Traveling by car in Rome is at best, difficult. If you avoid the “unique” driving habits of the locals and safely arrive at your destination, then you have to find a place to park – Good Luck! Taxis are available – somewhat. You are only supposed to get in a cab at a designated Taxi Stand. Most will not stop if you try to hail them. And taxis can be very expensive!
Undoubtedly the most convenient and economical way of getting around Rome is by bus. The Public Transit Bus service is managed by ATAC and you’ll see their symbol on all the metro car, trams, and buses that make up the system. The buses do run 24 hours a day and go all over Rome – extensively. Last year there were an estimated 375 separate bus routes… and only two metro lines.
The bus tickets and the metro tickets are interchangeable. If you purchase a single use bus ticket it is good for 100 minutes (effective may 25, 2012) after you “validate” it. If you go from a bus, you are allowed unlimited transfers to other buses during your 100 minutes but you only get one entry into the metro during that time. Children under 10 ride free on the ATAC system.
You must have a ticket before you get on board – the drivers do not sell tickets as in other countries. There are a few buses and trams in the system that have sell single-use tickets but these are few and far between. To avoid a fine, purchase your tickets in advance. Tickets can be purchased at most Tabacchi shops, some newsstands, or from kiosks, located at major bus stops, the metro stops, and train stations.
The BIT, currently at €1.50 (effective may 25, 2012), is the most common ticket and it’s the one good for 100 minutes (also effective May 25, 2012). At first impression, this may not appear to be an effective system – it is based on the “honor system” – trusting passengers to pay. But there are checks and balances. Teams of inspectors enter the buses unannounced and the fines are stiff – about €50. Many tourists are unfamiliar with this system and sometimes they do not have a ticket or have not validated their ticket. Unfortunately, no excuse will rescue you from the “inspectors.” They’ve heard all the excuses and have no tolerance… be warned and be prepared! See our previous posting, Tickets for the Bus & Metro, for more information on purchasing bus and metro tickets.
At the Bus Stop – Reading the Signs!
The bus routes form intricate and intersecting patterns all over town. At local newsstands you can purchase a bus-map for about €6. Riding the buses, you can get to almost every monument in town. Bus Stops are marked by yellow or green posts posts topped by a large placard. On the sign you will see the bus numbers for every bus that stops there. Sometimes at larger stops there are 3, 4 or 5 separate signs denoting all the buses that will stop at this location. Above the Bus Numbers is a “semi-circle” shaped sign that bears the name of the bus stop. On the example above, the name of this bus stop is ARGENTINA.
Then below the bus numbers are ALL the stops that this bus will make on it’s route. Take a look at Express Bus #30 on the above sign – It’s the first bus on the left. It starts at LAURENTINA and ends at CLODIO. The bold names on the sign denote the start and end of the bus route. An “expressa” is an express bus and covers far more ground in far fewer stops. Lower numbered buses that end in “0” are usually express buses – like #30, 40, 60, and 70… You’ll see these buses in the downtown area. Often these buses are “extended” buses due tot he higher level of ridership. On this sign you can see the 40 bus, also an express bus with limited stops, is also listed.
Beside the number of the bus (30), is an arrow. This tells you the direction of the bus. The arrow here reflects that this bus is starting at LAURENTINA and heading towards CLODIO. On the sign, again looking at the #30 bus, count six names from the bottom. You will find the name ARGENTINA. This name is enclosed in a red box. This is the stop where YOU ARE! Anything ABOVE the red box means the bus has ALREADY been there… Anything AFTER the red box are stops the bus is heading to.
So this is how you tell if the bus you’re looking for will take you where you want to go. If the name is AFTER the red box, then you’re great – Stand where you are and wait for your bus. But, if the stop you want is ABOVE the red box, you may have to cross the street, find the bus stop, and get the bus headed in the opposite direction.
A couple disclaimers… sometimes they “forget” to put the red box on the signs (Yep, it happens), so you’ll have to look at the very top of the sign for the name and then find it on the board. And also with all the one way streets in Rome, you may not be able to just “cross the street” to head in the other direction. Do persevere!
Zooming in on the sign above, and looking back at the #30 bus… you can see a white letter M in a red box. This denotes that this bus stop is at a metro stop. If you look closely, you’ll often see a letter A or B after the M. The B is the Linea B of the metro (marked in blue) and the A is Linea A (marked in red). LAURENTINA, the first stop, is also a stop on the Metro Line B. The Cave Ardeatine stop is also on the B line. It’s at the Piramide Metro stop. Then you see Lepanto, which is on the Linea A metro line. In addition, you’ll see a train symbol if the stop is next to a Trenitalia Station. On the bus #30 route, that would be at the Stz Ostiense stop. Ostiense is the third largest train station in Rome.
If you look next to the 30 bus at the 40 bus, you can see that this bus starts at Termini and that is has Metro and Train connections. It’s the only stop that has both A and B lines (they meet here) so it just say M for Metro. The good news is, no matter how lost you get, always head for a bus stop at a metro and you can ride the metro back to Termini and catch a taxi – or to a metro stop near your hotel or B&B.
