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STRIKES

How Italy’s transport strikes will impact travel on Friday

Transport workers in Italy have announced another strike on Friday, December 2nd: here's how travellers will be affected.

Further transport strikes are planned across Italy on Friday, December 2nd.
Further transport strikes are planned across Italy on Friday, December 2nd. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Travellers in Italy face further disruption this week with the latest in a string of national transport strikes called for the coming Friday.

Flights, trains, taxis and local public transport will be affected, as well as some schools and health facilities and the logistics sector.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

The strike is part of a coordinated action between multiple national and local trade unions, reports Skytg24.

Worker demands include the introduction of a national minimum wage and a pay rise in line with inflation, as well as a freeze on military spending and increased investment in schools and the public health and transport sectors.

Here’s a closer look at how the strikes will affect travel on Friday.

Flights

Staff from the Spanish carrier Vueling will strike for 24 hours on December 2nd, in protest against the latest round of redundancies announced by the company, likely impacting flights to and from Italy.

Vueling hasn’t confirmed how flights will be affected, but delays or cancellations can’t be ruled out.

At the time of writing, no other airlines appear to be involved in the strike.

Vueling staff will strike against planned redundancies on Friday.

Vueling staff will strike against planned redundancies on Friday. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

Ground staff at airports across Italy will participate in the action, meaning significant disruption could be caused to those flying with other carriers.

Italy’s national civil aviation agency Enac has published a list of the flight numbers and routes that will be protected from cancellation.

Flights from 7am to 10am and from 6pm to 9pm are usually guaranteed to operate in Italy, as are any flights due to depart or arrive before the scheduled strike times but delayed for reasons beyond anyone’s control.

All incoming intercontinental flights, including those for which Italy is the transit country, are also guaranteed.

As in previous strikes, those meant to be travelling with Vueling on Friday are advised to check their flight status with the carrier before setting off.

In the event of severe delays or cancellations you might be entitled to compensation. See our guide for further details.

Trains

Staff of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (FS), Italy’s national state-owned rail company, will strike for 24 hours from 9pm on December 1st until 9pm on December 2nd, the company has announced.

FS subsidiary Trenitalia has published lists of all the services that are guaranteed to continue in the event of a strike; here is their list of national train routes that should be unaffected by the strike on Thursday and Friday.

National and regional train services will be affected by Italy's strikes on Friday.

National and regional train services will be affected by Italy’s strikes on Friday. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

For regional services, you can search the Trenitalia site by region to find out which train services are guaranteed.

An additional document provides links to services guaranteed by smaller, local rail companies in some parts of the country.

FS notes that delays and disruption to travel could occur before and after the strike’s planned start and finish time.

In some regions, such as Lombardy, services between 6-9am and 6-9pm, as well as certain other routes considered essential, are guaranteed.

Public transport

Local strikes will take place in a number of Italian cities and regions on Friday, with the timing varying from place to place.

In Milan, staff from city public transport operator ATM will strike at various points throughout the day. Significant disruption to bus and tram services is expected from 8.45am to 3pm and after 6pm.

Metro services are guaranteed until 6pm, after which travel may be disrupted. The Como-Brunate funicular will likely have limited service from 8.30am to 4.30pm and from 7.30pm to the end of service.

In Rome, major disruption is expected on bus, tram, and rail services from 8.30am to 5pm and from 8pm to the end of service.

Bus services in Rome and other Italian cities will be disrupted on Friday.

Bus services in Rome and other Italian cities will be disrupted on Friday. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

In Naples, staff from public transport operator ANM will strike, causing disruption to Metro Line 1, the Montesanto, Chiaia, Centrale and Mergellina funiculars, and on buses and trams.

And in Bologna, bus and other ground transport services will be disrupted between 8.30am and 4.30pm and from 19.30pm until the end of the service.

Transport operators in other cities have yet to confirm strike action.

It’s still unclear at this stage whether taxi drivers will participate in strikes in any city.

Drivers should be aware that motorway staff will strike from 10pm on Thursday, December 1st, until 10pm on Friday, meaning there may be delays at motorway toll booths at busy times.

It is advisable for all passengers planning to travel in Italy on Friday to consult their transport operator before setting off.

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TRANSPORT

Costly flights, few trains: What’s travel like between Sicily and mainland Italy?

Sicily may be just a stone’s throw from mainland Italy but getting there and back is not always simple or fast, as Silvia Marchetti explains.

Costly flights, few trains: What’s travel like between Sicily and mainland Italy?

