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A Complete Guide for Traveling by Bus in Italy
Traveling around Italy is always a good idea, and doing so via intercity bus is efficient and a good value for your money. Bus trips through Italy are very comfortable too, Italy’s coach companies use buses that are generally never more than a few years old.
Not only do buses in Italy provide an attractive alternative to rail and air travel, they also extend travel accessibility to parts of the country where trains and planes just don’t go. As a result, bus passengers in Italy can fully explore this country of spectacular historic sights, stunning landscapes, delectable foods, and sublime beaches.
Bus companies in Italy
Bus companies in Italy tend to focus their coverage in a particular region, like Northern Italy, the area around Rome, or the south. Historically, no individual company has sought to create a nationwide network of bus routes in Italy, unlike the United States’ Greyhound or the U.K.’s National Express.
However, the bus industry landscape is changing as new companies realize the potential of entering the Italian market. In addition to services within Italy, several companies operate regular buses across the border into its European neighbors. Other bus companies run the bulk of their services in other countries, but serve Italian destinations on one or two of their scheduled routes.
Bus services are most frequent in the most populated regions of the country, so you’ll have no trouble reaching cities such as Milan, Venice, Rome, or Naples. Top tourist destinations, including hilltop towns in Tuscany Florence, Siena, and Pisa, are also well served, particularly outside of the winter months (October to March).
Here are some of the most important bus companies in Italy which you should know about:
Marino comes closest to being Italy’s national bus carrier, with buses that stop in 18 of Italy’s 20 regions. Its routes primarily run through the country’s southern and central regions, taking in Naples, Bari, and Rome. However, it also has routes taking in the north, including Venice, before heading into France, Germany, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.
Like Marino, Itabus routes serve the majority of Italy’s regions. Its focus is also on southern and central parts of the country, with the most destinations in Calabria (Italy’s toe) and Puglia (its heel). However, it also has a good number of stopping points in Emilia Romagna in northern Italy, stretching from medieval Bologna to Parma.
German carrier FlixBus has an impressive array of Italian destinations, stretching as far afield as Agrigento in Sicily and Trieste on the border with Slovenia. In total, you can reach hundreds of Italian towns and cities thanks to Flixbus, which offers added extras like free cancellations up to 30 days before departure.
From its base in southern Italy, Autolinee Federico is another name to watch out for, since its buses include the cities of Rome, Naples, and Turin among their destinations. It also serves destinations which are harder to reach, such as Bergamo, Foggia, and Vibo Valentia.
BlaBlaCar Bus (formerly Ouibus) has its fleet of almost 50 coaches operating out of hubs in the French cities of Lille, Lyon, and Paris, but BlaBlaCar Bus destinations include Milan, Turin, and Genoa in northern Italy.
Additional international connections include the buses run by DRD Turizem and TripstAir, which both have regular services connecting Venice with Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia.
Popular bus destinations in Italy
When it comes to noteworthy destinations, Italy has more than it seems fair for any single nation to have. To make planning your next trip to the land of pizza and pasta by bus all the easier, we recommend considering the following popular bus destinations. And you don’t even have to worry about costs with our guide to how to visit Italy’s top destinations for under $130!
If all roads lead to Rome, it’s also reasonable to suggest all bus companies travel to Rome. The national capital is probably the easiest destination in Italy to reach by bus, with major players including Marino, Flixbus, and Itabus connecting the city with a variety of other towns and cities both north and south. Once there, thousands of years of history unravel before your eyes, including the might of ancient Rome at the Colosseum and Imperial Forum, and renaissance majesty in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.
Bus companies’ baggage policies make it much easier to shop ‘til you drop in Milan, often called the fashion capital of the world. You’ll also find it easy enough to find bus services to this northern hub, with even BlaBlaCar Bus including it on its schedules. Attractions beside the boutiques include Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the massive Milan Cathedral.
Though this city feels fully immersed in the Renaissance, Florence is also incredibly well-connected by bus. Thanks to its central location, bus lines span out in all directions to link the city with Bologna, Siena, Venice, and Rome on Autolinee Federico, Marino, and Eurolines buses among other providers. There’s also a great link to Pisa thanks to Caronna Tour. Unmissable sights in Florence include the incredible collections of the Uffizi Gallery and the exquisite duomo, or cathedral.
For a city known for its canals rather than its roads, Venice is still very easy to reach by bus. Over 300 routes from nine bus companies lead to the city, including some lesser-known carriers like GoOpti, Cortina Express, and TripstAir. Arriving and departing from Piazzale Roma on the northern edge of the main islands, it’s then only a short stroll to delights including the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, and Basilica of Saint Mark.
The sunny southern Italian streets of Naples can be reached from all major Italian cities thanks to 12 bus companies including InterSaj, Flixbus, and Marino. The perfect base from which to explore the relics of Pompeii or the trails of Mount Vesuvius, there are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy the landscapes of the Bay of Naples, like on a boat trip to the island of Capri.
The most scenic bus routes in Italy
Are you looking for more than just a way of getting from A to B? Do you want to be able to absorb scenes of the Italian countryside along the way? Look no further than the three most beautiful bus routes in Italy.
Catania to Enna through Sicily
Lasting a little over an hour, this twice-daily direct service operated by FlixBus departs coastal Catania for the lofty heights of Enna, which rise to over 900 meters above sea level. Along the way, the route takes in the typical landscapes of Sicily, from fields covered in sunflowers to small hillside towns, ensuring it is visually stunning at any time of year.
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Florence to Orvieto through Tuscany and Umbria
Lush rolling hills, tree-lined drives, olive groves, and vineyards are some of the trademarks of Italy’s iconic Tuscany region. Soak it all in on a route from Florence to the small hilltop city of Orvieto in the Umbria region. The full route takes about three hours, tracing the middle of Italy’s ‘boot’ from north to south. And, since Orvieto is about halfway between Florence and Rome, it’s the perfect stopping point if you want to continue on to the Eternal City.
