Traveling to Roma soon? Wondering how you will get around? Before you give in and sign up for high-priced transfers from your agent, take a few minutes to read my Rome travel tips and you may find that you can get around the Eternal City all on your own, as well as venture out for day trips or catch a cruise from the port of Civitavecchia.
Getting from Da Vinci (Fiumicino) Airport
If I have two or more people in my party, I take a taxi for my Rome airport transfer. When I have bags to carry, I don’t want to schlep them around town. This is one area where I will “splurge” slightly in order to have the convenience of having a taxi driver take me straight to my hotel. Plus, I love the thrill I get seeing the city unfold before me as my taxi driver pulls through the ancient city gates, past the city walls, and into the Eternal City. Taxi costs from the Roman airport to the city center are regulated and provide a great value in my opinion (48€ at publication). Make sure that you take a Rome city cab with “SOQR” on the car to get the fixed rate. I find that cab drivers are generally honest, but it helps to know the going rate from the airport just in case your driver tries to charge a little extra.
The price of a taxi is not much more than the labor-intensive option of taking a train and then still having to hop in a taxi. That being said, Leonard Express trains will take you to Termini Station (in center of Rome) for 14€ per person (at time of publication). You will likely need to still get a taxi (which are queued up at all hours outside the station) to get you to your hotel. Unlike the fixed rate that is available from the airport, inner city taxicab fares are dependent on the meter (make sure it is running to avoid being ripped off). The time of day and day of the week will change the starting rate for the ride. Taxi drivers may charge extra per bag that you are carrying (about 1€ per bag), which could negate any savings if you have two or more people in your party. I didn’t know the standard and had a driver charge me 5€ per bag. On that ride I also learned to look at the map. After driving about three blocks, the driver stopped the cab—I ended up paying over 20€ for a short little jaunt.
I’ve never taken the bus from the airport, but do know that this is an affordable, although time-consuming, method.
Bonus Travel Tip: know your destination in Italian. For instance, 20 Rome Street would be via (street) Roma venti (twenty).
Getting Around Rome
Taxis—Unlike other major cities, Rome does not have an extensive underground metro system. After all, it’s hard to lay subway track when priceless pieces of history are found throughout the city center. Cabs, therefore, can be an efficient way to traverse areas of the city where public transportation is difficult to find. I find taxis in Rome to be lower-cost than other major cities, but I still do cost comparison. If I’m near a metro line or bus stop, I’ll generally take those. But if taking a bus would be too slow, or I’m looking for some private space and door-to-door service, then I’ll take a cab. I find them to be well worth the 5 or 10€ they cost. In Rome, you don’t hail a taxi the way you would in a U.S. city—you find a taxi stand or call one (they’re less expensive at the stands though).
Buses/Metro— For 1.50€ per ride, Rome’s public transport system can be quite easy on the budget. You can ride all the way to Ostia Antica (like Pompeii only less crowded and closer) for the cost of one round-trip ride. Certain bus lines service the main hotspots of the city (like #64 which crosses the city from Termini Station to the Vatican), but tend to be quite popular with thieves, so watch your valuables. There are also trams that will take you around, like number 8 from the Largo Argentina area (near Campo de Fiore) to Trastevere. The Roma Pass provides unlimited access to the transit system for the dates of your pass (either 48 or 72 hours); in addition, the 48-hour Roma Pass gives access to one covered site and discounts on others, or the 72-hour pass provides entry to two covered sites and discounts on others. If sight-seeing at the covered sites isn’t on your itinerary, you can also buy regular metro passes for a day, two days, three days, a week, or a month. A ten-ticket bundle provides slight savings off the regular purchase price. Metro tickets can be purchased at various tabachi (tobacconist stores) or vending machines at metro stations and major bus stops. Although no one will prompt you, you should always validate your ticket when entering a bus. Failure to do so can result in a costly fine that will negate any savings you may have had from taking public transport.
On Foot—This is my favorite way to get around Rome. I find its small lanes best discovered on foot. But Rome is a city of hills and the calves can be on fire after a few hours of walking uphill and down. It would be great if you could always just walk downhill and then take a cab or public transit to get back up, but sadly it’s difficult to do—don’t think I haven’t tried though. Nonetheless, walking the city is a great way to justify all that pasta and gelato and is the only way to truly uncover the Eternal City.
Riding the Rails: Train Travel for Day Trips and to Civitavecchia
Europe’s train system is economical, comfortable, and speedy. Americans aren’t used to seeing such speed in train travel. Florence is only 90 minutes away on a high-speed train! Naples is a little over an hour. Both are easy to see in a day’s trip from Rome, but I would recommend spending the night in Florence—trust me you will want at least one night there. For a fairly low cost, you can purchase the highest class seat on the train and travel in complete style. Rome has two main train stations—Termini and Tirbutina. Termini is in the heart of the city and easy to traverse. I would advise that you book tickets from the train station kiosks instead of trying to navigate the ticket lines. Look for the Union Jack flag to get English. Follow the steps and it will print your ticket. If your ticket doesn’t have a seat reservation, you will need to validate it at a machine before your board. You do this right before you get on a train. Ask a conductor if you’re unsure.
Getting to the cruise port at Civitavecchia is quite easy. It can take 40-80 minutes depending on how many stops the train makes and its speed. The cost is fairly low, too. I think I paid around 12€ the last time I made the transfer, which was much better than the $300 transfer fee a private car company was charging. Take the train from Civitavecchia to Rome if you’re in port on a Mediterranean cruise; it’s quick and cheap.
Renting an Automobile—I would avoid this option at all costs. Roman drivers seem not to have many rules. They go very fast. They make lanes where there are none. They drive nail-bitingly close to other vehicles. If the other drivers on the road aren’t enough to deter you, also consider the throngs of people crossing the street at any given point and time. There are also very few parking options. Would you rather drive around the Colosseum or actually see it? Driving is neither necessary nor advisable in the Rome, plus it may be more costly than using other transportation options. Unless you are visiting a remote area that isn’t reached easily by public transport, you will want to seriously weigh whether the cost and hassle is worth the convenience.
If you use a combination of public transportation and walking, you will find that Rome is a fun city to navigate. Roam along the cobblestone streets. Marvel at how millennia-old buildings are around every corner. Enjoy walking along the same lanes that Romans have traversed for thousands of years. And participate at least once in the modern chariot-racing that is riding in a taxicab. Ciao!
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