If you’ll be staying in Rome for at least 3 days, consider purchasing the Roma Pass. It costs €36 (or €28 for a 48 hour pass) and entitles holders to free admission to the first two museums and/or archaeological sites visited, full access to public transportation, reduced tickets and discounts for any other following museums (that are included in the program – e.g., the Vatican Museums are not included) and sites visited as well as exhibitions, music events, theatrical and dance performances.
Rome ComboPass is also available as a combo pass deal that includes the Roma Pass and hop on/off Bus.
OMNIA Vatican and Rome instead includes the services provided by Roma Pass, free entry to Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, fast track entry to St Peter’s Basilica and hop-on-hop-off bus tour for 3 days.
In a nutshell: don’t do it. Well, some people actually enjoy it. The traffic in the city center can be chaotic, but it is possible to drive there; it will take a few weeks to understand where to drive, to get where you want to go. When driving in Rome it is important to accept that Italians drive in a very pragmatic way. Taking it in turn and letting people go in front of you is rare. There is little patience so, if the light is green when you go into the intersection and you are too slow, they will let you know. A green light turning to amber is a reason to accelerate, not brake, in part because the lights usually stay amber for several seconds. If you brake immediately when the light changes you are likely to get rear-ended. Parking is scarce. The city center is plagued with people who demand money to direct you to a space, even on the rare occasions when there are many places available. While in Rome, it is better to travel by bus or Metro, or (in extremis) take a taxi.
If you’re driving in the city center or in certain parts of Testaccio, note that many areas (limited-traffic zones or ZTL) are limited to residents, who have special electronic passes. If you go into these areas (which are camera controlled) you may end up with a fine, particularly if your car has Italian plates. Beware that when turning right across a pedestrian crossing you might have a green light at the same time as the pedestrians.
Some private citizens dress up their cars to look like cabs. These people strategically locate themselves at airports and railway stations waiting for travelers. Beware of operators who don’t display a licensed meter and ID. Use only authorized taxis (white vehicles with a taximeter and a taxi light) that are available in the arrivals areas of the terminals. Also, some airport employees may direct you to a “taxi” driver if you ask where you find them when you are inside the airport terminal.The “taxi” could end up being a Mercedes limo, costing you double the fare of a real taxi and a tricky situation to get out as your luggage is locked away in the limo’s boot.
Taxis are the most expensive way to get around Rome, but when weighed against convenience and speed, they are often worth it.
Roman taxis run on meters, and you should always make sure the driver starts it. Taxis will typically pick you up only at a taxi stand, which you will find at all but the smallest piazzas, as well as at the main train station or when called by phone. You can hail a cab, they stop, unless you are very close to a cab stand. In that case they don’t stop because they’re obliged to go to the stand. When you get in the cab, there will be a fixed starting charge, which will be more for late nights, Sundays and holidays. An €1 supplement per bag will be requested for every piece of luggage the driver has to handle (however, if you carry only one bag you won’t have to pay the supplement). So, if you have a limited amount of luggage that wouldn’t need to go in the trunk, you may decline when the driver offers to put your bags in the trunk. Drivers may not use the shortest route, so try to follow the route with a map and discuss if you feel you’re being tricked.
Be aware that when you phone for a taxi, the cab’s meter starts running when it is summoned – not when it arrives to pick you up! Therefore, by the time a cab arrives at your location, there may already be a substantial amount on the meter. A major problem is that taxi drivers often leave the previous fare running on the meter. So you may find the cab arriving with €15 or even more on the meter. If you are not in a hurry you should tell him (there are very few female cab drivers in Rome) to get lost, but if you are desperate to get to the airport it’s a different matter. You can get a taxi pretty easily at any piazza though, so calling ahead is really not required. A trip across the city (within the walls) will cost you about €11 if starting at a cab rank, a little more if there is heavy traffic at night or on a Sunday. The ride from Fiumicino to/from the city (within the walls) fixed price 40€; from Ciampino airport to/from the city (within the walls) fixed price 30€. Always tell to the driver that you know the fare.Taxi drivers may try to trick customers by switching a €50 note for a €10 one during the payment, leading you to believe that you handed them only €10 when you have already given them €50.
Another tip, ask what’s the fare for your destination before you get into the cab.
