Navigating Rome’s Public Transportation System

As a city that was designed over two thousand years ago, Rome has always been a challenge for urban planners. Attempts to expand the subway system often turn into archeological excavations when construction crews happen upon buried ruins, the city’s cobblestoned streets are often too narrow for buses, and the high ratio of cars per Romans (71 for every 100 inhabitants!) causes heavy traffic and illegally parked cars throughout much of the city.

While Rome’s public transportation company ATAC is far from perfect, once you learn to use it efficiently you will find that it does offer an inexpensive way to get from one part of the city to the other. Rome’s system includes buses, the metro, and above-ground trams that cover the entire city, although you may need to take multiple modes of transportation if your route is particularly long.

Here is a general breakdown of information to help you survive Roman public transportation.

  • Tickets: A single ride costs €1.50, a monthly pass costs €35, and an annual pass costs €250. Any of these tickets allow unlimited rides on buses, trams, and the metro. Be sure to validate your ticket when you get on a tram or bus, as ATAC often sends undercover controllers to make catch passengers who are riding illegally and issue hefty fines. You can buy tickets either in a metro station or at a Tabaccheria, a local tobacco shop.
  • Trip planning: You can plan your trip using either the ATAC website or Google Maps, although be aware that buses rarely arrive on schedule and your trip may take more time than you think. The metro and tram are usually more reliable, as they depart every five minutes or so. We recommend downloading a phone app that allows you to check where your bus is in real time, such as Moovit or Muoversi a Roma. These apps are not always 100% accurate, but they are definitely useful if you take public transportation frequently.
  • Public Transportation at Night: The metro and trams closes at 11:30pm on Sunday-Thursday and on holidays, but stays open until 1:30am on Fridays and Saturdays. If you miss the metro home, night buses cover most of the city. If you are traveling alone late at night, however, we recommend taking a taxi. Plus, women who travel alone at night get 10% off taxi fare according to Rome’s taxi regulations (just remind your driver if he or she doesn’t tell you!).
  • Rules of Civility on Roman Public Transportation: You should avoid eating or drinking on public transportation, and always offer up your seat to pregnant, disabled, or elderly passengers. When the bus, tram, or metro is particularly crowded and you are trying to get past other passengers, it is polite to say “permesso” (can I please pass?) or “scusi” (excuse me). Often passengers will ask those around them if they will be getting off the train before arriving at the stop (“scende alla prossima fermata?” or simply “scende?“) to ensure that passengers will allow them to pass in advance.
  • Holiday hours: schedule timetables and routes often differ between Monday-Saturday (feriali) and Sunday/holidays (festivo). Be sure to check your planned route on http://www.atac.roma.it/index.asp?lingua=ENG to be sure that your bus will arrive and take you where you need to go!

Our orientation team will teach you how to buy a ticket and take public transportation when you first arrive on campus, and John Cabot University’s student life office will continue to serve as a resource if you need help with anything when classes begin. While the system may seem intimidating at first, you will be a pro by the end of your time abroad!

Learn more about applying to John Cabot University in Rome.

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