When in Rome, Forgo Your Car and Explore on Foot
Whether visiting Rome for a few short days or taking an extended vacation, the best way to get around Rome is on foot. The Eternal City was built around the idea of foot traffic and driving can be a very stressful experience in a bustling city designed long before automobiles ever existed.
While Rome does contain some large roads, the majority of Roman streets are narrow and winding. Aggressive Italian drivers blast by on amped up motor scooters called Vespas, a brand name which very descriptively translates into English as “wasp.” Parking spots are generally hard to find and never cheap if a driver is lucky enough to finally locate one. Although Romans themselves frequently park illegally in many locations including public sidewalks, anyone parked illegally faces the risk of a stiff fine and potentially even arrest if police decide that the parking behavior endangered pedestrians or ancient property. By contrast, public transportation is ubiquitous, cheap and incredibly user friendly.
The heart of the Roman transport system is the Metro. With trains arriving and departing every 7-11 minutes, no one ever has to wait very long to get where they are going. Organized with tourists in mind, Metro maps list major tourist attractions alongside each stop. Most of Rome’s most famous attractions are only a few short steps from Metro stops. In addition to allowing quick access to all of Rome’s major tourist attractions, the Metro also offers transport to both of Rome’s airports, Fiumcino and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as the entrance to Vatican City. Rome’s Metro is safe, well-policed and generally clean. The Metro opens before dawn and operates almost until midnight. It is usually several degrees cooler than street level or the buses which is quite a relief on scorching summer days!
Although the Metro is generally more efficient than bus travel within the city, there are certain locations that are better reached by bus than train. The Roman bus system is also well-developed and affordable. Tickets can be purchased in train stations or at local newsstands and grocers. It should be remembered that tickets must be purchased before boarding Roman buses. Cash is not accepted on board and heavy fines can be imposed on any travelers who attempt transport without a valid ticket. Tourists are eligible to purchase all-access passes which cover both train and bus transport within Rome for designated time periods. These passes are highly recommended as they offer extreme flexibility and considerable cost savings for individuals who wish to see all that Rome has to offer.
Taxis are never hard to find. In fact, tourists have often noted that it seems that taxis, the police and ambulances make up the majority of the traffic on congested Roman streets. Taxi fares are government regulated on popular trips such as from the airport to the city center and generally reasonable elsewhere, but some drivers can be dishonest. Travelers should agree on a fare with a driver before embarking on a trip. Taxis can be expensive but are far less hassle and expense than car rentals as travelers do not have to worry about finding legal places to park. Taxis often serve as a relaxing treat for tourists who have gotten well off the beaten path and spent the day traipsing around the less seen Rome. Many tourists simply walk as far as their feet can take them and then rely on public transportation or taxis to bring them back home safely at night. This is an excellent way to see life the way that real Romans see it.
Beyond the amazing historical artifacts, Rome is a bustling modern city filled with fascinating individuals who are simply living their lives. Tourists who dare to venture beyond the major tourist attractions frequently find beautiful ancient churches housing Renaissance masterpieces that do not even make tourists maps in attraction-heavy Rome. Neighborhood restaurants and shops offer unforgettable cuisine and unique souvenirs that one could never discovered if competing with traffic and the need to find adequate, legal parking in Rome. The best way to find these diamonds is by interacting with the locals and the best way to find friendly locals to interact with is by popping into out-of-the-way neighborhood pubs and bars. It is by strolling and discovering that the true Rome is found.