Engineering Rome
Metro Linea A

Travel Tips

Try Rick Steves’ site. They’ve got more travel tips than you can shake a stick at. His advice is excellent, although I tend to think he recommends traveling with too few clothes.

Mobile phones

  • Bring your mobile phone. The days of “eek, never turn your phone on in a foreign country” are long gone.
  • More on phones on the FAQ page.
  • More on phones from the UWRC.

Traveling to Rome

  • Leave early: Consider leaving early and spending a few days in Rome/Europe before class starts.
  • Routes: Several airlines offer 1-stop routes (British, Lufthansa, Delta, Air France, AA, United, etc.). It just depends upon the connection city. You should be able to get to Rome in about 13-16 hours total travel time. Routes/stops that take over 24 hours are really not worth it, IMO.
  • Airfare: It will likely cost you $900 – $1,800 for a round trip ticket.
  • Connections: If you connect at a major European hub, it is more likely you can quickly get to Rome even if your flight in is late and you miss your original connection. There are many flights daily to Rome from places like Heathrow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, etc. There are usually only 1 or 2 from U.S. hubs like Chicago, JFK, etc. Connections that are less than about 1-2 hours can be a bit risky.
  • Passport: Get one now and/or make sure yours is current through your Rome trip + 6 months.
  • Visa: not needed if traveling under a U.S. passport. If you are an international student, NOW is the time to inquire about and secure the necessary visas.
  • Airports: you will likely (95%+) fly into Fiumicino Airport (aka Leonardo da Vinci). It is on the coast of Italy about 20 miles from Rome. Ciampino is the other airport. A few local European airlines fly into here.
  • Trains: There are several ways to get to Rome via train. Check out the great instructions from the UW Rome Center.

Getting Around Rome

  • Bus: the bus system is good in Rome – there are many buses. The schedule is only okay. This is fine for most routes that have buses leaving every 10-15 minutes. A far-out route on a weekend that only comes once an hour may involve more waiting time. The buses on popular Roman or tourist routes are VERY full (SRO, tightly packed) and can be prime for pickpockets. You can scout out how to get around on the bus using Google (of course) and also the ATAC website.
  • Train/subway/trolley: Rome has several main train stations (to get to outlying towns/cities) and 2.5 subway lines (A and B lines, plus some of the C line). A bus ticket gets you on the bus, subway, trolley, and some train routes. You can get just about anywhere on this system. 1 bus ticket = 1 metro trip. But, 1 bus ticket = 100 minutes on any bus for as many buses as you like.
  • Taxi: Rome has many taxis. The have a reputation of being the most dishonest in Europe but I have found that most are just fine. You do need to be aware of their tricks:
    • Best advice I’ve seen:
    • Turn off meter just before you arrive and quote you a higher rate. Or,, turn it off from the start claiming the meter is broken. It’s not broken. Trust me. You can always get out and try another taxi. There are lots of taxis.
    • Add some strange surcharge that you’ve never heard of. However, a nighttime surcharge is legitimate. There are other legitimate charges too.
    • Drive the LONG way around to get somewhere. But, remember that Rome streets are often one-way so you really can’t go directly to most places.
    • Most don’t do these things. Pay attention to the meter rate, and call them on their bluff. Usually they will seem upset and argumentative but will give in to you.
  • Uber. There is Uber in Rome but it only offers the premium Uber services (Lux, Black, Van). It is more expensive than taxis for the same trip. More on Uber in Rome. The Uber Rome status changes from time to time so keep current. You can also use FreeNow, which is an Uber-like service that works in Rome.
  • Walk. You can walk to most major sites in downtown Rome in 20 minutes or less. Consider walking as it is much more interesting and allows you to see the city a bit. People walk lots in Rome.
  • Paying fares on public transit. The public transportation system (ATAC buses, trams and the Metro) runs on contactless payment called Tap & Go (preferred) and fare cards.
    • Tap & Go. Tap an NFC-enabled card or phone (e.g., iPhone with Apple Pay, Visa card, Mastercard, American Express) and wait for the green light to acknowledge your payment. Remember to tap EVERY time you get on a bus, tram, or the metro. 
    • Fare cards. You can go old-school with fare cards, but they may be hard to find.
      • BIT – € 1,50, good for 100 minutes from time of validation.
      • 10-BIT – € 15,00, good for 10 BIT tickets.
      • Roma 24H – € 7,00,valid for 24 hours from the time you first use it.
      • Roma 48H – € 12,50, valid for 48 hours from the time you first use it.
      • Roma 72H – € 18,00,valid for 72 hours from the time you first use it.
      • CIS – € 24,00, good for 7 days from the time of stamping.
      • You can buy a fare card at a bus station (automated machine), or at most Tabacci shops (kiosk or small store, located all over).
      • You “validate” your ticket when you get on the bus/train/metro/etc. by running it through the validation machine. This starts your 100 minute “clock” running for the BIT. If the validation machine is broken (many are) you are responsible for writing the time your ride started on your card (use a pen).
      • Your phone may wipe the magnetic signature on the card, so don’t put it in a pocket with your phone.
    • Fare enforcement is present in Rome and they will check for tickets or they will check the phone/card you used for Tap & Go. The fine is something like € 100-500 for not having paid a fare (fine reduced 50% if you pay within 5 days). So, make sure you (1) have ised the Tap & Go correctly or (2) you have a ticket and validate it when you get on the bus. Even if you have to make your way through a crowded bus to a Tap & Go/validation machine. If you look around and nobody appears to be doing Tap & Go or tickets, you should do it anyway (many Romans have monthly passes and don’t need to, many tourists are dopes).


