This post will focus on the Rome metro system and how to use it. If you’re looking for a cheap and affordable method to get around Rome, it’s important to know that they have an extensive public transportation system. There are a lot of different tickets you can purchase for a variety of services throughout the city including buses, streetcars, and commuter trains. And after reading this, it feels like too much, then read our post on hop-on-hop-off buses.
Roma ATAC is the official metro system for the city of Rome. They provide public transportation around the city by subway, bus, streetcar, and commuter train. One ticket is good for all three services, making it easy to transfer from a train to a bus without any issues, and you can buy tickets for multiple days. The system offers extensive routes which will allow you to explore the city without much trouble. We have provided route information targeted to visitors in our subway and bus sections below.
Rome’s subway is one of Europe’s smallest and it doesn’t cover several areas of the city’s central core. So, it’s very likely that you will use a combination of subway, bus, tram and your own feet. We recommend using an app like Google maps to test out some trips from your hotel and accommodation to sights that you want to see. You might find that your hotel or accommodation is within walking distance of many of your to-do-sights and you might only seldom use public transportation.
The system isn’t directly connected to Rome’s two main airports, so you might benefit from reading our post on how to get to and from Fiumicino Airport and our post on how to get to and from Ciampino Airport.
Actually, as a walking tour company, we really recommend that you walk as often as you can and are able to. Rome’s beauty lies all around, but mostly you will find it roaming her small ancient streets on foot. We provide self-guided walks of the city centre as well as ancient Rome so that you will know where to go and how to get there. Nevertheless, Rome’s public transportation will take you to all of the top spots, including Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Baths of Caracalla and the Appian Way.
And whenever you find yourself in a crowded subway station, train, or bus (or any crowded plaza for that matter), always be aware of pickpockets. Rome has its fair share of enterprising sticky finger criminals. Awareness is key. Keep your valuables secure and out of easy reach and you will be fine.
HOW TO GET TICKETS
There are several different ticket options for the Roma ATAC system. All ATAC tickets are good for travel on the train, bus, and streetcars. They are also valid for commuter trains, but only when within Rome itself. Tickets can be purchased at automated vending machines or at the ticket booth in subway stations as well as at tobacco shops and newspaper stands throughout the city. Tobacco shops (or tabachi) are usually marked with a blue sign with a big T.
TIP: Several Rome tourist discount passes, such as the Roma Pass, include free transportation for 2 or 3 days. These passes may or may not save you money, but they will certainly save you time and take out the worry of buying metro tickets, at least for a few days. Read our post that compares these tourist passes to see if any are right for you.
Here are all the different ticket types you can purchase:
- BIT: One metro/commuter train ride or 100 minutes on a bus (€1.50)
- Roma 24H: A 1-day ticket valid for bus, metro and commuter train (€7)
- Roma 48H: A 2-day ticket valid for bus, metro and commuter train (€12.50)
- Roma 72H: A 3-day ticket valid for bus, metro and commuter train (€18)
- CIS: A 7-day ticket valid for bus, metro and commuter train (€24)r
Needless to say, their CIS pass is definitely going to offer the best overall value. Visitors who choose the CIS will pay less than €3.50 per day for unlimited access to the entire Roma ATAC metro system.
You will need to figure out how many rides on the subways, buses, and trams you, or anyone 10 and older in your party, will make. We recommend using an app like Google maps to test out some trips from your hotel and accommodation to sights that you want to see. It’s possible that many of your target sights are within walking distance. If that’s the case, then you might be better off purchasing a handful of single tickets, which again, are good for all transport options within the city.
If you choose to purchase a ticket, you must validate it. You can validate your ticket by using machines located near the doors of the bus or tram you wish to ride. Travelers using the metro will need to stamp their ticket at the turnstile before entering. You can be charged up to a €50 fine for riding without a stamped ticket. When using a 1, 3, or 7-day ticket, you only need to stamp it once.
The vending machines do not give more than €6 in change, and they don’t always accept credit cards, so have small bills on you when buying tickets.
Rome has an efficient, if not very extensive subway system. As we mentioned above, it’s very inexpensive, €1.50 per ride on a single ticket (read more on tickets) and these tickets can also be used on buses, trams, and commuter trains within the city. Rome subway stations are marked with red M signs like the one shown in the image below.
Trains operate between 5:30 am until 23:30 (11:30 pm) daily. On Saturdays, the system closes at 00:30 (12:30 am) and visit a station every 5 – 10 minutes, depending on a weekday vs. weekend.
Rome’s subway system does not directly extend out to either Fiumicino or Ciampino Airports, but you can make connections to the commuter trains that do (read our post on airport transfers to and from Fiumicino).
The system comprises for the most part of 2 main subway lines, A + B. There is a C line that is partially finished, but it is not yet connected to either A or B and is of little use for most visitors to Rome. Part of the reason why the C line is still unfinished is the same reason why Rome’s subways are missing from most of the city center – anywhere you dig is almost assured to be a future archeology site.
