Debunking the notturno

The night bus. Or il notturno. If you’ve been living in Rome for enough time you may have heard of it, but not necessarily taken it. To be precise, there are over 20 night buses available in Rome but considering the size of the city they don’t reach every corner and unfortunately have a less than stellar reputation.

I too, must admit, that I was extremely hesitant to experiment with the notturno due to the reviews I received when I first got to Rome: “Those buses are filled with drunk men trying to feel you up,” and “My friend once got followed home after she took the night bus.” Obviously, being in a new city, I was less than eager to hop on one after a night of partying (especially since most places I go are at least an hour away from my house).

I tried all sorts of methods for avoiding the notturno. I would leave a dinner or party before the regular bus stopped running. I would find excuses for why friends should come closer to me. I spent more money than I should I have on cabs, and more nights than were comfortable on friends’ couches. And then one night it happened. Empty wallet, not a friend with a “pull-out” in sight. I had to brace myself, suck it up, and take the N4. And that’s when I was blessed.

The night bus is NOT SO BAD! In fact, being a native New Yorker with no driver’s license, I would even venture that the night bus is…more reliable than the New York City subway (granted, not saying much). And even remote areas of Rome have a night bus access point (though unfortunately not nearly enough). Many go through Termini so even if your destination is in a “no-ride” zone, you can at least make the cab fare smaller by taking a notturno from there. In fact, I found myself stranded in Testaccio not so long ago and had NO idea how to get home without a taxi. Wanting to rise to the occasion I asked someone about the nearest bus stop, walked the few blocks and waited. Reading the sign-post I didn’t recognize any of the stops except for Termini so I resolved to head in that direction. I assumed it would be hours and hours before I would be home (due to some bad calculations I had to take three buses!) That’s why I was extremely surprised when I glanced at my cell phone as I struggled up the stairs in my building to find that the whole endeavor had only taken 45 minutes. This might seem like a milenia to some in the wee hours of the morning, but when the option is spending 25 Euro, I think the choice is clear. No one harassed me on the bus. In fact I felt very safe considering that there were TONS of young people on the ride with me all excitedly coming back from some destination or other.

So, if you’ve been wearily eyeing your wallet recently on the weekend when it came time to make the journey home – I urge you to SAFELY** take a “chance” on the night-bus.

**This means GO FOR IT if you can wait in an area with lights and other people who don’t look like they’re too drunk. GO FOR IT if you’re sober. If it’s late at night and you’ve put down one too many sambuca shots and you have no idea where you are…spring for the cab!

For more route information: http://www.atac.roma.it/index.asp?p=18

— Irina Gusin

2 thoughts on “Debunking the notturno

  1. Oh the night bus is not all that bad! I think you got a little lucky that it came so quickly. It can be a bit of a wait.

    Tips for ladies alone: try to snag a single seat up by the front of the bus so that there are no empty places next to you for a creeper to sit. If there are none, at least stand near the front and put on your bish face.

    I still feel like Cinderella sometimes because I’ll bail out at midnight to catch the last regular bus home to avoid the night bus, BUT they are certainly a good backup plan.

  2. Thanks for the tips, Natalie! Standing up near the front is also helpful when the driver inexplicably DRIVES PAST YOUR STOP EVEN WHEN YOU RANG THE BELL LIKE FOUR TIMES. Not this happened to me or anything…

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