Rome is a city full of potential adventures. I already knew this from my previous week of experience in the city, but this truth was definitely confirmed on my latest adventure on July 8th. On my way to do some reading and exploring in a neighborhood along di Trastevere near the American University of Rome, my friend and I unknowingly got off at the wrong bus stop. This ended up not changing our trip plans very much because as we wandered around the corner we found several hundred people blocking the 44 bus route and the number 8 tram towards Piazza Venezia—the public transportation routes that lead downtown. Surprised and confused, we made our way through the protest which was coincidentally also blocking the street that went directly to our favorite bar (Italian coffee shop). Knowing the Italian love of protest and free speech, we knew this was somewhat routine as well as an important part of the Italian culture.
What we did not know was that this was apart of a series of protests going on over the past year since the Italian financial situation has been worsening. We learned in class that while older Italian workers are highly protected and are not easily fired and subject to unemployment, younger workers have recently been allowed to be employed through contracts that don’t guarantee further employment after an agreed upon period of time. The protesters were protesting against the lessening of contracted hours in this type of employment, which is largely due to a lack of government funds to employ them at their current number of hours. This is actually a huge issue in Italy as youth unemployment has recently reached around 40%. Although this protest was a surprising interruption to my daily routine, it really brought to light a very real part of Roman after the European financial crisis.