Above, zooming in on the bottom of the sign you can see when the bus operates. The left example above is the #30 bus, which is called a Feriale (weekday) express. You can see it runs from 05:30 AM to midnight Mon-Fri, and also the same hours on Saturday. It DOES NOT run on Sundays or on holidays because there is no festival (fest.) listing.>/p>
The example on the right is the #40 bus. It runs from 8:06 AM to midnight Mon-Fri, and also the same on Saturday. On festival days, holidays or Sundays, this bus starts 30 minutes earlier — as other buses will not be running — and again ends at midnight. Some buses ONLY run on festival days – others just on weekends. Some buses on different days, especially festival days, will have a slightly different route. If this is the case they will be called FESTIVA. Below is a great example of the 916 Feriale route, on the left. And the 916 FESTIVA route, 2nd fro the right. You can see that they are significantly different routes. One is on a normal weekday and the other is on Sundays or holidays.
Night buses are designated by blue or black shields with the letter “N” followed by a number. These buses usually start around midnight and run until about 0530 AM. On the above board you can see three “night” buses, n5, n6, and n7. The night buses run FAR LESS frequently and have longer runs and the routes are very different from those during the day. So you could be waiting and waiting forever for a bus at 0200 AM. I’d recommend NOT taking the buses after midnight. The fewer numbers of buses and longer runs will cause you much frustration.
On many buses that head down large streets there are a number of stops. Sometimes on the signs the number of stops is designated, like the example to the right.
(Fermate means “stops”). So you can see on this run that there are back-to-back streets with multiple stops… Sometimes they DO NOT put the number of stops on the sign so just be alert.
At the larger or busier stops, like Largo Torre Argentina, there are electronic displays that show the “arriving” buses. These are great and you’ll see locals jump off their bus and run to look at this board so they can see when their connection is arriving. On the top, we have the #62 bus. It’s 5 stops away and arriving in a projected 8 minutes. On the bottom, you can see the #87 bus is 13 stops away and a projected 21 minute travel time to us, standing here are the Largo Torre Argentina stop.
Getting on the bus
When your bus approaches the bus stop, hold out your hand to signify to the driver you want them to stop. The driver will signal right and pull up to the bus stop. Ideally you will enter the bus through the front or rear doors and exit through the middle door – or through the front doors. You exit the bus from the center doors. When a bus is packed you just get on and off at whatever door you can!
Once on the bus, make sure you validate your ticket. There are yellow validation machines located in the front and rear sections of the buses. If one does not work, head for the other. Often it can be very crowded and it is common to hand you pass to a person who hands it to another person and then someone validates it and it comes back to you. On a crowded bus, I always seem to end up standing next to the validation machine and I’m constantly feeding tickets into the machine!
To validate your ticket insert the ticket into the machine with the arrow facing you and pointing down. The machine will “time-stamp” your ticket with the current time and, if a single use ticket, also with the time your ticket expires (75 minutes from now).
Be careful on the buses. Many travel boards speak of the “pick-pocket” dangers on Bus #64 to the Vatican from Termini, but that’s probably true on many of the crowded buses! So know where your valuables are, use a money belt, and be alert.
The buses can get very crowded during rush hours. Seating space is limited and you are expected to give up your seat to the elderly and the handicapped. Often, on a crowded bus, there are about 20 folks sitting in the seats and 80 people standing! Many of the older buses are not air-conditioned, so avoid the afternoon heat during rush hour in the summer.
Getting off the bus
A good way to know when to get off the bus is just ask the driver! If you have the “stop” written down and show it to the driver, stand near the front of the bus and he/she will tell you when to get off. Most do not speak English, but you can show them the name and ask, “Dove?” (pronounced “dough-vay”). You “request” a stop by pressing one of the red buttons by the windows or doors. The driver will stop at the next bus stop after you push the red button. Politely force your way through the crowds by saying, ”permesso.”
Computers are making this task easier. Go to Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/) and in the search box type in the address where you want to go. As an example, I entered: Largo Argentina, Rome, Italy. This is the location used for all the pictures above. Make sure you add Rome, Italy after the street adress or location. What comes up is:
When this map comes up you’ll see a “Gold Figure” on the top left side of the map. Rome is one of many cities in the world that has been photographed for “Street View.” From Wikipedia, here’s an explanation of Street View:
Google Street View is a feature of Google Maps and Google Earth that provides 360° horizontal and 290° vertical panoramic views from series of positions along streets, from a height of about two meter. It was launched on May 25, 2007, and is gradually expanded to include more cities, and in these cities more streets, and also some rural areas. These photographs are currently available for countries including the United States, UK, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Photos are placed in ‘image orbs’ within Google’s maps, displayed against the backdrop of images previously taken from satellite that make up Google’s maps. These ‘image orbs’ can be navigated using either the arrow keys on the keybpard or by using a mouse to click on arrows displayed on the screen. Using these devices, the photos can be viewed in different sizes, from any direction, and from a variety of angles. Lines that are displayed along the street that is shown indicate the direction followed by that street view camera car.
