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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Mellor

Getting Around In Rome: The ATaC Transportation System

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Thankfully, Rome's public transportation system, while often the recipient of ridicule, is comprehensive, fairly easy to navigate, and cheap. It might be even cheaper for you, depending when you read this article, as the current mayor of Rome, Roberto Gualtieri, is pushing for free public transportation within Rome.

If that happens, the pricing information below will be out of date, but the rest of it shouldn't be.

There are three major components of Rome's public transportation system that I am going to discuss. The types of transportation, the price for the different tickets and how long the tickets last, and where the transportation can take you.

Before I start getting into any of that, I want to knock out some of the basics.

First, Rome uses ATaC as their main transportation company. ATaC, or Azienda Tramvie e Autobus del Comune di Roma, or in English, Tramway and Bus Agency of the City of Rome, is a publicly owned (as in state owned) company that is responsible for nearly all transportation within Rome. We're talking buses, trams, trolleybuses, the Metro, and even a few train lines, which I will discuss further below.

A ticket purchased for one of the modes of transportation will work on all the modes on transportation.

And, depending on the time of day (rush hour, for instance, being the exception to this rule), a bus will usually be one of the best modes of transports, sometimes better than a taxi, depending on the bus route, solely because buses have the right of way (as far as I can tell, given the fact I've seen buses merge into traffic where all traffic laws I'm aware of would tell me it's illegal).

Another small, but important piece of information is that Rome is a highly walkable city. So much of what you might want to see (The Vatican, the Tiber, the Pantheon, most museums, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, etc.) are all within "walking distance" from each other, depending on what you consider walking distance, I suppose. More likely than not, depending on your route through the city, each of these sights is only 15-20 minutes away from the last on foot. Which means, unless you have trouble walking, or you are with people that have trouble walking, it genuinely might be easier to walk to your next destination that to take any form of transportation. This is due to wait times for trains and buses, and the fact that you, on foot, are not going to be bothered by road traffic.

where to buy and what it costs

There are three ways to buy tickets for the ATaC system in Rome: from kiosks, from edicola, or at the stations, or from tabacchi. In my experience, the Rome Metro stations are good enough for most tourists. After all, you will probably find yourself at Ottaviano for the Vatican, Spagna for the Spanish Steps, Flaminio for Piazza del Popolo, and Termini for Roma Termini, the main train station. At all of these stops, and more, you can find kiosks that sell tickets. The kinds of tickets they sell are listed below. Keep in mind that kiosks do not give more than 6 euros in change, so if you're paying with a 20 euro bill, make sure that you're purchasing at least €14 worth of tickets.

Lastly, Rome has recently begun to roll out a "rechargeable" ticket. While the initial purchase is slightly more than the normal ticket cost (2 instead of 1.50), these can be "recharged" at some kiosks. Personally, I don't like them. The tickets are made with the same grade paper as the single-use and they will easily disintegrate over the course of a day, especially if it's kept in a sweaty pocket. However, by the time you read this, they may have transitioned to those tickets full time. If so, just keep your eyes out for a place to recharge them.

An edicola is essentially a magazine/newspaper store or stand. In any city with public transportation they will also sell you transportation tickets. These are a little trickier to find than the tabacchi below because there is no main identifying mark, and not all edicole sell tickets.

Dotted throughout all of Italy, you will find tabaccheria, or tabacchi for short, or in English, tobacco shops. Most of them, like in the photo, will have a blue or black "T" sign with "Sali e Tabacchi" written underneath which means "Salt and Tobacco" in English, and it used to be the only things these shops sold. Today, they are places to buy cigarettes, marca di bollo or tax stamps (important for any legal document), gum, and, still, salt. You can even recharge your phone plan here, in cash, which is great in a country that still counts cash as Kin— well, Pope.

Some tabacchi operate as cafés, offering coffee and aperitivi alongside any tobacco needs.

And when you're in Rome, these shops will also sell you tickets for the transportation system. In many ways, we find it easier to buy our ticket from one of these shops then from the kiosks at the Metro station.

The other place to buy tickets for the ATaC transportation system is at the kiosks (and sometimes the little help desks) at the Metro stations. And there is one thing to keep in mind when buying tickets:

You cannot buy tickets on board the bus, and most bus stations will not have any way to purchase a ticket. Riding without a ticket for any reason will result in a fine if caught.

So, if you plan on taking the bus, it's best to stock up on tickets at a tabacchi or kiosk before sight-seeing for the day.

  • Single Use: Cost: €1.50 — Valid for 100 minutes from validation (either stamping them in the yellow machine on buses or trams, or using them at the turnstile for the Metro and train system), this ticket allows you to travel throughout Rome on one (1) Metro going in a single direction and unlimited trams and buses. This means if you are only going out for a short period and you're not using the Metro, you can do all of your errands on a single ticket.

