It’s a Bus! It’s a Train! No – it’s a Tram!

Tram outside Termini station in Rome Tram outside Termini station in Rome

There are many options for traveling from one part of Rome to another: metro, the extensive bus system, taxis, and walking. Most major cities have the “hop on hop off” bus that stops at the major sites. The bus and metro in Rome travel to the major tourist sites but, once commuters join, the crowds are crushing. Walking ends up being faster. 

The green, metal trams that you find outside the Termini train station are a fun adventure in the eternal city. The history of trams in Rome dates to 1877 with horse-drawn trams. Electric trams followed and by 1905, there were 17 tram lines. 

Many still use their well-worn paper maps to plot tram routes and an app for your phone is also available. The best resource to explore a local market, a neighborhood free of tourists or alternatives for traveling to the Vatican or Trastevere is a local in Rome. They can simplify the process and offer insight into the city’s secrets.

Some destinations require a change of trams and the tram drivers are separated from the passengers so there is no opportunity to ask for assistance. So, use your map! Ticket validation machines are inside each car, be sure to validate your ticket upon boarding the tram.

My adventure started with a route from termini to the Borghese Gardens and then to the Vatican. I boarded the tram and sat on the right side so that I could read the tram’s stops while tracking my route. The ride was slow but totally enjoyable as we passed through neighborhoods where locals live and shop. I spotted some interesting churches I hope to find again on the next trip.

The metal cars clank on rails embedded in the pavement with metal antenna tethered to the electric wires overhead. As pedestrians ran in front of the tram trying to avoid the passengers coming and going, the warning bell rang reminding me of a kiddie ride at an amusement park.

A tram travels more slowly than a bus allowing you to view the street scenes as you pass – many not listed in a tour book. In the older tram, I felt as if it were perhaps the 1950's. You have a glimpse from your window of life in Rome and you have the inclination to hop off and explore.

Taking a tram to a local market, the biggest cemetery in Rome or even the Vatican is an experience not to be missed!