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Reader question: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?

If you're used to hailing a ride quickly and cheaply through apps like Uber, you'll find things aren't quite that simple in Italy. In fact, you may wonder if the service exists here at all.

Reader question: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?
Photo by why kei on Unsplash

Question: I’ve visited several Italian cities recently and I couldn’t get an Uber in any of them. I’ve heard the app is illegal here. Is that true and what should I use instead?

Does Uber exist in Italy? As with so many things in this country, the short answer is a fairly irritating one: sort of, but it depends.

Over the last decade, ride-hailing apps have become a standard way of getting around cities worldwide – or at least a handy backup transport option when travelling. So it may seem a bit strange for us to be discussing whether the most famous of these services is available in a major European country in 2022.

But you may find certain habits you’ve developed while living or travelling elsewhere just don’t translate in Italy. Taking an Uber is one of them.

Uber has been present in the country since 2013. Though it was briefly banned from operating in 2017, it’s not illegal now – though taxi drivers may try to tell you it is. It’s just very limited and, apparently, deeply unpopular.

That’s not just because Italy’s highly protected taxi industry has been vocally protesting for years against the arrival of Uber and the threat of what drivers say is unfair competition.

There’s also the fact that a lot of people in Italy just don’t seem interested in using it.

The apparent lack of enthusiasm for Uber may be surprising when you consider the lack of good or reliable public transport in many cities – not least in Rome. There’s a reason why the vast majority of the Eternal City’s residents stick to using their own cars, no matter how hard it is to find a parking spot.

READ ALSO: Rome’s traffic woes are legendary – can the new mayor really solve them?

The same goes for cities up and down the country. And you may also notice that, outside of the biggest cities and away from airports, traditional taxis are very thin on the ground in Italy generally.

Whatever the reason, ride-hailing apps and taxis remain, for the most part, the preserve of tourists and totally irrelevant to the lives of many Italians, except for when travelling or in exceptional circumstances.

So what are tourists and new arrivals supposed to do if they want to use these services in Italy?

You can get an Uber – if you’re in Rome or Milan. 

However, it will be the more luxurious Uber Black service; the cheaper Uber service many of us are used to using elsewhere is not allowed to operate in Italy due to concerns about unfair competition for taxi drivers. Uber Black means nicer cars but higher prices – if you don’t mind the extra cost, it’s perfectly safe and reliable to use.

A traditional taxi is likely to work out cheaper, but the number of reports of tourists being ripped off suggests it’s advisable to book and agree the fare in advance. You can use Free Now (formerly MyTaxi) to hail and pay for a traditional cab in more than 80 Italian towns and cities.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?

Other apps including Carmel and Lyft also exist in Italy. But they suffer from the same problem as Uber: they aren’t widely used and therefore are unlikely to be available outside of the biggest cities.

Apps that are popular, by contrast, are mainly those focused on renting your own transport, such as Enjoy or Scooterino.

For longer journeys Italians often use rideshare app BlaBlaCar, while the Moovit app is popular among public transit users – especially in the surprising number of towns and cities where bus routes are not shown on Google Maps.

Things may be about to change in the near future, as Uber is set for major expansion after finalising a deal in May to integrate its app with Italy’s largest taxi dispatcher, IT Taxi.

But until then, if you want to get around quickly and relatively cheaply in Italy your best bet may be to do as the Romans do and get your own two wheels.

Do you have a burning question about life in Italy that you’d like the The Local’s writers to answer? Email us here.

Member comments

  1. I’d just like to give a shout out to the app called TaxiClick Easy which is available in Bologna. Using it, I don’t miss Uber or Lyft at all. It’s quick, efficient, and yes, easy. I realise it’s not available in other places in Italy, but good to know that a home-grown app like this can be just as helpful.

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How the airline strike will disrupt flights to and from Italy on Saturday

Pilots and cabin crew from four low-cost airlines will strike on Saturday in a move set to cause significant disruption to Italian airline travel.

How the airline strike will disrupt flights to and from Italy on Saturday

Passengers travelling to and from Italy were set to face major delays and cancellations on Saturday, October 1st after Italian unions FILT-CGIL and Uiltrasporti confirmed a national airline strike on Wednesday.

Staff from Volotea, Easyjet and Ryanair will hold a 24-hour walkout, whereas Vueling staff will strike for a total of four hours, from 1pm to 5pm, unions said.

As previously reported, the strike was called in protest against employers’ failure to “grant acceptable working conditions and wages that are in line with minimum national salaries”. 

READ ALSO: Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

Unions also slammed Spanish airline Vueling’s decision to lay off 17 flight attendants based in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport “after months of hard work and professionalism”. 

At the time of writing, no details were immediately available as to exactly which flights would be affected, though scheduled flights with the above-mentioned carriers were said to be at risk of being delayed or even cancelled. 

Passengers board for the first public flight operated by Easyjet at Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt.

Flights departing between 7am and 10am and between 6pm and 9pm should run regularly, according to the Italian Aviation Authority. Photo by Tobias Schwarz / AFP

That said, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile, or ENAC) said on Wednesday that a number of flights would be guaranteed on the day of the strike. 

Notably, flights scheduled to depart between 7am and 10am and between 6pm and 9pm were expected to run regularly, as were flights to and from Italy’s major islands (Sicily and Sardinia). 

All intercontinental flights were also expected to run on Saturday, though ENAC strongly advised passengers to check the status of their journey with their carrier prior to setting off. 

The upcoming strike will be the latest in a long series of demonstrations that rocked Europe’s airline industry over the summer, causing significant disruption to thousands of air passengers. 

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

The last significant strike was held on Monday, September 12th, when a 24-hour national strike action from unionised ground staff caused Italy’s flag carrier, ITA Airways, to cancel several domestic flights. 

On that occasion, ITA said affected passengers were rebooked on the first available flights.

In the event of delays or cancellations, the rights of all passengers are protected by EU regulation EC 261. This applies to any air passenger flying within the EU/Schengen zone, arriving in the EU/Schengen zone from a non-EU country by means of a EU-based airline (all airlines involved in the strike are EU-based) or departing from the EU/Schengen zone. 

READ ALSO: Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

According to this regulation, airlines are financially accountable for any journey disruption they are responsible for. That includes disruptions caused by airline staff strikes. Therefore, should your flight be significantly delayed or cancelled, you might be entitled to receive compensation from your airline.