As an ancient city, Rome has many narrow, one-way streets. There’s also monumental traffic jams… and then of course, there are the driving habits of Romans. All these contribute to make the metro system in Rome a good alternative for getting around town. Romans called the subway system Metropolitana . Unfortunately, there are ONLY two metro lines – Metro Line A and Metro Line B. Thus, many parts of the city ARE NOT covered by the metro system. New lines are in the planning stages and under construction… but the challenges of digging in the city of Rome…. or just building anything…. are quite daunting!
Metro and Bus Tickets in Rome
Purchasing a Metro or Bus Ticket at a Kiosk
Riding the Buses in Rome
Metro Line A closing at 21:00 through April 2012
Metro, Bus and Train Strikes in Italy
As you travel through the city you will see construction (primarily on Line B extensions and also the new line C). The Metro Line C, the first fully automated system in Rome, is SUPPOSED to open in 2011… Don’t think we’re going to make that date …. Some of the new “downtown” stations may include:
• Colosseo (2)
• Chiesa Nuova
• San Pietro
• Ottaviano (2)
This will certainly be a welcome addition to those of us who live near the Vatican, or have to go up Via Cassia. Now, let’s look at the current metro options in Rome.
Metro Line B
Metro Line B was the FIRST metro line in Rome – and sometimes it shows its age. The B line connects the northeast side of the city with the southwest side of Rome. The B line currently has twenty-two stations, running from Rebibbia station on the northeast side of town to Laurentine station, which is just past the EUR. Metro Line B started way back in the 1930′s (sometimes I feel like it stayed there!). The Fascist party wanted to find a way to male rapid connections between Termini and the new district being created for the World Expo, scheduled to be held in Rome in 1942. With the coming of WWII, the Expo never happened and this section of the city was later renamed EUR. After the war, work on the Line B started again in 1948. It was completed and began service in February 1955. The section of the B Line that runs from Termini to Rebibbia was completed in 1990.
Metro Line B carries more than 300,000 passengers a day (sometimes I feel like they are all on MY train). The B line stations open at 5:30 AM and on weekends will stay open till 12:30 AM. These times are quite subjective, so be flexible, especially late at night, if you plan to ride the metro. The trains on the Metro Line B are not air-conditioned and are often “expressively” painted. It’s the older line and it shows. The good news is… they are gradually removing these older trains from the system.
Metro Line A
Metro Line A connects the northwest part of the city with the southeast side. As of today, it has twenty-seven stations. The line connects stations Battistini on the northwest to Anagnina station on the southeast side of Rome. After much “discussion” this line was approved for construction in 1959. Metro Line A was laid out to run perpendicular to the first line, now called Metro Line B. They actually cross each other to form a somewhat disjointed “X”.
Work did not start on the A line until 1964 and the construction had tough sledding. Internally there was poor organization. Moreover, the original method of construction (cut and cover) caused numerous problems for residents and drivers. Roads were closed or narrowed and the traffic chaos was impossible – even by Rome Standards! So work was suspended for FIVE YEARS. When they re-started the construction they used the “bored tunnel” method, and although this solved many of the traffic claims, it did create many complaints. Seems the boring machine vibrations were causing structural damage to many buildings. It was quite challenging to build the A line. In addition, work was often halted when archaeological finds were made. Finally, the A line began operation in February 1980. In the late 1990′s, more stops were added (Ottaviano to Battistini ).
Metro Line A opens at 5:30 AM – okay, it’s supposed to open at 5:30 AM. It is scheduled to close on weekdays about 11:30 PM and on Saturday will close later, perhaps 12:30 AM. Again, these opening and closing times seem to be subjective … as I’ve been turned away in the winter at 10:30 PM? The Metro Line A is far more comfortable than the Metro Line B. The cars have air conditioning. They are cleaner and you can walk through the “interconnected” cars on the Metro Line A. It’s projected that almost 500,000 people ride the Metro Line A daily.
Roma- Lido Line
The Roma-Lido line is probably most popular with beach goers in the summer. This line runs from the Roma Porta San Paolo station – “connected” to the Pyramide Metro Line B station – all the way to the seaside town of Ostia, stopping at station Cristoforo Colombo. For the initial part of this line, it runs parallel to the Metro Line B. We often travel the Roma- Lido Line when we head to the beach or to Ostia Antica. This above ground train line was completed in 1924. It started as a steam locomotion railway system. It has recently been modernized. Most cars are not air conditioned, but it’s usually pretty clean. The train runs from about 5:30 AM until about 11:30 PM. There are thirteen stops on the train and if you headed all the way to the beach, to the last stop (Cristoforo Colombo), plan on the trip taking right at forty minutes.
The easiest way to get to the train is to hop on the Metro Line B and head directly to Piramide. From the Roma Termini station, it is only 4 stops on the Metro Line B as you head in the direction of Laurentine.
