Strikes in Italy can be quite common, and the transit sector is notorious for their strikes. Recently, a friend of mine went to Rome and lamented about how it was hard for him to see and do all of the things he wanted on his short trip there. In light of that conversation, I wanted to talk about what you can do to avoid letting it spoil your fun!
If you’re only in Rome for a day or two, it might be hard for you to simply wait for the strike to end. Waiting for the strike to end = wasting your valuable time. You do have some alternatives: you can walk around Rome (which I always advise is the best way to see the city, but, of course, this isn’t an option for everyone) or you can drive. Driving in Rome requires special kinds of nerves that I am sure few of us have (I know I don’t have them — I cannot stand driving in Italy). Taxis are an excellent (albeit expensive) alternative when public transport is not running, but this expense can quickly add up (not to mention that you will probably spend more time in the car stuck in traffic because when there are transport strikes, everyone is driving). Also, make sure that you’re not getting taken for a ride, literally, on the cost of the trip.
If you’re not adverse to walking, trekking through the streets and alleyways is my favorite way to see the city. You will be surprised at how much ground you can cover, and Rome, while a big city, is not as big as you might think. You can cover a lot of ground in just a day — not only is it good exercise, it is environmentally friendly, and you will experience the city up close and personal! I advise purchasing Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in Rome ($12.74 on Amazon.com). This wonderful book is filled with walking excursions that you can do all over Rome, and it might be a great way to explore the city on those days that public transport might be unavailable to you.
If you are in Rome for more than a few days, you might take this day to relax, put your feet up, read the paper, have a long lunch, stroll around the area where you are staying or even take the opportunity to get out of Rome: perhaps a trip to Florence, a drive to Viterbo, maybe take a long day trip down to Pompeii, or find something to do outside the city. As long as the strike isn’t a national one, you shouldn’t have trouble getting out of the city. You could jump on a pullman (it’s what they call those nice, comfortable buses in Italy) or perhaps use a car service (there are tons of them in and around Rome that offer good deals for getting to Naples or seeing places outside of Rome). Many guidebooks offer suggestions on where to go and what to do outside Rome — do some research before you arrive and choose one or two excursions that might serve as backups in case you find yourself stuck in Rome.
If you plan to have your own “set of wheels” in Rome, just remember that gas stations also tend to strike in sympathy or on their own to express their displeasure at something going on in the city. This may make it hard to gas up your car. While some stations are open, you may have trouble finding them if you do not know your way around the city. Nothing worse than having a car with no gas in it — it will make it all the more difficult to return the car at the end of your trip!