With its centuries-old monuments, landmark art, incredible food, and vibrant street life, romantic Roma is every bit as awe-inspiring as you’d expect it to be. If you’ve got your heart set on the Italian capital, you probably have a long list of all the sites you want to visit, but with so much to do and see, what’s the best way to get around Rome?
If you’ve never been to Rome, figuring out how to get around can be hard. The metro seems to avoid the city center, the chaotic traffic is daunting to even the most experienced scooter drivers, and we’ve all heard horror stories about unscrupulous taxi drivers. In reality, Rome is easy to navigate, you just need to know a few things before you take to the streets.
From tens of thousands of steps to tourist traps, our guide looks at the best ways to experience Rome and what to avoid when getting around this sprawling metropolis. Let’s get into it.
Best Way to Get Around Rome: Airport Connections
Rome has two airports, Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino and Ciampino International Airport. Fiumicino is the busier of the two and you have the option of taking the Leonardo Express Airport Shuttle train, the shuttle bus, or a taxi to get to the city center once you’ve arrived. From Ciampino, you also have the option of a shuttle bus or a taxi, but you’ll need to take a bus to get to the nearest train station.
The cheapest option to get from either airport to the city center is the shuttle bus, which costs just €6 each way and takes around 50 minutes—traffic permitting. However, the Leonardo Express train leaves from Fiumicino every 15-30 minutes and costs between €8-14, taking just half an hour. This makes it one of the most efficient choices, and also makes Fiumicino the better-connected airport of the two if you’re debating which to fly into.
A private transfer or taxi from either airport could be the most comfortable choice, but it will still take at least 45 minutes to reach the center and cost in excess of €40 from Fiumicino, but a little less from Ciampino.
Best Way to Get Around Rome City Center
Rome is a big city spread over 19 districts but the historic center is relatively compact and most of the main sites are within walking distance of each other. If you don’t have mobility issues or aren’t traveling with small children, the best way to get around Rome is on foot.
For example, the Spanish steps and the Trevi Fountain are just eight minutes apart while Piazza Navona and the Pantheon are less than a five-minute walk away from each other. You can also wander into Vatican City and explore the museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica all at your own pace in less than a few hours. You might amount tens of thousands of steps, but you’ll see a lot more, and walking is the Roman way.
The historic center of Rome is likened to a very busy, open-air museum, especially in the middle of the day and during the peak tourism season. The Eternal City is one that never sleeps and walking around at night is also just as exciting. There are a number of free walking tours that you can join in Rome, but self-guided tours are more liberating and you’re bound to get lost, which is all part of the experience.
Losing your way down the gritty alleyways in Monti will lead to the best cultural discoveries and foodie finds. Hole-in-the-wall haunts are the places to go for cheap and authentic eats in Rome, and you won’t find them in the sign-posted piazzas.
If you’ve got one day in Rome, follow our route for the best stops on an ultimate self-guided walking tour:
- Begin at the Colosseum on the edge of Monti in the historic center. The Colosseum is an emblem of Rome and an impressive feat of ancient architecture. Even if you don’t have time to join the queues, you can ogle the exterior. As you start your walk towards Piazza Venezia—which you can reach by walking straight along the outer edge of the complex due northwest—you’ll be able to look into the remnants of the Roman Forum too.
- Piazza Venezia is 10-15 minutes on foot from the Colosseum, straight up Via dei Fori Imperiali. This is where you’ll find the Vittorio Emanuele II monument, known affectionately by Romans as “the wedding cake”. The white marble structure was built to commemorate the unification of Italy and is a central hub of Rome, with busy thoroughfares intersecting and noisy Vespas whizzing past.
- Another 10 minutes from Piazza Venezia into Municipio I and you’ll find the Trevi Fountain. You’ll wander past Piazza di San Marcello on your way as well boutique stores and fresh pizza stalls. The Trevi Fountain is another symbol of the city and is famous for its intricate Baroque style. From here, the Spanish Steps are eight minutes north in Piazza di Spagna.
- Head back south, towards the center, and you’ll reach the Pantheon in less than 15 minutes. This iconic building is free to enter and is surrounded by great places to eat. Grab lunch and enjoy a gelato-to-go on your way to Piazza Navona, which is just a few minutes west.