In the image above, we have placed in orange boxes the main subway stops that are of interest to tourists. Spagna is the stop for the Spanish Stairs and Villa Borghese and the Villa Medici. It’s not unreasonable to say that this stop is also close to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona, which are all about a 15 min walk from Spagna. In fact, many walking tour companies start their city centre tours from this stop. The Colosseum stop on the B line is where you can access the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and several other ancient Rome sights.
For Vatican City, there are 2 relevant subway stops on the A line, Ottaviano-St. Pietro and Cipro. Cipro is closer to the Vatican Museums, but if you don’t get there really early in the morning or later in the day (and you don’t have a skip-the-line ticket) then you will likely be better off getting out at Ottaviano-St. Pietro. The lines for the Vatican Museum tickets are legendary for their sheer lengths. If you are only coming to St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica, then Ottaviano is the subway stop that you need.
Before you arrive, test out some paths on Google maps the paths between your hotel or accommodation to sights in the city that you want to see and determine if riding the subway makes sense for your trip. As we explain below, for some hotel and accommodation locations, a bus makes more sense. Whether subway, bus and/or tram, all tickets are good for each.
ROME BUS LINES
Depending on where you are staying and what you want to see, you might find that taking the bus is more practical than taking the subway. The subway doesn’t run through much of Rome’s historic center and buses, including smaller electric buses, are the only mass transit options available. As the author of this post found out, his hotel next to the Pantheon was too far from the nearest subway station, so he walked and used buses to visit the Vatican, Colosseum and the Spanish Steps rather than the subway. Below, we provide text and images to help familiarize yourself with Rome’s bus system.
And as you can see in the map below, there are several bus lines that stretch across the city. Before you get yourself frustrated trying to understand this map, we recommend using Google Maps to plan out some of your trips. Rome buses are GPS enabled, so Google and other travel apps know where your bus is and if it will be late. What you are likely to find is that you will be routed along the major arteries and the system will start to make more sense as you explore.
For a larger version of this map, click here.
As a tourist or newcomer to the city, you will want to keep the following 2 types of bus lines in mind.
- Urban Line – The U-line runs through the urban center of Rome. This line will be very useful for reaching most of the major sites and landmarks in the area. U-line runs from about 5 am – 12 am daily.
- Night Line – The N-line runs at night while the U-lines rest. You can expect to use this bus line from 12 am – 5 am daily.
Above is an image of a bus stop sign. This stop is for the Fori Imperiali (the Roman Forum) and there are two Urban Line buses that stop here, the 85 and 87. There is a good chance that you will take one of these buses. Underneath the bus line names and numbers are arrows denoting the direction that the buses are heading in. It also lists all the stops as well as the connecting metro, bus and other rail lines at those stops. Some of the most relevant bus lines for tourists are the 60, 62, 64, and 81.
There are two more types of bus lines to note, but unless you are outside of the city, so most visitors will want to avoid the following.
- Express Line – The X-line is used to connect Rome with its outskirt communities. Most tourists will have no reason to use this particular service.
- Exact Line – The E-line is used primarily by people in surrounding neighborhoods to travel into Rome. Unless you have a reason to travel to the neighborhoods surrounding this city, we recommend avoiding this bus line.
Tips for Riding the Bus
- You can’t (at least not usually) purchase tickets on board the bus. Tickets can be purchased at Metro stations, tobacco shops as well as endicola (newspaper stands) throughout Rome.
- You must validate your ticket once you board. There are yellow validation machines on each bus. Failure to do so will result in a fine of at least €50.
- Children under 10 ride for free.
The trams that run throughout Rome aren’t as easy to find in the city center area, but they do make stops at several famous locations. Although we don’t recommend relying solely on the tram service, they can be handy for traveling short distances quickly. Almost every tram line runs along the same route as the bus lines, making it easy to transfer from one service to another.
TIP: The main tram line that tourists will want to consider is #3. The #3 line runs from East-to-West on the southern end of the city center and makes stops at locations such as The Colosseum and Circus Maximus. You may also want to consider the #19 tram, as it will take you very close to the Vatican.
For more information, check the Roma ATAC website.
SHOULD I GET A ROMA PASS?
For those who aren’t aware, this tourist pass includes unlimited access to all Roma ATAC services. Travelers can purchase either a 2 or 3 day pass which will give them admission to all buses, trains and trams in the city of Rome. In addition to these benefits, Roma Pass holders can also expect free admission to at least one attraction and discounts on several museums, exhibits, tours and more.
- 2-Day Ticket Price: €28 per person
- 3-Day Ticket Price: €38.50 per person
- Includes unlimited access to Roma ATAC transportation
- 1 free attraction included with 2-day ticket
- 2 free attractions included with 3-day ticket
- Click here for additional information