  • 24hr Ticket: Cost: €7.00 — This ticket is valid from the moment it's validated for 24 hours. Keep in mind, for this ticket to be worth it, you have to use it at least 5 times in that day.

  • 48hr Ticket: Cost: €12.50 — Just as above, this is valid for 48 hours from the moment it's stamped. To be worth it, this ticket has to be used at least 9 times, around four and a half times a day for two days.

  • 72hr Ticket: Cost: €18.00 — Valid for 72 hours from the moment it's stamped. To be worth it, you have to use this ticket at least 13 times, a little more than four times a day during those three days.

  • Week Pass: Cost: €24.00 — Valid for one week from the moment it's stamped. To be worth it, you have to use this ticket at least 17 times, a little more than twice a day for the week.

  • Monthly Pass: Cost: €35.00 — We love this one right here. Ride as much as you want, as far as you want, no strings attached. To be worth it, you have to use this ticket more than 23 times. And, while it sounds like a lot, at 2 tickets a day, that's not even 2 weeks of using public transportation.

  • Yearly Pass: Cost: €250 — This probably won't apply to you, but if you're planning on visiting Rome often, and you have the money to spend on it, this might be a useful option. However, you do have to apply in person (or by email) so it's not really worth it unless you need it.

  • Roma Pass 48hr: Cost: €32.00 — This is a great option if you're visiting Rome, and you want to see everything. Live the tourist life to the extreme! What's included? Glad you asked! FREE ENTRY to your first museum, archeological site, experience, etc. (in Rome, which means no Vatican, which is in Vatican City). Discounts for every attraction, museum, etc. you visit afterwards. FREE ENTRY to the P.Stop bathrooms (normally 1 euro). And, of course, free transportation around Rome for those 48 hours.

  • Roma Pass 72hr: €Cost: 52.00 — Just like the previous pass, but the first 2 (two) sites you visit are free. Plus everything else the 48hr pass has.

As you can probably tell, the only time it's worth it to buy the passes with a longer time is if you're planning on taking the transportation system a whole bunch, or if you don't want to have to deal with having a number of paper tickets in your pockets. Otherwise, they have to be used a lot to be worth it, and while it sounds like it might make sense, once you're have spent a few hours in Rome, you'll realize that it's often easier to walk around than to take transportation.

traveling with kids

If you're traveling with your kids, and any of them are under 10, they ride for free! However, if you send them out to have a fun day by themselves (for whatever reason) then they will need a ticket. But as long as you're with them, they ride free.

And if you have any age-identifying information for them (not a birth certificate, of course), bring that along. Sometimes the auditors will get a little aggressive and accuse you of lying if you happen to have a very tall 10 year old. Or if your ten year old has a beard. Though this rarely happens, they are used to families trying to say, "No, they're 10, trust me" while the auditor is looking at someone well over the age of 10.

where you can go

The ATaC card can take you anywhere the bus, tram, trolleybus, and Metro goes. In essence, this is the entire city and outlying areas. As a word of warning, pay attention to the schedules and any notices. While this may seem obvious, Darcy and I have been caught out a number of times without a way to get home (except walking). Some buses will only run in the morning, and again in the evening. Which means, only get off at a stop that has other routes. The Metro will run until midnight where it's usually replaced by a night bus that runs the same route. These are all subject to change as work is often being done to improve the lines.

For a list of all train, bus, trolley, and tram lines, click here.

The ATaC card will also give you a ride on three train lines: the Roma-Civita Castellana-Viterbo, the Roma-Giardinetti, and the Roma-Lido lines.

For a tourist, the Roma-Giardinetti line isn't too useful. It is a line for peoople getting to work in the city and back home in the "suburbs" or frazioni.

If you're planning on a day trip to Viterbo, the Roma-Civita Castellana-Viterbo train is the way to go, provided you make the switch in Montebello.

If you really want to make a day trip out of Viterbo, I actually recommend the regional train. While it's more expensive, it's a good deal faster, and it will make it easier to see Viterbo.

The ATaC method is only good if you're planning an overnight stay in Viterbo and don't mind saving a little money in exchange for a longer ride.

The last line is the most useful of the three: Roma-Lido. This is the train to the beach in Ostia, and the ruins of Ostia Antica. If you won't have time to make it down to Pompeii or Paestum, head out to Ostia Antica! It's a small but beautiful slice of the ancient seaport city and if you're lucky, your visit might even coincide with a concert in the ruins! If you're looking for a way to cool down Rome, spending a few hours at the beach in the middle of the day is a great way to do so. If you do happen to make you're way there, don't forget to try the krapfen at Kapfen Paglia.

If you're looking for other day trips around Rome, I have a article here. But if you prefer to cool down on a summer day, check out the article here.


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