Visitors to Rome are always surprised by how manageable the city center is. If needed, you could walk to all of the major tourist stops and see the Colosseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Piazza Venezia in a full day. There are many ways to see the city, however, and you do have to plan beforehand how you want to experience the city. Public transportation in the city is notoriously unreliable so take some time to ask the locals and research how you can easily get around.
Rent a Car
While many people decide to rent cars when traveling out of country, Italian drivers have an infamous reputation for a reason. Driving in the center of Rome is no joke and in my opinion, should be left to the Romans or very experienced drivers. The traffic, lack of direction and a penchant for ignoring silly things like lanes and traffic light, all contribute to a tourist’s worst nightmare. However, if you plan on visiting the outskirts of Rome, attractions beyond the center, or want to take daytrips to nearby towns, renting a car is a good option. Prices typically run about €40-€60 a day for a car, more if you don’t reserve ahead of time or can’t drive a manual gear. For more information, a quick Google search will help you out (I looked on Europcar and Hertz).
While the metro in Rome is one of the easiest ways to get around, unfortunately there are only 2 lines as of now and you cannot access major parts of the city by the metro. You may have a long walk to the closest stop, or have to take the metro in conjunction with multiple buses. If your destination is covered with a metro stop close by (the Colosseum, Vatican, and several other central neighborhoods), I recommend taking the metro. A single, one-way ticket is €1.5, much cheaper than other cities. If you plan on taking the metro or bus systems for the duration of your stay, there are other options to buy daily (€7), 3-day (€18), or weekly (€24) tickets.
The buses are run by the same company as the metro, ATAC, but are much less reliable than the metro. While I always use Google Maps to plan out my public transportation journey, more often than not the bus will not come at the correct time. I’ve learned to give myself a 15-minute buffer and simply wait at the bus stop until the bus arrives. As long as you search for your bus options before leaving the wifi zone, you could also do this with no data on your phone. Load the map and you can refer back to it even when you have no connection. As always on Rome's public transit, make sure you're looking out for your belongings. Crowded buses and metro stops are favorite locations for pickpockets to strike at unlucky tourists.
Walking is by far the best way to experience Rome, in my opinion. If you supplement with other methods (like the metro and buses), you can easily see the entirety of the city and find things off of the beaten path. There are so many hidden gems in Rome that are impossible to find if you don’t know the city well or are hitting on the major attractions. One of the best things you can do to see Rome in a genuine light, not just as a tourist, is to take a day and walk along the tiny side streets. The restaurants, bars, views, and experiences all improve as you find yourself further from the center.
If you would like some sort of structure, there are many walking tours that can show you all of Rome’s most famous sites by foot. In particular, Walkable Rome provides unique and catered walking services, allowing you to experience Rome with a local Roman. You can get recommendations for restaurants, nightlife, and activities, as well as see parts of the city that aren’t in any of the guidebooks. All contact and pricing information can be found at walkablerome.com.
Bikes are a fun way to get around the city, as long as you don’t try to take on Roman traffic. While the streets in the center are not designed with bikers in mind, there are a couple of bike tours and bike rental services where you can enjoy a ride outside of the center or in one of the city’s many parks. Specifically, in Villa Borghese or the Appian Way (Rome’s first major roadway), you can easily find bikes for rent.
Another option to see the city from a different perspective is from the Tiber River, on one of the boat cruises that make their way up and down the river. Along the Tevere, there are many bars, shops, and clubs open in the warmer months and a couple of boats-turned-discos if you want something more lively. If not, you can also book a trip on a dinner or aperitivo cruise, a "rubber boat" cruise and a hop-on, hop-off tour to see Rome from the water.
Have you tried any of these methods while in Rome? And if you have any horror stories about using Rome’s public transport, let me know below! You know you’re really experiencing Rome as a local when you can complain about the metro/bus strikes or waiting at a bus stop for over an hour.