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Getting Round Rome with Tots, Tykes and Teens
 
 
Resources
 
Getting Round Rome with Tots, Tykes and Teens

Roma Bike Sharing

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

There are a million and one horror stories about travel to the Eternal City and most center on the challenges of getting around from sore feet to towed cars to the woes of crossing the street to unscrupulous cabbies to pickpockets on crowded public transport. Many are tall tales but there's a smidgen of truth to most all. Nonetheless with a bit of preparedness it's easy to sidestep an unsavory family travel experience and return home with a delightful narrative of a Roman holiday with children.

On Foot
Walking is great way to get round Rome. Not only is it good exercise, it's a cheap means of transport and a fun way to experience the city. That said, any attempt to hike the sprawling City of Seven Hills in a single day will likely end in exhaustion, especially in the heat of summer. What's more, walking cobblestone streets can quickly lead to sore feet, dog poop and illegally parked vehicles are ever-present on sidewalks, and zebra crossings or crosswalks are an opportunity not a prerogative.

Hit the pavement but heed the following:

Wear comfortable walking shoes. Divide the city into child size slices. - Roam Piazza Navona and Campo dei Fiori on one day; wander the narrow streets from Trevi Fountain to Piazza del Popolo on another. - Watch your step on the sidewalk and, most importantly, take care when crossing the street. Look both ways and stare down drivers before stepping off the curb.

Quick tip: Tourist maps are available for free at the city's many tourist information kiosks. While there are several mobile city maps not all are free and not all work offline.

Metro, Buses & Trams
Public transport is convenient, cheap and easy to use. Moreover, the metro, bus and tram are fully integrated meaning you only need one ticket to ride round the city. The one drawback? Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are rife on crowded vehicles. Caution and common sense are your best defense against petty theft. - Wear purses and cameras over your head so that the strap crosses your chest. Zip your wallet in a front jacket pocket. Board the metro at the end of the platform as the first and last cars are generally less crowded.

La Metropolitana: Rome's antiquated metro system may be crowded and dirty, skirt the city center, and have just two lines yet it's generally safe and is oftentimes quicker than taking the bus, especially during rush hours. The metro is open 05:30 - 23:30 Sunday to Thursday and 05:30 - 01:30 Friday and Saturday. (The rush-hour crushes are roughly from 7:30 to 10:00 and 17:00 to 20:30 on weekdays.) The orange Line A and blue Line B intersect at Termini, the city's main train station and terminus for direct trains to Fiumicino Airport. Metro stations are marked with a red M.

Bus & Tram: City buses (and trams) service every corner of the city. Moreover, they provide a mobile window on Rome and are cleaner than the underground. But they stop every couple of blocks and can get stuck in traffic. Thus they are best used for short distances and traversing the city center.

Buses and trams crisscross the city from 05:30 to 24:00. Night buses run on more than 20 routes from 00:30am to 5:30am. Not all routes operate on Sunday and holidays. Buses operating in the city center are sometimes deviated for special events and road closures.

Bus stops are clearly marked. All have a large sign that shows the buses stopping at the location as well as the full route for each and direction of travel. Some have a real time electronic display noting approximate wait times. To request a bus stop press the red button near the bus doors. Of note, bus tickets can't be purchased onboard.

Tickets: Metrebus tickets, biglietti in Italian, can be purchased at tobacco shops (denoted by a T sign), newspapers stands and from the vending machines found in every metro station. Single fares, valid for 75 minutes, cost €1 and entitle the rider to unlimited bus trips but only one metro ride. A day pass (BIG) is €4, a three day pass (BTI) €11, and weekly (CIS) €16. All entitle the cardholder to unlimited travel. Roma Pass, an integrated museum and transport card, offers unlimited use of public transport for three consecutive days. Children aged 10 and under ride free on the metro, bus and tram when traveling with an adult. Of note, bus and metro tickets must be stamped on first use.

Quick tip: A detailed paper public transport map can be purchased at newsstands. Bus and metro maps are available on the ATAC website. Not all mobile transport maps can be downloaded for free and not all include all forms of transportation.

Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Buses
Hop-on hop-off open air buses are a big hit with children and are ideal for families hesitant to plot a course on public transportation. Seven companies operate daily hop-on hop-off tours of Rome in a minimum of eight languages. All offer a similar service and all but one, Archeobus, circle the main sights in the center of Rome. Hours, routes and rates vary. Some companies offer a significantly discounted price for folks that ride the route for one lap without hopping off.

Bicycle Rentals
Cycling Rome is all the rage and bike rental shops have mushroomed to meet demand. But a bike tour of Italy's capital might provide more adventure than children desire. There are no bike lanes and only a few bike trails. What's more, cobblestone streets and tram tracks, not to mention chaotic traffic, are big obstacles for young cyclists. The one fun route for children follows the Tiber River.

Quick Tip: Rome's bike sharing program, open to tourists, has two short comings. There are few bike stations and they are nearly always empty.

Taxis
Rome taxis are infamous. They are expensive and can only be hailed at designated ranks or booked by phone. Cabbies are known to charge excessive amounts and take long detours off the requested route. Nonetheless, many are honest. Taxis in Rome are white, have a taxi sign on the top, and license number painted on the door. All fares are metered except to and from the city's two airports. Few taxis accept credit cards. There's no need to tip the driver.

Cars & Parking
Forget driving in Rome. Traffic is chaotic, many parts of the center are closed to cars, and it's near impossible to find parking. If you arrive in Rome by car, park it in a garage and leave it there for the duration of your stay. Arriving in Rome with a rental car? Return it as soon as you arrive and rent another when you leave.

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