Rome: A practical guide to Rome’s bus and metro system

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All aboard the Roman bus -- but buy your ticket first! Photo: GaryCycles6
All aboard the Roman bus -- but buy your ticket first! Photo: GaryCycles6

By Nicole Arriaga in Rome—

Traveling about Rome can be an adventure at times. With over 100 bus lines, tram routes and two metro lines, it’s no wonder that maneuvering Rome’s public transit system can leave a visitor utterly confused.

As many visitors are only stopping through Rome for a short while, there’s no real need to “master” the system and learn all the lines. In our hotel guide to Rome we have an article about Rome’s transit system. But this post is a quick-and-friendly guide to how to use the bus and metro system–and where to go!

Buying a bus or metro ticket in Rome

The first thing you’ll need to know is where to buy a bus or metro ticket. A ticket or biglietto can be bought at any tobacco shop (tabacchi) in Rome. Simply look for the big “T” sign. Tickets can also sometimes be purchased at newsstands and in machines at some bus stops and in all metro stations.

Some buses and street trams are also equipped with ticket machines, though this is risky: I wouldn’t wait to get on the bus to figure out whether you’ll be able to buy a ticket. Unlike in other cities, the bus drivers in Rome do not sell bus tickets. Therefore, it’s best to secure a ticket before hopping on a bus.

Penalties: If caught without a ticket, you will be fined by a bus inspector who hops on and off buses at random. If busted, you’ll pay €51 (if you pay on the spot) or €101 (if you pay later). It may seem like they never check tickets, but believe me they do. So don’t get caught without one!

Ticket prices

A single ticket costs €1 and is good for 75 minutes on buses and trams and one trip on the metro line.

If you plan to ride public transportation all day, consider buying a biglietto giornaliero (a day ticket) for €4.

A weekly pass (biglietto or tessera settimanale) costs €16 and is good for unlimited use on the buses, trams and metro lines for one week.

Note: Keep in mind when buying your tickets that a good chunk of the sights you’ll be seeing can be covered on foot as most of them are located in the centro storico (the historic city center).

The entrance to Rome’s Ottaviano Metro station. Photo: Oksidor

Important: You must validate your tickets once you are on the bus or tram. Stick your ticket into the little yellow machine on the bus or tram. It will print the expiration time on your ticket, then spit it back out. If you fail to validate your ticket, you can be slapped with that hefty little fine mentioned above.

Major Transportation Hubs

Figuring out which bus or metro to take can be a little tricky, especially if you don’t have easy access to the Internet. Never fret. There are several major transportation hubs (or terminals) throughout Rome where there will be at least one bus or metro line that will get you to where you need to go. These hubs include:

1. Termini train station

Termini train station is the city’s main train station and largest hub. Many buses and trams leave from here. It’s also where both Metro lines (A & B) connect.

Favorite lines from here:

Bus 40 leaves from Termini and will take you into the city center and near some pretty major sights such as: Piazza Venezia, Largo Argentina (near the Pantheon), Chiesa Nuova (near Piazza Navona) and St. Peter’s Square.

Bus 90 will take you near the Italian University- La Sapienza.

Bus H will take you to Trastevere.

Metro A line, dubbed the “linea turistica” (the tourist line), passes through Termini train station and heads to important sights such as: Spagna (Piazza di Spagna and Villa Borghese), Barberini (Piazza Barberini, Palazzo Barberini and the Trevi Fountain), Ottaviano – San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museums), Cipro (the Vatican Museums), San Giovanni (the street market on Via Sannio and the San Giovanni in Laterano church) and Flaminio (Piazza del Popolo).

Metro B line will take you to Colosseo (the Colosseum) and Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus).

2. Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia also has several buses that will get you where you need to go. These include:

Bus 87 and 571 will take you to the Colosseum and the San Giovanni area.

Bus 44 will take you near the Gianiculum hill and there are several buses that will take you along Via del Corso and Via dei Condotti (two famous shopping streets in Rome) and towards Piazza del Popolo.

ATAC – Rome’s public transportation website

Rome’s public transportation system, ATAC has a pretty decent website. Go to the upper right hand corner to change the site into English. Insert your point of departure (street name) and your point of destination (street name) and it will give you the best route to take, including which buses to take and where to get off. It also gives a friendly little map that you can print off showing you where the bus is supposed to let you off.

Happy travels roaming about Rome!

About the author

Nicole Arriaga

About the author: After her first trip to the Bel Paese in 1999, Nicole Arriaga knew she would one day return permanently in search of the good life. Before moving to Rome in 2003, Nicole worked as a TV producer and a writer in sunny Miami. She has written for Fodor’s, Insight Guides, The American and various other travel publications. She currently works as a freelance writer and as a programs coordinator for a study abroad organization in Rome.

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