How We Used the Rome Bus System

Dec 3rd, 2006, 04:35 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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How We Used the Rome Bus System

My husband Don, son Tim, & I (Julie) were in Rome from 11/2/06 to 11/16/06. We never use the buses in the U.S. Like most Americans, we drive! So, when we looked at all of the bus stop signs with the long list of stop names, we had no idea how to figure it out….what side of the street should we be on?.....we want to go to a tourist site but street names are listed? do we know which bus #’s go to where we want to go & which ones come back to our “home”?.....on & on.

For our first few days in Rome, it was not a problem because our plans were within walking distance. So, since we are friendly people & always talk to others we meet along the way, we always took the opportunity to ask them if they had figured out the bus system – everyone said they had not – too confusing. So, next we asked the owner’s of our apartment – they only drive, so they did not know. On one occasion, we stopped in a Tourist Info booth & received the correct info. However, that was not a fail safe system because those little booths are not everywhere & besides, they often have a line of people waiting for help. We also found out later, that their bus advice is not always correct.

At first, we took the easy way out – we rode the #110 red double decker tourist bus. We very much enjoyed the ride, the narration, the overview of the city, & the option to hop-on/hop-off. However, at E13 per person per day, that would be an expensive method. Besides, it did not go everywhere we wanted to go.

Next, we took the #116 mini-bus – cute little thing & we enjoyed the ride. However, it also does not go everywhere we wanted to go & it is so sloooooooow – has so many stops! We would lose too much of our sightseeing time on the #116 bus.

Some Fodorites say the metro system is great – cheap, fast, & easy to use. Well, we did not have a metro stop close to us. So that was not an option. Actually, we have since decided that our next lodging in Rome will be close to a metro stop or close to the Termini, which is the metro & bus hub. Would save so much of our sightseeing time, our sightseeing energy, & our feet!

Some of the tourists we met said they just walked everywhere. Even though we walk a lot, we did not like that method because it would waste too much of our sightseeing time. Plus, a one hour walk to & a one hour walk back would decrease our amount of energy & foot comfort!

We nixed taxi transport immediately – too expensive, can’t usually hail a cab—need to call & request or schedule, too much trouble to be on guard for getting scammed by taxi drivers.

There was only one way left – we had to conquer the Rome bus system. And we did, at least enough to serve our purpose. We received so much help from this Fodor’s board that I am posting this in the hope that my info will help someone else. We did not “perfect” using the Rome bus system, so anyone who can post additional info or correct my info, please so so. But for our purposes, we did successfully use it on a daily basis for almost two weeks & we went to a lot of places.

In the beginning – First, at a newsstand, I bought the Rome bus schedule & map package, E6. My two guys objected to this, insisting the Rome bus system was too confusing & not worth the effort – just like those we met had said. I knew I could figure it out because it was not brain surgery, traveling alone for business I had successfully learned & used the subways in New York City & Washington D.C., at one time Don & I had sold our home & traveled the U.S. by RV for 6 years & eventually found our way around major cities & even found our way back to Indiana! So, I was determined.

That evening, with the bus map & schedule spread out before me on the kitchen table of our Rome apartment, I was not so confident! So, I am going to explain to you what I learned, but before I do, let me caution you. The way I have DETAILED the info makes it appear to be too much trouble and/or too overwhelming – believe me, it is not. Once you have used the buses a time or two, the rest will be easy, which will result in more euros in your pocket, more leather on your shoes (or rubber in case you are the typical American with tennis shoes), & more Alleve in your medicine stash! OK, here’s what I learned & here is the method I used:

1. Sometimes, the map is a false prophet! It said we could catch bus #271 at our stop & it would take us to the Pyramide stop – wrong – it did not stop at our bus stop (our stop refers to the stop closest to our apartment). But wait, don’t throw it into the fire – it still has a lot of value! Note: Italians are helpful, but sadly don’t always know the way – many drive! If you ask at the newsstand, restaurant, etc. you may not get the correct info. So, check it against the bus stop sign & your bus schedule book & bus map before you take the leap of faith.

