In addition to the dense coverage of Puglia by the local rail network, there are also many bus services. These provide an alternative to train connections sometimes, but more importantly bus services reach many places beyond the railway coverage. Unfortunately, finding information about bus services can be tricky. This website should help a lot.
Bus companies operating in Puglia
Bus services are provided in various parts of Puglia by a number of private and public bus companies. The most significant of these are SitaSud, ACAPT, STP Bari, STP Brindisi, STP di Terra d'Otranto.
Bus services operated by the Puglia regional railway companies
This is a confusing thing - all four of the Puglia regional rail companies (Ferrovie del Gargano: Ferrotramviaria/Ferrovie del Nord Barese; Ferrovie Appulo Lucane; and Ferrovie del Sud Est) operate extensive bus networks as well as trains. These constitute a huge element of the public transport network. Two of these - Ferrovie del Gargano and Ferrovie del Sud Est - are especially significant for visitors. It is essential to know what they offer in the relevant parts of Puglia.
A complication is that the regional railway companies all use rail replacement bus services on Sundays and some public holidays. These replacement services follow a rail timetable, and run directly between railway stations, unlike their "normal" bus services which follow quite separate routes and have fairly frequent stops.
It is sometimes annoying that the bus services (but not the rail replacement buses) operated by the railway companies do not necessarily link up with the rail services they also run or the rail stations they serve! They often use a quite separate bus stop or bus terminal in the same town. For instance, the Ostuni-Ceglie Messapica service, operated by FSE, runs from Viale della Sport in Ostuni’s shopping centre centre (a long way from Ostuni’s railway station!) into a terminal next to Ceglie hospital near to the old centre of Ceglie; on the way the bus actually drives near Ceglie’s FSE rail station although does not stop there or go past its entrance.
In this part of our website, we give information about bus services operated by the railway companies as just additional bus companies.
In order to promote use of bus services, a consortium of bus operators has been established with a common timetable and enquiry system - COTRAP.
This is a great idea in principle, but unfortunately it just covers bus options when train based options may be better; and the extensive bus services run by some rail companies, in particular the important FSE services, are not currently on the COTRAP system and enquiries will not throw up options which involve bus services offered by these operators. Furthermore, the COTRAP website is quite awkward to use.
Although we advise avoiding the COTRAP website if there is an alternative, it is often impossible to make enquiries about bus journey options without it. For this reason we provide below some specific guidance and various tips for using the COTRAP website.
The key bus operators in Puglia are described below (working roughly north to south) and information given about how to access information in each case.
Bus services operated by Ferrovie del Gargano
The FdG runs some bus services in the Gargano peninsula, in particular an important service connecting San Severo with Vieste, travelling along the north side of the peninsula via Pechici.
To get information, use the home page of the FdG website Italian version Just below the hearders this site allows you to access pdf versions of its railway and bus networks. The pdf for buses gives full details of the important San Severo-Vieste service (among others). NB The foreign language versions of the website do not appear to give access to these pdf timetables.
The home page also provides a timetable search facility for railways and buses. To get information about bus services, check "extra-urban services" and "consult the timetables". For buses this automatically refers users to the COTRAP website; if you want to use this, refer to the guidance and notes we give below.
The home page of the FdG also contains a very useful feature. There is a constantly updated panel at the right hand side with important news of closures, holidays, breakdowns, changes, cancellations, replacement services etc. If you are travelolling on any of their services, it is worth checvking with this just before you travel. By clicking on any of the notices which seem relevant to your trip, you can see full details.
There is no need to buy tickets on line, but if you want to do this then you can do it via the COTRAP website. You can buy tickets at many places, you can get a list of sales outlets via the FdG website, click here.
ACPT is a family-owned travel company based in Apricena, with roots going back to 1912. It has a fleet of modern coaches, providing services around Foggia. Many off these services are for school and work travel purposes. However, ACPT provides liniks of value to visitors, including especially a connection to Bovino, which is officially recognised as one of "the most beautiful villages in Italy". It also provides an alternative to the train services to towns and villages north of Foggia.