The Roma-Viterbo Line is often called the Roma-Nord line. The starting point for this station is at the Piazza Flaminia Metro A line station. The Roma-Viterbo Line is operated in two modes. First, as an urban service from Piazza Flaminia to Montebello. This section of the railway operates much like a metro line, running about every 10-15 minutes. Once you get to Montebello, it changes to the suburban line which operates FAR LESS frequently. To use this route to go to Viterbo from Piazza Flaminia will take about two and a half hours.
The urban section of the system, Piazza Flaminia to Montebello , starts at 05:45am and ends at 10:54pm, except for Sundays and public holidays. It takes about 20 minutes to make this run.
On the suburban run, from Montebello to Viterbo , the service starts at 05:45am and ends at 11:06pm, except for Sundays and public holidays when trains run from 06:13am to 11.33pm. The trip takes about two and a half hours and trains come about every 25 minutes (less on Sundays and holidays).
This is a busy railway system, carrying about 75,000 passengers a day from Rome to Viterbo.
The Rome-Pantano line is a small regional railway. It carries about 35,000 passengers a day. Service starts daily at 05:30am and ends at 09:30pm. This is actually a narrow gauge tram which connects Laziali (a regional train station some 800 meters from Temini’s main concourse) with Giardinetti to the east just past the Grande Racordo Annular (GRA), Rome’s ring-road. This line will eventually become a permanent part of the new C line metro. If you’ve walked to the car rental garage at Termini, you probably walked right past this station without realizing it….
Riding the Metro
It’s easy to ride the metro in Rome as there is only two lines. First, you’ll need a ticket. ATAC tickets, as mentioned above, are good on the metro, the bus, the trams, trolleys, and the Met.Ro trains. You can buy them at many outlets, including Tabacchi shops, newstands, and many kiosks located throughout town. For more info on the types of tickets and where and how you can buy them, go to these two posts on our website: Bus & Metro Tickets and Kiosks for Bus & Metro Tickets.
Once you have your tickets, head into the Metro station to the metro entry points pictured above. (The older spin-turnstiles you will see in the metro stations are for exiting only).
Once you get to the ticket stand, enter your ticket on the “slot” on the front with the ticket, stripe UP and to the right… arrow in the front… as shown above.
If you have validated your ticket already on a bus, the ticket stand will “read” your ticket to see if it is still viable. If you bought a single-use ticket (good for 100 minutes), you get ONE ride on the metro system during your “100 minute” period (effective May 25, 2012). If you’ve already been on the bus and validated your ticket, it will read the ticket, check the “100 minute” time period (effective May 25, 2012), and if you’re within the time frame, the glass doors will open. If you have exceeded your time limit, or already been on your ONE metro trip, the ticket stand will recognize this, beep loudly, return your ticket to you, and REFUSE you entry to the metro system.
If you just bought your ticket, it will read the ticket – and STAMP it. Once it has determined that your ticket is okay, the doors will open. The ticket will “pop up” in the slot as pictured below. MAKE SURE YOU GRAB YOUR TICKET as you go through!
Now you have your ticket, and if it is your first usage, turn it over and you’ll see a “validation” time. Your ticket is good until the time runs out! If you have a full day, 3 day, or weekly ticket, that expiration time (and date) will be stamped on the ticket.
In the picture above, this ticket has just been stamped. A little hard to read, but the expiration time of this ticket is 09:29 AM – the red box shows the “STAMP” applied by the machine. (Same way the system works on the buses!).
So now I can ride the metro ONCE with this “100 minute” ticket… but once off the metro I can ride as many buses as I like UNTIL 09:29 AM. So you grab your ticket and off to the metro!
As you head down the stairs or escalators, you’ll see DIRECTIONAL signs like the two above. These signs were taken inside Termini station. On the top of the signs you will see posted the LAST STOP of the route. The sign on the left is headed out to the EUR and the last stop is Laurentina. On the right, the LAST STOP is Rebibbia. Find the station you’re headed to and follow the stairs/escalator!
In some cases you will see directional signs will ALL the station names listed, as shown above at the Cipro station.
If you see signs like this, it’s very easy to determine which way to your stop. If the Station name is posted in GREY, the metro train HAS ALREADY been there! So look for your station in bold BLACK! On the RIGHT sign above, the top station name in BLACK is Cipro – that’s where you are at… The next four stops: Valle Aurelia, Baldo degli Ubaldi, Cornelia, Battistini is where this train is headed… All the others above the name Cipro, the metro train has already been!
Once you get down to the platform there will be very FEW places to sit. On the Metro Line A there will be television monitors displaying the news and many commercials – all in Italian. There will be many forms of signage (pictures below). You may be better served to move closer to either end of the platform. The center of the trains – closer to the entry and exit platforms – are ALWAYS far more crowded than the ends. So a little bit of walking might get you a seat… or at least some breathing space.
