12 June 2013

Visiting Rome (Part II) -- Getting to the City

I am continuing with my series of posts on visiting the city of Rome.  Assuming you have made your plane reservations and all, you will almost surely fly into Rome's Fiumicino Airport, also known as Leonardo da Vinci.  In this post, I'll talk about the myriad of different ways to get you from that airport to the city itself.  As in most things in life, there is an inverse ratio between cost and ease of travel.  The easiest ways are the usually the most expensive, and vice-versa.

One preliminary note: if you are flying in from another European city on one of the ever-increasing number of discount airlines, you may be flying into Rome's other airport, Ciampino. This post, however, assumes you're coming into Fiumicino.

From least costly to most costly:
  1. FREE!  Fiumicino is about 25 miles from Rome.  According to Google Maps, it should take you only about 7 hours to walk that distance.  You can ponder all the money you're saving during your 7 hour trek.
  2. €4 or 5.  There are a number of shuttle buses that will go every hour or so from the airport to Rome's Termini Station, in the center of Rome.  The trip is usually about 45 minutes.  They are pretty competitive and pretty cheap.  The biggest risk with these is Roman Traffic--make sure when you return to the airport you give yourself plenty of time.  There are a number of companies out there, but I have usually used Terravision, an international company with a website in English and online ticket purchase option. As of today, they are charging €4 per person each way.  The company employees usually speak a sufficient amount of English.
  3. €14.  There is a train that runs directly between Fiumicino and Termini Station that runs every 30 minutes or so.  It is called the Leonardo da Vinci Express and is run by Trenitalila, the national train company.  Tickets can (and should) be bought in advance from Trenitalia's website, which has some English.  Like most (but not all) Italian trains, the ticket must be stamped in advance before boarding the train.  There should be small machines near the front of the tracks were you can do this.  The train will take you to Rome's Termini Station, the main train station in the city. The biggest risk here is that there is a strike and the trains are shut down.  I tend to find the train the best balance between cost and ease of travel.
  4. €25.  There are shuttle companies that will take you from the airport directly to your hotel.  They work a bit like Airport Shuttles in the U.S., in that it is a small van that they fill with people, and drop off one-by one.  It's not too expensive, and is fairy quick especially if you are the first one dropped off, not so much if you are the last.  So, it could take you anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour (or longer) to get directly to your hotel.  This one is best if you are travelling in a group of people, meaning fewer stops along the way.  Like the buses, the risk is that the traffic will be terrible coming into Rome.  The company I've used is AirPortShuttle, and they have a website in English where you can reserve your ticket.  
  5. €48.  The easiest way to get to and from the airport is by cab.  By law, the official cabs may only charge you a flat fee, currently set at €48, for trips to the center of Rome.  This fee is all-inclusive and is per trip (not per traveler).  The City's website has a handy sheet (in Italian, English, and Spanish) which explains all this.  Most of the cabs take credit cards, but it is a good idea to have sufficient cash in Euro with you just in case.  Also, make sure you only take the "Comune di Roma" taxis, with the red and gold shield of the city of Rome on the side of them.  Also, caveat emptor, Roman cabdrivers are notorious for trying to squeeze a few extra Euros out of foreigners--telling you that you need pay extra for using a credit card, or having extra luggage, or extra passengers, etc.  None of this is true.  You may certainly tip a few extra Euro if you want, but they are not allowed to charge more than the flat fee.  Also, in my experience very few of the Roman cabbies speak English, so bring a printout of the name and address of your hotel with you.  The cabs should be parked out in front of the main entrance to the airport.  Ignore the people soliciting cabs before you get to that cabstand.  The trip should take 45 minutes to an hour, depending on Roman traffic and where you're staying.  Occasionally, the cabbies do go on strike, so that if you are planning to go back to the airport by cab, consider getting the concierge at your hotel to make the reservation the night before.  The biggest risk in taking a Roman cab is that the speed and aggressiveness which define the Roman cabbie will give you a heart attack.  Make sure you hold on!
  6. Priceless.  Go to seminary, get ordained a priest, then get consecrated a Bishop, then get named a Cardinal, then get elected Pope in the Papal Conclave, so that you can take the papal helicopter, Good Shepherd I, from the airport to your residence in Vatican City.