ACAPT has an attractive website home page which lists the destinations served with pictures of each. There is also a link to a full set of timetables, this can be downloaded. The "News" page which can be accessed from the home page gives up to date information about changes, cancellations etc.
There is no facility on the website for booking tickets online, although this can be done if preferred via the COTRAP website. You do have to be in a possession of a ticket before you board a bus (although we suspect that purchase on board is possible). There are plenty of places which sell tickets however, with a list provided on the website - click here Tickets must be validated in a machine on board the bus. There key Foggia stops are immediately outside the FS station and there are several ticket purchase options there.
Sita Sud is the Puglia branch of an established national bus and coach transport company. (Sita busesand coaches are a familiar sight throughout Italy). It is an important provider of services based on Foggia and Bari. We do not advise using the Sita Sud services based in Bari; there are better options available. The Foggia based services are more useful and are especially significant in the Gargano peninsula. The Sita Sud bus fleet is modern and comfortable.
Access the Sita Sud website home page here We have found this website to have occasional display problems. Our instructions here will help; if you encounter problems, try again.
At the very top of the home page is a drop down indicator allowing you to select Puglia information (Sita Sud also operates in Calabria and Basilicata). This displayes a home page which relates to Puglia services.
The home page gives updates about any problems, delays, changes etc; these are displayed as "customer notices" in the body of the page. It is worth chcking on this shortly before you travel if you are aiming for a particular Sita Sud bus service.
It is possible to get timetable details, but this is not easy, as Sita Sud has handed over its search facility to COTRAP. To get downloadable/printable Sitasud timetables, take the following steps:
- on the home page, click on the link at the top for "timetables" ("orari")
- ignore the departure/destination search boxes; below that there is a choice between Foggia and Bari based information; select "Foggia" (we do not advice using Sita Sud services from Bari)
- there follows a long list of routes, each with links inviting you to book "prenotata" online, which just link to the COTRAP website; and a link to a pdf timetable version for that particular route, which provide a useful overview of options (NB some of these pdf links lead to a notice saying use the COTRAP website instead, but most of them work, and you can download any timetables of particular intrerest).
In this way you can get timetable information about links between Foggia (and in some cases Bari) and most of the places of interest in the Gargano peninsula; San Severo; Lucera (an alternative to the train service). The Foggia-Manfedonia-Vieste bus service is a significant option, the route goes via Manfredonia and then around the south coast of the Gargano, an alternative option to the rail/bus routes from San Severo via Peschici.
The timetables (currently, December 2022) refer to coming into force in 2020, which is not encouraging. Once you have a route option in mind which seems suitable, it is essential to follow up with a specific timetable enquiry using the COTRAP links provided.
As well as booking on line, you can book on board buses, or better still purchase at an outlet near a bus stop - the Sit Sud website gives a list of ticket vendors You can get a full list of those in the Foggia based area or specificy a partiular place. Tickets must be validated on a machine on board the bus.
Bus services operated by Ferrotramviaria/Ferrovie del Nord Barese
The bus services run by the FNB essentially parallel its railways services between Bari and Bitonto, Andria and Barletta. We recommend using the train services to visit the various places served.
In case anyone is interested, a current timetable of services is available on the FNB website. This can be viewed here - bring up the page then scroll down to where its says "bus timetable" ("autolinee") - it may also say summer/winter timetable. This brings up a full timetable. Most other relevant information is also available on the same page of the website.
Bus services operated by Ferrovie Appulo Lucane
The FAL runs bus services between Bari, Gravina, Matera and Potenza. These essentially duplicate the train services, and as we recommend using the train to reach the places served, no specific information is given here. If you are interested look up the bus service information which is also on the website details given in relation to the rail options.