Note that it is possible to pay with credit cards! To do so, however, you will have to notify the driver before the ride starts.
Once you’re in the center, you are best off on foot. What could be more romantic than strolling through Rome on foot holding hands? That is hard to beat!
Crossing a street in Rome can be a bit challenging, though. There are crossings but, sometimes, they aren’t located at signalled intersections. Traffic can be intimidating, but if you are at a crossing just start walking and cars will let you cross the street. While crossing watch out for the thousands of mopeds: as in many European cities, even if cars and lorries are stationary due to a jam or for another reason, mopeds and bikes will be trying to squeeze through the gaps and may be ignoring the reason why everyone else has stopped. This means that even if the traffic seems stationary you need to pause and look around into the gaps.
Beware that unlike in other countries where a lit “green man” indicates that it is safe to cross the road, in Italy the green man is lit at the same time as the green light for traffic turning right, so you can often find yourself sharing the space with cars.
By public transport
In Rome, all public transport (comprising buses, trams, trolleybuses, the Metro network and the Roma-Lido, Roma-Viterbo, Roma-Giardinetti light railways) is managed by ATAC whose site comes with a handy route planner. There’s also the route planner belonging to Romamobilità, the city’s public agency in charge of programming bus routes and providing real-time information with regards to traffic.
Android users can download the apps: Muoversi a Roma (with route planner), Probus Rome and Autobus Roma, all with menus translated in English.
Tickets must be bought from a tobacconist – look for the big ‘T’ sign, these shops are plentiful – or from a news stand before you board the bus, Metro or tram. Metro stops and bus terminals all have automated ticket kiosks, and major Metro stations have clerked ticket windows. Newer trams and buses have yellow single-ticket vending machines as well. Please note that the whole public transportation network uses the same kind of tickets.
Ticket inspectors & fines
ATAC personnel polices the buses, Metro and trams for people riding without tickets. Inspectors can be rare on some buses, although they tend to increase their presence in the summer; they are present on the Metro as well (where they like to hang out at the turnstiles). You should keep your validated ticket throughout your journey as proof-of-payment: if you don’t have sufficient money on you to pay the fine, they will actually escort you to an ATM to pay the fee. If you don’t have an ATM card to withdraw the money, you will be asked to pay by mail, and the fee goes up to €140; in every case, the officer will issue a receipt.
Note that you can choose to pay on the spot – in this case, the fine will be reduced to €50, which you’ll give directly to the officer in question. Of course, you should make sure that he/she (or, better: them, as they go around in packs…) is a legitimate ATAC inspector first! These people have an uniform consisting of a pair of black trousers, a light blue shirt with the red ATAC logo sewn on the breast pocket, and a badge – which they must carry around (either around the neck or pinned on their shirts) at all times. Another livery consists of navy blue jacket and trousers; occasionally, ticket inspectors may wear a yellow (or red) vest with the aforementioned ATAC logo on the back.
Since November 2013, traffic wardens have been authorised to levy fines too.
Roman buses are reliable, but can be crowded. They are the best way to get around the city, with the notable exception of walking. Free maps of the bus system are available, others can be purchased (€3.50 at Termini). Signs at the bus stop list the stops for each route. Ask for assistance (in Rome, there’s always somebody nearby who speaks English or tries his best to help you out). Some bus lines have arrivals every ten minutes or so. Less popular routes may arrive every half hour or less. If heading outside the centre beware that bus schedules can be seriously disrupted by heavy traffic; sometimes trips just get cancelled altogether.