How can this help you? Find out where you want to go, find it on Google Maps and then “walk down the street” until you see a bus stop! Look at the landmarks, buildings, signage, or businesses in the area and find yourself a “marker.” If needed, you can even print out these pictures. When you’re on the bus, if you’re not sure of the bus stop name or location, find your “marker” and press the red button! Having Street View can help you determine when to get off a bus. It’s also great for checking out the neighborhood of the B&B you’re thinking of staying in. Using your mouse ,just “pull” the Gold Figure to anywhere on the map and up will pop the photo.
Again, you should exit the bus through the center doors, unless it’s just packed. Some bus drivers, if the bus is not crowded, will only open the middle doors if no one is waiting at the bus stop to get on the bus.
Some important buses
The #3 bus, which parts of which formerly were a tram line, will take you from Roma Termini area to Trastevere. A great way to get to an area which does not have a metro.
The #8 tram will take you from Largo Argentina across the river to Trastevere. This is always one of the most popular rides – especially on Sunday as everyone heads to Porta Portese – or on any given night, as the cafes, restaurants, and bars of Trastevere beckon!
The #19 is an electric tram that starts at Piazza Risorgimento near the Vatican and passes through may beautiful neighborhoods. It is a long, lovely ride that you can take at any time of the day in sometimes a turn-of-the-century tram with wooden seats and brass handrails. It takes about an hour one way.
The 40 bus, an express bus, can run you – with fewest stops – from Castel Sant’Angelo, by Piazza Navona, through Largo Arentina, and up Via Nazioanle … all the way tp Roma Termini, where it ends.
No. 64 is an infamous bus and always crowded. It runs from Roma Termini to the San Pietro Train Station – St. Peter’s! It is always packed with tourists and as the urban legend goes, pick-pockets. It passes through the historic center, Piazza Venezia, Largo Argentina and then crosses the the Tiber. You’ll have a great view of Castel Sant’Angelo as you cross the Tiber.
The 81 bus starts adjacent to the Vatican… so it’s a great bus also to GET TO the Vatican. Ths bus heads down the Cola Di Rienzo – a major shopping street – over to the ia Corso Area, and returns by the Colosseo. A great bus if you’re headed home to the Vatcan area after a long day walking! Or – if you’re jut getting started and want to beat the lines at the Vatican! It starts/ends in Piazza Risorgimento.
The 85 and 850 buses will take you from the Colosseo and Forum up to the Corso area and the major shopping area of Rome!
The #100 is a bus that makes a circular route from Termini through major shopping and visited areas. In the Christmas season they add special bus runs to support specific “shopping” areas in town.
Bus No. 115 is probably one of the most beautiful rides in Italy. This bus heads up to the top of the Janiculum Hill within incredible views of Rome below. Jump off and enjoy the views at the top of the hill. Sit on the left side of the bus for the best views when riding from the Vatican area. You can ride this bus all the way to Trastevere. A very enjoyable ride!
The 116 bus starts “near” St. Peter’s. From there it runs along the Tiber, crossing over at Ponte Mazzini. It then cuts right through Camp de’Fiori, winds through narrow streets behind the Pantheon and then crosses over Via Corso and up to Piazza Barberini. After a stop directly in front of the “Bone Church” it travels up Via Veneto, past the US Embassy, Hard Rock Cafe, and passes through the Aurelian Walls. Here it cuts through Villa Borghese, and this is a great bus to use if you’re headed to Galleria Borghese!
The 117 bus starts at Piazza di Popolo and heads down the Via Corso. It then winds through Piazza Venezia, the center of Rome, and heads up another shopping street, Via Nazioanle. Here it crosses through town to Via Cavour and heads to the Colosseo. Finally. this bus stops at Piazza San Giaovano Laterno. Riding the bus back, after it passes through the “long tunnel” you can jump off and head to your left to the Trevi Fountain! Or stay on the bus and you will scoot right past the Spanish Steps on your way back to Piazza di Popolo.
Bus #118 is the bus you take to head out past the Baths of Caracalla to the Appian Way. You can ride this bus out to the Catacombs or jump off and walk in the park. This would be the same bus you would ride back into town on. This is a long route and buses do come infrequently so allow yourself some time.
88, 95, 116, 120, 150, 490, 491, 495, and 910 Bus
My favorite bus and the one I rode the most often! It starts/ends at Metro Cipro, heads past the Vatican, through Piazza Cavour, by Piazza Navona, through Largo Argentn, up tVia Corso, past Piazza Barberini, and takes a route a couple of blocks west of Roma Termini. A great bus and many folks don’t realize the scope of its route.
The 88, 95, 116, 120, 150, 490, 491, and 495 buses all go through Villa Borghese so take these if you want to lay in the grass, “row your boat” around the lake, see the zoo, or head to the Galleria Borghese. From Termini you can also catch the 910 to go directly the the Gallery
Some Helpful Links
Header: Tiny Bus – Photo by ricktoomer
If you are interested in Luxury Travel Advice, Information, and Support…
Please contact me, Ron in Rome, at Ron Phillips Travel
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A Virtuoso® Agency
Phone: (404) 474-3851
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