It leaves from Piazza del Cinquecento in front of the Termini train station, stops at Piazza Venezia, crosses much of picturesque, downtown Rome, crosses over the Tiber river in the shadow of Castel Sant’Angelo (also known as Hadrian’s Tomb), lets you off a block or so from the Vatican (at the Cavalleggeri stop) and ends in Rome’s Aurelio neighborhood at the S. Pietro Station, from which you can also catch a slow train to Viterbo or to Livorno (or,if you have a permit, to Vatican City).
This makes it an ideal and potentially enchanting means of daily transportation for thousands of residents of and visitors to the Eternal City. But enchanting it is generally not. For the overcrowded 64 bus (it is supposed to run every seven minutes on weekdays but is still jam-packed, even at the first stop) is also the most risky in the capital.
Naturally, as in any major city, pickpockets may also ply their trade on a variety of other city trains or buses, not to mention crowded cafés and/or sidewalks. But the 64 is unhappily “special”. Gypsies, malefactors both home-grown and imported, all know that it is likely to be full of potential “pigeons”. “Every time I took that line”, smiles DS, a now-retired magistrate who with his dark hair and heavy beard in his heyday was easily recognizable, “about half the people on the bus would immediately get off”.
Tourists are thus advised to put their valuables in pockets that zip, to wear their backpacks on their chests, not to open their wallets in full view (of anyone), to watch out for unexpected pushing and/or shoving and not to be distracted by apparently friendly strangers who may be working together with a lurking accomplice. The situation is further complicated by the fact that people can get on and off Rome buses through one of several doors.
So if you do need or want to take the 64, caution is the word of the day. Be very, very wary and keep your belongings safe and secure. But you should know that if you want to go from the station to St. Peter’s, there are two alternatives.
In the first place, the number 40 double-bus also leaves from the Stazione Termini and follows almost the same route, going through the center but leaving you off instead at the Traspontina stop, more or less at the beginning of Via della Conciliazione or – if you prefer – at the terminus in Borgo Sant’Angelo from where you can walk to the Vatican in the shadow of the Leonine wall.
If, instead, you should be coming into Rome at Rome’s other major train station, the Stazione Tiburtina, you can take the 62 which, after passing through Piazza Barberini, also runs through the center, and will leave you – at its last stop − also just a short distance from the start of Via della Conciliazione. Of course, there are no guarantees that there won’t be pickpockets on these buses as well but at the very least they are less crowded and far less… notorious.
What most people don’t know, is that the 64 is really the oldest Roman bus line, although when it was first introduced in 1903 to merge and replace two horse-drawn lines (one from Piazza Venezia to the Stazione Termini and another from Piazza Venezia to San Pietro) it was known as the number 1. On January 1, 1930, it became the MB, (leaving from Piazza Indipendenza rather than from Piazza del Cinquecento), and it was re-baptized as the 64 only in 195, in one of several periods when it was a trolley car, or filobus.In 1965, buses replaced the trolley and for the second time in its history (the first was between the two world wars), the 64 became a double-decker from which tourists could enjoy a panoramic view of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and it’s immediate surroundings. Starting in 1978, these were withdrawn from service – Italians going to work ended up overly crowding the first floor so they could make sure to be able to get off at their stops – and replaced by a series of successively more modern buses.In 2000, the 64’s original terminus at Piazza della Città Leonina, at a stone’s throw from Piazza S. Pietro, was eliminated. These days, to get to the Vatican on the 64, you get off at the Cavalleggeri stop (at Piazza del Sant’Uffizio). This stop is just south of St Peter’s Square but is almost as close to it as Piazza della Città Leonina is.