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Roamin' around Rome, 1997

2007 update at end of page

Page last updated on 9th November 2013

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Yes, a hot summer holiday spent in a foreign city, transport to there courtesy of a RyanAir charter flight using a plane which was an allover advert for Jaguar Cars! On landing at Ciampino airport, our citybound journey then comprised a light blue coloured COTRAL bus to the nearest Metro station, a train trip to Piazza de Spagna, and finally a taxi to the hotel. Not the easiest or best planned transfer, added to which my travelling companion being an occassional wheelchair user, and Rome's ancient streets not being disabled friendly.........

Anyway, what to expect? Fiat/Iveco buses, maybe trams, crazy drivers, pasta (360 varieties of it at the time), tiny vans and pick-ups with the front end of a motorcycle attached to the cab, a visit to the Vatican, and an Irish theme pub with Guinness at 8,500 lira per pint (which worked out at about IR£3.20!). An Irish theme pub called Trinity College with pictures of Mary Robinson and Seamus Heeney on display......! Hmmm......

Apart from the all-invading orange liveried buses (shades of 1970s/1980s Dublin!) and trams run by the municipal operator ATAC, there were quite a number of independent coach operators to be seen, including a French registered Van Hool Acron, an ancient looking Neoplan decker from Greece (it looked to be in quite poor condition), and surprise of the week was a Wallace Arnold Plaxton Premiere bodied Volvo seen passing through the Vatican. Armed with prepaid weekly tickets we sampled the variety of buses run by ATAC, including their tiny "Bus Elettrico" eight seaters (+ 17 standing!!) -- 25 passengers crammed into something no bigger than a Ford Transit van!!! Articulated trams were the other extreme in terms of size and passenger capacity.

For the tourist market, ATAC's route 110 was operated on a circular route using standard city buses, rather than the opentop double deckers found elsewhere. Generally route information on vehicles was typically limited to a route number only, not much help to non-locals -- more than once we found ourselves travelling in the wrong direction!!! Public transport in Rome is cashless, all tickets having to be bought in advance, and cancelled on boarding the bus or tram, all of which are multi doored vehicles. And so, after a week spent exploring the historic city and experiencing its hectic lifestyle, it was time to say "Arrivederci Roma"!

ATAC had around 40 of these "Bus Elettrico" minibuses in service on routes 116 and 117 during my visit. Amazingly, these battery powered 8 seaters are allowed to carry 25 passengers.

ATAC number 678 in the plain unrelieved orange livery. The vehicle is an Inbus U210 with Iveco running units, Inbus being a consortium of coach builders. This design was produced from 1970 to 1980.

1148 seen at the city terminus (capolinea) of route 160, close to the main thoroughfare, Via Del Corso. This bus, a mid 1980s Inbus, has two entrances (front and rear) and two central exits.

Fiat 470 Citybus 2434 at the large central bus station beside the main railway terminus. This rear-engined bus, with Fiat bodywork, was on route 495 and was new in 1983 or 1984.

ATAC Fiat Iveco 471 U Effueno number 2995 (again with Fiat bodywork) is seen at a "fermata" (intermediate stop) on "linea" (route) 61. Note that only a route number is displayed. The bus dates from the mid 1980s.

The tram and bus interchange point adjacent to the Vatican, with a route 51 bus at the terminus. Despite its visual similarity to Saviem buses in Paris, there is no connection between them. This vehicle is a mid 1970s Fiat 418 with Cameri bodywork.

Older style tram 7625 seen on one of suburban Rome's wide tree-lined roads, accompanied by a Fiat Uno.

Route 225 was one of six services still being operated by trams. These modern looking articulated units should ensure the survival of railed street transport in Rome for the foreseeable future.

The light blue COTRAL buses can be found at the outlying Metro stations and appear to provide links to rural destinations and Rome’s second airport which handles charter flights. This is a 1990s example of an Iveco 370 with Iveco (Fiat) bodywork, the model having been in production from 1978 until 1998.

The end of 2007 saw a return visit being planned to Rome, this trip taking place in Christmas week. Again we had a RyanAir flight to Ciampino, but this time we had prebooked a transfer by car direct to the hotel. En route I thought I was hallucinating on seeing a bendi trolleybus driving along with its poles down, and no overhead wiring!!! ATAC also had seemed to have bought some Mercedes Citaros since my last visit. And there was a glimpse in the distance of an opentop double decker bus too.....

Our hotel turned out to be about five minutes walk from Termini, the central bus, rail and metro interchange complex, where I had photographed Fiat bus 2434 ten years earlier. The allover orange livery had given way to a mainly silver/gray colour scheme, although some buses had poppy red above the side windows, or along the skirt panels, or had orange applied below the front and/or rear windows, or indeed any combination of these variations. Also changed was the fact that every ATAC city bus now has been fitted with electronic destination equipment, showing the destination as well as the route number.

The "Bus Elettricos" were still around too, but in increased numbers with a third route, 119, now being run by them. These had lost their orange in favour of two-tone green (sounds like Dublin??), as had the trams, which still operate on six outlying routes. Sightseeing route 110 was now home to red painted Volvo opentoppers, some with Ayats bodywork, and promoted as "Trambus Open - the Original Rome Tour". ATAC had also introduced a second sightseeing tour along the Appian Way, using pale green opentop single deck vehicles under the "Archeobus" brand name. At least I assume these were part of the ATAC network, as they were using Termini as a starting point.

A number of independent operators had also got into the sightseeing tour market, but using onstreet stops for their customers. Green Line Tours, Christian Rome tours and City Sightseeing were all observed, as was coach tour operator VasTours. While each of the opentop routes covers the usual points of the Vatican, Colosseum and Trevi Fountain/Spanish Steps, each company has their own distinct route. An unusual bus spotted in the Vatican on Christmas Day (yes, the tours operate every day!) was what looked like an opentop Northern Counties bodied Leyland Olympian, possibly new to Greater Manchester Buses in the 1980s. In fact, subsequent research proved it to be an ex Cleveland Transit Dennis Dominator (VVN 203Y, now CV 622 WW) but at least I got the body manufacturer correct! Unfortunately I was unable to get a photo of it, and the few I managed to take with the camera on my mobile phone turned out to be of such poor quality that I decided not to include them on this page.

And so, back to the earlier sighting of a trolleybus. These are relatively new Solaris Ganz Trollino vehicles, comprise a fleet of around 30, and operate express route 90 from Termini to Largo Labia on the northside of the city. Between Termini and Via Nomentana. These tolleybuses operate at regular traffic speeds on battery power, and at the latter point a brief stop allows the driver to raise the poles at the touch of a button to use mains electricity. Also in the streets around Termini, there are tram rails and overhead wiring, but no sign of trams. Closer inspection revealed that some of the track had been covered over by tarmac, which would be relatively easy to remove should the trams ever return to the area.

Highlights of this trip? Probably being on the open top deck of a Greenline Tours bus on Christmas Day, driving along Via Veneto, with a pleasant warm evening breeze. Downside? Having to watch where you walk around Termini's bus area, due to the after effects on the pavements of the hordes of winged, feathered tree dwellers in the area!

To illustrate the types of vehicles I saw, 33 ATAC bus photos and 14 tram photos, taken by Anthony Leith in November 2005, can be seen at this link.

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