- Piazza Navona was originally used for chariot racing and other events by the ancient Romans, but now, one of Bernini’s many fountains sits at the center of the square,. Revel in the beauty of the marble figures of Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi, but avoid eating at any of the restaurants that line the piazza as they tend to be overpriced.
- If you want to tick Vatican City off from your Roman adventure, the entrance to the state is just 20-minutes on foot from Piazza Navona and the afternoon is a good time to get there when some of the crowds have dissipated. The easy walk takes you across the Tiber, but be sure to dedicate a few hours, if you have time, to looking around the cathedral, as well as the museums and Sistine Chapel if you should so choose.
- As the sun starts to set on a busy day touring the city, walk back down along the river, but on the western side, and enjoy an evening in Trastevere. The buzzing urban district has great nightlife and food. The heart of Trastevere is less than half an hour away on foot from the Vatican.
The best things about walking are that it’s completely free, great exercise, and has virtually no environmental impact. We recommend investing in some good shoes so you can explore to your heart’s content, but anyone can walk around Rome and you’ll come across the best hidden gems on foot.
Getting Around Rome by Metro
Rome’s metro is the most popular mode of public transport. Although the historical center is very walkable, the metro could be a good idea if you’re staying further out.
The metro is outdated but efficient. Most lines run daily from 5.30 am to 11.30 pm, but until 1.30 am on Fridays and Saturdays—perfect if you’re coming into the city for a night out. The metro serves a number of the main landmarks like the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Termini Station. So if you don’t fancy walking, the underground railways could help you get around more sites in one day.
There always seems to be work going on in the network, so plan ahead in case of closures. Still, despite all these supposed improvements, the metro is far from faultless. For starters, it is a lot less extensive than the underground railway systems in London, Paris, and New York. But that’s because Rome doesn’t need it, with its compact center and other, more favorable ways of getting around.
Trains come every three to four minutes at most stations and the metro is undeniably faster than walking. Rush hour can be very busy and trains get overcrowded, which can not only be uncomfortable and sticky in the summer months, but it also makes the carriages hotbeds for pickpockets.
Look out for the big M on street corners near landmarks if you’re trying to identify a metro station. Lines A and B intersect at Rome Termini Station. Line A covers Subaugusta, where you can catch a bus to Ciampino airport, as well as Spagna for the Spanish steps, and Ottaviano S. Pietro for Vatican City. Line B stops at Circo Massimo, the Colosseum, and Tiburtina for the train to Fiumicino, while Line C is a newer line but less useful to tourists, running between Monte Compatri, 12 miles south of the city, to Parco Centocelle on the outskirts of the center.
All public transport in Rome is integrated. The same ticket that gets you through the metro barriers will allow you onto the buses, trams, and trains. You can buy tickets at kiosks in touristy areas, as well as at stations like Termini. One ride up to 100 minutes on any mode of transport costs €1.50, a 24-hour ticket for unlimited travel is €7, 48 hours comes to €12.50, 72 hours comes to €18, and it is just €24 for seven calendar days.
We recommend making use of the Rome metro if you aren’t staying close to the Tiber or Rome’s central districts, or if you have mobility issues. However, Rome’s metro is not stroller friendly.
Getting Around Rome by Bus or Tram
Rome also has an extensive bus system, which is less popular than the metro, but it can get you right into the city center and to many areas outside Rome. The bus is the slowest way to get around, potentially even slower than walking, due to the selected routes. However, if your mobility is limited, you need to travel a further distance, or you just fancy a rest from all the steps, getting around by bus will allow you to see a lot more of Rome than the metro.
Rome also operates a limited tram network which is part of the integrated ATAC public transport system. Because the network isn’t that extensive, the trams can be less busy than the busses and you’re more likely to get a seat. However, they are probably only going to be useful to you if you’re staying someone along the tram line.
The buses have an erratic timetable in Rome, which usually isn’t respected. You could wait a long time for one to come along and have to stand in a queue to get on. If you’re in a rush, we don’t recommend relying on the buses. They are useful for longer inner city journeys but more of a local experience.
