( AP ) - A wildcat protest by cab drivers caused gridlock in downtown Rome on Wednesday, leaving Italians and tourists alike stranded at airports and train stations across the capital.
Hundreds of Rome's white cabs converged in the central Piazza Venezia, completely blocking traffic in the square and surrounding streets while drivers protested in front of the nearby City Hall.
Unions had been negotiating with Mayor Walter Veltroni over planned fare increases, but they walked away from the talks and called the sudden protest after authorities said they wanted to issue 500 new taxi licenses.
While police redirected buses and cars away from the blocked center, Romans on foot and travelers dragging suitcases walked the sidewalks or crammed underground trains.
The authority that monitors strikes in Italy said in a statement that Wednesday's unannounced protest was illegal, and warned unions to remove the blockages or face sanctions.
Rome Prefect Carlo Mosca, the government's top security official for the city, said in a statement that no final decision had been made on the 500 licenses and that unions and Rome authorities planned to resume negotiations on Thursday.
Cab drivers, who have staged several strikes in recent months, want their rates raised and also oppose government plans to liberalize the service and grant more licenses.