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. Tip: Plan ahead and wear sturdy, comfortable walking shoes. In the most tourist-trod parts of the city, walking can be challenging due to crowds, uneven cobblestones, heavy traffic, and narrow (if any) sidewalks.
All Roads Lead to . . . Piazza Venezia
Love it or loathe it, the massive Vittoriano monument at Piazza Venezia is a helpful landmark for visitors to get their bearings, and almost every bus line convenient to tourists stops here. Streets fanning out from the piazza lead to Termini Station, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and across the Tiber to the Vatican.
By Subway—The Metropolitana (Metro) (tel. 06-454640100) operates daily from 5:30am to 11:30pm (until 12:30am on Sat). A big red m indicates the entrance to the subway. If your destination is close to a Metro stop, hop on, as your journey will be much faster than by taking surface transportation. There are currently three lines: Line A (orange) runs southeast to northwest via Termini, Barberini, Spagna, and several stations in Prati near the Vatican; Line B (blue) runs north to south via Termini and stops in Ancient Rome; and a third, Line C (green), which is currently under construction and should be completed by 2022, will ultimately run from Monte Compatri in the southeast to Clodio/Mazzini (just beyond the Ottaviano stop on Line A). The long-delayed portion from Piazza Lodi to San Giovanni opened in May 2018.
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 newsstands, tabacchi and in some terminals. You can also buy a pass on either a daily or a weekly basis (see “By Bus & Tram,” below). 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. See the Metro map on the pull-out map in this guide.
By Bus & Tram—Roman buses and trams are operated by ATAC (Agenzia del Trasporto Autoferrotranviario del Comune di Roma; tel. 06-57003). 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 (plus one journey on the Metro) during that time by using the same ticket. Tickets are sold in tabacchi, at newsstands, and at bus stops, but there are seldom ticket-issuing machines on the vehicles themselves. Note that if you switch from a bus or tram to Metro within your 100-minute ticket time, you must revalidate your ticket before boarding the subway.
You can buy special timed passes: a 24-hour (ROMA 24H) ticket is 7€; a 48-hour ticket is 12.50€; a 72-hour ticket costs 18€; and a 7-day ticket is 24€. If you plan to ride public transportation a lot—and if you are skipping between the centro storico, Roman ruins, and Vatican, 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 (typically yellow) machine, which prints the day and hour you boarded, and then withdraw it. The machine will also print your ticket’s time of expiration (“scad.”—short for scadenza). One-day and weekly tickets are also available at tabacchi, many newsstands, and at vending machines at all stations. If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, however, the Roma Pass is a smarter choice.
Walk or Ride?
Rome is such a walkable city, one where getting there (on foot) is half the fun. And public transportation doesn’t necessarily save that much time. (For example, walking from Piazza Venezia to Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere takes about 25 minutes at a leisurely pace; it takes 12 minutes via bus and tram, but that doesn’t include potential time spent waiting for the bus or tram to show up.) My take? On a nice day and for relatively short distances, enjoy the stroll. On the other hand, if you want to save your steps (maybe for a marathon tour of the Vatican Museums), then head to the nearest Metro, tram, or bus stop.
Buses and trams stop at areas marked fermata. Signs will display the numbers of the buses that stop there and a list of all the stops along each bus’s route, making it easier to scope out your destination. Digital displays at most stops show how soon the next bus or tram will arrive. Generally, buses run daily from 5am to midnight. From midnight until dawn, you can ride on special night buses (look for the “n” in front of the bus number), which run only on main routes. It’s best to take a taxi in the wee hours—if you can find one. Call for one (see “By Taxi,” below) in a pinch. Bus information booths at Piazza dei Cinquecento, in front of Stazione Termini, offer advice on routes.
Rome’s Key Bus Routes
First, know that any map of the Roman bus system will likely be outdated before it’s printed. 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. Second, 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.”
Although routes may change, a few 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—If you’ve reached your walking limit, don’t feel like waiting for a bus, or need to get someplace in a hurry, taking a taxi in Rome is reasonably affordable compared to other major world cities. Just don’t count on hailing a taxi on the street. Instead, have your hotel call one, or if you’re 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 (Italian only), or one of these radio taxi numbers, which may or may not have English-speaking operators on duty: tel. 06-6645, 06-3570, or 06-4994. You can also text a taxi at tel. 366-6730000 by typing the message “Roma [address]” (assuming you know the address in Italian). Taxis on call incur a surcharge of 3.50€. Larger taxi stands are at Piazza Venezia (east side), Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), the Colosseum, Corso Rinascimento (Piazza Navona), Largo Argentina, the Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Risorgimento (near St. Peter’s), and Piazza Belli (Trastevere).
Many taxis accept credit cards, but it’s best to check first, before getting in. Between 6am and 10pm, the meter begins at 3€ (4.50€ Sat–Sun) for the first 3km (1 and 3/4 miles) and then rises 1.10€ per kilometer. From 10pm to 6am every day, the meter starts at 6.50€. Trips from Termini incur a 2€ surcharge. The first suitcase is free; every additional piece of luggage costs 1€. Note: Italians don’t tip taxi drivers like Americans do and, at most, will simply round up to the nearest euro. If the driver is really friendly or helpful, a tip of 1€ to 2€ is sufficient.
As in the rest of the world, taxi apps have caught on in Rome. The main app for official city taxis is it Taxi, which is run by Rome’s largest taxi company, 3570. It allows users to pay directly from the app using a credit card or PayPal. Popular throughout Europe, the MyTaxi app offers Uber-like convenience for ordering and prepaying a cab. Uber is currently available in Rome in a limited capacity only.
By Car—All roads might lead to Rome, but you probably won’t want to drive once you get here. If you do drive into the city, call or email ahead to your hotel 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 it in a garage and leave it there until you depart Rome.
If you want to rent a car to explore the countryside around Rome or drive to another city, you will save money if you reserve before leaving home. If you decide to book a car here, most major car rental companies have desks inside Stazione Termini. Note: rental cars in Italy may be smaller than what you are used to, including in terms of trunk space. Make sure you consider both luggage size and the number of people when booking your vehicle.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.