Useful bus lines (along with their most important stops) are:
- H Termini (Metro lines A and B; tram lines # 5 and # 14) – via Nazionale – piazza Venezia – via Arenula (Jewish Ghetto; tram line # 8) – viale Trastevere (homonymous district) – Roma Trastevere train station (FL1, FL3 and FL5 train lines)
- 3B Roma Ostiense train station (tram line # 3; Metro line B; Roma-Lido light railway; Pyramid of Cestius and Protestant Cemetery) – v.le Trastevere (tram line # 8) – Roma Trastevere train station
- 23 St. Paul Outside the Walls – Roma Ostiense train station – via Marmorata (Testaccio) – v.le Trastevere – p.za del Risorgimento (Vatican Museums; tram line # 19)
- 30 Piazzale Clodio (Monte Mario; Cavalieri Hilton) – Lepanto (Metro line A) – piazza Cavour (Prati district) – corso del Rinascimento (piazza Navona) – largo di Torre Argentina – piazza Venezia (tram line # 8) – via Marmorata – Roma Ostiense – EUR
- 40 Termini – p.za Venezia – l.go di Torre Argentina – corso Vittorio Emanuele II – Castel Sant’Angelo [express route]
- 44 Via del Teatro di Marcello (Capitoline Hill) – Forum Boarium – viale Trastevere – Janiculum – Monteverde vecchio
- 63 Via Arenula – via del Corso – Barberini (Metro line A) – via [Vittorio] Veneto – via Po (Galleria Borghese) – piazza Buenos Aires (tram lines # 3 and # 19)
- 64 Termini – p.za Venezia – l.go di Torre Argentina – c.so Vittorio Emanuele II – c.so del Rinascimento – St. Peter’s
- 70 Termini – Repubblica (Metro line A) – via Nazionale – Quirinal – p.za Venezia – l.go di Torre Argentina – c.so del Rinascimento – p.za Cavour – via Cicerone (via Cola di Rienzo) – Lepanto – p.le Clodio
- 75 Piazza Indipendenza – Termini – Roman Forum – Colosseum (tram line # 3) – Aventine – Roma Ostiense train station – Testaccio – Trastevere – Janiculum – Monteverde vecchio
- 81 St. John Lateran – Colosseum – Circus Maximus – p.za Venezia – c.so Vittorio Emanuele II – p.za Navona – p.za del Risorgimento
- 87 St. John Lateran – Colosseum – Roman Forum – via del Plebiscito (p.za Venezia) – l.go Argentina – c.so del Rinascimento – p.za Cavour – via Marcantonio Colonna (via Cola di Rienzo) – Lepanto
- 90 Termini – Porta Pia – via Nomentana (villa Torlonia) [trolleybus]
- 115 Largo Fiorentini (via Giulia) – Janiculum (piazzale Garibaldi) – Janiculum (S. Pietro in Montorio) – Trastevere
- 116 Via Veneto – Campo de’ Fiori – piazza Navona
- 117 St. John Lateran – Colosseum – piazza di Spagna – piazza del Popolo
- 119 Piazza Augusto Imperatore (Mausoleum of Augustus; Ara Pacis) – Pantheon
- 130 Roma Ostiense train station – via Marmorata (Testaccio) – p.za Venezia – l.go di Torre Argentina – p.za Cavour – Lepanto
- 224 P.za Augusto Imperatore – p.za Cavour – Lepanto – piazza Lauro de Bosis (Olympic Stadium; Foro Italico) – lungotevere Maresciallo Diaz (ponte Milvio)
- 246 Aurelia train station (FL5 line) – via Aurelia (Ergife hotel) – circonvallazione Cornelia (Metro line A)
- 280 Roma Ostiense train station – via Marmorata – Aventine – L.go Fiorentini – p.za Cavour – Lepanto – p.za Lauro de Bosis
- 492 Cipro (Metro line A) – p.za del Risorgimento – Castel Sant’Angelo – c.so del Rinascimento – l.go Argentina – p.za Venezia – via del Corso – via del Tritone (p.za Barberini) – Roma Tiburtina train station
- 710 Circonvallazione Gianicolense (S. Camillo hospital) – p.le Dunant (tram line # 8) – Quattro Venti station (FL3 line) – via Giacinto Carini (Janiculum)
- 791 EUR district – viale Marconi – p.le Dunant – villa Pamphili – circ.ne Cornelia
- 871 Trastevere train station – Monteverde district – Janiculum
- 913 P.za Augusto Imperatore – p.za Cavour – Lepanto – via Andrea Doria – Monte Mario train station (homonymous hill; Cavalieri Hilton)
- 916 Circ.ne Cornelia – via di Porta Cavalleggeri (St. Peter’s) – c.so Vittorio Emanuele II – l.go di Torre Argentina – p.za Venezia.