  • Coffee: if you like coffee, find a “bar” (really a coffee bar that also serves drinks) near your apartment and go there every day. They will begin to recognize you and you can even develop a rapport over 3 weeks. Even if you hate coffee (like me) you can always get an OJ (succo d’arancia) at a bar. And a pastry. Drink at the bar and it’s about €1/cup. Sit at a table and it’s about €3+/cup. Romans drink at the bar. Hey, an espresso takes about 5 seconds to consume.
  • Safety: Rome is pretty safe during the day and okay at night. Especially in major tourist areas – they are lively with people well into the night. Piazza Navona is this way. It’s a great place to people-watch at night.
Piazza Navona (in the day).
  • Pick pockets. They exist in Rome (and all major cities of the world) and do fairly well. A few simple things can help out.
    • Don’t carry your life savings on you. If you need to carry large amounts of money then do it in a special pouch that goes around your neck and under your shirt.
    • Bring a back-up credit card and ATM card and carry them separately. If you should lose one, you have another to use.
    • Carry your wallet/phone in your front pocket (not back or side or backpack). It’s harder to pick a front pocket.
    • Watch your purse. They are easy to grab and go. Especially ones with long thin straps.
    • Pick pockets like to work in crowded areas where you may “bump” lots of folks. Be aware. Crowed buses are prime. They tend to look like the least suspicious person around.
  • Go shopping for food. There are lots of little local grocery stores and some FABULOUS farmer’s markets. Campo dei Fiori is only so-so. Learn how to shop like a Roman. It’s confusing at first but then kind of fun. Remember, if fruit/vegetables need weighing, YOU have to do it back where you picked it up (and get the price sticker it spits out). They don’t weigh it at checkout like in the U.S.
  • Eating. Go to places that are at least a couple of blocks away from the tourist draws. You will start to get into places that are geared more for Romans rather than spendy, crappy-quality tourist restaurants. Visit the Jewish quarter – some great restaurants. Go to a cheese shop or two. Visit an Enoteca or two. Find a quality gelato place (no bright colors, often designated by “artiginale” in the sign). Food in Rome can be marvelous.
  • Use the Rick Steves audio guide podcasts. They are great and free. Download now to your phone.
  • Bring/use a decent camera. There are WAY too many things to take pictures of. You MIGHT even come to the conclusion that you need a camera that is NOT your phone. My Sony Alpha 7 IV is way better than even my iPhone for action, distance, rapid fire. My iPhone wins on portraits, stunning color, ability to send immediately.
  • Photograph your passport and luggage. Before you leave, take a picture of your passport and luggage. If you lose either it’s helpful to have a picture. I photograph them with my phone (automatically stored in iCloud) and favorite them.
  • Bring your laptop. You apartment has WIFI and you can do work on it related to the class. Download pictures to it regularly and back up files/pictures to the cloud somehow (iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.).

Places You Really Should Visit/Do (our class isn’t going to these places as a group)

  1. Vatican museum. Simply the best museum in the world. The Sistine Chapel is a life-changer. Use the Rick Steve’s podcast audio guide. You cannot see the whole thing so you need a map and a plan. Rick Steves has both.
  2. San Pietro Cuppola. Get the ticket and walk up the 500+ stairs to the top of San Pietro. FABULOUS views of all of Rome and Vatican City. Go on a clear, sunny day.
  3. Castel Sant’Angelo. Weird multi-purpose facility (mausoleum for Hadrian, fortress for the Pope, and now part museum). The view from the top is great. Go on a clear, sunny day. Dusk is fantastic.
  4. See Rome EARLY in the morning. Before all the cars and traffic. Get up at 5 am once and bring your camera. I like to go for a run early in the morning before anyone is up.
  5. Walk around Rome. Best way to see the City. Hands down. Passeggiata’s are so fun. Dress up, walk around near dusk (5-7 pm).
  6. Borghese Gallery. Bernini sculptures and paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, etc. You need to make a reservation here IN ADVANCE. So some planning is required.
  7. National Museum of Rome. Best collection of Rome sculpture anywhere. This stuff used to be all over Rome. Now it’s in this museum.
  8. Catacombs. Super cool and a bit creepy.
  9. Bring 1 or more nice outfits for hot summer. Romans dress better than we do for a hot summer day (or evening). Try it how they do and see how it feels. It’s fabulous.
  10. Good food. PLEASE, PLEASE try some good food in Rome and get away from the tourist dumps. There is plenty of excellent food to be had on the cheap. Also, eat vegetables! Look here:
    1. Katie Parla. An American ex-pat that makes a living talking/writing about food in Rome.
    2. Elizabeth Minchilli. Another ex-pat with great food recommendations.
    3. Try the little take-out pasta places. Usually you can get a full meal for about €7.00

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