Sciopero!! Strike!!

I was up at 4am to take Larry to the Terontola station to catch the 4:45am train to Rome for his long flight to Accra, Ghana to help lead a week of important meetings. At the train station, instead of time and track, the departures board said “SOPP.” 


Train strikes in Italy are legendary, but not so frequent these days and they are supposed to be announced in advance. Larry bought his ticket less than twenty-four hours earlier. Trenitalia should have known.

Driving back home in the rain, we weighed the options and decided the best was for Larry to drive our Fiat Panda to Rome and leave it at the airport for the week. Our second car is uninsured in the winter with a sixty-day minimum to reinstate. Larry also texted our local taxi driver, but he didn’t respond. At that hour, he was surely sleeping. If the tables were turned, Larry would have driven me to Rome, but I’m not as comfortable on the Italian autostrada as he is and it’s a five-hour round trip.

In Italy, we depend on trains far more than we do in the USA.

Once I settled into the idea of staying alone in our isolated farmhouse without a car for a week, I decided to treat it like a retreat. If I really needed supplies or wanted to see friends, I could walk to town. It’s a thirty minute trek to the first piazza, including thirteen minutes on a steep uphill trail and a kilometer walk through Cortona’s park, now beautifully lit for Christmas. Would be great exercise.

In an emergency, I could call a friend, though our friends dislike driving our long, steep, bumpy access road and I dislike inconveniencing anyone. In Chicago, I would call a taxi or an Uber. But in a small Tuscan hilltown, a taxi to get groceries or go out to lunch seems terribly decadent, and Ubers don’t exist.

So, the first day (my tiny fridge was empty since Saturday is always market day), I walked to town and carried my bags of fresh produce back home. The second day, I walked in for Sunday lunch with friends and checked out the Cortona Christmas market. And yesterday, the fourth day, I needed milk and more food, and wanted to enjoy a holiday lunch with other friends, so I walked again. On each trip, I’ve run into friends.

What felt like a burden has become an adventure. The weather has been beautiful and the views from the steep trail are always stunning. Mist filled the valley, some days the skies were bright blue, and the exercise was much needed!

That’s life in Italy. Train strikes and making the best of unexpected challenges. When we moved here, an Italian friend said, “Italy will teach you patience.” Somehow, that lesson never seems to end.

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