Rome is a city made to be admired and there is no better way to do it than walking: walking through its narrow streets, discovering its corners, entering every door you see to discover what's behind...
But there is a problem: this is not the most efficient way to move between attractions, monuments, and ancient ruins, even more so if you are going to be in Rome for less than a week and want to see a lot of things in a short time. Therefore, it is best to know in advance how to get around the city before your trip, and I got you covered: here is a complete guide to the Rome subway.
1. How the Rome subway works
ATAC stands for 'Agenzia del trasporto autoferrotranviario del Comune di Roma', or in other words, the company in charge of Rome's public transport. An ATAC ticket is valid for travel on train, bus, and tram. It is also valid for commuter trains (within the metropolitan area of Rome).
Tickets can be purchased at vending machines or ticket offices in metro stations, and also at tobacconists (marked with a blue sign with a T) and kiosks throughout the city.
Be careful, because the metro vending machines are out to get you: they accept Euros in both bills and coins but never give more than € 6 change, so if you put in a € 20 bill they won't give you anything back until you have bought € 14 in bills. To "fix the problem", many machines only accept € 5 and 10 bills, so if you have a larger bill you will have to look elsewhere for change. Oh, and of course, they do not accept credit cards.
Therefore, whenever you can, I recommend buying tickets from a human at a ticket office, tobacconist, or kiosk and stay as far away as possible from those pieces of junk.
2. Which ticket to buy
- BIT: The single ticket, valid for one trip by metro or suburban train or 100 minutes by bus (€ 1.50).
- Rome 24H: This ticket is valid for 1 day for travel on any ATAC transport method (€ 7).
- Rome 48H: 2-day ticket for all ATAC public transport (€ 12,50).
- Rome 72H: 3-day ticket valid for any ATAC transportation option (€ 18).
- CIS: A 7-day ticket valid for bus, subway, and suburban train (€ 24).
If you are going to spend a week in Rome and you plan to move around mainly by public transport, don't think twice: it will be worth buying a CIS ticket, this way, for less than € 3,50 per day you will have unlimited access to the entire transport network of the city.
In case your trip is going to be shorter, or your accommodation is in the city center and you can walk to most points of interest, it is probably worth buying a single ticket every time you use public transportation.
3. Rome subway timetables
The Rome metro is open from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day except Fridays and Saturdays when service is extended until 1:30 a.m. but with a lower train frequency than the rest of the schedule.
4. Traveling by public transportation with the Roma Pass and Hop On Hop Off Bus
That said, one thing to keep in mind is that some Rome sightseeing passes, such as the Roma Pass, include a free public transportation pass for two or three days. Even if the attractions on this tourist pass don't interest you too much, the savings on public transportation can make it well worth it to buy a Roma Pass.
Some Rome Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus tickets also include a multi-day public transport pass, plus the bus itself is a very good way to get around the city.
Alex's Traveller Tip
If you're staying less than a week in Rome, the best option for getting around by metro is to buy single tickets as you travel. For a trip of seven days or more, it's worth buying a one-week ticket.
5. Most important subway lines and stops
Rome is connected by three subway lines: A, B and C. More information below:
- Line A (orange): the line with metro stops at the most popular places in the city. Cipro for the Vatican Museums, Ottaviano for St. Peter's Basilica, Flaminio for Villa Borghese, Barberini for the Trevi Fountain, and Vittorio Emanuele for Santa Maria Maggiore, among others.
- Line B (blue): this line is best for visiting monuments and ruins, with stops such as Colosseo for the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Baths of Caracalla, and Circo Massimo for the Circus Maximus. Lines A and B intersect at Termini Station, Rome's main train station and the destination of most buses coming from the airport.
- Line C (green): being the most recently opened line, it will probably be the one you will take the least. It runs from Monte Clodio/Mazzini to Lodi, but not all stops are operational as the line is still under construction.
One thing that can be a bit confusing when taking the metro line B in Rome is that the line branches, so if you take a metro from Laurentina there will be two trains, one going to Bufalotta and the other to Casal Monastero.
6. Connections to Roma Termini train station
Termini Station is Rome's main train station and the destination of many buses operating between Fiumicino and Ciampino airports and the city. The Leonardo Express, the fast train that takes you to Fiumicino airport, also departs from Termini. Therefore, it is very likely that you will arrive here from the airport and return on the last day of your trip.
Rome's three subway lines connect to Termini station, several stops away from places like the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia, or Piazza Barberini, and half an hour walk from the Trevi Fountain, so it can be a good reference point to move around the historic center of the city.
Outside the station, in Piazza del Cinquecento, there is a bus terminal that connects to all parts of the city. The area has no tourist interest, so better not waste your time exploring the surroundings.
One thing that is important to know: to make an excursion from Rome to one of its nearby cities, one of the best options is to take a train from Termini station, which connects with the main railroad stations of Milan, Florence, Venice and Naples among others.
7. Useful tips for the Rome subway
- You must validate your ticket at the machines located at the turnstiles before entering. Regardless of whether the ticket is for 1, 3, or 7 days, you only need to validate it once. In case you are traveling with a Roma Pass, simply pass it through the yellow circle on the turnstile.
- If you travel on Rome's public transport with an unvalidated ticket, you can be fined up to € 50.
- Another thing to keep in mind is that children up to 10 years old do not need a ticket to move around on Rome's public transportation.
- Rome's metro connects with Fiumicino airport, and although the ride is a bit long and tedious this is an option to move between the airport and the city if you are traveling on a tight budget. Otherwise, I recommend booking a transfer between Fiumicino and Rome.
- Since ATAC tickets are valid for all public transport in Rome, I recommend using the tram a couple times, just to try a different experience. Although not as convenient as the metro, lines 3, 8 and 19 pass through quite a few places of interest in the city center.
- By subway you can reach Ostia, a city on the coast where the archaeological site of Ostia Antica is located. If you want to read more about this tour, here you will find more information about this and other tours: 5 places to see near Rome.
- The Rome subway is pickpockets turf, almost like in any other European capital. Therefore, I recommend you to be especially careful with your wallet or backpack.
- Finally, keep in mind that some places in the center of Rome do not have a metro stop nearby because they have not been able to carry out the necessary works for it, so depending on what you are going to visit it will take you the same time going by metro than walking.