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From figuring out public transport to misjudging the distance between sights (it looked so much closer on the map!), there are many ways tourists can become unstuck while navigating an unfamiliar city. However, a new initiative launched in Rome hopes to make it easier to get from A to B in the Eternal City – by giving cabbies lessons in etiquette. Taxi drivers in Rome don’t have the best reputation. Aside from the usual tricks used by cabbies the world over – taking the long way round, overcharging and never having change – taxi unions are said to have a strong hold on the city, opposing the rollout of Uber and, according to some, ensuring public transport links to the city’s two airports remain poor.
Although Rome is a popular tourist destination, not everyone speaks English so communicating about a journey or questioning unexpected fees can be tricky for many tourists.
The initiative might not tackle dishonest drivers, but is nonetheless a step in the right direction in improving the overall level of service. Associated Press reports that 750 drivers will take eight classes of ‘practical’ English, lessons in ‘cultural manners’ and instructions on how make visitors feel welcome in Italy’s capital.
There’s no word on specifics just yet, but rather than swotting up on the etiquette of the correct cutlery to use at dinner, it seems the cabbies will be taking a more practical approach on how to pick up English-speaking passengers. Minding their Ps and Qs might make the experience more pleasant, but what tourists really want is taxi drivers who stick to the city’s set fares and don’t steal their passenger’s luggage.
The announcement came just days after taxi drivers across Italy went on strike in protest against competition from Uber and other new ridesharing companies. Unions in Rome also organised a protest. Uber’s low-cost UberPOP service, which connects unlicensed drivers with passengers, remains banned in Italy following a court ruling in Milan in 2015. An initial ban on UberBLACK, used by professional drivers, was overturned earlier this year.