2. You need the eyes of Superman or a small magnifying glass! A bus stop can have many, many buses stop there. That means the numbers are very tiny on the map & often have the lines of streets going thru them. Also, the bus map gives most of the street names unlike most travel maps – so the writing must be very small to include everything. A small round magnifying glass will not make your luggage overweight!

3. I just saw it a minute ago! A hiliter pen will prevent your destination from disappearing into oblivion. Begin by hilighting your bus stop (one closest to your hotel/apartment). Then find your destination & hilite it (Colosseum, Pantheon, etc.). Now you can easily see & find at any time, your beginning & ending points. Note: It is not always easy to find the tourist spots on the bus map because it is mostly just streets. So, use your tourist map, compare the site location to the bus map, & hilite where it should be.

4. Play game show & find a match! Look for a matching bus # at your stop & your destination stop. Begin by listing (have pen & paper handy) all of the bus #’s at your destination stop. Also list the street name for your destination stop (will explain later). If you do not find a match, check for nearby stops. For instance, near our apartment, walking in 3 different directions would bring us to 3 different bus stops, yet each was only 1 to 3 blocks away. The bus map will show all of the bus stops near you & near your destination. Keep checking each for a match (I found it more helpful to make a list of the #’s). If you do not find a match, you will need to transfer (see #5 below).

5. Doesn’t always go from here to there! (1) This can simply be fixed by taking a bus from your stop to Termini & taking a bus at Termini to your destination - easy. Just find the bus #’s at your stop, look them up in the bus schedule. Listed next to your bus # in the schedule book will be all of the stops for that bus – look for Termini. (2) Or, you look for a transfer at another bus stop. In other words, from your bus stop go to another one & catch the bus that goes to your destination. For instance (this is just an example, not accurate), you are near P. Navona, want to go to Appian Way, but must transfer. Maybe there is a bus from your stop that goes to the Colosseum, where you can transfer to a bus that goes to the Appian Way. Then to return, just back track.

Note: At the Termini, the buses are all lined up in lanes (all going in the same direction). There are signs in the lanes that list the #'s of the buses that come into each lane. There is also an Info/Ticket booth that will advise you which bus & lane to take. The info booth is at the front of one of the lanes - good & easy method.

6. What do those crazy names mean? The names on the bus stop signs & in the bus schedule are bus stop names & they are usually street names. And since some streets are long & therefore have more than one bus stop, be sure to hilite the correct stop or you will walk further – not the end of the world, but nice to prevent.

7. Oh no! I’m here & want to go there & I didn’t plan! There is a saving grace if you are somewhere & decide unexpectedly that you want to go to somewhere else. (1) If you know the bus # to take or the bus stop name of where you are going, no problem. Just go to the nearest bus stop & see if it works. If not, see if there is another bus stop nearby and/or use your bus map for nearby stops. (2) However, if you don’t know the name of the bus stop where you are headed, find it on the bus map (find your destination, bus stop nearest to, & the name of the street for the bus stop). More info on how to use the bus schedule book in #8 below.

8. Then why am I carrying around this little book? The bus schedule can be as helpful as the bus map. (1) The front section lists bus #’s by public places/some tourist places. For instance, you want to go to the Colosseum & many bus #’s are listed for going there. See if any of those #’s match your bus stop. (2) The 2nd section is a street listing. (3) The 3rd section is a listing of all of the bus #’s & all of the bus stops for each. I used this section a lot. I did not use the 1st & 2nd sections, but others may find it useful. In the 3rd section, I circled all of the buses at my 3 bus stops. Then I circled the bus stops for each one that I knew I would be going to, such as for the Ancient City, Via Veneto, etc. It saved time.

9. Which side of the street? – Now for us, this was the magical question! We learned the hard way – sat in an underground bus terminal, all alone on the bus (driver jumped out as soon as the wheels stopped), but luckily for only about 10 minutes & driver came back & we were are our way. Note: The buses just keep circling their route. So, if you end up on the wrong one or going the wrong way, stay on & you will eventually end up where you started!