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Rome to Pescara, through central Italy
Departing from Roma Tiburtina, the city’s northern bus and train terminus, the journey between the Italian capital and Pescara is roughly west-east across the spine of the country. Passing through the mountains of Parco Naturale Regionale Sirente-Velino, the route is particularly dramatic during the winter months when snow is most prevalent, although this can sometimes cause delays. The journey takes a maximum of three hours. Itabus and Flixbus provide multiple services per day between the two cities.
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How to book bus travel in Italy
Most major bus companies operating in Italy, including Marino, Flixbus, and Itabus, have bus tickets available to book online. Purchasing your tickets ahead of time means you’ll have the most options to choose from. Smaller companies may require you to visit a physical booking office once in Italy, usually located within the bus station that vehicles depart from and arrive into.
Schedules are seasonal, with the highest number of departures in the vacation period between June and the end of September. It’s usually possible to make a reservation at least a couple of months in advance. We’d absolutely recommend doing this, especially when you are looking to travel at peak periods such as high summer. However, bookings can generally be made online up to 24 hours before departure.
Since buses in Italy have a single class, there is normally only one adult ticket price to worry about. The main way prices differ is between bus companies, with some promising higher levels of service such as extra legroom. However, the date of travel can also make a big difference in the price of a ticket, and being flexible with dates can save you significant amounts of cash.
Can you modify or cancel a bus ticket?
Many of the major bus carriers allow you to cancel or change your bus ticket if your plans change at no extra cost. If you cancel your ticket, refunds normally come in the form of a voucher you can put towards future travel with the same company, rather than like-for-like monetary refunds.
Tips for finding deals on bus tickets in Italy
It can be difficult to find discounts for bus travel in Italy. This is largely because companies are already doing a great job at keeping prices low due to increased competition over recent years.
That said, regular discounts to look out for include reduced pricing for children (usually under the age of 12), students (which can include anyone in full-time education), and even senior citizens (of 60-65 years and over). For instance, Itabus has a family discount for groups of 3-5 passengers (although you don’t need to be related). It provides 20-30% off standard prices, but can only be purchased within 5 days of departure.
The best way of ensuring you don’t have to pay more than you need to is by traveling at less popular times of day. Avoid traveling around 9 am or 4-5 pm, when most people are looking to travel and roads are at their busiest. Midday departures are often the cheapest.
Types of bus services available in Italy
In all but the remotest parts of Italy, gone are the days of crowding onto a vehicle stinking of fuel to fight over seats with barely any padding.
Today, passengers booking bus tickets in Italy can expect a range of onboard amenities and facilities. Though they vary from company to company, you will definitely receive a guaranteed seat – so there will be no standing in the aisles.
Tickets also include a baggage allowance, usually equating to either one or two bags that are transported in the bus’ luggage hold, plus a bag to bring onboard with you. There isn’t generally much of a limit on the size or weight of hold bags, so long as you can lift them. Hand luggage will need to fit into overhead compartments or between your feet.
The generous luggage allowances are particularly useful for those heading to or from one of Italy’s airports. Since few airports are connected to the cities they serve by rail, bus services are frequent and well-developed, often coinciding with scheduled flight departure and arrival times.
It’s very easy to reach Marco Polo Airport from Venice, Naples International Airport from its city, and Rome’s budget airline friendly Ciampino Airport from the capital by bus. Check out our guide for all the hints and tips you’ll ever need on taking the bus to the airport.
Getting to the bus station in Italy
Bus stations in Italy are generally well-positioned, with the passengers’ convenience in mind. If you’re not sure of their location, try next to the train station or in a town’s main square. Larger conurbations will have a dedicated “stazione degli autobus,” or possibly more than one. Smaller population centers may just have roadside stands. There will often be a taxi stand located nearby, while ride hailing apps such as Uber are available in larger cities such as Rome and Milan.
Where bus stations exist, they tend to comprise a covered waiting area with seating, information boards, pay-to-use restrooms, and a coffee shop or newsagent.
Plan to get to the bus station a minimum of 15 minutes before departure, and ideally at least 30 minutes before.
Getting on the bus in Italy
Some coach companies state you need to present an official form of ID when boarding their buses. However, this is rarely requested unless you are crossing an international border into or out of Italy. You will need to present your ticket, which can be done either electronically via your phone or tablet, or with a paper printout.
Your ticket may have a specific seat number assigned to it, but it’s more common to sit wherever you like. This means that if you’re traveling as a family or group, it can be hard to find seats all together on the busiest routes.
On-board experience on Italian buses
It’s very rare to find an intercity bus in Italy which doesn’t have air conditioning, since the country sees high temperatures during the summer months.
If a bus journey is scheduled to take more than one or two hours, you can expect the bus to have onboard restrooms. Restrooms can also be found at bus stations, although there is normally a charge equivalent of around $1 to enter.
Itabus has seats positioned almost a meter apart and with extendable leg rests, allowing passengers to recline and relax. Their buses also have 4G connectivity and USB power sockets at each seat. But it’s possible to watch your favorite shows on a bus offline, too, if connectivity becomes patchy in the shadow of the Apennines. Marino also has extra-large seats and onboard complimentary WiFi.
It is unusual to receive any substantial refreshment as part of the ticket price, or to be able to purchase food and drink onboard. Instead, you are free to bring onboard any food or drink you like. It is respectful to other passengers to avoid anything with a strong smell, and to ensure you leave your seat clean and tidy for the next traveler.
Top bus routes in Italy
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