Please sign in to post.

Thieves of Rome

We just returned to New York from Rome. And, as per prior experience, we found it an enchanting city with marvelous historical sites and great, great restaurants. However, it seems that the thieves in Rome are not just the pickpockets. Unfortunately, we witnessed a shameful scene where the representatives of the Metrebus Roma, the transit police, charged, assessed fines and collected 40 Euro each for not having validated a 1 trip ticket. This occurred on metrobus #64 at 10:30AM June 19 2024. We boarded the bus at the Via Nazionale/ Via Milano stop headed toward St. Peter’s Basilica. The bus was so overcrowded that there was no opportunity to approach the date stamp at the rear of the bus. At a given stop ( I do not recall which), many local people exited, mostly tourists remained. Before the bus proceeded a policeman boarded the bus at the middle door and two female offices, who had been secluded in the rear most seat popped up. All of them proceeded to fine as many unsuspecting, naïve tourists as possible forcing them to use their credit cards for payment.
This sort of entrapment and selective enforcement was unbefitting a magnificent city such as Rome. These cops knew that the remaining passengers were tourists and, my guess, is that they spring this trap everyday. None of these people were fare evaders, they were just caught unawares. And, none of them were told that they had the opportunity to apply for a refund. In my opinion, these cops were given a high Euro quota that they were required to fulfill. Tourists were just an easy target.

The lesson to be learned there is when in Rome…take a taxi!

Posted by
6661 posts

Welcome to the forum!
I see this is your first post

Many of us know that if you can’t get to the validation machine then you can write the time and date on your ticket instead

Moral of your story get your ticket validated

Posted by
23464 posts

NO -- the lesson learned is to VALIDATE your ticket. Until the ticket is validate YOU ARE a freeloader. When caught violating local rules and regulations, it is always the other persons fault for not telling you what you should have known. If you had spent some prior time on this site, you would have known that this issue is frequently discussed.

Posted by
673 posts

The procedure for transportation is clear. It is the responsibility of the traveler (passenger) to follow those guidelines. I’ve had to inch my way to the validation machine to ensure compliance. I’ve never forgotten the crushing sardine like experience on the H bus in Rome back in 2014. Our group of seven did what we had to do to comply. In one instance when we couldn’t get close enough we passed our tickets to a stranger near the machine to validate them. I’ve seen (on trains) individuals being fined in other countries including the U.S. for not having (or not validating) the proper travel ticket.

Posted by
10345 posts

Love the title of your post. Very clever and well-written. But yes, you’re supposed to write on the back of your ticket, and this info desperately needs to be added to the guidebooks. Now you know.

But maybe the controllers do know that the tourists are like fish in a barrel. In perspective, the fine is still a tiny fraction of the travel budget.

After reading what our Italian contributors say about taxis in Rome, I'm not sure that's the best solution. How about the Rome subway?

Posted by
2907 posts

It’s my understanding that if you have a 7-day pass, you do not have to validate it. Is this correct? Or do you need to validate the first ride?

Posted by
23464 posts

I thought you had to validate one time to get the seven day clock running.

Posted by
1198 posts

I realize this was upsetting for the OP. Hopefully others will read this and know how to avoid getting fined. They (ATAC) aren't, however, thieves, and tourists aren't targeted. One does, though, have to know the rules. When in Rome, as they say...

This has been posted before, from the ATAC website. I know this references a malfunctioning validation machine, but the same holds true if you just can't get to the machine...

"In case of validator malfunction:
on public transport vehicles (buses, trams, trolleybuses, Metro lines and Regional railways as well as on Cotral buses, write date, time and name of the station or vehicle number on your ticket;"

https://www.atac.roma.it/en/tickets-and-passes/roma24h#:%7E:text=on%20public%20transport%20vehicles%20(buses,office%20or%20to%20the%20conductor

Posted by
2907 posts

Thanks Frank. That's the same a Vienna. Berlin's 7-day ticket was through their app and didn't need to be validated.

Posted by
3234 posts

You can also pass your ticket up the bus via the other people to get someone to validate it for you, then pass it back.
I have done this a few times on busy Italian buses.
People are happy to help you if you are polite.

Sorry, OP…..them’s the rules.

Posted by
893 posts

Is there no momentum in Rome to move to a more modern system of tap and go payment, like you'd find in London or in The Netherlands? This whole validating system seems to be a little less than user friendly.

