Buses in Italy

Getting around Italy by inter-city coach or bus

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!

» more

When you’re getting down to the kind of small-town travel this site describes, you’ll probably need to use regional buses or coaches at some point.

Regional, inter-city buses (a "coach" in British English' "Greyhound/Peter Pan" in American) are usually called pullman in Italythough 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 to other towns).

Should I take a bus or train in Italy?

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.

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 inter-regional, regional, provincial, and local bus lines.

(Quick reminder: 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 includes all the smaller towns and territory surrounding a major city or town—for example, Tuscany includes the provinces of Florence, Siena, Pisa, etc.)

The result is that there are multiple, often overlapping route networks operated by a myriad of independent companies, and if it were possible to create a map of them all it would look like a pile of hopelessly tangled spaghetti.

Inter-regional and regional bus lines in Italy

Again, unless you have a truly compelling reason to take the bus (a sciopero—strike—on the train system, or some irrational fear of railways), a train will be by far the better option to travel between regions in Italy.

However, within a region, a bus will occasionally be the better bet. In a few cases in the hinterlands of Sicily, along the mountainous spine and north of Italy, or to get to truly tiny towns off the rail grid, a bus will be your only option.

How to find regional bus lines in Italy

There are, frustratingly, few centralized sources for information on regional bus lines in Italy.

The website for the local and regional tourist offices (as well as the terribly handy civic government sites, though those are largely in Italian only) will usually list all bus lines in and out of the region and its cities.

There are a few web-based search engines that attempt to cobble together the schedules and routes from multiple lines—some of them run by consortiums of coach lines, other by travel agencies.

Though larded with ads, and often suffering from a cluttered design, they can be handy for figuring out possible bus schedules. However, note that none offers a complete picture of all options so you will get some flase negatives—a search result might say there is no way from X to Y when, in fact, the site just doesn't happen to include the line that does make that connection.

(Also, I would just use them for the research; no need to book tickets ahead of time.)

Italy regional bus search engines

Provincial bus lines in Italy

Every province in Italy has its own bus system—though usually there are actually several systems, with overlapping route networks.

Often there is some level of provincial bus service provided as part of the main metropolitan bus company in the provincial capital, in which case you will see a bus company offering both "linee urbane" (city bus routes) and "linee extraurbane" (routes out to satelleite towns and nearby cities).

These are often bolstered by service from both are independent lines focused just on serving the provincia and/or neighboring provinces, and by the overlapping networks of the smaller city bus companies based in other towns within a province or the main cities of neighboring provinces. (This is especially true since 2014, when many Italian provinces merged yet each fromer provincial capital kept its own local bus service.)

There are more than a hundred of these bus companies, and the best way to find them is through the local and provicinal tourist office and/or the civic website for the provincia—though orariautobus.it does list quite a few, handily broken down by region then province.

Some tips:

  • 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?”

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