In a nutshell: Don't do it. Well, some people actually enjoy it. Roman traffic is chaotic, but it is possible to drive there. However, the roads are not logical and the signs are few. 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 turns 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 so scarce, that in some areas you may have to leave your car kilometers away from your destination. Rome is plagued with people who demand money to direct you to a space, even on the rare occasions when there are many places available, however the locals can make anywhere a parking space by flashing their hazard-lights, even if it looks like they are getting away with it, do not try this. While in Rome, it is far better to travel by bus or metro, or (in extremis) take a taxi.
If you are driving in the centre, note that many areas are limited to people with special electronic passes. If you go into these areas (which are camera controlled and marked with the sign ZTL) you may end up with a fine, particularly if your car has Italian plates.
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 the meter. 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. Flagging down a taxi (like in London) is possible but quite rare as the taxi drivers prefer to use the stands. When you get in the cab, there will be a fixed starting charge, which will be more for late nights, Sundays and holidays. Supplements will be requested for bags that the driver has to handle, typically €1 per bag. 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 warned 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, so 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 completely across the city (within the walls) will cost about €11 if starting at a cab rank, a little more if there is heavy traffic at night or on a Sunday. Taxi drivers can often try to trick customers by switching a €50 note for a €10 note during payment, leading you to believe that you handed them only €10 when you have already given them €50.
The main taxi companies may be called at 063570, 065551, 064994, 066645 and 0688177.
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. There are crosswalks, but they are rarely located at signaled intersections. Traffic can be intimidating, but if you are at a crosswalk 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 the cars and trucks are stationary due to a jam or for another legal 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.
Tickets must be bought (from a 'Tabacchi' - look for the big 'T' sign, these shops are plentiful, or from a kiosk selling newspapers), before you board the bus, Metro, or tram. Metro stations have automated ticket kiosks, and major Metro stations have clerked ticket windows. Some of the rare trams have single ticket machines as well. Tickets for regular ATAC buses, Metro, and trams are the same fares and are compatible with each other. Options as of March 2010 were the following:
When you board the bus or metro you should validate the ticket ('convalidare') in the little yellow machine. The last four types of ticket on the list above must be validated the first time you use them only. On the whole, the integrated passes are not economical. Unless you take many rides spread all over the day, the single ticket ride option is preferable. Calculating if a pass is worth it is easy since a single ticket ride costs €1.50. For example, for a daily ticket (€6) to be worth it, you would have to make 5 or more trips at intervals greater than 100 minutes apart on a single day. Many visitors just walk through the city in one direction and take a single ride back.
ATAC 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. Inspectors are present on the Metro as well, and 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 money, you will be asked to pay by mail, and the fee goes up to €140. Inspectors can also fine you for getting in and out of the wrong door, even if the bus is empty! The entrances are the front and rear doors and the exit in the middle. Many Romans ignore this distinction.
You can find real-time information about bus waiting times, as well as a journey planner, on Muoversi a Roma.
Roman buses are reliable but crowded. They are the best way to get around the city (except walking). Free maps of the bus system are available. Others can be purchased(€3.5 at Termini). Signs at the bus stop list the stops for each route. Ask for assistance. (In Rome, there is always somebody nearby who speaks English).
Some bus lines have arrivals every ten minutes or so. Less popular routes may arrive every half hour or less. If heading outside the center beware that bus schedules can be seriously disrupted by heavy traffic. Quite often trips just get cancelled.
Useful bus lines are:
If you'll be staying in Rome for at least 3 days, consider purchasing the Roma Pass . The cost is €34 and entitles holders to free admission to the first two museums and/or archaeological sites visited, full access to the public transport system, and discounts for other museums, tourist sites, exhibitions, music events, theatrical and dance performances. But check the expiration date at the back of the Roma Pass card. If the cards' validity has expired it does not work in the metro's ticket gate. Also be sure to buy the passes at official tourist offices! There are also small booths on the streets that literally sell you every ticket, but they could charge you a higher price!
Another advantage of the Roma Pass is, that you can often skip the waiting queues, if it's one of your first two free entrance. That way you can avoid e.g. a 1+ hour waiting time at the Colosseum!
The Tram routes mostly skirt the historic center, but there are stops convenient for the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Trastevere area. The number 8 does run into the center to Largo Argentina, not far from the Pantheon. If you want to catch a soccer game at one of the stadiums in the north of the city, catch the tram (2) just north of the Piazza del Popolo. Number 19 links the Vatican with Villa Borghese.
There are two lines, crossing at Termini station. Line A (red line) runs northwest past the Vatican, and southeast. Line B (Blue Line) runs southwest past the Colosseum and northeast in one direction, but also splits at the "Bologna" station to go due north until Conca d'Oro. Line A usually stops running at 11PM. On Fridays and Saturdays the last trains of Line B leave from the stations at 1:30AM and the line closes at 2AM to re-open at 5.00. The Metro is the most punctual form of public transportation in Rome, but it can get extremely crowded during rush hour. See safety warning in the Stay Safe section.
There is a network of suburban rail lines that mostly connect to smaller towns and conurbations of Rome. Tourists are unlikely to use these, except when arriving from Fiumicino, but they can be very convenient if you fancy a day-trip out of Rome (see Get Out)
There is the possibility to hire motor bikes or scooters. Many Romans prefer this way of transportation, 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 is chaotic and a scooter provides excellent mobility within the city. Scooter rental costs between €30 and €70 per day depending on scooter size and rental company. The traffic can be intimidating and the experience exciting but a bit insane.
Some of the main rental shops:
There is the possibility to hire any kind of bike in Rome: from tandem, road bikes, children bikes to trekking bikes. Some shops are even specialized only on high quality ones while street stands will hire you cheaper and heavy ones. Bicycling alone can be stressful because of the traffic. The best way is to discover first how to move around and avoid traffic and stress with a guide thanks to one of the tours offered by almost all rental shops. There are different itineraries offered from the basic city center, panoramic Rome tour to the Ancient Parks (from €29 for 4h). The experience is well worth it and you would reduce also your impact on the city environment and on the traffic.
Even moderately experienced cyclists, however, may find that cycling through Rome's streets offers an unparalleled way to learn the city intimately and get around very cheaply and efficiently. While the Roman traffic is certainly chaotic to someone from a country with more regimented and enforced rules of the road, Roman drivers are, generally speaking, used to seeing bicycles, as well as scooters and motorcycles, and one may move throughout the city relatively easily. If you are in a car's way, they will generally let you know with a quick beep of the horn and wait for you to move.
A particularly spectacular, and relaxing, cycle trip is to pedal out along la Via Appia Antica, the original Appian Way that linked much of Italy to Rome. Some of the original cobblestones, now worn by over 2 millennia of traffic, are still in place. With exceptionally light traffic in most sections, you can casually meander your bike over kilometres of incredible scenery and pass ancient relics and active archaeological sites throughout the journey. (Rome/South)
Some of the many rental shops:
It is now possible to rent a Segway in Rome. It is a fast and convenient way to get around in the city center. 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 vehicles. Segway rental costs between €25 and €50 per hour, or between €70 and €100 for an accompanied tour of 2–4 hours.
Some of the main rental shops:
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