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What does Italy’s general strike on Friday mean for travel?

Italian trade unions have called a nationwide general strike for Friday, May 20th. Here's a look at how travel within the country will be affected.

Trenitalia, Italy
Italian rail services will be affected for a period of 24 hours, from 9pm on Thursday to 9pm on Friday. Photo by Geoffrey VAN DER HASSELT / AFP.

The strike has been organised by a range of national and regional trade unions representing various sectors in protest at the Italian government’s spending on the Ukraine war.

Union leaders say the funds should be targeted instead at increasing workers’ wages and, in turn, families’ purchasing power.

Walter Montagnoli, national secretary of the CUB union, told SkyTG24: “The conflict needs to be stopped. […] Draghi’s government is taking military expenses to 2 percent of our GDP: national defence expenses will go from 25 to 38 billion euros, thus reducing the budget for healthcare, education, public transport, the construction industry and, naturally, pensions and wages.”

Demonstrations are set to take place in cities across Italy, including in Milan, Rome, Messina, Palermo, Catania, Cagliari, Turin, Bologna, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Turin, Genoa, La Spezia, Reggio Emilia, Trieste, Bergamo and Taranto, according to media reports.

Strike action is otherwise expected to focus on the transport sector, meaning some disruption to travel plans is likely – depending on where you are in Italy and what time you’ll be travelling.

Here’s a look at what you should know before setting out on your journey on Friday. 

Train services 

Railroad services will be affected for a period of 24 hours, from 9pm on Thursday to 9pm on Friday.

However, Trenitalia has already communicated that Freccia and Intercity trains will run regularly and essential regional services will be guaranteed in the following time frames: 6am to 9am and 6pm to 9pm.

If you’re travelling with Italo, the company has published a list of its guaranteed services on its website

Local public transport 

Local public transport including buses, trams and metro trains in Italian towns and cities will also be affected by the strike action, but the magnitude of disruption to regular services will depend largely upon the area.

Rome and Milan will likely be the most affected cities.

In Milan, metro trains will run regularly until at least 6pm, whereas buses and tram services may be affected between 8.45am and 3pm and after 6pm.

In the capital, local transport providers ATAC and TPL said services will operate normally before 8.30am and from 5pm to 8pm.

If you’ll be commuting, you’re advised to consult the website of your local transport provider before setting off.

Flights

The ENAC (Italian Civil Aviation Authority) confirmed that all flights between 7am and 10am and between 6pm and 9pm will operate as normal.

However, they strongly suggest that travellers contact their airline to check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport.

See ENAC’s website for further information.

Travelling by car

Travelling by car might also be fairly problematic (or more problematic than it usually is) as motorway toll booth staff are set to strike from 10pm on Thursday to 10pm on Friday.

While the impact may differ from one part of the country to another, this is likely to mean a smaller number of toll booths are open and, as a result, lines at some motorway entrances will be longer than usual.

Drivers are advised to consult motorway operator Autostrade per l’Italia’s traffic map for real-time updates.

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TRANSPORT

Rome slams brakes on electric scooters

Electric scooters are a divisive feature of life in the Italian capital. City authorities intend to deploy a new set of regulations in a bid to improve public safety.

Rome slams brakes on electric scooters

Had Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck hopped on an electric scooter rather than a Vespa in the classic film “Roman Holiday”, their spin around the Eternal City might have ended in tears.

The number of crashes and near-misses involving the two-wheelers has prompted Rome authorities to impose some order on a booming rental market that began two years ago.

The havoc came to a head earlier this month when two US tourists attempted a night-time drive down the Spanish Steps, causing over 25,000 euros ($26,300) worth of damage to the 18th century monument.

Caught on security footage, the couple in their late 20s were fined 400 euros each.

For now, it’s remarkably easy — requiring just a cell phone app — to hire one of the 14,500 scooters currently available in Rome, provided by seven licensed companies.

READ MORE What you need to know about Italy’s new electric scooter craze

They’re cheap too, costing just one euro to unlock the scooters and between 15 to 25 cents a minute after that.

And in the city known for its traffic jams and limited public transport, they appeal to everyone from commuters to tourists and teenagers, who often squeeze two at a time onto the narrow deck.

In Rome's historic center, the scooters have unleashed chaos.

In Rome’s historic center, the scooters have unleashed chaos. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

But there are challenges to navigating the cobbled streets of Rome’s cramped historic centre — where bike paths are virtually non-existent — leading some scooter drivers to weave dangerously around cars.

“They cut you off. They pass on the right, on the left, they get stuck in front of us and risk being crushed,” said Paolo Facioni, a 59-year-old bus driver.

Residents also complain they are dumped haphazardly on narrow sidewalks, blocking access for prams and wheelchair users.

Like a ‘video game’

Rented electric scooters have become a fixture in major cities around the world, from London to Paris and New York, part of a global move to diversify transport away from motor vehicles.

But Rome taxi driver Gianni Ranucci, 56, called them “a real disaster”.

Tourists freewheeling around the bustling streets seem to “think they are in a video game!” he told AFP.

Figures on the number of scooter-related deaths and injuries show it is no such thing.

Seventeen people have been killed in Italy in the past two years in incidents involving electric scooters, according to consumer protection association Codacons.

Its chief Carlo Rienzi described Rome last month as “a Wild West, with scooters going where they shouldn’t, often with two people on board, breaking the speed limit”.

Rome police record an average of 15 accidents a month.

In light of the dangers, city hall is readying to tighten the rules, restricting use of the scooters to adults who must provide formal ID.

The number of operators will be limited to three and there will be restrictions on parking — a move anticipated by one US company, Bird, which recently announced its scooters in the city centre could only be left in designated areas.

Under new draft regulations seen by AFP, intended to come into force in January 2023, the speed limit will also be reduced from 25 kilometres an hour (15 miles) to 20 kilometres an hour on roads and six kilometres in pedestrian areas without cars.

READ MORE Italy launches e-scooter clampdown and bigger fines for phone-using drivers

Not all are happy with the proposed changes, however.

Twenty kilometres an hour “is too slow, we’ll be run over” by other vehicles, said 60-year old Mariano Giorgi, who uses a scooter every day to get to work — and is one of the few people to be spotted wearing a safety helmet while riding.

“I live in the centre and they are very useful, otherwise I would have to take the car which would pollute a lot more,” he said, as smog-belching traffic crawled around Piazza Venezia near the Colosseum.

“If it’s not practical, I won’t use it anymore.”

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