Freccialink coach services provided by Italian state railways (FS)
This developing coach connection service is run by the national FS railway system. The intention is to link main stations served by Freccia trains to important destinations beyond the Freccia network. These links can be booked in a straightforward way via the FS/Trenitalia main website.
Currently there are no such services operating in Puglia. However, two are metioned here because they have been run in previous years and may be resurrected:
- a link from Bari Centrale to Matera (NB there is also a Frecciabus between Salerno on the west coast of Italy and Matera calling at Potenza)
- a summer service linking Lecce to Gallipoli and Otranto.
This link to the Trenitalia website (Italian version) provides information about the Freccialink services. It will be updated if these services in Puglia are re-introducedand/or new ones added.
The Freccialink service uses comfortable long distance coaches and minibuses; the quality of service is meant to match the Freciarossa trains. They run non-stop between the few designated termini.
This company runs a network of bus services around Bari; northwards to Andria, Barletta and Cerignola; westwards to Matera and Gravina. However, they are local services not especially convenient for vistors to Puglia, and anyway the area they cover is better served by the train services.
The main possible advantage is that STB Bari runs some direct services between places outside Bari eg Trani to Andria. This link to the STP Bari website home page allows you to downoad a full timetable if you think its services might be of interest.
Bus services operated by Ferrovie del Sud Est
The bus services operated by FSE are a massive part of the Puglia transport newtwork. They cover the inland area between Bari and Lecce, and extend south of Lecce to cover the whole of the "heel" of Italy. So if you are travelling in that large proportion of Puglia territory, the combination of FSE trains and buses will feature strongly. And currently these buses are not covered by the COTRAP system, so if you use the COTRAP website to make a search, you must also make sure you do a parallel search for options offered by FSE.
The FSE website gives information about bus services and rail services. Use this for obtaining up to date information, lists of places where you can buy tickets etc. However, the timetable enquiry and booking system, for buses as well as trains, is now integrated with the FS/Trenitalia system. This has caused some significant problems for users which hopefully will be resolved in future; in the meantime we give some tips to handle this below.
Although the FSE trains and buses are all managed by the same company, and share a website etc, they operate quite separately. It is quite usual for FSE bus services and FSE trains to have separate termini in the same town; usually the bus terminus or bus stop is in the centre of the town, the railway station can be on the outskirts or even some distance away. In the larger towns, there are often a number of bus stops, it is not always simple to spot the main one.
Now that the FSE is a semi-independent part of the national railway system, enquiries on the FSE website link into the main FS/Trenitalia website to generate options and fares. In addition to information about FS/Trenitalia national rail services, this website also gives information about all FSE services, buses and trains. So when specificying a departure or destination on the website, you will be presented with dropdown options for stops/stations involving the FSE buses and trains as well as any FS stations. This is confusing - in the past when specifying travel involving for example Lecce, only one option was shown, which was Lecce main railway station; now there are whole string of options, most of them bus stops in various parts of Lecce!
This integration of trains and buses into the single FSE/Trenitalia website search facility has also made the search facility in general less effective. The search engine currently produces route options relating to precisely the stations/stops you enter, which can generate very bizarre results when there is a much more obvious answer if a nearby alternative station/stop is entered. Our advice is to do searches relating to what seem to be the main rail station (usually just giving the name of the town) and the main bus terminus (which may not be at the rail station, and even if it is may have a different name!). Make several searches to find the best option by rail, by bus and/or a combination. In particulat look at the time taken and the route/number of changes.
STP Brindisi is a publicly owned company formed about 30 years ago from various private and public transport agencies. It runs extensive "out of town" ("extraurbani") bus services throughout Brindisi Province and in the area bounded by Fasano, Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto generally. It also runs urban services in Brindisi city, Ostuni, Francavilla Fontana and Mesagne. Interestingly it is also responsible for two motor boats which operate as public transport in Brindisi Harbour
Although a very important transport operator in ts area, the service routes and timetables are mainly aimed at local people - for work, shopping and school. This limits its value to visitors (unless you are ready to travel at awkward times). There are a few extra services in summer which help a little, and also some specifically seasonal services (some of them free) linking coastal resorts to Ostuni.
