A Student's Guide to the Public Transportation System in Rome

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Mia Anzalone
November 8, 2022
A Student's Guide to the Public Transportation System in Rome

One of the biggest adjustments that I have gone through since arriving in Rome is learning its public transportation system. Since I’m from Hawaiʻi and go to college in Los Angeles where it’s common to drive everywhere, I never really had to learn a public transportation system. So, I took my study abroad experience as an opportunity to do so. I wish someone told me how complicated the Roman bus system is and the way it works, so I thought I would save you the trouble of researching it on your own. Here is a student’s guide to navigating the public transportation system in Rome from someone who’s had to learn it from scratch.

WALKING My favorite way to see the city and the most reliable way to get around is to walk. If you don’t like walking, you will learn to appreciate it coming to Rome. Keep in mind that sometimes the amount of time it takes to get somewhere by bus is longer than walking. You can get almost anywhere in the city by walking, and along the way you’ll get to see new things or historic statues and buildings that are unique to Rome. Plus, it serves as a lot of exercise! Seriously, I’ve started to walk a daily average of about 7 miles since coming to Rome. Make sure to pack comfortable shoes as well since the roads are all cobblestone! 

Besides walking, I like to utilize Rome’s ATAC public transportation. Since I am interning at a gallery the best way to get there from the IES Abroad center or from my apartment is to either take the metro or the bus. Taking the metro is quite straightforward—you can buy a ticket at the metro station and scan it to enter the station and get on the train. However, the bus system is a little more complicated. 

BUS

The bus system is different from others you might find around the United States—you must buy a ticket before boarding the bus and validate the ticket once boarding. You can buy individual tickets at places called ‘tabacchi’—they are basically convenience stores where people can buy cigarettes, bus tickets and lottery tickets and they’re all around the city. Here, you have the option of buying a ticket that is valid for 100 minutes or daily passes. The single ride bus ticket is very convenient if you have somewhere to get to that might be farther away but you are staying there for a while. The 24 hour bus pass will be helpful if you know you will be out all day—for example, you might buy this ticket if you have field studies for classes all day long that are far apart from each other and need a way to get around all day long. 

The most important thing to keep in mind when using the bus is that you must validate the ticket upon boarding. You can validate your ticket at a yellow machine on the bus by either inserting it in the machine or tapping it (if your bus ticket has the arrow, it means that you insert it in the machine instead of tapping it). You must wait for the machine to emit a green light that indicates that your ticket has been validated before continuing to ride. If you don’t validate your ticket or board the bus without a ticket, you are at risk of getting fined €50 to €100 by the ATAC police. They board the bus throughout the day and come around to each passenger to check to see if their tickets are validated by scanning the ticket. If you validate your ticket on the bus, you will not be fined. 

Sometimes the bus can get really crowded and finding or reaching the yellow machines is not a possibility. Don’t worry! Be sure to keep a pen with you or ask for one and you can simply write the date and time you boarded the bus. This way, the ATAC police know how long you’ve been on the bus and if you’ve exceeded your ticket’s validity.

I highly recommend getting a monthly bus pass if you plan on using the metro or bus often. If you are planning on doing a part-time internship or if your housing is far from the IES Abroad center you should definitely buy the pass. It is €35 each month, meaning that if you buy the pass in September you have it until the month of October. Because of this, it’s best to buy the pass and refill your car on the first day of each month. You can purchase a monthly pass at metro stations, but be sure to bring a translator app as well as copies of your passport as you will need to fill out forms and have your picture transferred onto a card. It might be a long process, but it is worth it. Even though I don’t go to the internship everyday or use the bus and metro everyday, I always have the option of using the system if I need to. It also eliminates any stress of worrying how you might get home from somewhere far away without having to stress about how long your ticket is valid for. At the end of each month, it’s a simple process to refill the card online.

You can also use the MyCicero app if you have an Italian SIM card. I did not get an Italian phone number, so this was unavailable to me, but many local people utilize this app to purchase their bus tickets or monthly passes. If you don’t plan on getting an Italian phone, it is better to physically buy your bus tickets or passes.

All of this being said, the buses in Rome always come late. If you plan on relying on the bus for your single mode of transportation, be sure to add an extra 15 minutes to your journey or estimated time of travel. It’s a very inconsistent system, so you have to always have other options to get to your destination. The metro, however, is quite punctual. The only problem is that there are not as many stops as the bus so you will definitely need to walk more if you rely only on the metro for your mode of transportation.

TAXI

This may be unpopular, but I never take taxis in Rome. I find that even though you might get to your destination quicker, you will have to pay a lot more. There are also some loopholes that the taxi driver might take to charge you more. That being said, I do have friends who like to take taxis here, so definitely don’t rule this out as an option if you need to get somewhere fast. Taxis are great if you need to get to the airport or the train station with luggage, as well. 

I hope this is a helpful guide for students planning on studying abroad in Rome. It took a while for me to learn the system, but once I got it down it has been really easy to find my way around Rome. By taking the bus, I’ve also developed a good sense of direction which has been extremely helpful in some situations. I also highly recommend downloading the CityMapper app that I’ve relied on this whole semester! It tells you the fastest way to get anywhere and exactly which buses and metro lines to use. 

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Mia Anzalone

Hi! My name is Mia and I'm a junior at Occidental College studying Sociology and Art History. I’m from Kailua, Hawaiʻi and love to surf, practice yoga, roller-skate and listen to music! I’m so excited to be studying abroad in Rome for the Fall 2022 semester and can’t wait to experience life in Italy. I’ve got a passion for writing about culture, art and style and can’t wait to explore these interests during my time abroad.

Destination:
Term:
2022 Fall
Home university:
Occidental College
Hometown:
Kailua, HI
Major:
Sociology
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