The Complete Guide to Getting Around Rome

I apologize in advance – this article is kind of a mess and all over the place.  But I’m leaving it like that intentionally because, well, that’s exactly how Rome’s public transportation system is.  So if you can navigate this article, you may stand a chance at navigating Rome.

Taxis: Only take those marked “Comune di Roma”.  The tariffa should always be set to “1″ when inside the GRA (ring road).  If it’s on “2″ they’re ripping you off.  It may also start off at “1″ and mysteriously during the ride (without you noticing) be switched to “2″ so keep an eye out.  The meter starts at €2.33 (at least at the time of this writing) and if you call a taxi the meter starts at the time of the call.  Taxis are difficult to hail on the street and if it’s raining it can be downright impossible.  Find a taxi rank and wait in line or call them with your address and they’ll come to you in a few minutes.  Taxis from the airport follow a fixed rate of €30 from Ciampino airport and €40 from Fiumicino (Leonardo Da Vinci) airport to anywhere within the Aurelian wall (center of Rome) up to 4 people without excessive bags.  You cannot call taxis and reserve in advance for pickups.  You can only call and have one dispatched at the moment you need it.  Keep this number programmed on your phone in case you’re in need of a taxi: 063570.  If you are staying at one of the properties through cross-pollinate, we do work with a car service for airport pick-ups and departures that can be booked through us in advance.

Walking: By far the best way to see Rome.  From the north end of the center (at Piazza del Popolo) to the south end at Piazza Venezia is about a 30-40 minute walk down Via del Corso.  From there you’ll see signs to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.  The historic center is not that large.  You can cross it in about 45 minutes.  Perhaps starting the day by a bus or metro ride into the center and if you’re staying farther out or near Termini, you can always take a taxi or bus back in the evening.  But the more you walk, the more you’ll see.  Many of the streets in the historic center are too small anyway for buses, so getting off the bus/car route will get you into one of the most unique urban environments in the world.

Buses / Trams: Run (badly) by the agency ATAC, the bus network is confusing to figure out and the more touristed lines are very crowded and thus often a haven for pickpockets and dry-humpers.  Oh, and add rampant body odor throughout the summer months to add to your discomfort. To make matters even worse, they often deviate the line at the last minute, so even Romans double-check with the driver where they’re going, because just because the map says it’s going there, doesn’t mean it is.  There are too many cars in Rome and not enough parking, so double-parked cars often block the buses, causing huge delays, which make it unreliable and thus more people rely on their cars.  It’s a vicious cycle.  In regards to bus maps, I wouldn’t really bother.  By the time they’re printed, they’re out of date.  Stick to the signs at the bus stops and ask questions.  Tickets for buses are valid on the whole ATAC network: buses, trams and subway.

How to read the bus-stop signs:


* At the top of the sign is the stop name where you are.  In this case “Argentina”

* Each line is numbered; in this example, there’s the 30, 40, 46 and 62

* The stop where you are is surrounded by a red rectangle and the stops below are where the bus will go, but only at the hours listed at the very bottom.  For example, the 40 line starts at 6:06 am and the last line leaves Termini at midnight.  On holidays and Sundays (fest.) it starts at 5:30 am and ends at midnight.  Some routes are only night lines (indicated by an “N” after the number and an owl above the line number).

* From a computer, check routes in English at or check out from a smartphone and put in the bus stop number (in the case below it’s 70042, shown on the bottom left corner of the sign above) to see the wait times.

Subway: There are two subway lines, limited for years due to the difficulty in digging and destroying ancient ruins under the entire city center, and now there are a few lines coming sometime in 2020, or maybe that’s 3020.  Either way, it’s not coming soon.  There are two subway lines – the blue line (B) and the red line (A).  The blue line goes from EUR in the south to the FAO/Circus Maximus, then the Colosseum, Termini where it intersects the red line, and then to the northern bits of the city.  The red line goes from San Giovanni through Piazza Vittorio, then Termini, the Spanish Steps and on to the neighborhood nearest the Vatican called Prati and then beyond.

Subway Hours:

Line A usually stops running at 11 pm but from January 31st, 2011, until sometime in 2012, it’ll stop at 9 pm every day and be substituted by a bus, except Saturday when it runs to 1:30 am. On Fridays and Saturdays the last trains of Line B leave from the stations at 1:30 am and the line closes at 2 am to re-open at 5 am.

Tickets can be purchased at newsstands and tobacco shops (marked with a “T”) and MUST be purchased in advance or you can get a steep fine if stopped by a control officer.  Some buses and trams have machines where you can buy them on-board, but this is rare and not to be relied upon.

* Single ticket – €1 – can be used on buses, subways and trams and can be used to transfer from one to the other so long as the continuous journey doesn’t exceed 75 minutes.  Our recommendation is to buy a handful of these that you can use anytime during your stay or pass on to someone else upon leaving.

* Daily ticket (Biglietto Giornaliero) – €4 – can be used on buses, subways and trams until midnight.  Only a good deal if you’re planning on taking more than 4 rides per day.

* Three-day tourist ticket (Biglietto Turistico) – €11 – good on the whole network for 3 days.  Slightly better than the daily ticket but still assumes you’ll be on the bus a lot more than you probably will be.

* Weekly ticket (Carta Integrata Settimanale) – €16 – valid on the whole network for 7 days.  A more realistic price for what you might actually use and saves the trouble of looking for tickets on a Sunday when everything is closed.

* Monthly pass (Abbonamento Mensile) – €30

Public Transportation to and from the Airport: The most common train from FCO (Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino airport) is the Leonardo Express train.  From the airport you follow the signs “ai treni” to the platform (about a 10-minute walk after you exit baggage and customs).  The tickets are €14 and sold at newsstands or at the track.  It takes 30 minutes from there to Roma Termini and leaves every half-hour.  The train arrives and departs from track 24 and the nearest exit from there is onto Via Giolitti at Via Mamiani on the south side of Termini.  If going back to the airport from Termini, the first train leaves at 5:52 am.  Give yourself a good 10-15 minutes to walk down there from the main gallery.  Just before you board the train be sure and validate it by stamping it in the yellow machine on the track.


There is also a metropolitan train that goes to Trastevere, Ostiense and Tiburtina Stations.  Tickets are €8.

From Ciampino airport there’s a Cotral bus, as well as a few coaches to Termini station, for example or – most airlines will have links and perhaps special offers for transport from Ciampino which is well worth it.

Any after hours transport to the airport should be done by taxi.  Night buses are just too long and connection times too unreliable.

by Steven Brenner

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