Taxis can be a fast and convenient way to get around Rome, but sadly they can also be expensive, unreliable, and not always honest. When another mode of transport is available, it's usually a good idea to take it, but there are times, like late at night or away from the transport network, when a taxi is your best bet.
Official licensed Roman taxis are white, with a sign on the roof and the driver's license information on the door. The average journey across the city centre, taking no more than fifteen minutes, shouldn't cost much more than €10 - €15, although longer journeys can costs a little more. You may want to print out and take with you a copy of the Comune's official Rome taxi tariff. (That link points to an official .pdf document in English, Italian, and Spanish. It's dated 2012, but still appears to be current as of July 2016.)
Taxis between Rome and the Airports
There is now a fixed-rate fare for travel between the centre of Rome (within the old city walls) and the airports: getting to or from Fiumicino costs €48 while getting to or from Ciampino costs €30. This price includes up to four passengers, and all luggage. However, some taxi drivers are more honest than others, so it's worth politely confirming that they will honour the fixed tariff before getting in, perhaps with the tariff document linked above in your hand.
There are some other journeys covered by fixed tariffs, including between certain rail stations and other key locations. See the tariff document for details.
It's a sad fact of life in Rome that there are plenty of people out to scam the unwary tourist (or local, for that matter). This is particularly true when taking taxis in Rome, and there are several common scams worth watching out for.
Be especially vigilant when taking taxis from major tourist hotspots like airports or Termini station. Keep the tariff document handy, and write down the license number of the cab (and the telephone number of the company that runs it) when you first get in.
- Unlicensed Taxis: Never, ever take an unlicensed or unofficial taxi in Rome. These are a problem particularly around the airports and at Termini station, where touts loiter at the exits and pick up tourists. Drivers of licensed cabs always wait in or near their cars at the official ranks, and never tout like this. Always go to an official taxi rank (marked by a yellow sign).
- Not Using the Meter: Unless you're travelling on one of the fixed-tariff journeys, make sure the driver is using the meter.
- Switching Tariffs: The taxi meter will display which tariff is being used: Tariff 1 is the standard rate, which all journeys should start with. Tariff 2 starts after the first €11 has mounted up on the meter, and tariff 3 kicks in after a further €13. See the official tariff document linked above for further information. (Note: the old tariff system used T1 within the city and on the GRA, and T2 outside it. It was frequently abused.)
- Bill-Switching: Taxi drivers in Rome have been known to take advantage of tourists' unfamiliarity with euros by claiming that you've underpaid them, or by short-changing you, claiming that the €20 note you gave them was actually €5, the €50 a €10, etc. You can try to avoid this by handing over notes one at a time, stating clearly what each one is. This is actually good practice when handing over cash for anything in an unfamiliar environment. (Bear in mind that Rome isn't a huge city: if you're handing over several notes to a taxi driver, especially large ones, you may also be getting overcharged.)
- Avoiding the Destination: If your driver takes you almost-but-not-quite to your hotel, perhaps by trying to drop you round the corner, or a couple of hundred yards up the street, be wary. They sometimes do this when they're planning to overcharge, and don't want a bellboy or porter to interfere.
Making a Complaint
There are of course good taxi drivers in the city, but sadly Rome has a high percentage of the other sort. If you do have a bad experience with a taxi driver in Rome, you can report them to the Carabinieri (Tel.112), or download a complaint form from the Comune here: Taxi Complaint Form (choose the option 'Modulo reclamo taxi inglese' under 'Reclami' for a downloadable .pdf form in English).
Alternatives: Ride-Sharing with Uber and Scooterino
The ride-sharing trend is starting to arrive in Italy, although it's being held back by legal issues and objections from licensed taxi drivers. Uber's UberPop service was closed down by the courts in May 2015, but UberBlack (which uses licensed drivers) is running in Rome, and you can find details and get quotes on Uber's website.
If you're feeling really adventurous, there's a new start-up called Scooterino, which uses a mobile phone app to let you grab a ride on the back of another member's scooter. It won't be much use if you've got luggage or are travelling with others, but if it sounds like fun and you'd like to give it a try, you can find out more at scooterino.it.