- 982 P.za Risorgimento – via Gregorio VII (Roma S. Pietro railway station) – via Piccolomini (lookout point) – Via Leone XIII (Villa Pamphili) – S. Pancrazio (Janiculum) – Quattro Venti
Night buses could be useful due to the closing of the Metro stations at 23:30 and the stopping of regular lines of buses and trams at midnight. During the summer (until 23 Sep) and on Fridays and Saturdays, the frequency of the rides is halved, which can vary among 10, 15, 30 and 35 minutes depending on the line. In any case they are much more punctual than during the day, as traffic is much less jammed. This makes the drivers drive at high speeds, allowing passengers to experience a strange mixture of adrenaline and (the city’s) classical views. Hubs of the night buses are Termini station and piazza Venezia.
- N1 replaces Metro line A between 23:25 and 05:00. On Fridays and Saturdays, the line operates between 01:25 and 05:00 and the route ends at Termini station.
- N2 replaces Metro line B between 23:30 and 05:00. On Fridays and Saturdays, the line operates between 01:40 and 05:15 and the route ends at Termini station.
- N28 replaces Metro line C between 23:30 and 05:00. On Fridays and Saturdays, the line operates between 01:40 and 05:15 and the route ends at S. Giovanni.
Note: the # 116, # 117 and # 119 are electrically-powered minibuses. Bus line # 40 is an express route, whose stops are far apart. Along with line # 64, it’s notorious because of the pickpockets; be extra careful while riding these two lines. # 90 is a trolleybus.
A popular alternative to city and pre-planned tour buses are the hop-on/hop-off buses… that is, open-top double-deckers. In the last few years there has been a veritable explosion in the number of such buses, and at the last count there were seven different companies. An all-day ticket runs about €18/20, can be purchased as you board at any stop, and provides unlimited access to available seats (the open-air upper deck highly preferable in good weather) and earbud headphones to plug into outlets for running commentary on approaching sights. Commentary is offered in nearly every European language. Most companies follow more or less the same route, starting in sight of Termini station but there are also two different tours of “Christian Rome” and the Archeobus, which will take you to the catacombs and along the Appian Way.
One good tactic for first-time visitors is to ride a complete HO-HO loop, making notes of what interests you. Then stay on until you arrive at each point/area you wish to visit, do so, then hop back on another bus (for that bus line) for the next point/area of interest. Even with a prompt morning start, seeing/doing all that’s available with some thoroughness can easily consume the whole day. If you’re there more than one day and like the approach, on subsequent days look for different bus lines that take different routes, e.g., most of the same points/areas but in different order.
Taking pictures from the upper-deck while in-motion is tricky but doable (but not recommended by the bus lines) by those with good balance who can also recognise approaching limits on camera and lighting angles. An early start will also help choice of seat location to help camera angles. Watch out for the sales guys hanging outside of the big train station Termini who have leaflets for all the companies, they often actually work for just one and drag you to a ticket office which is a waste of time as you can just get a ticket on a bus.
The different bus companies offer vastly different service levels. Please help by writing about them:
- GLT, also known as the Green Line (but the buses are actually grey). No A/C on the lower deck and the audio of the tour is done by multiple different recorded voices (it’s not activated by GPS, too) – the narration feels very disjointed and random, sparse and unhelpful; for example, the audio will tell you too late of things you just went past. Also, they don’t seem to have many buses compared to the other companies.
- Rome Open Tour: green and yellow livery.
- Roma Cristiana: yellow buses which stop at the main basilicas, including St. Peter’s.
- City Sightseeing Roma: red livery with some yellow logos.
These are the remnants of a much bigger network (in fact, the biggest in Italy) which opened in 1877 but was largely dismantled during the 1960s in favour of a well-developed bus system, whose fleet soon developed a tendency to get stuck in traffic. There are currently three types of of tram cars in service – the oldest one dates from the 1940s and is prevalent on lines #5, #14 and # 19. These cars are not air-conditioned and it’s not possible to buy ATAC tickets aboard: they’re also considerably smaller, and thus prone to overcrowding, than their newer counterparts. Another type of cars entered service in the 1980s, but this one too is small and lacks both air-conditiong and ticket-vending machines; it can be easily recognised by its angular design. The newest of the whole lot are spacious, air-conditioned, have a ticket-vending machine aboard and – what is more important – they come with free Wi-Fi! They’re prevalent on lines # 3 and # 8.
