ROME CONNECTIONS - Abraham Lincoln - James M. McPherson

Rick Steves Rome 2016 - Rick Steves, Gene Openshaw (2015)

ROME CONNECTIONS

Rome is well-connected with the rest of the planet: by train, plane, bus, car, and cruise ship. This chapter addresses your arrival and departure from the city. It explains the various options and gives a rundown on their points of departure.

By Train

Rome’s main train station is the centrally located Termini train station, which has connections to the airport. Rome’s other major station is the Tiburtina bus/train station, which also has some high-speed rail connections.

Minimize your time in a station—the banks of Trenitalia’s user-friendly automated ticket machines (marked Biglietto Veloce/Fast Ticket) are handy but cover Italian destinations only. They take euros and credit cards, display schedules, issue tickets, and even make reservations for rail pass holders (found under the “Global Pass” ticket type). Still, if you’re not near a station, it can be quicker to get tickets and train info from travel agencies in town or online. For more on train travel in Italy—including ticket-buying options—see here.

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TERMINI TRAIN STATION

Termini, Rome’s main train station, is a buffet of tourist services. The customer service and ticket windows in the main hall (out in the big atrium, beyond the head of the tracks) can be jammed with travelers—take a number and wait. For simple questions, several handy red info kiosks are located near the head of the tracks. The ticket machines can also be helpful for checking schedules. Most trains departing from Termini are operated by Italy’s state rail company, Trenitalia, though a few Italo trains also use the station (for more on the privately run Italo, see here).

Along track 24, about 100 yards down, you’ll find the TI (daily 8:00-19:30), a hotel booking office, and car rental desks. The baggage storage (deposito bagagli) is downstairs, hiding down the long corridor past the bathrooms, under track 24 and the TI (€6/5 hours, then cheaper, daily 6:00-23:00). The Leonardo Express train to Fiumicino Airport runs from track 23 or 24 (see “By Plane,” later).

In general, the best places in the station to sit are in one of its eateries. A snack bar and a good self-service cafeteria (Ciao) are perched above the ticket windows, accessible from the side closest to track 24 (daily 11:00-22:30). For good-quality sandwiches to go, try VyTA in the atrium across from track 1.

Near track 1, you’ll find a pharmacy; along the same track is an often cramped waiting room and Coop supermarket, selling groceries and toiletries. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, downstairs is a larger shopping complex that includes the Sapori & Dintori supermarket (closest to track 1). Pay WCs are also downstairs, just below the main exits on the north or south side.

Elsewhere in the station are ATMs, late-hours banks, and 24-hour thievery. Opposite the ticket windows in the station’s main entrance lobby, Borri Books sells books in English, including popular fiction, Italian history and culture, and kids’ books, plus maps.

Termini is also a local transportation hub. Metro lines A and B intersect downstairs at Termini Metro station. Buses leave from the square directly in front of the main station hall. The Metro and bus areas are a work in progress and change frequently—look for signs directing you to the Metro platform or bus stop, or ask at the transit information kiosk just out front (to the right as you leave the main hall). Taxis queue in front and outside exits on both the north and south sides; if there’s a long taxi line in front, try a side exit instead. Avoid con men hawking “express taxi” services in unmarked cars (only use cars marked with the word taxi and a phone number). Hop-on, hop-off buses and those going to the airport leave from the north side of the station.

From Termini, many of my recommended hotels are easily accessible by foot or by Metro (for those in the Colosseum and Vatican neighborhoods).

The station has some sleazy sharks with official-looking business cards; avoid anybody selling anything unless they’re in a legitimate shop at the station. Other shady characters linger around the ticket machines—offers to help usually come with the expectation of a “tip.” There are no official porters; if someone wants to carry your bags or help you find your platform, they are simply angling for some cash.

Since the most convenient connections for travelers nearly all depart from Termini, I’ve listed those next. But as a precaution, it’s always smart to confirm whether your train departs from Termini or Tiburtina. Note that unless otherwise specified, the following connections are for Trenitalia; for Italo connections, see www.italotreno.it.

