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One of the things about Rome that never fails to impress me is the value for money offered by the public transport system. While locals complain about the limited metro system (only two lines at present) and the endless strikes, you cannot help but be impressed at the simplicity of the “one ticket fits all” approach.
The metrebus ticket and the one-day pass
The “metrebus” (metro-train-bus) €1 ticket permits you to ride on the bus, tram, or local train for any distance. (The ticket is also good for one trip on the metro underground line.) The journey is only limited by time: the ticket expires after 75 minutes.
Upgrading to a €4 ticket allows you to enjoy unlimited rides until midnight. Routes are clearly marked, so get a public transport map from one of the many newspaper kiosks, study the routes, get your elbows ready, and hop on board to see where you end up…
There are two metro lines, Linea A (the well-kept “tourist” red line) and Linea B (the commuter line which is a little rough around the edges). The city is trying to open a third line, but progress is slow, as workers keep unearthing archaeological treasures.
Linea A highlights include the Spanish Steps (Spagna), the Trevi Fountain (Barberini), the Teatro del Opera (Repubblica) and the Vatican (Ottiviano). Linea B takes you to Circus Massimus (Circo Massimo) and the Colosseum (Colosseo).
For stops a little off the tourist map, exit at EUR Palasport and emerge near a park with a boating lake where you can spend a nice afternoon relaxing away from the city center chaos. View a metro map here.
An endless stream of buses travels through the city center, with the main connection points being Termini Station, Largo Argentina, Piazza Venezia, and Piazza Cavour. The bus system also offers regular service to the main sights, such as the Vatican and the Colosseum.
The stops are clearly posted and signs give detailed information about each service. Regular buses stop around midnight, but a night service runs until around 5-6 AM.
Try exploring beyond the center. For example, the 118 from Piramide will take you out to Appia Antica, providing a Cheapo alternative to the expensive tourist bus service that runs there.
The “metrebus” ticket also includes the use of the local train services. Head to Piramide and catch the connecting Lido train to enjoy a day at the beach in Ostia (30 minutes away) or to explore the ancient ruins at Ostia Antica (25 minutes).
If you’re catching a flight at Ciampino, you can also travel from Termini to the airport on your €1 ticket, a journey of 15 minutes, and then just pay another €1 to take the airport shuttle bus. The express service to Fiumicino Airport is not covered by the “metrebus” ticket.
Buying a ticket
You can buy “metrebus” tickets from newspaper kiosks, ticket kiosks, and at machines found in the metro stations. You can sometimes buy them on the bus from a machine, though not always.
You must always stamp the ticket at one of the yellow machines to validate your ticket and begin the 75-minute time limit (on the bus, on the tram, or close to the platform for trains) unless you use the metro, in which case it is done automatically when you go through the barrier. Make sure you do this, because if the inspectors catch you with an unstamped ticket, you will be fined—even if you are a tourist and claim ignorance.
Tips for using the system—safely
Avoid using the metro between 7:30-9 AM and 5-6:30 PM, as it is very packed with commuters and you may find yourself far closer to the locals than you ever expected. If you travel around rush hour, keep an eye out, as crowded metro and bus stations are havens for pickpockets and beggars.
Carry €1 coins with you, especially if catching the metro at night, as the change machines do not work and the kiosks will be closed.
To find routes online, visit the official Rome transportation site.