Living in Rome, this, without a doubt, will be one of the first Italian words you learn.
Literally, sciopero means strike. But really, what it means is…you’re screwed. Time to lace up your walking shoes and go for a hike because otherwise you aren’t getting anywhere today. This is because the word is most commonly used to refer to the mostly monthly specter which haunts those of us dependent upon public transportation: the transportation strike.
Traditionally, transportation strikes are held on Fridays. Now, many (very reasonable cynics) believe that this is due to a desire of many ATAC employees to have a long weekend. Of course, said employees claim otherwise. The thing is, this problem is symbolic of the many infrastructural problems that haunt Roman (and Italian) life, and one which has aroused a lot of frustration (and some pretty funny campaigns here and here) among the general public here in Rome.
Thursday morning I was sitting on a platform so full of people it seemed they would soon start spilling off onto the tracks. After an announcement that 75% of the morning’s already jam-packed rush hour trains had been canceled, there was anger and dismay in the air, murmurings, shouts, sounds of frustration, and for a moment I hoped that a mob would form, asserting our right for timely transportation to work.
But it wasn’t to be. We sat calmly, patiently. This is just how Rome works, we told ourselves. This is the price I pay, I thought. I stay for all the things I love about this city, but the utter dysfunction seems to make day-to-day life unbearable.
Even without transportation strikes, public transport is despicable. In many parts of Rome, services, already strained to their breaking point, were drastically reduced due to a lack of funding. And this is even as horrific corruption was revealed, in the form of a stockpile of false tickets.
And as the situation worsens, the city of Rome keeps raising ticket prices, and the ATAC workers continue striking in a way that only harms the people who can’t afford to purchase cars, contributing to the traffic and pollution problems of the city. The corrupt government officials with their private drivers and police escort and their right to utterly ignore traffic lights, they don’t even notice.
This is what surviving Rome is about. The upside is that you will never get bored. Well, except when you’re waiting 40 minutes for a train.
How to survive a transportation strike in Rome:
- If you have money to spend – take a taxi.
- If you don’t have money to spend on absurdly high Roman cab fares, try to live within walking distance of wherever you work or go to school. Even an hour’s walk is doable, you will spend less time and aggravation hoofing it, and well, since Rome is beautiful and all, at least your walk won’t be boring.
- If this isn’t a possibility, plan ahead. Make sure to always carry a book with you, and take up smoking in order to pass the time. You might be waiting a while.
- Make sure you always know when transportation strikes are going to occur. I get my notices from the WantedInRome Facebook page. If you understand Italian, you can also get real-time updates (well sorta) from the ATAC website and Twitter page.