Transport connections between Italy’s largest island region and the main Italian cities are expected to improve in the long run, with the government hoping to use European pandemic recovery funds. But infrastructure investments take years to bear fruit. 

Taking a flight is of course the easiest and quickest way to reach Sicily, where there are three main airports – Palermo, Catania, Trapani – plus two minor ones on the southernmost Pantelleria and Lampedusa islands. But there are mounting ticket costs. 

The recent investigation launched by Italian authorities into alleged price-fixing on flights to and from Sicily during Christmas holidays by many low-cost airlines shows how fliers might have been left with little choice. Unless one is a Sicilian resident with access to privileged fares, the round trip is often costly.

I recently did an online search and found flights to Sicily are still quite expensive, costing roughly 300 euros for a return trip from Rome, even if booked well in advance. And not all Italian airports serve the destination. 

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

Paradoxically, it is often easier to reach Sicily from a European city such as London or Brussels than from an Italian one, and I often envy foreign friends who quickly find a much cheaper flight than I can from Rome. Others hop on ferry boats in southern France to land in Sicily. 

For those already in Italy, other options are traveling by train or car, which can still be hellish. Even though the A1 autostrada del Sole, the country’s backbone, has been completed, driving down the length of the country takes 12 hours – inclusive of meal and toilet stops – roughly 1,500 kilometers. I did it once, and it is crazy, but it depends on how much one loves driving.

All train connections end in Reggio Calabria or other southern regions, even the high-speed Italo takes 10 hours from Milan to the tip of the boot. The journey by train is less stressful than by car or plane, and costs roughly 280 euros for a round trip from Milan.

Travel to and from Sicily can often turn into a nightmarish odyssey. I’ve spoken to lots of Sicilians and foreigners who often embark on a 24-hour trip to get to Sicily from Rome and Milan. 

I remember once going to Linosa island for the summer holidays and having to take the plane to Palermo, then a long bus ride to Porto Empedocle to catch the midnight ferry, sleeping on a bench and waking up the next morning to stunning volcanic black scenery. I could have taken the plane to sister-isle Lampedusa and then a quick ferry boat, but the air fare was way over my budget. That trip lasted 28 hours, exactly the same amount of time as my past flights to Jakarta from Rome – but with added stress.

The ferry connecting Messina, Sicily with Villa San Giovanni, Calabria. Photo: Clare Speak/The Local

The government aims to revive the Messina bridge plan, an idea which has been floating in the air since 1866. I doubt things would change much. Many people would still drive their cars along the bridge rather than take the ecological high speed railway expected to be built on it.

To improve connections, transport must shift from the road to the railway tracks by increasing high-speed train services, as well as ferries, thus curbing CO2 emissions. High-speed sea connections to and from Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno and other key mainland ports should also be increased.

READ ALSO: Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

The Messina bridge, which I seriously doubt will be built during this government’s five-year legislature, would just end up increasing road traffic. Locals and tourists in Calabria will be tempted to drive their car or motorino just three kilometers to grab a cassata cake in Messina. 

However, the real issue is not getting to and from Sicily, but getting around Sicily once you land there.

I had the chance to meet several Sicilian commuters who travel almost daily from a rural village to Rome, Naples or Milan for meetings. They wake up at three in the morning and return home at 11pm, up to four times a week. 

Island train and bus connections are rather poor so the car is their best option to get to the airport. However, bar the main highways, most Sicilian roads are a work-in-progress or in bad condition.

You never know where a Sicilian road trip might take you. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

I happened to experience an ‘adventurous’ road trip once from Catania airport to a tiny village in the province of Caltanissetta. According to the satellite map it was meant to take roughly two hours, but it turned out to be five, and I literally found myself in the middle of the countryside surrounded by sheep and ravines. Not quite the idyll I had dreamt.

Some highways were shut due to maintenance so I had to cut across unpaved rural roads without street lights, or deviate elsewhere which lengthened my trip (ravenous, I took five minutes to stop for a quick cannolo on the way).

It all depends on what degree of adventure travelers are seeking. Distances seem shorter for some foreigners than they do to Italians. Americans in particular and others from non-European Union countries are excited to drive from Milan to Sicily, for they can catch a glimpse of Italy in its entirety, or tour Sicily’s main archaeological sites in eight hours.

But many others I know, because of the poor state of Sicilian roads and regional connections, prefer to fly in and rent cars with drivers to take them to their destinations. 

The future of Sicily’s transport connections must be affordable and more frequent flights, high-speed railways and eco-friendly boats. Not new bridges and even more cars on the road.

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