by Alexandra


(not Valeriano’s motorino)

I’ve been riding on the back of Valeriano’s motorino a lot recently. My parents aren’t very happy about it, and are convinced that I’m somehow going to get tangled in the back wheel (“Look what happened to Isadora Duncan!”). I also got rightly told off for buying a 10 euro secondhand helmet from Porta Portese, so I had to go and buy a new one.

I had been on the back of a motorino before meeting Valeriano, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to appreciate just how useful they are. Getting around Rome can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you have to rely on the inadequate public transport system, but a motorino gives you the freedom to weave in and out of the traffic and easily find a parking space. The centre of Rome isn’t that big, and going from A to B on a motorino instead of a bus makes you realise just how painfully slow the buses can be. Piano piano can be a good motto, but I wish ATAC (the public transport company) wouldn’t take it quite so literally.

I don’t have a motorino of my own, but I’ve tried and tested all the different options for getting around in Rome. All except for Metro C, that is. Has anyone ever been on the C line?

Metro line A: Cleaner and more efficient than the B line, I suppose. I’ll give it credit for that. But taking the metro in Rome is never a pleasant experience, and if you live here for long enough you start feeling pathetically grateful for the days when it’s fairly punctual and doesn’t break down. The scioperi (strikes) are so frequent that I’m surprised when a month goes by without one. Sometimes you get half-arsed strikes where some lines or some trains run as normal, or where the trains work but the lifts and escalators don’t. I remember one sciopero at Conca D’Oro (a very deep station on the B line) where they’d inexplicably decided to shut down all the lifts and escalators, but the trains were still running.

Metro line B: The public transport I use most frequently, as I live near Piramide. I have very low expectations of the B line. Bad is normal. The snail-paced stretch between Bologna and Conca D’Oro, the inexplicable screeching that makes conversation impossible, the occasional 20 minute wait for a train, the urine smell, the graffiti, the accordions… The only positive thing I can think of is the price. Coming from London, public transport in Rome seems ridiculously cheap – 1.50 euros for a single journey, or 35 euros for a month.

Metro line C: Lots of people in Rome seem unaware of the fact that Line C exists. It opened in 2014, having taken 20 years to build and cost billions of euros. On its maiden voyage the train broke down and all the passengers had to disembark. Something of an embarrassment, like the rest of the public transport in Rome. At the moment it’s not much use unless you live in the suburbs, as it doesn’t connect with the centre yet, but I suppose at least Rome can say it has an impressive THREE metro lines now, rather than a measly two.

Buses: I have a love/hate relationship with the buses in Rome. Most of the time it’s more of a hate relationship, if I’m honest, as they’re incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to get to a particular place at a particular time. They’re also best avoided in summer, as you can’t count on air conditioning. And yes, your chances of getting groped or pickpocketed are quite high, especially if you’re on the 64. But you can have a nice time on the bus. If you’re travelling off-peak and you’re not in a hurry, buses can be a great way to see the city. There was a recent post in the Huffington Post about the joys of the 75, a bus that takes a scenic route through the centre and past the Colosseum. I respect the more adventurous tourists who try to work out the buses, rather than just being ferried around in taxis or tour groups. You can spot them easily, because they’re always the only ones attempting to validate their ticket.

Trams: I hardly ever get the tram. I suppose they’re about as reliable as buses, but on certain lines there are more perverts. You get some dodgy characters on the 5 and the 14, and I’ll never forget my friend’s experience of the barefooted maniac – a man who touched himself while staring at her and stalked her up and down the tram.

Taxis: Roman taxi drivers have a notoriously bad reputation – they’re terrible drivers, they’re rude, they’ll rip you off…I very rarely take taxis, but once when I had heavy suitcases I decided to take one from Ostiense to Testaccio. The driver didn’t recognise my address, and pretended it was because he couldn’t understand me, but he managed to get there in the end, after I gave him instructions in Italian.

Bikes: I briefly contemplated getting a bike and cycling to work, until everyone I knew talked me out of it. Rome really isn’t bike-friendly, as there are no bike lanes, a lot of hills, and a lot of dangerous driving. Most of the cyclists I see in Rome seem to be reckless, even suicidal. I often see them after dark, with no helmet or lights, but almost always wearing headphones. Just this evening I saw a young man dressed all in black (no helmet, no lights) cycling across Piazzale Ostiense. He’d taken his hands off the handlebars in order to fiddle with his iPod. On another occasion, also in Piazzale Ostiense, I saw a woman who looked like a tourist wobbling around a particularly dangerous corner while attempting to eat a gelato. The only place I’ll cycle in Rome is Via Appia Antica, which is (mostly) closed to traffic on Sundays.

Cars: Romans love their cars, and claim that having a car is a necessity, given the terrible public transport. It’s sort of true, but then you have to deal with endless traffic jams and the nightmare of finding a parking space. A smart car is the most practical solution, and you see them everywhere. But there’s one moron in Testaccio who owns a Hummer, and once reversed over my flatmate’s bike. Thankfully my flatmate wasn’t on the bike at the time.

On foot: I enjoy walking, and I never get tired of walking around Rome. I walk for pleasure, and I walk when the public transport lets me down. Sometimes I anticipate something going wrong with the public transport and I decide to walk, just to be on the safe side. If you live reasonably centrally (which I do), it’s often the most practical way of getting around. No delays, no sweaty people invading your personal space, and it’s free! I know the streets of central Rome very well now, and it’s thanks to hours and hours of exploration on foot.

Sometimes I have no choice but to suffer through traffic jams and slow metro journeys. But when I have a choice, I walk. There’s no better way to get to know a city, and that’s why I came to Rome, after all. What’s the point in moving to a new city if you don’t have the urge to explore every street?