OK – here is how you know which side of the street for catching the bus. On the signs at the bus stops, under each bus #, there will be a list of bus stop names. One of those bus stop names will be enclosed in a box (lines enclose the name). That is the name of the bus stop where you are standing. Do this: (1) Look for the name of the bus stop where you are headed. (2) If your destination bus stop is listed “above” the stop where you are standing (the one in the box), you need to cross the street & catch the bus over there. If your destination bus stop is listed “under” the stop where you are standing (the one in the box), you are on the correct side of the street. Now, that is so easy, wouldn’t it be nice if that was shared everywhere – Tourist Info booth, bus map, bus schedule book, a sign at the bus stop, etc.!

10. Smile! Before our confidence was intact, I would stick half my body thru an open bus door & ask the driver if he was going to _____ (where ever). . In our experience, the drivers were pleasant & helpful. Of course, we always greeted them with a smile. Sometimes, before leaving the bus, we asked the bus driver for the direction of ____ (where ever). It helped to be pointed in the correct direction. Although we did take a small compass along, which we always do when we travel. With a map & a compass, I’m set to go anywhere! We used it several times in Rome & Venice; saved our feet from wasted steps!

11. Panic time – Am I here yet? OK, you know where you started this trip, you know which side of the street to catch your bus, you know the name of your destination stop, but how do you know when you are there? (1)Some of the buses have TV screens hanging from the ceiling (usually in the middle section of the bus). These screens sometimes display the next stop, the current stop, & sometimes list the remaining stops (by bus stop name). Easy. When the stop before yours is listed as the current stop, after everyone has departed, head to the door. (2)Or, if there is not a working TV screen, position yourself (sitting or standing) on the right (facing forward) side of the bus. That way, each time the bus stops, you can view the bus stop name, which is listed at the top of each sidewalk bus sign. When the stop before yours is listed as the current stop, after everyone has departed, head to the door. Note: So, as you see, before boarding the bus, you need to know the bus stop name of your destination, but you also need to know the bus stop name of the stop just before your destination. Also, another Note: For some reason, many times there were more or less stops than listed on the signs. So counting the stops did not work for us.

And another Note: Possibly the reason the stops didn't add up is because the drivers don't stop when no one has indicated they want off & no one is standing on the curb to get on. So, we always made sure that we stood near the sidewalk bus sign & near the curb edge of the sidewalk - to indicate we wanted to board. Once on board, we noticed there are red buttons on many of the poles (the ones from floor to ceiling that one can hold onto when standing). After pulling away from the stop before ours, we began pushing that red button so the driver would be sure to stop at our stop. Don’t know if that is really necessary, but can’t hurt.

12. Once we were 3! It makes for a nice vacation if everyone manages to get on the bus before it leaves & off the bus before it pulls away! (maybe some of you are saying, “not always”!) Anyway, one time we almost got separated. Here’s what I suggest – When possible, board at the front door & stay as close to the front door as possible. If you have to exit from the back door & the bus is crowded, the driver cannot see if everyone who wants off is off. When the bus pulls away from the bus stop before your stop, move your group close to the front door, if possible. If you have kids, just keep your hold on them when exiting & entering & that should be OK. Separation is probably rare, but usually only occurs when someone in the group is not paying attention or doesn’t move quickly enough.

Notes: (1) Before the bus ride, decide what to do if separated, such as, get off at the next stop & stay there. The person left on the sidewalk will walk to the one who got off of the bus. (2) And, before our trip began, I made an itinerary sheet for each of us to carry at all times. So, if separation occurred, everyone knew the hotel/apartment contact name, phone numbers, & address. It also helps for each age responsible person to have a room key & enough money for cab fare.

13. Never to return! – Assuming you want to return to your Rome “home”, be sure to notate or memorize the name of your bus stop (especially if you have several stops near you). It also helps to remember landmarks, so your stop will be familiar as you approach it. Also, & this may sound silly, but at least for the first few days when everything is new, make a mental note of which direction to go when you get off of the bus at your bus stop (use landmarks in case you get off on the other side of the street).

14. NOTES: Just some extra info:
We avoided the buses during rush hour; don’t know the conditions during that time, but felt that at the very least we owed that to the locals trying to get to & from work.

