“Oh,” he said and scribbled something in his big book and signaled to us he was done by waving.
So we were off to another town. Except when we got to the train station it was as empty as a politician’s mind. There were big, official-looking signs. We didn’t know most of the words written on them, but it was clear something was wrong and the trains would perhaps run domani, tomorrow.
So we trudged back to the hotel. Desk guy was there. “Um, the trains don’t seem to be running,” I blurted, thinking I’d be surprising him with timely and well-researched information.
“Yes, there is how you call it? A strike. They will run tomorrow, probably.” he said matter-of-factly.
We would come to find out that this was normal procedure in the Italy of those times. Italians would talk to each other about strikes like it was the topic of the day, and it was. But tourists, well, they don’t speak the language…
Why You Need To Learn the Word “Sciopero” Before You Travel to Italy
The Commissione Garanzia Sciopero reports that there were 1491 labor strikes proclaimed in 2021, of which the biggest portion belongs to transportation strikes. The commission also provides a Strike Calender in Italian.
Be careful with the calendar though. Some of the strikes won’t actually happen. Mike of A Path to Lunch reminds us:
The unions are required to give advanced notice of a strike, so they do. However, the traveler needs to keep checking as the issues are often settled and many or most of the strikes don’t actually happen.
If you see a sign proclaiming Sciopero oggi in a train station, airport, or at a taxi stand, there will be limited services that day. Italian strikes don’t last long and aren’t meant to harm the people who use those services, so they’re mostly short and sweet.
Here is how the word sciopero sounds with its article, which would normally be “il” but becomes “lo” for words starting with “s”.
So if you hear something like this, you’ll know that there is a strike holding back transportation services. There will be a strike today:
And finally, here’s a notice you might hear over the station’s PA system for a train strike scheduled for December 3rd.
Good luck avoiding strikes on your Italian vacation!