From Rome’s Termini Station by Train to: Venice (roughly hourly, 3.5 hours, overnight possible), Florence (2-3/hour, 1.5 hours, some stop at Orvieto en route), Siena (1-2/hour, 1 change, 3-4 hours), Orvieto (roughly hourly, 1-1.5 hours), Assisi (nearly hourly, 2-3.5 hours, 5 direct, most others change in Foligno), Pisa (2/hour, 3-4 hours, many change in Florence), La Spezia (4/day direct, more with transfers in Pisa, 3-4.5 hours), Milan (2-3/hour, 3-3.5 hours), Milan’s Malpensa Airport (hourly, 5 hours, change in Milan), Naples (Trenitalia: 2-4/hour, 1 hour on Frecciarossa, otherwise 2 hours; Italo: 8/day, 1 hour), Civitavecchia cruise-ship port (2-3/hour, 40-80 minutes), Brindisi (6/day, 3 direct, 5-9 hours, overnight possible), Amsterdam (6/day, 20 hours), Interlaken (5/day, 6.5-8 hours), Frankfurt (6/day, 11-12 hours), Munich (5/day, 9-10 hours, 1 direct night train, 11.5 hours), Nice (1/day, 13 hours), Paris (3/day, 11-12 hours, 1-2 changes), Vienna (2/day, 12 hours, 1 direct night train).

TIBURTINA TRAIN AND BUS STATION

Tiburtina, Rome’s second-largest train station, is located in the city’s northeast corner. Recently rebuilt, it’s a sleek and modern complex but still a work in progress. In general, slower trains (from Bolzano, Bologna, Udine, and Reggio di Calabria) and some night trains (from Milan, Venice, and Udine) use Tiburtina, as does the night bus to Fiumicino Airport.

Tiburtina has been redeveloped for high-speed rail, including some Frecce trains and the private Italo service (for details on Italo, see here). A separate “Casa Italo” area has dedicated service counters, red ticket machines, and a small waiting area (in the upper part of the station, across from track 23).

Tiburtina is also known as a hub for bus service to destinations all across Italy; see “Rome’s Bus Station: Tiburtina,” later.

Getting Between Tiburtina and Downtown Rome: Tiburtina is on Metro line B, with easy connections to Termini (a straight shot, four stops away) and the entire Metro system (note that when going to Tiburtina, Metro line B splits—you want a train signed Rebibbia). Or take bus #492 from Tiburtina to various city-center stops (such as Piazza Barberini, Piazza Venezia, and Piazza Navona) and the Vatican neighborhood (as you emerge from the station, the bus stop is to the left).

From Rome’s Tiburtina Station by Train to: Florence (2-4/hour, 1.5 hours), Milan (hourly, 3-3.5 hours, overnight possible), Naples (Trenitalia: almost hourly, 1.5 hours; Italo: at least hourly, 1-1.5 hours), Venice (almost hourly, 3.5 hours, overnight possible).

SMALLER STATIONS

Ostiense has regional rail service and its neighbor, Porta San Paolo, has connections to Ostia Antica. If you’re staying near the Vatican and taking a regional train, it saves time to get off at the San Pietro train station rather than at Termini; from this station, bus #64 connects you to the Vatican area and to other major landmarks around Rome. Cruise-ship passengers coming from Civitavecchia on a day trip usually use Ostiense or San Pietro.

By Plane

Rome’s two airports—Fiumicino (a.k.a. Leonardo da Vinci, airport code: FCO) and the small Ciampino (airport code: CIA)—share the same website (www.adr.it).

FIUMICINO AIRPORT

Rome’s major airport is manageable. Terminals T1, T2, and T3 are all under one roof—walkable end to end in 20 minutes. T5 is a separate building requiring a short shuttle trip. (T4 is still being built.) The T1-2-3 complex has a TI (in T3, daily 8:00-19:30), ATMs, banks, luggage storage, shops, and bars. For airport information, call 06-65951. To inquire about flights, call 06-6595-3640.

Getting Between Fiumicino Airport and Downtown Rome

By Train: The slick, direct Leonardo Express train connects the airport and Rome’s central Termini train station in 30 minutes for €14. Trains run twice hourly in both directions from roughly 6:00 to 23:00 (leaving the airport usually at :23 and :53). From the airport’s arrival gate, follow signs to the train icon or Stazione/Railway Station. Buy your ticket from a machine, the Biglietteria office, or a newsstand near the platform; then validate it in a green or yellow machine near the track. Make sure the train you board is going to the central “Roma Termini” station, not “Roma Orte” or others.

Going from Termini train station to the airport, trains depart at about :05 and :35 past each hour, usually from track 23 or 24. Check the departure boards for “Fiumicino Aeroporto” and confirm with an official or a local on the platform that the train is indeed going to the airport (€14, buy ticket from any tobacco shop or a newsstand in the station, or at the self-service machines, Termini-Fiumicino trains run 5:35-22:35). Read your ticket: If it requires validation, stamp it in the green or yellow machines near the platform before boarding. From the train station at the airport, you can access most of the terminals. American air carriers flying direct to the US usually depart from T5. If you arrive by train, catch the T5 shuttle bus (navetta) on the sidewalk in front of T3—it’s too far to walk with luggage.