A stop is “Fermata”.

On the bus stop signs, if at owl is at the top of a bus #, it is a night service bus only; an E is express (less stops).

A 75 minute bus ticket (BIT) is E1 (buy at newsstands or tobacco shops); a 24 hour/daily pass (BIG) is E4 (not sure if newsstands or tobacco shops sell this); a 3 day pass (BTI) is E11; a weekly pass (CIS) is E16 (tobacco shops; not newsstands). Since we rode the buses so much, we bought a weekly pass. All of these tickets can be used on the buses, metro, & the train that goes to Ostia Antica.

As soon as boarding the bus, the ticket should be stamped in the yellow machine on the bus (usually one at front & one in the middle). Insert the ticket, the machine will eat it, & then spit it out with the stamped time. If that doesn’t happen, need to turn the ticket before inserting. Note: Only need to stamp the multi-day tickets the first time. If your ticket is not properly stamped & a bus inspector checks the ticket, a fine will be imposed. For our 2 weeks in Rome & many, many bus rides, we never saw an inspector & saw very few people stamp tickets. However, being the one person who is caught would not be fun!

We were surprised by the condition of the buses – very nice. The ones we were on were fairly new looking & in good repair; also clean.

The locals were very friendly & helpful. We had absolutely no problem on the buses with pickpockets, criminals, rude people, etc. And we were on some very crowded buses. But then, we always stood erect, acted alert (not confused like we were), didn't have bags hanging loose, & did not carry money & valuables in our pockets.

If you can buy a bus schedule & bus map before leaving home, that would be great. Then by the time you arrive you will be familiar with stop names, bus #'s, routes, etc.

I do so hope that I did not discourage anyone from using the buses. It's a lot of info, but if you had a bus map & schedule now, you would soon realize how simple it is. So, please do not be intimidated by the bus system. Riding the #116 first may help ease the anguish. Then experiment by getting good directions, which you confirm on your bus map & bus schedule. You can also get experience by taking an easy route (like to Termini, which is easy to navigate). Soon you will be a pro & enjoy the ease of going far distances (inexpensively & without so much walking!).

I hope this helps some folks. Have fun in Rome!

Julie_Hurst is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 04:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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my goodness, I am dizzy! Bus trippers will love all the time you took to share this, good for you.

So far I haven't taken a bus in Rome either.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 06:07 PM
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Julie, thank you for taking the time to put together this information. We leave for Rome a week from today and it is our first trip there. I will print your instructions to take with us and "put them to the test".
AnnMarie_C is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 06:14 PM
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In Rome I took the metro, buses, and trams, although generally I walked. Take a deep breath, think of a valuables-protection strategy, and do it! Walking is great, but sometimes you want to cover 5 miles in 15 minutes - and the right metro strategy allows this. On the bus, you get a view of the city that you won't get by walking.
WillTravel is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 06:39 PM
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Julie - Here's a link about Rome busses with pictures of the different types of busses and of the bus stop signs.

The official link for Rome transportation is in Italian and not very user friendly although you can access maps.
kybourbon is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 06:43 PM
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Thank you - this is fantastic information! we've just begun using buses in Paris, and your thoughtful post will help us learn in Rome next year.
Travelnut is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 07:58 PM
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We used the bus and metro when we were in Rome last month. We really did not find it very confusing.We used a good map to find the itinerary and then looked at the bus stop signs to see which bus went there. At first we went by the tourist information center near Piazza Navona, and they were very helpful in telling us which bus/metro to take.

Our plan was usually to go to the most distant destination first and then sightsee our way back to the convent where we were staying. We found the metro to be just as easy as the one in Paris. The only bus that we observed any pickpocket activity was Bus 64 going to the Vatican.

Just try using the bus/metro system. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised. Also, we asked the people we were sitting by where to get off, and they were always very helpful. Sometimes it is hard to get the bus driver's attention- after all, they are busy driving the bus.