The tram network follows the same timetable as the Metro and bus systems (05:30-23:30): you should avoid rush hour (07:30-09:00), especially on lines # 3, # 5, # 14 and # 19. Line # 8 gets rather crowded on Sundays, because there are fewer trams passing and there’s the Porta Portese flea market going on. Most evenings, lines # 5 and # 14 are jam-packed with commuters.
Here are the most useful lines, along with some of their most important stops:
- 2 Piazzale Flaminio (piazza del Popolo; villa Borghese; Metro line A) – Belle Arti (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna) – piazza Antonio Mancini (MAXXI; Foro Italico; Olympic Stadium)
- 3 Piazzale Ostiense (homonymous train station; Roma-Lido) – Aventine – Circus Maximus – Colosseum – St. John Lateran – Porta Maggiore (tram lines # 5, # 14and # 19) – San Lorenzo – Nomentano
- 8 Monteverde district – Roma Trastevere train station – viale Trastevere – piazza G.G. Belli (Trastevere district; Tiberine island) – via Arenula (Jewish Ghetto; largo di Torre Argentina) – piazza Venezia
- 19 Piazza del Risorgimento (Vatican Museums) – via Ottaviano (Metro line A) – via Lepanto (Metro line A) – Bioparco (Rome’s zoo; villa Borghese) – Nomentano – then follows the same route as line # 3
There are three-and-a-half Metro lines: A , B , its B1 branch and the new C line. Lines A and B cross at Termini, while line C doesn’t reach the city centre yet.
- Line A runs northwest past the Vatican, and then southeast. It has convenient stops for Termini station (“Termini”), Trevi fountain (“Barberini – Fontana di Trevi”), the Spanish Steps (“Spagna”), piazza del Popolo (“Flaminio – Piazza del Popolo”), and the Vatican Museums (“Ottaviano – San Pietro – Musei Vaticani”).
- Line B runs southwest past the Colosseum and northeast in one direction, but it also splits – this is the B1 branch – at the “Bologna” stop to go due north to “Jonio”. This line has convenient stops for the Tiburtina (“Tiburtina”) and Termini (“Termini”; this stop is above that of line A) train stations, the Colosseum (“Colosseo”), the Circus Maximus and the Aventine (“Circo Massimo”), the Pyramid of Cestius along with Testaccio and the Ostiense/Roma Porta S. Paolo train stations (“Piramide”), the EUR district (“Eur Fermi”/”Eur Palasport”) and the catacombs of S. Agnese (“S. Agnese/Annibaliano”, on the B1 branch).
Notice! If you’re directed to the Tiburtina train station (served by line B), you’ll have to board the trains bound to “Rebibbia”: trains headed to “Jonio” do not stop there.
- Line C runs southeast, from the adjacent comune of Montecompatri (just outside Rome) through the city’s SE suburbs to the Appio district. At present, the line is of no particular use to tourists as it is not yet connected to the rest of the Metro network; the rest of the line will reach the city centre when another stop, located near the archbasilica of St. John Lateran, is expected to open in mid-2016. A further three stops – piazzale Ipponio, via dei Fori Imperiali and piazza Venezia – will open between 2020 and 2021.
Operating hours: all three lines are open every day of the week – including week-ends – and during holidays, when they run a limited schedule.
- Sunday to Thursday: Metro lines A, B and C operate from 05:30 to 23:30.
- Friday to Saturday: Metro lines A and B operate from 05:30 to 1:30. Line C operates from 05:30 to 23:30.
The Metro is the most punctual form of public transportation in Rome, but it can get extremely crowded during rush hour (08:00 to 09:30)
Rome is also home to an interesting light suburban railway network that may come in useful if you’re headed to some parts of city which are otherwise too impractical to reach via bus or taxi; but you can also use it to get to places such as Viterbo or Ostia Antica. Keep in mind that these lines are leftovers from a much older, extensive network and that the cars themselves are often antiquated: some of them actually look more like trams than proper trains. These railways are all managed by ATAC and are part of the public transportation network the same way as trams and the Metro do, meaning that you can ride them (with a partial exception, see below) by using ordinary ATAC tickets and passes.
These lines are very popular with commuters, so it would be wise to avoid peak hours (roughly 07:30-09:00 AM and 6:00-7:30 PM).
