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ROME

Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

Rome is one of Europe's most beautiful cities, but living there isn't without its challenges. Here are six apps that will improve your life as a resident.

Certain mobile apps can make life in Rome much easier.
Certain mobile apps can make life in Rome much easier. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

myCicero

This app has been a game changer for Rome residents (or visitors) who rely on the city’s public transport to get around.

In pre-myCicero days, you had to buy a paper ticket from either a metro station (if the machines worked) or a tabaccaio newsagent’s (if it was open).

If you found yourself ticketless and without any metro stops or tabaccherie nearby, your options consisted of jumping on the bus and crossing your fingers you wouldn’t be stopped by an inspector, or walking home.

With myCicero, you can buy tickets in advance and activate them whenever you need. Similar apps recommended by ATAC, Rome’s public transport operator, include Telepass Pay, TicketAppy, DropTicket and Tabnet.

As of January 2023, ATAC says you can pay all fares by contactless card – but as the system is very new and Rome’s public transport doesn’t have the best reputation, we’ll be using the app for a while longer. Download here.

READ ALSO: Metro, bus or tram: Rome’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Waidy WOW

Aside from its immense historical patrimony, world-class cuisine and all-around beauty, one of Rome’s best features is its many nasoni fountains dispersed throughout the city that provide free drinking water to passersby.

To encourage people to take advantage of this service and discourage the use of disposable plastic bottles, water utility provider Acea created this app that maps all of Rome’s drinking fountains and shows where you can find the nearest one.

A woman drinks from one of Rome's fountains.

A woman drinks from one of Rome’s fountains. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

Its precursor, I Nasoni di Roma, is also still active, though a bit less well serviced.

If you’re in the mood for a history lesson, Waidy also provides information about Rome’s larger fountains of historic and artistic interest. You can download the app here.

Enjoy

If you have a fixed appointment in Rome, you probably don’t want to rely on the city’s public transport to get there on time.

In that case you may want to use one of the several car-sharing apps that allow you to move around the capital without worrying about having to pay for parking.

Enjoy is one of the most popular, but there’s also Car Sharing Roma and Share Now.

All the apps will show you the nearest available car; you can book it several minutes before arriving so you’re not competing with anyone nearby. 

If you’re looking for a nippier option to scoot past traffic jams, Ecooltra, Acciona and Zig Zag all let you rent electric and motorised scooters.

READ ALSO: 15 simple hacks to make living in Rome better

Free Now

If you need a taxi in Rome and don’t want to have to traipse around in search of a stand, Free Now will allow you to summon a taxi to your location and pay via the app, much like Uber.

You can in fact also now use Uber to take a cab in Rome, as well as to book trips in advance – which might confuse you if you’d heard that Uber doesn’t work in Italy.

Apps make it easy to summon a taxi in Rome.

Apps make it easy to summon a taxi in Rome. Photo by Andreas Solaro / AFP)

It technically doesn’t, unless you want to pay over the odds for the luxury Uber Black service, but in July 2022 the company launched a partnership with Italy’s largest taxi dispatcher that allows users to hail ordinary taxis through the app in some cities, Rome included.

Others, like appTaxi and itTaxi, are also available, but Free Now still remains one of the most popular options – download here.

Lime

This recommendation comes with a big asterisk, because while mopeds and e-scooters can be a very convenient way of getting about the city quickly, they’re often misused in such a way that terrorises pedestrians and other motorists.

If you do make use of one of these apps, then, follow some basic etiquette.

Don’t go on the pavement or run down children and pensioners. Don’t dart out in front of cars or pedestrians and risk causing a collision. Don’t leave your ride in everyone’s way at the end. Be respectful.

There have also been a number of accidents in the last couple of years – particularly related to e-scooters – and if you’re new to Rome and unfamiliar with its traffic culture, you’re safest starting out on the cycle path by the river or in parks like Villa Borghese. 

A man rides an e-scooter along the River Tiber bike path.

A man rides an e-scooter along the River Tiber bike path. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

Those provisos out of the way, these apps can provide a handy and reasonably environmentally-friendly way to get from A to B speedily and cheaply.

Lime is one of the most popular (if you already have Uber you can just use the Uber app, as they’re in partnership), but there are numerous others, including Dott, Bird, and Helbiz.

The Fork

If you’re trying to get a table last-minute at a decent restaurant in Rome on a Friday or Saturday night, you may run into some trouble.

