Central Rome is perfect for exploring on foot, with sites of interest often clustered together. Much of the inner core is traffic-free, so you will need to walk whether you like it or not. However, in many parts of the city walking is uncomfortable because of the crowds, uneven cobblestones, heavy traffic, and narrow (if any) sidewalks. The hectic crush of urban Rome is considerably less during August, when many Romans leave town for vacation (and many restaurants and businesses close).
By Subway — The Metropolitana, or Metro for short ([tel] 06-454640100), is the fastest means of transportation, operating 5:30am to 11:30pm Sunday to Thursday, and until 1:30am on Friday and Saturday. A big red m indicates the entrance to the subway. If your destination is close to a Metro stop, take it as it will be much faster than the bus. There are currently two lines: Line A (orange) runs southeast to northwest via Termini, Barberini, Spagna, and several stations in Prati near the Vatican; and Line B (blue) runs north to south via Termini and stops in Ancient Rome. A third line, Line C (green), is currently under construction and should be completed by 2021, running from Monte Compatri in the southeast to Clodio/Mazzini.
Tickets are 1.50€ and are available from tabacchi (tobacco shops), many newsstands, and vending machines at all stations. Booklets of tickets are available at tabacchi, newsstands, and in some terminals. You can also buy a pass on either a daily or a weekly basis). To open the subway barrier, insert your ticket. If you have a Roma Pass, touch it against the yellow dot and the gates will open.
By Bus & Tram — Roman buses and trams are operated by an organization known as ATAC (Agenzia del Trasporto Autoferrotranviario del Comune di Roma; [tel] 06-57003). Wi-Fi is gradually being rolled out across the public transport network: Look for the “Atac WiFi” sticker on the tram/subway doors. To access the service, connect to the “Atac WiFi” network and select “free navigation”; you can then register for free on the RomaWireless website, but you only get 1 hour of surfing, though access to transport help websites like www.muoversiaroma.it is unlimited.
For 1.50€ you can ride to most parts of Rome on buses or trams, although it can be slow going in all that traffic, and the buses are often very crowded. A ticket is valid for 100 minutes, and you can get on many buses and trams during that time by using the same ticket (as well as one run on the Metro). Tickets are sold in tabacchi, at newsstands, and at bus stops, but seldom onboard.At Stazione Termini, you can buy special timed passes: BIG (biglietto giornaliero or 1-day ticket) costs 6€, and a CIS (carta settimanale) is 24€ for 1 week. The BTI (bigiletto turistico, or “tourist ticket”) is 16,50€ for 3 days. If you plan to ride public transportation a lot—and if you are skipping between the centro storico, Roman ruins, and Vatican, as you likely will—these passes save time and hassle over buying a new ticket every time you ride. Purchase the appropriate pass for your length of stay in Rome. All the passes allow you to ride on the ATAC network, and are also valid on the Metro (subway). On the first bus you board, place your ticket in a small machine, which prints the day and hour you boarded, and then withdraw it. Do the same on the last bus you take during the valid period of the ticket. One-day and weekly tickets are also available at tabacchi, many newsstands, and at vending machines at all stations.
Two Bus Warnings
Any map of the Roman bus system will likely be outdated before it’s printed. Many routes listed on the “latest” map no longer exist; others are enjoying a much-needed rest, and new routes suddenly appear without warning. There’s always talk of renumbering the whole system, so be aware that the route numbers we’ve listed might have changed by the time you travel.
Take extreme caution when riding Rome’s overcrowded buses—pickpockets abound! This is particularly true on bus no. 64, a favorite of visitors because of its route through the historic districts and thus also a favorite of Rome’s pickpocketing community. This bus has earned various nicknames, including the “Pickpocket Express” and “Wallet Eater.”
Buses and trams stop at areas marked fermata. At most of these, a yellow or white sign will display the numbers of the buses that stop there and a list of all the stops along each bus’s route in order so you can easily search out your destination. In general, they’re in service daily from 5am to midnight. After that and until dawn, you can ride on special night buses (they have an n in front of their bus number), which run only on main routes. It’s best to take a taxi in the wee hours—if you can find one. The bus information booth at Piazza dei Cinquecento, in front of Stazione Termini, offers advice on routes.
Rome’s Key Bus Routes
Although routes change, a few old reliable bus routes have remained valid for years in Rome:
*40 (Express): Stazione Termini to the Vatican via Via Nazionale, Piazza Venezia and Piazza Pia, by the Castel Sant’Angelo.
*64: The “tourist route” from Termini, along Via Nazionale and through Piazza Venezia and along Via Argentina to Piazza San Pietro in the Vatican.
*75: Stazione Termini to the Colosseum.
*H: Stazione Termini via Piazza Venezia and the Ghetto to Trastevere via Ponte Garibaldi.
By Taxi — Don’t count on hailing a taxi on the street or even getting one at a stand. If you’re going out, have your hotel call one. At a restaurant, ask the waiter or cashier to dial for you. If you want to phone for yourself, try the city taxi service at [tel] 06-0609 (which will redirect to the nearest taxi rank, after you say the name of your location to an automated service), or one of these radio taxi numbers: [tel] 06-6645, 06-3570, or 06-4994. Taxis on call incur a surcharge of 3.50€.
The meter begins at 3€ (Mon–Fri 6am–10pm) for the first 3km (1 3/4 miles) and then rises 1.10€ per kilometer. The first suitcase is free. Every additional piece of luggage costs 1€. On Saturday and Sunday between 6am and 10pm, the meter starts at 4.50€; from 10pm to 6am every day, the meter starts at 6.50€. Trips from Termini incur a 2€ surcharge. Avoid paying your fare with large bills; invariably, taxi drivers claim that they don’t have change, hoping for a bigger tip. In reality, a small tip is fine, but not necessary: Italians don’t tip taxi drivers like Americans, and at most, will simply “round up” to the nearest euro. If the driver is really helpful a tip of 1€–2€ is sufficient. Most taxis accept credit cards, but it’s best to check before getting in.
By Car — All roads might lead to Rome, but you don’t want to drive once you get here. Because the reception desks of most Roman hotels have at least one English-speaking person, call ahead to find out the best route into Rome from wherever you are starting out. You will want to get rid of your rental car as soon as possible, or park in a garage.
You might want to rent a car to explore the countryside around Rome or drive to another city. You will save the most money if you reserve before leaving home. But if you want to book a car here, Hertz is at Via Giovanni Giolitti 34 ([tel] 06-4740389; Metro: Termini), and Avis is at Stazione Termini ([tel] 06-4814373; Metro: Termini). Maggiore, an Italian company, has an office at Stazione Termini ([tel] 06-4880049; Metro: Termini). There are also branches of the major agencies at the airport.
By Bike — Other than walking, the best way to get through the medieval alleys and small piazzas of Rome is perched on the seat of a bicycle. Despite being hilly, the heart of ancient Rome is riddled with bicycle lanes to get you through the murderous traffic. The most convenient place to rent bikes is Bici & Baci, Via del Viminale 5 ([tel] 06-4828443), lying 2 blocks west of Stazione Termini, the main rail station. Prices start at 4€ per hour or 11€ per day.