Allow lots of time going in either direction; there’s a fair amount of transportation involved (e.g., getting from your hotel to Termini, the ride to the airport, going from the airport train station to check-in, etc.). Flying to the US involves an extra level of security—plan on getting to the airport even earlier than normal (flying transatlantic, I like to arrive 2.5 hours ahead of my flight; within Europe, 2 hours is usually sufficient).

By Bus: Various bus companies, including Terravision (www.terravision.eu), SIT (www.sitbusshuttle.com), and Atral (www.atral-lazio.com) connect Fiumicino and Termini train station, departing roughly every 40 minutes. While cheaper than the train (about €5 one-way), buses take twice as long (about an hour, depending on traffic) and can potentially fill up (allow plenty of extra time; leaves the airport from T3, leaves Termini from station’s north side). The Terravision bus also stops near the Vatican. At the airport, the companies’ desks line up in T3, near the entrance to the train station; I’d just compare my options and hop on whichever one is departing first.

By Airport Shuttle: Shuttle van services run to and from the airport and can be economical for one or two people. It’s cheaper from the airport to downtown, as several companies compete for this route; by surveying the latest deals, you should be able to snare a ride into town for around €10-15. To get from your hotel to the airport, consider Rome Airport Shuttle (€25/1 person, extra people-€6 each, by reservation only, tel. 06-4201-4507 or 06-4201-3469, www.airportshuttle.it).

By Taxi: A taxi between Fiumicino and downtown Rome takes 45 minutes in normal traffic (for tips on taxis, see here) and costs exactly €48. (You could add a tip for good service.) From the airport, be sure to catch an official taxi at the taxi stand. Avoid unmarked, unmetered taxis; these guys will try to tempt you away from the taxi-stand lineup by offering an immediate (rip-off) ride. Rome’s and Fiumicino’s official taxis are white, with a “taxi” sign on the roof and a maroon logo on the door that reads Roma Capitale. By law, taxi drivers can only charge €48 for the ride to anywhere in the historic center (within the old city walls, where most of my recommended hotels are located). The fare covers up to four people with normal-size bags (to save money, try teaming up with any tourist also just arriving—most are heading for hotels near yours in the center). An official taxi will have that €48 fare clearly posted on its door.

Cabbies not based in Rome or Fiumicino are allowed to charge €70 for the ride. That sign is posted next to the €48-fare sign—confusing many tourists and allowing dishonest cabbies to overcharge. It’s best to use the white Rome city cabs and establish the price before you get in. If your cab driver tries to charge you more than €48 from the airport into town, say, “Quarant’otto euro—è la legge” (kwah-RAHNTOH-toe AY-oo-roh—ay lah LEJ-jay; which means, “Forty-eight euros—it’s the law”), and they should back off.

When departing Rome, your hotel can arrange a taxi to the airport at any hour. Alternatively, they sometimes work with comparably priced private car services, which are usually just fine (if not nicer than a regular cab).

CIAMPINO AIRPORT

Rome’s smaller airport (tel. 06-6595-9515) handles charter flights and some budget airlines (including most Ryanair flights).

Getting Between Ciampino Airport and Downtown Rome: Various bus companies—including Cotral, Terravision, and SIT—will take you to Rome’s Termini train station (about €5 and 2/hour for each company, 45 minutes). Cotral also runs a quicker route (25 minutes) to the Anagnina Metro stop, where you can connect by Metro to the stop nearest your hotel (departs every 40 minutes). At Termini Station, buses pick up on the north side.

The fixed price for any official taxi (with the maroon “Roma Capitale” logo on the door) is €30 to downtown (within the old city walls, including most of my recommended hotels).

Rome Airport Shuttle also offers service to and from Ciampino (€25/1 person, listed earlier).

By Bus, Car, or Cruise Ship

Below I’ve provided some information for travelers not arriving by plane or train.

ROME’S BUS STATION: TIBURTINA

Long-distance buses (such as from Siena and Assisi) arrive at Tiburtina Station (described earlier). Buses depart from the piazza in front of the station. Ticket offices are located in the piazza and around the corner on Circonvallazione Nomentana (just beyond the elevated freeway).

From Rome by Bus to: Assisi (2/day, 3 hours—the train makes much more sense), Siena (6/day, 3 hours), Sorrento (1-2/day, 4 hours; this is a cheap and easy way to go straight to Sorrento, buy tickets at Ticket Bus at Tiburtina, other travel agencies, or on board for a €3 surcharge; tel. 080-579-0111, www.marozzivt.it—in Italian only).