Posted by
16088 posts

It’s my understanding that if you have a 7-day pass, you do not have
to validate it. Is this correct? Or do you need to validate the first
ride?

Horsewoofie, according to Rome's ATAC website, you do need to validate a weekly (CIS) pass the first time you use it. That validation starts the clock ticking on the validity period of the pass.

https://www.atac.roma.it/en/tickets-and-passes/cis

Under "Remember to":
"Make sure you validate your ticket at the beginning of your journey"

"You find validators on buses, trams, trolleybuses, Regional rail trains Termini-Centocelle, Roma-Viterbo and in stations at the turnstiles for access to the Metro lines, the Roma-Lido and Trenitalia regional railways."

Gerry, however the city of Rome decides to mange their system is their business. They may retain the validation process for paper tickets/passes for locals who don't have credit cards - not everyone in the world has them - so they can use single-ride tickets or multi-day passes without them. We've used single-ride paper tickets in Rome ourselves and actually prefer not having to haul our credit cards out where just anyone can see where we keep them.

Posted by
1198 posts

Is there no momentum in Rome to move to a more modern system of tap and go payment,

Yep...

https://www.atac.roma.it/en/tickets-and-passes/tap-go

Don't know if this would help in the OP's situation of an overcrowded bus, though, where the readers aren't easily accessible. Perhaps these readers are located by all the doors?

Posted by
893 posts

Gerry, however the city of Rome decides to mange their system is their business. They may retain the validation process for paper tickets/passes for locals who don't have credit cards - not everyone in the world has them - so they can use single-ride tickets or multi-day passes without them. We've used single-ride paper tickets in Rome ourselves and actually prefer not having to haul our credit cards out where just anyone can see where we keep them.

Of course it's Rome's business how they manage their system. Doesn't stop me from having an opinion on it though :)

If the organisation that runs the tram system is able to collect hundreds, maybe thousands of penalty fares every day, not through fare dodging, but user error, it would suggest to me something is broken.

If there's any parallels between Rome and London, where I have most of my experience, the idea that paper tickets make the system more accessible to the "locals" with lower fiscal means doesn't really hold much water. Before cash was abolished on London buses its use was low as one percent of all journeys in 2014.
It doesn't need to be a contactless system based around credit and debit cards. Why don't the trams in Rome have a contactless reader of any type in 2024? Is there no call amongst Rome residents to have a more up to date system?

Another major difference is debit card usage in Europe compared to The US. You mention not everyone has a credit card, which is very true, but almost everyone (in a major European capital city at least) who has a bank account has a debit card that they use every day. I use my debit card for public transport in London every day and it's not an issue about where I keep it.

Posted by
4292 posts

But yes, you’re supposed to write on the back of your ticket, and this
info desperately needs to be added to the guidebooks. Now you know.

Good point. The "thieves" like to pounce in Venice and Paris as well. I can't recall if it's addressed in those guidebooks.

I remember early one morning hopping on a Vaporetto in Venice just in time to watch 3 American seniors wagging their fingers in the face of a young transit cop using their loud outdoor voices that it was criminal what was happening. How were they to know they needed a ticket to ride, "we're American." Then the seniors got abusively rude and I thought the locals- who were clearly getting fed up with the behaviour were going to throw them overboard. I had never wanted to NOT look like a North American tourist so much in my life.

Posted by
16088 posts

Yes, of course it's fine to have an opinion! Sorry if it came off otherwise. :O)
What I was trying to say is that whatever any of us think about the system is of no consequence to the OP or to the Powers That Be in charge of transport. It is what it is. One way or another, paper or contactless, you have to pay for the ride when you board. Local or tourist. No excuses.

Payment can be contactless should you be able to do it that way. Still, just as our OP's issue was trying to get to the validation machine on a crowded bus, this poster - nancys8 - had the same problem getting to the tap-and-go reader with their cards...of which everyone had to have their own and I believe that includes minors too old to ride free. So, in some cases they were more comfortable with paper tickets. Anyway, it's good to have more than one option, and paper can also be convenient for stays where one uses public transport very little, as has been the case for us.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/rome-contactless-public-transport

Posted by
893 posts

Ah yes Kathy of course no worries!

I think in general paper tickets are on borrowed time everywhere.