STP Brindisi has a helpful website, which gives full timetable details. Navigation is slightly quirky. The following tips will help:
- from the Home Page click on the three bars symbol to show the main menu, scroll to "Lines and Timetables", then to "Out of Town Services" - the link here will take you straight to the page this generates
- scroll down to any of the 27 towns/places in which you are interested; clicking on this wioll throw up a list of all the routes which serve that particuar location
- click on any route which is relevant to you, this leads to a PDF file with full timetable details for you to look at and download (for printing if you want)
- you may find that trying to move backwards on the website keeps sending you to the Home Page - a nuisance, but you just have to go back to where you want to be!.
Although there is plenty of timetable and route details on the website, there is no online booking facility - for this you will need to use the COTRAP website (however, with proper timetable and route information, you will be able to use this effectively). STP Brindisi tickets are widely available in bars etc throughout the area served. You can also purchase tickets on the buses, from the driver or from machines (NB they are just starting to introduce contactless card payments on some buses).
The out of town buses are mainly comfortable coaches.
STP di Terra d'Otranto
This company (Societa Trasporti Pubblici di Terra d'Otranto) was formed in 1976 by merging some pre-existing transport operators in the area around Lecce and the south of Puglia generally, where it now provides significant bus services. The company is mainly owned by the government of Lecce Province.
The company has a website, access the home page here. The poor map below is available on the website; this gives an idea of the area covered and the main routes.
The STP website itself is not very useful; and its timetable search and booking facility refers you automatically to the COTRAP website (see our notes below on how to use this). This is fine for anyone who has a clear idea of their departure and arrival points. It is less useful for more casual exploration of options etc. Outside the summer season, using the COTRAP website will be the best option.
However, in recent years the company has established a comprehensive network of summer services, under the title "Salento by Bus". This operates mid June to mid September, with extra services in July and August. The map below shows the lines, and there are very comprehensive timetables available for the services shown - for some reason these are not referred to on the main STP website, but are available on a separate site, click here. By scrolling down on this site, you can view detailed timetables for all the routes shown on the map - keep scrolling down and when you get to the details of the routes, click on the one you want to look at. The same website provides a list of locations to buy tickets for each route, and also full details of telpehone numbers to ring for assistance to disabled people (normally 24 hours notice is needed). There is a link for you to book online, but this takes you to the COTRAP website.
To visit Otranto, Maglie, Gallipoli and Tricase and places further north such as Nardo, Copertino and Galatina, even in summer we would still advise taking the FSE trains from and to Lecce main station. For places further south, the seasonal bus services are likely to be more convenient in the summer - if preferred these can be picked up at Maglie, Gallipol or Otranto as well as Lecce. Likely to be of particular interest in the summer routes are:
Service 107 - Lecce/Maglie/Tricase/Santa Maria di Leuca - this is the direct route to the tip of Italy's "heel", in just over 2 hours
Service 108 - Lecce/Gallipoli/Torre San Giovanni - also to Santa Maria di Leuca, via the Ionian coastline
Sevice 105 - Otranto/Santa Ceserea Terme/Marina di Andrano/Santa Maria di Leuca - the best way to see and visit this southern part of the Adriatic coast
Outside the summer season, it can be quite tricky to find out information on STP di Terra d'Otranto services. It is necessary to use the COTRAP website. As well as the general tips about using this website, here are a couple of specific tips:
- outside Lecce, you may find it useful to look at options based on stops near Ferrovie del Sud est (FSE) railway stations
- make sure you use stops/terminals specified for STP di Terra d'Otranto, not Salento in Bus; these are different, outside the summer season terminals less convemnient for visitors are used
- if the stops available in Lecce are not convenient for the trip you have in mind, see if there is an alternative from Maglie, which is easily reached by FSE train from Lecce and where there is a stop a short walk from the station
- in Lecce, look at the map of stops available (ie labelled as being stops used by STP di Terra d'Otranto); there may be s stop more convenient for you than the Capolinea, which is convenient for workers but not for visitors.