- The Roma-Centocelle line connects the city centre with Porta Maggiore – where you can change to tram lines # 3, 5, 14, 19 – and the south-western suburbs. The eastern terminus, called Roma-Laziali, is located next to the far end of Termini station (via Giolitti) while the western one, Parco di Centocelle, lets you connect with the homonumous station of Metro line C which is located nearby. Keep in mind that the line nowadays works just like a tram, despite its name… a relic from times past.
- The Roma-Lido line connects Testaccio with Ostia Antica and the nearby Ostia district. The Roma Porta S. Paolo train station, which is located right next to the “Piramide” stop of Metro line B and near the “Roma Ostiense” train station, is this line’s main terminus; but it is also possible to board it from the “Basilica San Paolo” and “Eur Magliana” stops of line B, as both systems share part of the same route. To do so, just get off the Metro train and change side of the platform.
- The Roma-Nord line connects the city centre with the Parioli district, the city’s northern suburbs and Viterbo. The line’s Roman terminus is almost hidden from the view as it is tucked in a corner of piazzale Flaminio, near villa Borghese; it’s called Stazione di Roma Piazzale Flaminio. Both the “Flaminio” stop of Metro line A and the terminus of tram line # 2 are located nearby. Note that ATAC tickets and passes only cover the urban stretch of the route, which ends at the “Sacrofano” train station: if you wish to continue the trip beyond the city limits, you need a dedicated ticket.
By Regional train
There are also some Regional train lines connecting Rome with other Italian cities and towns – these use the same tracks as the FL lines but are not part of them.
Useful train lines, along with some of the most important stations, are:
- FL1 [Fiumicino Aeroporto] – Fiera di Roma – Roma Trastevere (tram # 8) – Roma Ostiense (Metro line B) – Roma Tuscolana – Roma Tiburtina (Metro line B).
- FL2 Roma Tiburtina – [Tivoli]
- FL3 R. Tiburtina – R. Ostiense – R. Trastevere – Quattro Venti (Janiculum) – Roma San Pietro (St. Peter’s) – Valle Aurelia (Metro line A) – [Bracciano] – [Viterbo].
- FL5 [Civitavecchia] – R. San Pietro – Quattro Venti – R. Trastevere – R. Ostiense.
Note: Placenames in square brackets indicate that the station in question is located outside the city’s boundaries.
Note: The signs and maps in a few local train stations haven’t been updated in a while. It is possible that they don’t show some of the newer stops (such as Quattro Venti).
On a moped
There is the possibility to hire motorcycles or scooters. Many Romans prefer this way of transportation and even in winter you can see them driving scooters equipped with raincoats, blankets, and rain boots. Motorbikes are not particularly safe in Rome and most accidents seem to involve one (or two!). Nevertheless, Roman traffic can be chaotic and a two-wheeled provides excellent mobility within the city. Scooter and motorcycle rental costs between €30 and €70 per day depending on scooter size and rental company. The traffic can be intimidating and the experience exciting, if a bit insane.
Some of the main rental shops:
- HP Motorrad Roma BMW motorcycle rental, via Giuseppe Bonaccorsi 28, ☎ +39 06 83777859
- Scoot A Long noleggio scooter, via Cavour 302, ☎ +39 06 6780206
- Centro Moto Colosseo, Strada Statale Quattro, 46, ☎ +39 06 70451069
- Eco Move Rent, via Varese 48/50, ☎ +39 06 44704518
- Rent & Rent, via Capo d’Africa 33, ☎ +39 06 7002915
It is now possible to rent a Segway in Rome; it’s a fast, convenient, and eco-friendly way to get around in the city centre. In Rome, a person on a Segway is considered a pedestrian, not a motorist, so Segways are only allowed on the sidewalks, not in the streets with the other vehicles. Segway rental costs between €25-50 per hour, or between €70-100 for an accompanied tour of 2/4h.
Some of the main rental shops:
- Rome on Segway, via Labicana 94, ☎ +39 06 97602723, ☎ +39 034 86121355
- Rex-Tours and Rent, via dei Balestrari 33, ☎ +39 06 87690040
- Ecogo Segway, piazzale Ammiraglio Bergamini 10, ☎ +39 034 09345441
- Italy Segway Tours, via di Santa Eufemia 15, ☎ +39 055 2398855