We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Life in Venice - new experiences - the bus strike!

I had heard about how strikes happen suddenly in Italy, but I must admit that until you experience one for yourself, you just don't seem to "get" its full impact. I now understand. I “got” the complete whammy recently!

Here's my whole sorry little tale:

I had finally gotten brave, found my sea legs, and ventured out of Venice for my first shopping adventure to Panorama. Panorama, by the way, is in Mestre ( on the main land, as the locals say), and is about as close to a Wal-mart as we're ever going to get over here in Venice. We'd been told by our friends Marco and Alice that Panorama was worth finding, it had good prices on food and other items, and they would deliver your purchases to your door in a day or two. That last little feature is a big incentive for those of us who are without a decent means of hauling packages. Without a car, we are limited by what our little Italian grocery cart can hold and what we can reasonably push/pull behind us in that cart.

Buses to Panorama run frequently from Piazzale Roma, which is fairly convenient to get to from our apartment. I did my research, knew which bus to take, got up and out early, purchased my bus tickets, and was on the bus headed to Panorama at 8am. I wanted to be there when they opened the doors at 8:30 am. Great plan. The bus ride out of Venice happened without a hitch. I was so proud of myself for navigating this on my own. What an adventure! I spent about an hour and a half in Panorama, and also took a few minutes to check out the nearby Benetton shop. Having completed my tasks, I wheeled my little grocery cart over to the waiting area for the bus back to Venice.

The bus is scheduled to run every 15- 20 minutes, or there abouts. I waited, the first scheduled bus didn't arrive. More waiting.. the next two buses I would have expected didn't arrive either. At this point, it is apparent that something is not right. There is one bus in the lot, however. I approach the bus driver of that bus, and in my broken English-Italian I attempt to ask him if he knows when the next bus to Venice will be coming. He understood me. "No bus to Venice today", he says. What??? "No, no bus to Venice today. Strike in Venice. "

How in the world did they let me get OUT of Venice and then go on strike so I couldn't get back??? Just perfect. Now I had to figure out what my options were for finding a way back home. I'm running through some possible solutions in my head when the bus driver tells me that if I get on his bus, he will take me close to the train station in Mestre, and from there I can take the train. That sounded complex, but it could work. I went for it. This bus driver was a god-send. When he got to the point where he was as close to the train station as his route went, he stopped the bus, motioned for me that this was the exit for me, then he got off the bus and pointed out the route to the train station. I love this man! I made the left, then right, then right again that he had shown me, and there, sure enough, was the train station. For about one more Euro, I had a seat on the next train from Mestre to Santa Lucia station in Venice.

Back in Venice, with my grocery cart behind me, I decided not to walk the 10 minutes and several bridges back to our apartment. Instead I got on the vaporetto to Piazzale Roma and would walk from there. At Piazzale Roma, the entire parking lot, which is normally packed full of buses coming and going all day long, was completely empty. Not one bus. Yup, there really was a bus strike going on in Venice. This was so out of the ordinary-- it was surreal to see. How would all the people who arrived in Venice for work by bus this morning find their way home tonight?

I am just thankful that I found a way home . And now i have another Italian experience under my belt. Strikes are common, I had better get used to them.


emmeline said...

Ciao Karen! Just dropping by to say that i am trying to get used to the strikes too.I am a student from Singapore, studying in Milan! Did not even make it to school strike day!

Anonymous said...

often the strikes are not really the whole day but start at a certain hour quite early and end at a given hour. it's worth it to check at the ATVO or ACTV offices. sometimes the strikes affect only some unions and not all of them so that there are stll some services...