Pickpocketing is also rife on the buses, especially with the crowds that congregate, so keep an extra eye on your belongings.
You always have the option of the hop-on hop-off bus that isn’t included in the public transport network, but can be a fun—albeit touristy—way to see the city. You’ll still have to do some walking and they are more expensive than the public busses, but they will drop you off at all the main attractions and can be enjoyable if you have a spare day and can’t decide what to do or you’re planning to tick off a lot of the main sites in a few days.
Daily ticket prices start at €20 for adults and €10 for children over the age of six. A 48-hour pass starts at €28 for adults and €17 for kids, while you can get a 72-hour pass for €32 for adults and €20 for children. There are lots of different tour operators, but some might include entrance fees or discounts to attractions in the city, as well as public transport passes, so shop around before you commit.
Getting Around Rome by Scooter
Scooters are synonymous with Rome and we’ve all dreamed of whizzing around the streets on the back of a Vespa like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. However, they’re not for the inexperienced, and unlike in countries like Thailand and Indonesia, taking scooter-taxis are not a done thing.
After walking, scooters are the most popular way of getting around for Romans and the same can be said for most Italian cities. However, you’ll have to know how to ride one before coming to the city if you’re planning to rent a scooter.
The city traffic in Rome is chaotic and dangerous. You’ll also need a suitable international driving license to drive a Vespa in Rome. If you want to evaluate whether the traffic is manageable, or if you just want to feel the wind in your hair as you whip around the Roman Colosseum, consider a scooter tour with an experienced driver.
Again, this is a tourist attraction in itself and not a form of public transport, but an exciting way to see the city nonetheless. Prices start from €100 for most tours, while Vespa rental is around €45-90 a day.
Getting Around Rome by Taxi
Taxis have a bad reputation in Rome. Not only are they inefficient and expensive, but tourists often report getting ripped off by faulty meters, not to mention reckless driving. However, most taxi drivers in Rome are honest and if you have your wits about you, you don’t need to get hustled.
They can be a good option if it is late at night and you’re far away from your accommodation. You might risk a bumped-up fare, but certain neighborhoods of Rome are unsafe and public transport carried higher crime risks at night, especially if you’re traveling alone.
You’ll pay a basic fee of €3, plus a price per kilometer of around €1.50 to take a taxi in Rome. Although, the basic fare could be twice as much after 10 pm and before 6 am—remember this for your early airport transfers.
The average journey across short distances in the city costs around €6-8, which isn’t as bad as taxis in cities like London and New York. Expect to pay a fixed fare of €48 if you’re coming from Fiumicino Aiport to any destination within the Aurelian Walls of the city center. The price is closer to €30 from Ciampino.
Getting Around Rome by Bicycle
Rome is a lot of things, but it’s no Amsterdam. With the crazy traffic, steep hills, and narrow cobblestone streets, Rome is not historically a bike-friendly city. They are getting more popular, especially in greener districts, but it is uncommon to get around the city center by bicycle.
You should check out the traffic and the landscape of where you’re staying before you think about hiring a bike. If you are an experienced city cyclist, then nothing should stop you. Otherwise, you can limit your cycling to certain areas and hire a bicycle somewhere like Villa Borghese and explore the gardens and lake on two wheels.
E-bikes have surged in popularity and are a good way to tackle Rome’s hilly streets, but they’re still potentially dangerous in traffic and we don’t recommend them for covering city distances if you’re traveling with children—there are also age restrictions. Bike lanes are also far and few between in the Italian capital and the car fumes aren’t pleasant.
Best Way to Get Around Rome: The Conclusion
From the cost to the authenticity, the efficiency, and the scope of ground you can cover, walking is without a doubt the best way to get around Rome. The metro and bus network makes it easy to get into the center if you’re staying further out, but once you’ve arrived, all you need is your own two feet. The best attractions are clustered together in traffic-free zones making the city easy to navigate, and the Italian capital is also far more exciting from its gritty urban sidewalks than sticky metro carriageways. If you really want to do as the Romans do, hiring a Vespa isn’t the way to go—taking to the pavements is. Rome is fast-paced and never sleeps, and you’ll only feel its real zest if you walk in its shoes for a day.