Buses in Italy
Getting around Italy by inter-city coach or bus
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When you’re getting down to the kind of small-town travel this site describes, you’ll probably need to use regional buses at some point.
Regional, inter-city buses are usually called pullman—though autobus, the generic term usually reserved for a city bus, is also sometimes used.
When looking at schedules, you'll often see the distinction made between "servizio urbano" (city service) and "servizio extraurbano" (inter-city service, which means buses ot other towns).
Bus or train?
All things being equal, if you want to connect any two reasonably-sized towns or cities in Italy, the trains will be faster, more frequent, and more convenient than the buses, and will cost about the same, on average (which is to say: sometimes less, sometimes more).
There are few notable exceptions, like the Amalfi Coast, some Tuscan hilltowns (a few of of which are isolated far from train stations—Montepulciano, Pienza, San Gimignano—others of which are simply more convenient to get to by bus, like Siena), and the hinterlands of Sicily.
Useful Italian for bus travel
ticket - biglietto
one-way - solo andata
round-trip - andata-ritorno
intercity coach - pullman
city bus - autobus, bus
bus stop - fermata
excuse me (in a crowd) - permesso
I'm getting off! - scendo!
In other words: unless you're trying to get to a tiny town off the beaten path (and off the rail lines), it makes far more sense to take the train.
When you do take a bus in Italy...
You can get just about anywhere through a network of dozens of local, provincial, and regional lines.
Every province in Italy has its own bus system; there are a few regional ones as well. (An Italian regione, or "region," is like a U.S. state—Tuscany, Sicily, Lombardy—while a provincia, or "province," is more like a U.S. county, and usually describes the smaller towns and territory surrounding a major city or town—for example, Tuscany includes the provinces of Florence, Siena, Pisa, etc.)
The only Italian coach company with national scope is SITA (www.sitabus.it), which runs regional lines in the Veneto (home to Venice, Verona, Padova), Tuscany (Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Siena), Campania (Naples, Amalfi Coast), Basilicata (Matera), and Apulia (Bari, Brindisi, Lecce).
There is one useful online resource—www.oraribus.com—that provides a database of local bus companies that service each region, province, and town with a map-based interface. It's not absolutely complete, but it does a great job of tracking down most local bus companies.
- Bus schedules aren’t always easy to come by or to figure out—the local tourist office usually has a photocopy of the schedule, and in cities some companies have offices. Some tips
- Buses exist mainly to shuttle workers and schoolchildren, so the most runs are on weekdays, early in the morning and usually again around lunchtime. All too often, though, the only run of the day will be at 6am.
- A town’s bus stop is usually either on the main piazza, by the train station, or (especially in smaller towns) a large square on the edge of town or at the bend in the road just outside the main city gate.
- You should always try to find the local ticket vendor—if there’s no office, it’s invariably the nearest newsstand or tabacchi (signaled by a sign with a white T), or occasionally a bar—but you can usually also buy tickets on the bus.
- You can also flag a bus down as it passes on a country road, but try to find an official stop (a small sign tacked onto a telephone pole).
- Tell the driver where you’re going and ask him courteously if he’ll let you know when you need to get off. When he says “E la prossima fermata,” that means yours is the next stop. “Posso scendere?” (poh-so shen-dair-ay?) is “May I please get off?”
This material was last updated August 2012. All information was accurate at the time.
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