Transportation in Rome
Most people arrive in Rome by air, so the first leg of your vacation will be a trip into the city. There are two airports serving Rome, and depending on where you arrive, how much luggage you have, etc. there are a number of choices.
Leonardo da Vinci Airport
This is located approximately 26 km outside the city. There is a direct train running to the Stazione Termini, once an hour. Other trains from the airport go to Ostiense, Trastevere, and Tiburtina. There is also a night bus to Tiburtina, which may be impractical for families, or those with a lot of luggage.
There are fewer choices here. You can take a COTRAL bus and connect to the subway and the Stazione Termini, or if you're renting a vehicle, it is a direct trip down the Via Appia Nuova. Check with your hotels, to see whether they have shuttle service, and whether there is a charge for it.
Now that you're "uptown" (or "downtown"), how are you going to get around? Like most foreign locations, driving can be a nightmare, and unless you want the added stress, renting a car is not usually advised, although it is cheaper if you want to make frequent forays into the countryside or neighboring cities.
The historic sites of Rome are actually located within a relatively small area. It is entirely possible to do the major sites, and not have to catch a ride, unless you are totally exhausted. A good pair of walking shoes with thick soles, and a decent night's sleep, will set you up for the next day's schedule.
Buses and Metro
But if you do need to travel, the city transportation services are run by a company known as ATAC. They are responsible for the buses and the Metro. Despite the occasional griping, the system is fairly workable and cost effective compared to other cities' transportation systems.
Tickets are good for Metro or buses, and for switching between the two, but only good for one Metro ride. For example, if you need to catch a bus, then the Metro and another bus, you're okay. But Metro, to a bus, to the Metro, will cost you another ticket.
The basic ticket, called a BIT, is 1.50 Euro. This is good for 75 minutes. When you enter a bus or the Metro, your ticket will be stamped. If you are "overtime" on your next transfer, you'll need another ticket, so it's best to buy them in numbers, or purchase passes.
A day pass is 4 Euro, three days is 11 Euro, seven days is 30 Euro, and if you're lucky enough to stay in Rome for a month, you have unlimited 30-day travel for 60 Euro.
But do remember the ticket stamping. If you are caught with a ticket that is not validated, you could be in trouble. Conductors take infractions very seriously, and being a tourist doesn't cut any slack with the authorities.
Should you get on a vehicle whose validation machine is broken, be sure to write the date and time on your ticket immediately. Expired tickets (and worse: no tickets) can make you subject to a fine.
There are only two main lines for the train in Rome: MetroA and MetroB. These intersect at Stazione Termini and connect to most areas of the city via the buses outside the station.
You can get a free public transport map from ATAC's office, which is near the Stazione. But timetables are harder to come by, and confusing to visitors. They're also somewhat unreliable, given the heavy traffic in the city centre.
Metro trains run from 6 AM until midnight, and buses run the same hours with a few night runs in place. Bus stops are easy to read, as they list destinations in the order they are reached. And night buses have an owl symbol beside them.
When all else fails, there is always a taxi. In Rome, these are usually white, and have a light on top, indicating whether they are available. But beware of phoning for one. The meter starts running as soon as the call comes in, not when you get in the car. And again, given the traffic in Rome, a taxi can be very expensive.