You’ll see other signage in the metro station as you’re waiting on a train. One sign you’ll always need to look for is USCITA – That means EXIT, and as you get off the train, look right or left on the platform for the nearest EXIT. Above is an example. This sign is in Roma Termini and we are on the Metro Line A platform, so the above sign is for directions to the Line B Platforms and the EXIT.
The sign above tells you the NEXT metro train will be arriving in 4 minutes. In Rome, usually you can multiply these “projections” by 1.5 as things tend to run a little slower. The train below will most likely arrive in 6-7 minutes. (Rome Reality!)
This sign warns you to stay behind the yellow line on the platform.
This platform sign tells you which direction this train is headed. We are on the Metro Line B, headed to Laurentina.
Once on the train you’ll have signage (above) that will display all the stops… so if you mistakenly get on heading the wrong way… just look for the next stop, get off and head for the other side of the tracks (usually through a tunnel underneath, or over, the metro tracks). As you can see below, the sign inside the B line train will also show train, parking, handicap accessible, monuments, and other info.
While you are on the train… do hang on if you’re standing! The drivers all believe they are Formula One racers. They tend to “charge” into the stations and then challenge the braking capability of their trains. The doors on the trains will open and close automatically. And trust me, when they close, they CLOSE HARD! Don’t be caught in the doorway when they slam or you’ll get bruised.
If you are in a group – make sure EVERYONE gets on the same train. Always have a plan that if someone DOES NOT get on before the door closes that those folks on the train get off at the next station and wait for you – Remember, your cell phone MAY NOT work underground.
On the trains, your “Personal Space” may get challenged. From the Europeans standpoint… it’s nothing personal. We’re just going to get as many folks on this train as we can. So you may feel uncomfortable… be mentally prepared. If you’re getting off in a stop or two, start working your way towards an exit door on the train. “Permisso” works great as you wade through the crowds.
On some of the trains, when the system is working, the PA will announce the next stop (Prossimo Fermata) and will tell you which side of the train the doors will open – Latto Destro (Right), Latto Sinistro (Left). So you might hear this as you’re entering a station…. Prossimo Fermata Termini, Latto Destro. If you’re getting on a train and only going one or two stops, DO NOT go deep into the train or allow yourself to get pushed further into the train… get inside and hold your ground! Let everyone go around you so you can stay close to the door. Riding the train is all about strategy and tactics! Don’t worry – the trains are usually only packed during rush-hour periods… often, you’ll be able to get a seat and REST!
At your exit stop…. Once you find the USCITA sign and exit the platform, continue to head out towards the turnstiles. At the turnstiles you WILL NOT need your ticket to get out (unlike London, for example). Just push your way through the turnstiles and you’re now outside the ticketed area. On some VERY random occasions, there may be a few Metro Police standing at the turnstiles as you go to exit. If this happens you WILL have to show your metro ticket. This to verify you did not race through the entry ticket stands without a ticket (jump the turnstiles as we would say). If they are there, just show your ticket and continue on through the turnstiles. This is one of the reasons you want to grab your ticket out of the ticket stands as you the metro!
There are improvements being made to the metro lines. Hopefully the new line C will be totally handicap accessible. Yet it can still be very challenging in a wheelchair to ride the Rome Metro system. Almost all the metro stations on Metro Line B are fully wheelchair accessible except Circo Massimo, Colosseo, and Cavour. Most do not have elevators but do have a wheelchair lift.
On Metro Line A, only Cipro and Villa Aurelia have elevators. Bus #590 does the same route as the Metro line A and it has wheelchair access for those folks who may need it. For more info, try these links: Slow Travel – Accessible Rome, Anglo Rome – Notes for the disabled. The Roma Metro site also has descriptions of each stations facilities: Rome Metro – English website.
I travel the metro almost every day. During rush hours (morning and late afternoon – see above) the metro train can get VERY crowded. When you are on the Metro Line A you will see cartoons on the video monitors warning you of pickpockets. The metro lines are certainly GREAT TARGETS of opportunity. Be aware when you use the metro trains. They can get so crowded you will not be able to move! The pickpockets do take advantage of these crowded environments. But if you are careful, use a money belt, and keep all your credit and cash “zipped up” in inside pockets, etc… you’ll have no problems riding the metro. I’ve been riding the metro and buses for about two years and I’ve NEVER been had an issue. Other than the pickpocket issues… the metros are safe.
You will meet many other “peoples” on the metro. Gypsies will hop on and walk through the trains begging for money. Just watch your belongings as they do often work in teams. While one person is pleading the case, others are “casing” you. In addition, you’ll see many folks who will sing or play an instrument. Some of them are quite good! And a few other folks too!
Traveling on the Metro can be interesting AND exciting. It’s quite easy and the Metro Line A cars are often air conditioned!!! So it’s a great way to get across town and beat the Roman traffic (and heat). Good Luck in your travels!
Some helpful Links
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Header: Rome Metro – Photo by roboppy
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Ron Phillips Travel
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Phone: (404) 474-3851
FAX: (678) 528-2672
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