Complaining about the public transport system is one of the locals' favorite hobbies - and there are times while you are here when it will undoubtedly frustrate you as you wait patiently at the bus stop for the bus that never arrives or hear the announcement about yet another transport strike just hours before it becomes reality. However, it really isn't as bad as it's made out to be. Bus routes are plentiful and, while they may well be crowded at peak times, the bus is often the quickest way to wherever you're going. The trams are great too and cover a large area of the city. The subway - well, avoid that if you can (which is fairly easy as there are only two lines).
Paying for your travel is easy too. You can buy tickets and passes from tabacchi (tobacconists), most newsstands, Metro stations, or machines at major bus stops. Just ask for "un biglietto d'autobus, per favore" for one ticket. Tickets cost €1.50 and are valid for 100 minutes on bus, tram, subway and local railway.
Tickets on buses and trams work on the honor system (backed up by a hefty fine should the frequent random bus checks catch you out). Stamp one end of the ticket on the first bus or tram (in the box provided) or Metro (at the turnstile) and the other end when you board your final mode of transportation.
Crossing the road
Ok, so you've been crossing the road without your mother's help since you were 6 year's old - 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 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 - 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. Always book in advance if you possibly can and always avoid doing anything official over lunchtime. 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. Fill your water bottle for free and then stick your finger in the end of the water spout and you'll find that it arcs beautifully from the discreet hole in the top of the pipe and voila, water fountain. 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, you might have to buy a marca da bollo (tax stamp) from there to put on your libretto when you finish university, etc. 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.
God’s gift to poor students. For between €6-10 you can get a drink and access to a buffet with lots of amazing Italian food during the evening from between 7 until 10pm.It’s a very cheap dinner and an excellent way to have a catch up with your friends! You can have an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink (including cocktails) and the buffet has a bit of everything: all types of different pasta, different types of vegetables, cured meats, pizza, 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. Not all shops close, and some that do will just close for a one-hour luch, but many others will shut their doors at aorund 1.30 pm and re-open around 4.30 pm and, as this is Rome..., there's no system for telling whether a place will be open or closed without cheking individual timings. Where you can, shop in the morning or evening to avoid disappointment.
Ever dreamed of riding your scooter around the Colosseum and along Circus Maximus ... ?
As a motorino (scooter) driver myself and a northern-european immigrant, I was give 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 crusing 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 the air to be filled with exhaust fumes and the sound 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').