Rome—easy on the eyes, but hard on the feet. When I get to bella Roma, I flit from one historical attraction to the next like the proverbial kid in the candy store. The sites are like gummy bears and I can’t stop at just one. Unlike many Italian cities, such as Siena, Florence, Venice, and Pisa, Rome’s attractions are sprawling. It’s a good 10 kilometer walk from the Pantheon in the historic city center to the Appian Way. Chalk up at least another four kilometers to get from the Borghese gardens to dinner in Trastevere. Vatican to the Colosseum? You’re looking at another four kilometers.
To avoid fatigue, you’re going to need some vehicular assistance. A taxi will be your most expensive option. Besides the price, taxi stands can be difficult to find in some areas. I recommend Rome public transport (ATAC) for convenience and price. Navigating public transport in Rome can be a little intimidating though, so here are some pointers.
- Plan your route. I use Google maps and/or the free Probus Rome app to figure out which buses/metro lines are nearest my location for the time I’m leaving. **If I don’t think I’ll have internet access, I also plan my return.
- Buy tickets. Rome metro tickets (a Rome metro ticket works for buses, trams, the subway, and some trains) can be purchased individually for 1.50€ and are good for 100 minutes from validation; you can make transfers, switch lines, etc. during this time. You can find Rome metro tickets at many tabacchi (like a convenience store), newspaper kiosks, bigger metro/bus stops, ATAC ticket offices, automated ticket machines, and some tourist points. I usually just get them at a tabacchi. You can also purchase Rome metro passes for 24h (7€), 48h (12.50€), 72h (18€), or 7 days (24€). Calculate if these will be a value or not—it’s a lot of riding. **The 100-minute countdown doesn’t start until you validate a ticket, so you can buy them days in advance and have one or two ready for impromptu moments when you want to use Rome public transport. This official ATAC website shows points of sale, including online.
- Once you know what bus line you need, go to the stop (fermata) where that bus picks up and drops off at. Wait for your bus by the sign that shows the bus line going in the direction you need. Bus signs list all the stops for the bus line and have an arrow indicating the direction it is going. Your current location will be highlighted in some manner (in this case there is a box around it). If I was at the Corso stop (shown in picture) and wanted to go to Basilica San Clemente, I would need to ride on the #85 line that starts at the Termini stop and ends at Arco di Travertino. Going from the Corso Minghetti stop, I would ride past Piazza Venezia, the Imperial Forums, the Colosseum, and then get off at the Labicana stop.
- Board the bus and proceed to the validation machine near the front. Even though no one may ever check to see if you validated your ticket, I would be honest. If an ATAC worker comes around to check and you haven’t validated, you will be fined. Your ticket has an arrow on it (see picture)—insert into the top of the machine with the arrow pointing down. The machine will suck your ticket in, make printing noises, and spit it back out with the time/date stamped on it.
Now you’re ready to ride around Rome with ease. Enjoy getting from place to place inexpensively and without a lot of wear and tear on your body. Buon viaggio!
- Take a photo of the bus stop sign and stand/sit near the window so you can count the stops until the one you need. There are buttons to ask the driver to pull over at the next stop. It’s nice to have a visual to easily remind you of the line’s stops.
- If unsure if the bus you’re boarding is going the way you want, ask the driver if the bus stops where you need. In Italiano, “si ferma a (insert your stop here).” (pronunciation: see fair-ma ah)
- Keep your valuables close. Pickpockets abound on Rome public transport. For women, I recommend a cross-body purse that you have in front with your arm over it. For men, I would carry your wallet/money clip in your front pocket and keep your hand on it. The hustle, bustle, and crowding of buses make riders vulnerable.
- Rome’s subway system is quite constricted due to the amount of archaeological treasures beneath the streets—expect to use the bus system.
- Some bus routes in Rome are quite scenic, like #64 and #85.
- Get a pdf map of the bus routes in Rome so you always have access and can figure out what attraction a stop is near (stops are often indicated by streets). You can download these maps here.
- You can go all the way to the archaeological site of Ostia Antica or the beaches of Ostia on one ticket.
- Bigger bus areas like Largo Argentina have electronic signs announcing bus wait times. If I’m close, I walk a little further to bigger squares.
- Read more of my tips regarding “Getting Around Rome.”
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