Public transport in Rome is based around buses, trams, and the three metro lines: A, B, and C. As the tourist centre of Rome is quite small, the busiest stretches of public transport tend to be the central sections of Lines A & B on the metro: Line A shuttles travellers between the town centre and the Vatican, while the middle of Line B runs from Termini to the Circus Maximus.
(Both lines run much further in each direction, but these are the sections most of interest to tourists, while a holidaymaker is unlikely to encounter line C except through its roadworks, which are particularly bad along Via dei Fori Imperiali and near the Colosseum.)
The city centre is also very walkable, and a stroll from one location to another can be as stimulating as visiting the sights themselves, as well as more relaxing than the overcrowded metro and buses. So take a look at a map to see how far you actually need to travel, as well as what interesting things you might pass on the way, before hopping on a bus or descending to the metro.
All of the public transport in Rome is controlled by a single ticketing system run by the transport operators ATAC (www.atac.roma.it). The basic ticket, known as un biglietto, is good for 100 minutes of unlimited public transport — but only one metro ride. (They will also get you as far as the sea at Ostia, via the local train.)
Although prices have gone up in recent years, tickets are still very good value (see below for prices). They can be bought from tobacconists, from the machines in each metro station, and on some buses — though it's best to have your ticket before boarding a bus, just in case they're not selling them onboard.
All tickets need to be convalidated on first use, which stamps the ticket and sets the clock ticking on your 100 minutes, and/or marks off the fact that you've used up your single metro ride. When you take the metro, the ticket will be convalidated when you use it to enter the station through the turnstile. On buses and trams, stick your ticket in one of the small yellow machines when you first get on board.
To purchase a ticket using one of the machines in the stations, first select the number of tickets you want, then put the money in the slot. Bear in mind that they don't give more than four euros in change, so make sure you have some coins or a €5 note with you — alternatively, you could always buy some extra tickets to keep you going. (Those 100 minutes don't start counting down until you first use/convalidate the ticket, so you can keep a stash in advance, which saves hunting around for a kiosk or machine.) Long-term and short-term season tickets are also available: again, these can save the hassle of hunting down tickets for each ride, and can be good value if you're planning to use public transport a lot, or would like hop-on, hop-off flexibility without having to worry about watching the clock. See below for more information and prices for the various tickets.
Here are the current (as of July 2016) prices for the various tickets for the Rome public transport network:
- BIT: The 100-minute ticket described above, now priced €1,50. This is the only ticket that limits the number of metro rides: you can only take one metro journey, though you can change lines en route as long as you don't exit through the turnstiles. You can also get a ten-pack of these tickets, known as BIT Regeneration Edizione Limitata for €14.
- Roma 24h: Valid for unlimited travel for 24 hours from first use / convalidation. (Replaces and improves on the old BIG ticket, which only ran until midnight on the day of purchase.) Priced €7.00.
- Roma 48h / Roma 72h: Like the Roma 24h, but valid for 48 hours (€12.50) or 72 hours (€18.00). (If you plan to visit a lot of museums, you might want to consider a Roma Pass instead of these tickets.)
- CIS: A seven-day ticket, which expires at midnight on the seventh day, now priced €24.00.
- Mensile Personale: This ticket, usually known simply as 'un abbonamento' or 'abbonamento mensile', is valid for a calendar month, so it's great value at the start of the month, less so as the days go by. Write your name on the back as soon as you get it. Priced €35.00.
- Mensile Impersonale: Like the 'Mensile Personale' above, but this one is transferable, so you can share it with other people (though obviously you can't use it with more than one person at the same time). Priced €53.00.
- Annuale Roma: This one is valid for a year from purchase, so not much use unless you're moving here, and is priced at €250.