When the public transport workers of Rome decide to go on strike, they don’t hold back; the city grinds to a halt. Great care is taken to time their industrial action with political demonstrations, making it even more difficult for the rest of us to move across what fast becomes a suburban quagmire.
For the rest of the year, if you haven’t been to Rome or are coming soon, here’s a quick guide!
Bus tickets – if you’re a tourist it can be hell finding a place to get some. If you don’t, you might be fined by inspectors who love the 40 and 492 routes in town. It’s a 50 euros on the spot fine or about 110 euros if you have no cash. You’ll have to take the bill you are given to any post office and pay up there, but of course you won’t care about that when you’re back home. You can buy bus / metro tickets in the Italian equivalent of a newsagent, just look for ‘tabacchi’ on any street. Some bars sell bus / metro tickets too.
Bag sellers, umbrella sellers, picture sellers with nowhere to sleep at night unless you buy one occupy at least 10% of all available legroom on all buses in Rome 24/7. Call it free temporary storage. When buses in Rome get busy, Italians get stressed and begin to lose control, at which point we advise you to get off and hail a taxi.
Metro is better. It’s quicker and it’s cleaner, but with a downside. Gypsies move through each carriage destroying traditional songs from back home and expecting to be paid for it by parading their most vulnerable looking child while the music plays. It’s an uncomfortable experience for the rest of us to say the least.
An Italian student, Vanessa Russo, was stabbed through the eye with an umbrella at Termini station a few years ago by teenage Romanian prostitute Doina Matei. Vanessa allegedly annoyed her killer (and friend) during an altercation getting on / off the train and as a result, died in agony a few hours later in Policlinico hospital nearby. Rare incidents of random acts of violence aside, the metro is pretty safe.
Football supporters will occupy Linea A for an hour or so after either Roma or Lazio have played at home, but they’re usually on the right side of rowdy, and, being Italian, prone to bursting into song. Just keep an eye on your jacket pockets and bag. It is said that 500 pickpockets work Rome’s metro system every day.
To be continued…