I've never been to Rome, but from the amount of posts I see on here with the same problem, it's a failing system. I know you should get a ticket and validate it and everyone knows that but if they have people out levying quite substantial fines for errors day in day out, that's catching a lot of people out, visitors or not, something isn't quite right with how the service is being provided. I don't know if this has always been the case or the enforcement is more recent.

You're right that it's not up to RSE posts or tourists in general to fix it. It's down to the people of Rome. They probably don't care because they're all using contactless anyway :)

Posted by
16088 posts

Hmmm, I'm thinking heavy-using locals are more likely using monthly or annual passes that only need initial validation. But I guess we'd have to ask some of 'em?

Posted by
893 posts

I'm out of my comfort zone, posting opinion pieces late at night in the Italy forum, so I'm not sure how many would be using monthly tickets in Rome. If it is anything like London, that has sort of gone the way of the dodo with the ease of use of daily capped contactless payments [edit: of course monthlies on paper tickets don't even exist in TfL land now]. There's only people with a few fringe use cases using that method now. You're right that we'd need to check in with the Romans, or try to pull some stats from Italian language sites.

Posted by
3334 posts

They weren't thieves. They were just people who didn't understand the local rules, and were fined accordingly for not validating their tickets. Otherwise, some unscrupulous sorts would continue to plead ignorance and keep using the same 1-trip ticket.

Posted by
893 posts

The system seems like a bit of a hangover from when the trams would have been two-person crewed. There would have been a conductor to either sell the tickets or validate them.

Posted by
15476 posts

Transit inspector was my dad’s job in Florence for a few years after the years when he was a bus driver and before becoming a supervisor. It was in the early 1970s. At dinner he used to tell us stories about those young American hippies schlepping a backpack and sleeping bag, boarding the buses without tickets with a silly excuse or another. The concept was new then, as the human ticket vendors on board had just been replaced by automatic vending machines, but they often came up with crazy excuses like “we thought buses were free in Europe”, or “the driver wouldn’t take our payments”.

Posted by
7447 posts

Fred, others have commented about the bus situation. I will share that taking a taxi isn’t always the best option, either. I was in Rome in May and took a taxi from Roma Termini over to the Pantheon area for my hotel. The streets are so clogged with traffic and pedestrians that it took about the same amount of time to ride the taxi as it took for me to walk to the train station when I was leaving Rome. The only advantage was my taxi driver & I had a nice conversation with my limited Italian, and I wasn’t as hot since I was riding in a car.

Posted by
3 posts

Pretty misleading..regular transit rules isn't thievery. Rules apply to everyone regardless of if you're a tourist. For those who are heading to Rome - you need to validate your ticket, no excuses. The buses I encountered typically had three doors. If you have a paper ticket, you validate it by inserting it into the machine at the rear of the bus (3rd door). When the bus was packed, an "excuse me" or "scusa" or "permesso" worked to squeeze by people and make my way to the back of the bus to validate the ticket. Always keep a pen handy and alternatively you can validate your ticket by writing the date and time on the back of the ticket. If you aren't hopping on the bus with luggage (middle door is usually best when you have luggage as there is more open space to maneuver your luggage) then I'd suggest getting on at the 3rd door at the back for easy access to the validation machine. I also saw a few people get on the bus without purchasing paper tickets. They were also checked by the transit police but had no problems as they tapped their card at the machine on the front of the bus (I can't speak much to how it worked since I always used paper ticket but you could tell when it worked because it would chime and the light would turn green after tapping).

Posted by
698 posts

Having experienced being stuffed like sardines on a bus in Rome 10 years ago, on our trip this May we walked almost everywhere. Rome is a very walkable city; our hotel was near Campo de Fiori so nothing was more than a 30 minute stroll. On a few occasions we took a taxi. We always verified that we could see the meter and it was set at €3 when we started. Fares were very reasonable and if you have 2 or 3 people it’s not that much more money and so much more comfortable than taking a bus! It’s very possible to explore Rome without using any public transportation!

Posted by
422 posts

In recent months, Travel Forum posts have described situations when buses in Rome were so crowded that it was difficult to get to a machine to validate a ticket. Forearmed with this knowledge, when in Rome a month ago, I chose the strategy of buying a 7 day transit pass which covered both Metro and bus. I only had to validate it the first time I rode a bus.