South of Gallipoli/Maglie/Otranto, bus travel outside the summer season is quite a challenge, so be prepared to research options carefully. We provide some advice on another page about how to reach specific places; this may help.
The buses used by STP Terra d'Otranto are very comfortable and air conditioned, which can be a significant consideration in summer.
Cotrap (Consorzi Trasporti Aziendi Pugliesi) and how to use its online search facility
COTRAP is a consortium of bus and coach operators in Puglia which aims to encourage bus use. In particular it offers a common booking and enquiry facility on its website. In principle this seems a great idea. In practice it has significant limitations and is quite hard for the casual user to operate. Where possible, it is usually better to use the search facilities offered by individual bus operators; however increasing numbers of operators are automatically linking anyone who makes timetable enquiries via their own websites straight through to the Cotrap website.
The deficiencies of COTRAP are:
- the only routes offered are those operated by consortium members, which reduces or eliminates many travel options, even very obvious ones; in particular the bus services offered by FSE are not currently part of the Cotrap consortium - so if you look up a trip south from Lecce, the myriad of Ferrovia del Sud Est bus routes will not feature
- you are not shown a timetable for a service, route etc to get an overall picture of what is available; you have to specifiy a starting point, finish point, date and time; the starting and finishing points are specified in terms of communes (towns or districts) and stops within them which is awkward if you don't know the territory
- quite frequently the result is shown as not found or suggests you have filled in the wrong information; if you fill in alternative dates and/or times this obstacle disappears and you are presented with some options
- when given, the timetable options are clear enough, but the route details are confusing, especially if changes are involved
However, it is sometimes unavoidable to use the Cotrap website, so here are some suggestions which hopefully will help:
- this link takes you to the “book now” page; you can search for travel options here, you can book tickets here if you want https://biglietteria.cotrap.it/#/ricerca/itinerari;idLocalitaPartenza=388;idLocalitaArrivo=330;idPoloPartenza=6297;idPoloArrivo=657;dataPartenza=21%2F12%2F2022;oraPartenza=11:00;numeroCambi=2;idAziende=;pagina=1
- make sure you are using “linea extraurbana”, this is what you will normally need for visits between places
- you can specify you are looking for options with or without changes, and if the former whether you just want 1 change; check “yes” or “si”, and then check 2, so that all options will be considered whether or not they involve changes
- you can specificy which of the consortium members you wish to use, this is normally not necessary or helpful, so make sure the box says “all operators” or “tutte le aziende”
- fill in the departure and arival communes – you will usually get a drop down list here to select from; fill in both places before you decide on specific stops in each place, the next step
- as well as the commune, you have to enter a specific stop within the commune for departure and arrival; sometimes there is a single stop (“fermata”) which comes up, but more often a drop down list from which you select, in many cases indicating which is the “principal” stop, usually a good bet unless you know otherwise
- where there are several stops available, and you don’t know which one to use, you can open a map which shows where they are – this is a useful facility
- entering date and time is straightforward; then press “cerca corso” which means find the route (English translations may say “race search”)
- scroll down and all the options will be shown for the day in question; there is also an option of checking days before and after the one selected
- you can check out a return if you want easily by using the arrows to swap departure and arrival communes you specified, but you will have to re-enter the stops
- if your search does not yield results, try entering an earlier time, or a different day; this sometimes works
- you can add (“aggiungi”) your selected route if you want to buy a ticket online; do this if you want, but you can just note details and get a ticket at a bar or sales point near the departure point or on the bus/.