Complaining about the public transport system is one of the locals' favorite hobbies, and you will find yourself agreeing with them at times, with strikes being a fairly regular occurrence in Rome. However, it really isn't as bad as it's made out to be. There are three main options for public transport in the city center: buses, trams and the metro. All three run from around 5 a.m. until midnight, and cover the whole of the city.
Paying for your travel is easy too. You can buy tickets and passes from Tabacchi stores, newsstands, Metro stations, or machines at major bus stops. Tickets cost €1.50 and can be used on buses, trams, subways and overground trains, and must be stamped as soon as you get on the bus/tram/metro/train to be considered valid. Once the ticket has been stamped, it is valid for 100 minutes of travel. Random ticket checks are frequently carried out, and an unstamped ticket will come with a hefty fine should you get caught out. A monthly travel pass can also be purchased by those with a codice fiscale.
Crossing the road
Ok, so you've been crossing the road without your mother's help since you were 6 year's old, so why have a section dedicated to this? Rome is different... Crossing the road can be a hazardous occupation for visitors in Rome, and it pays to stay alert.
Where there is a green man indicating that you can cross, be aware that cars may still be entitled to turn onto the road and cross where you are happily walking. Where there are no lights, crossing places are indicated by white stripes (zebras). As a pedestrian, you have the right of way here, but drivers can be quick to spot a nervous foreigner and may be as likely to accelerate as to stop. You will need to set foot on the road before any vehicle will even consider stopping for you. Make sure that the drivers in approaching cars have seen you and that they have a reasonable stopping distance – and then walk. Traffic etiquette in Rome is about survival of the fittest. However aggressive they may seem, drivers are aware of, and keen to avoid, running over pedestrians. However, you should always remain alert, particularly in wet weather when slippery roads make life even more hair-raising.
Best practice: sidle up close to a local and follow them when they cross – or even better, get on the right side of them and use their body as a shield.
Be prepared to wait...
Patience stops being a virtue and becomes a necessity when you have any dealings with officialdom in Rome. From the government or local council to the Post Office, be prepared to queue. Best practice: book your appointment where possible, always aim to make these appointments as early in the day as you can, and bring a book – consider these moments as study time.
Don't buy water
Rome is very good with water, and always has been. By the first century A.D., thanks to the amazing engineering of aqueducts, the city had roughly 1,000 liters of water available per person, per day. Nowadays, not so much – but still around 500 liters per family – there's so much water you could bathe in the stuff...
You'll want to drink a lot of water here, especially in the summer months, but all you need to do is buy one bottle at the beginning of your trip and then refill it regularly from one of the 2,500 fontanelle (little fountains) that are scattered around the city. The water that flows constantly from these roadside fountains is safe, fresh and super-cold. Can't see a fontanelle from where you're standing? Download this app (other are available) for iPhone to see them all marked on a map.
Leave your high heels at home
There is little point in trying to wear high heels in Rome. There are simply too many cobbles. Unless you’re taking a taxi from door to door, you run the risk of getting caught between the cobbles or falling flat on your face. Stick to flats and save your ankles!
You can buy pretty much anything at a Tabaccheria
Apart from selling the obvious, tobacco, they also sell stamps, top-up for your phone, you can pay your bills there, get your monthly transport pass, buy lottery tickets… If you need something but you don't know where to get if from, it's most likely that you can get it from the Tabaccheria.
Italy’s gift to students on a budget. For €6-10 you can enjoy a drink and a variety of food, usually from 7 until 10 pm. It’s a cheap dinner and an excellent way to catch up with your friends! Some places offer a buffet with all types of pasta, vegetables, cured meats, pizza, etc, and others may bring you a charcuterie board with a few different options. It all depends on which bar you choose!
Don't go shopping at lunchtime
While Rome is far more like a traditional northern-European city than some of those in the south, you're still going to find that many shops close at lunchtime and re-open in late-afternoon, especially in the summer.
Ever dreamt of riding your scooter around the Colosseum and along Circus Maximus?
As a motorino (scooter) driver myself and a northern-European immigrant, I was given two pieces of advice by a Roman friend before hitting the streets: 1) If there's a gap, fill it; 2) Red ... it's just an opinion.
We've all seen the old movies with happy couples cruising the (virtually empty) streets of Rome, the wind in their hair and smiles on their faces. Don't expect the same experience! If you're anything like me, expect it to be a sweaty (helmets are obligatory), knuckle-clenching ride and the smile to be more of a rictus grimace. Traffic in Rome is intense. From 7 am to 7 pm expect the roads to be busy and accompanied by a chorus of car horns. As a motorino driver you will be expected to dart through gaps, weave to the front of any queue and park just about anywhere. It's a fantastic experience but perhaps not for the faint-hearted (or for those who believe in the 'rules of the road').