EXPLAINED: Will Italy’s food shops and supermarkets be open over Easter?

Covid restrictions are over, but strikes now threaten to close supermarkets in some parts of Italy over the holidays. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Will Italy’s food shops and supermarkets be open over Easter?
With strike action planned, supermarkets in some parts of Italy may be closed for longer than usual this Easter. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

On major holidays such as Easter and Christmas, much of Italy usually grinds to halt and most shops close. But with supermarket workers reportedly also planning a strike, many people are concerned about whether they’ll be able to get essential supplies over the upcoming Easter holidays.

READ ALSO: Italy braces for Easter cancellations as food and travel costs soar

Depending on which part of Italy you live in, strikes look set to mean some supermarkets will be closed for longer than they otherwise would be over the Easter weekend.

Here’s a look at the areas and businesses affected.

Where and when will supermarket workers be on strike?

Trade unions in certain regions of Italy have threatened to stop work at supermarkets in protest at what they say are “incredibly demanding conditions”. 

In the Piedmont region, local representatives of Italy’s CGIL (Italian General Confederation of Labour), CISL (Italian Confederation of Trade Unions) and UIL (Italian Labour Union) released a joint statement in April where they warned of potential regional strikes on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

Strike action, the unions said, would “guarantee the mental and physical recovery of commerce and food chain distribution workers, who have been working in incredibly demanding conditions for over four weeks”.

In some regions, trade unions have moved from words to deeds. On Wednesday, Sicily’s trade unions officially declared a region-wide strike on April 17th and 18th.

In Calabria, trade unions are also reported to be planning a full-scale regional strike for Easter Sunday and Monday, as well as April 25th and May 1st.

Other regional trade unions, such as those in Lazio, have also reportedly threatened to strike along with their Sicilian and Calabrian counterparts.

At this point in time, there’s no way to know exactly which supermarkets will be affected by planned strike action in these areas or whether this is certain to lead to extended closures.

What’s certain, however, is that the organised strikes are far more likely to affect major supermarket chains rather than small businesses – that’s because the trade unions involved have far more members within the former.

If you’ll be in one of the affected regions, you might want to check the opening hours and online bulletin boards of your local supermarkets in advance, and you may also want to check whether small businesses in the area will be open over the holiday weekend.

Wherever you are in Italy, remember that many shops are likely to be closed over the holiday anyway.

While in most European countries – and certainly in countries like the UK – it might be common for both supermarkets and small shops to be open until 10 or 11pm on Sundays, many Italian shops are usually closed on Sunday and on public holidays, including on Easter Monday.

Some supermarkets may open in the mornings on these days, but many will shut their doors before noon or in the early afternoon at the very latest.

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

As Italian trade unions have called a general strike on Friday, here's a look at how travel within the country will be affected.

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

Italian unions have called a nationwide general strike for the entire working day on Friday, April 22nd, which could mean some disruption for passengers on some flights, trains and ferry routes as people begin the long weekend ahead of Liberation Day, according to Italian news reports.

However, this time, a low number of participating trade union members in the transport sector is expected to mean there will be little or no disruption to the majority of transport services.

Local public transport services, such as city buses and trams, are not likely to be affected in any major city, according to operators.

Italy also guarantees the operation of a minimum number of public transport services in the event of a strike on weekdays from 6 to 9am and from 6 to 9pm, as well as flights between 7 and 10am, and 6 to 9pm.

Flights are reportedly operating normally at airports around Italy on Friday morning, however Milan’s Linate airport may see some disruption due to a four-hour strike by ground support staff in the afternoon, between noon and 4pm.

For interregional trains, national operator Trenitalia confirmed in a statement on its website that a 24-hour national strike had been called by staff, but said that it does not expect Intercity services or high-speed Frecce trains to be affected.

Passengers are in any case advised to check the latest updates before setting off, as Trenitalia warned: “Trade union unrest can lead to changes to the service even before the start and after the conclusion [of the strike action]”.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about train travel in Italy

Northern regional rail operator Trenord similarly stated: “Considering the membership data in similar previous strike announcements, no interruptions to railway traffic in Lombardy are expected.”

“On the other hand, there may be sporadic cancellations of trains which will be promptly communicated.”

“We therefore recommend, before setting off, to check traffic in real-time on the Trenord app. At the station, pay attention to the monitors an announcements.”

Those travelling by road or ferry on Friday are also advised by operators to check for updates before setting off.

Some localised traffic disruption and road closures can be expected in central Rome on Friday due to a demonstration by trade unions planned to start at 2pm in the central Piazza della Repubblica.