We found that using public transportation really expanded our sightseeing possibilities. We love to walk in Rome, but that can be very time consuming.This trip we went on the metro/bus to see St. Paul outside the Walls- don't miss it! And Santa Contanza's beautiful Mausoleum built in 354 AD and Santa Croce. There are so many great places to see that are not in the historical center of Rome. If you really get lost , you can always take a taxi at any time, but we never needed to do that.
Saraho is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 08:07 PM
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"Note: The buses just keep circling their route. So, if you end up on the wrong one or going the wrong way, stay on & you will eventually end up where you started! "

My experience (on bus 271) was that they do not circle but announce end of the line everyone out. Then you have to wait for the next bus.

Henry is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 10:08 PM
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Oh Julie, I think I will reread this tomorrow as it is late and I am so confused, lol. I never use busses anywhere, and now I think I know why!
I am being silly of course but honestly maybe tomorrow this will all make sense as it sure doesn't tonight.

Hi SeaUrchin, I am glad I am not the only "have never taken the bus". Think it would work, LOL.

Julie, a wealth of information that I know will help so many visitors to Rome.
LoveItaly is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 10:12 PM
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HI, LI, no I am not one for buses, except on the AC. Born and raised in LA, I can't get a grip on public transportation. I would rather walk or taxi it.

Glad you are feeling better !
SeaUrchin is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2006, 10:40 PM
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Hi SeaUrchin, me too, that was a nasty virus. Turned into a head cold but as of tonight that is gone too, thank goodness.

Taxis or walking (and we are good at walking are we not) is my transporation mode also. I am rather dense about busses.
LoveItaly is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 02:01 AM
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This is dogged midwestern persistence at its finest. Thanks, Julie, for all your work to provide this. We'll be in Rome over New Year's and will use it often, especially to get to St. Paul's--Saraho, glad you enjoyed that. It's my number one must do for this coming trip.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 03:43 AM
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I nominate Julie_Hurst as Fodors Roma busmeister extraordinaire, if that isn't too much of a linguistic collision.

Julie, it sounds like you would enjoy riding the buses of Seville, Spain. They have monitors on the bus that display live, real-time diagrams showing not only the relevant bus' route through the city, but to which stop on said route you are currently closest.

Even riding the bus after dark, we felt confident we would get out at the right stop. Wonderful!

Meanwhile, back to Italy: Hope you enjoyed Rome.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Dec 4th, 2006, 05:07 AM
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Maybe we'll try the bus next time in Rome. Thank you for putting together this information.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Dec 11th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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Julie - Thanks so much for this! What wonderfully detailed info - exactly what I need to help me figure things out. I hardly ever use public transportation at home so I am not very quick on figuring out things like bus systems. I will be going to Rome in April and was just starting to feel intimidated by the thought of using the buses in Rome. I will definitely be referring to this thread often as I try and tackle the Roman bus system. Thanks again!
KTLou82 is offline  
Dec 11th, 2006, 04:38 PM
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Wow, Julie, great job! I will be in Rome in February, and while I plan to do a lot of walking, I can see where this info will be very handy if the weather becomes very cold or wet. Thanks for sharing all of your hard-won knowledge.
samsmom1127 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 06:51 AM
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Thank you for the information. I recently started riding the bus daily in the DC area so I understand the challenge of trying to figure out a bus system. And a different language makes it more challenging.

I want to make sure I understand something corrently. You always need a ticket for the bus? You can't use cash when you get on?

vjpblovesitaly is offline  
Dec 13th, 2006, 11:36 AM
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Julie: Thank you so much for taking the time to try to make this not such a daunting feat. I also never take the bus at home, just drive everywhere, so the buses in Rome have always intimidated me. I walk everywhere, but at the end of a long day, on the opposite side of Roma from where I am staying, not being able to find a taxi, this is wonderful information. I am printing this out and taking it with me next time. Many thanks!!
Barb is offline  
May 23rd, 2007, 11:21 AM
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My friend and I have just returned from our first trip to Italy (Rome and Naples). I printed out your instructions and found they worked perfectly.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
evecolorado is offline  
May 24th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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Julie, thank you so much. I know this will be a great help when we are in Rome this October.
Bellini1 is offline  

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