DRIVING AND PARKING IN ROME

The Grande Raccordo Anulare circles greater Rome. This ring road has spokes that lead you into the center. Entering from the north, leave the autostrada at the Settebagni exit. Following the ancient Via Salaria (and the black-and-white Centro signs), work your way doggedly into the Roman thick of things. This will take you along the Villa Borghese Gardens and dump you right on Via Veneto in downtown Rome. Avoid rush hour and drive defensively: Roman cars stay in their lanes like rocks in an avalanche.

Parking in Rome is dangerous. Park near a police station or get advice at your hotel. The Villa Borghese underground garage is handy (Metro: Spagna). Garages charge about €24 per day.

Consider this: Your car is a worthless headache in Rome. Avoid a pile of stress and save money by parking at the huge, easy, and relatively safe lot behind the train station in the hill town of Orvieto (follow P signs from autostrada) and catching the train to Rome (roughly hourly, 1-1.5 hours).

If you absolutely must drive and park a car in Rome, try to avoid commuter traffic by arriving Friday evening, or anytime during the weekend, and by leaving town during the weekend. Park your car at Tiburtina Station (€1/hour, www.atac.roma.it) and take a 10-minute ride on Metro line B into the center.

ROME’S CRUISE PORT: CIVITAVECCHIA

Hundreds of cruise ships dock each year at the small, manageable port city of Civitavecchia (chee-vee-tah-VEH-kyah), about 45 miles northwest of Rome.

Getting to Rome: As road traffic between Civitavecchia and Rome is terrible, generally the fastest (and most economical) way to day-trip into Rome is to take the train. Trains connect Civitavecchia with several stations in Rome, including Ostiense (two Metro stops from the Colosseum), San Pietro (a short walk from Vatican City), or Roma Termini (the main transit hub, but farther from key sights). Trains depart frequently for Rome (2-3/hour) and take 40 to 80 minutes, depending on the type of train and destination. You can buy train tickets at Civitavecchia’s station, or the Agenzie 365/Freccia Viaggi travel agency, just outside the station, which also sells transportation tickets of all types, including expensive but time-saving “skip the line” tickets for the Vatican and Colosseum. To reach Civitavecchia’s train station, walk (about 20 minutes) or ride an orange city bus (about €1, 3/hour, often no buses 12:00-14:30, catch from main port gate). I’d avoid the expensive taxi ride from the cruise port to the station.

Other options for getting into Rome include a cruise-ship excursion package, a taxi, organized tours run by private tour companies, or a private driver. A taxi into Rome takes about 1.5 hours and costs around €110-150 one-way, though many cabbies will inflate their prices (avoid the unlicensed taxis offering a huge price break; you can be fined for taking one). Organized tours into Rome are offered by Can’t Be Missed Tours (mobile 329-129-8182 or 366-419-9595, www.cantbemissedtours.com, ask about Rick Steves discount) and Miles & Miles Private Tours (see here). Door-to-door service is offered by private driver Ezio of Autoservizi Monti Concezio (see here).

For more details, see my Rick Steves Mediterranean Cruise Ports guidebook.

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DAY TRIPS

Ostia Antica ✵ Tivoli ✵ Naples and Pompeii

There’s so much to see and do in Rome that you could easily fill a vacation without ever leaving the city limits. But here are several nearby sights that might match your particular interests.

Ostia Antica is similar to Pompeii, but without the crowds. This excavated ancient Roman city is located an easy 45 minutes by Metro and train from Rome. Or stay on the train another 15 minutes and enjoy Ostia’s beaches (see here).

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Tivoli is less accessible (consider seeing it via private tour, or hire your own driver for the day), but you’re rewarded with the evocative ruins of Hadrian’s Villa and with the lush gardens and restored fountains of a Renaissance mansion, the Villa d’Este.

Thanks to Italy’s excellent train system, it’s 1.25 hours to Naples on a direct high-speed train (or 2 hours on cheaper trains) that lands you right in the middle of town. Visit Roman statues and mosaics at the wonderful Archaeological Museum, stroll colorful Spaccanapoli street, and have lunch in the city where pizza was born, sampling the exotic chaos of southern Italy.

History hounds can venture an hour farther south of Naples to see the ultimate in ruined Roman cities—Pompeii—frozen in time by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Arrive back in Rome for a late dinner at a sidewalk café to recount your busy day over a glass of wine.

Italy’s fast trains put other cities within day-trip range, including Orvieto (1-1.5 hours by train), Assisi (2-3.5 hours), and Florence (1.5 hours). For in-depth information on Orvieto and Assisi, see Rick Steves Italy, and for Florence, see Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany.

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