It’s disheartening to be brusquely informed by the sixth person in a row that your place of choice is al completo (fully booked) – and if your Italian isn’t great, you might struggle to even get that far.

That’s where The Fork comes in: enter your party size, the date and time you want to eat and the neighbourhood you’re looking in, and it will suggest only those places that still have space. One click and you’re booked.

As a bonus, some of the restaurants offer discounts of 20, 30 or even 50 percent if you book through the app. Download here: buon appetito.

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TRANSPORT

OPINION: Why are Italians so addicted to cars?

In a country as attached to the car as Italy, what would it take to get more people to use greener transport? Silvia Marchetti looks at what’s behind the country’s high levels of car ownership.

OPINION: Why are Italians so addicted to cars?

Many foreigners I speak to are shocked by the ‘car first’ mentality that rules in Italy, and by Italians’ degree of addiction to any wheeled vehicle. 

There’s practically one car around for each Italian. Between 2010-2020 the population dropped but there were three million more cars on the roads, despite soaring living costs and falling salaries. 

Italy’s rate of car ownership is the second-highest in Europe after tiny Luxembourg. All Italian regions have a lot of cars running but surprisingly, the number of passenger cars which is the highest at EU level can be found in the Alpine regions of Valle D’Aosta and the northern autonomous province of Trento, where particular regional statutes envisage special tax incentives helping locals to buy new cars.

Most Italians just don’t like walking. They aren’t active travelers who’d opt for a bike, and can’t go even 500 meters without a wheeled vehicle, be it a Jeep, motorbike, Vespa or motorino. 

But it’s not really their fault. People in Italy haven’t been educated on eco-friendly modes of transport, simply because infrastructure like bike lanes, pedestrian paths, high-speed trains, efficient trams, subways and buses are rather lacking. And there aren’t many walkable pavements in cities, let alone in old villages. So the car is Italians’ second home. 

READ ALSO: These are the most (and least) eco-friendly towns in Italy

There’s an historical reason for this, too. After the second world war, during the economic boom when Italy finally rose from the ashes of the defeat, owning a cinquecento or maggiolino was a status symbol. In the 1960s my father would squeeze eight friends into his cinquino and drive around all night, sharing the fuel cost. Then the car fad turned into a frenzy, and now it’s an obsession.

Iconic Italian car and motorbike models fuelled a post-war fad – which has become an obsession. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

Whenever I need to go somewhere far from my house I wish I could do the entire trip by public transport and ditch my car, so as to avoid having parking problems too. I remember once when I was at university there was this huge party near the Colosseum, I drove around for an hour looking for a parking spot and eventually I gave up, went back home really frustrated. 

Car sharing also is something totally foreign to Italians. You just need to look around in the morning at rush hour to see that there’s just one person per car, which is totally unsustainable climate-wise.

READ ALSO: Rome ‘among worst cities in Europe’ for road safety, traffic and pollution

Even in areas like Milan, where public transport is more efficient than in the southern regions, people still stick to their car or motorino which just proves how it’s a matter of mentality rather than of transport provision. 

On the other hand, if I want to visit Tuscany or Umbria from my house in Rome’s northern countryside, there aren’t even any direct connections.

My Italian millennial friends refuse to take a bus or tram to the gelateria a few blocks away from their home – the car is the rule, and they don’t care if they risk a fine for double parking, or parking in front of a building entrance. Forget walking, it just isn’t ‘done’.

Italy will soon invest some €600 million in projects aimed at improving bike and pedestrian lanes under initiatives funded by the PNRR, but the mindset of drivers must also modernize for all this money to be really effective. 

OPINION: Why cycling in Rome isn’t as crazy as it sounds

Italy needs an information campaign to raise awareness of environmental and health issues, and this must start inside schools and continue in college. Families also should educate kids to healthier transport modes, and stop buying those ‘micro cars’ when they’re 13 which don’t require a driver’s license. 

I often ask myself what it would take to get Italians – but also other nationalities – out of their cars, or off their noisy motorino with illegal upgrades that make a hell of a noise. Rising oil prices haven’t done the miracle in making car ownership unaffordable. 

Hiking car prices would kill the industry, so the only way is to give tax breaks or incentives to families who keep just one car and manage to share it, or raise taxes if each family member has one. 

Perhaps in a very remote future, interconnected green transport from the doorstep to the destination might be the solution, but at the moment that’s science fiction.

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