The Puglia region has a very extensive public transport system which goes way beyond the places served by the main state railway system (FS/Trenitalia). Cheap local train and bus services reach even quite remote places everywhere. Here we give some suggestions to assist in using the systems effectively and easily.
As well as the main national railways (FS/Trenitalia), there are four separately managed Puglia based regional rail companies
Between them these railway operators provide a dense network not normally shown on maps of the rail network in Italy and not usually bookable via the Trenitalia online systems. (Although there is a gradual integration of the Ferrovie del Sud Est network into the FS/Trenitalia national system since a “takeover” by the latter in 2016).
To reach our website page giving full details and advice about these railway services, click here.
Local bus services
Somewhat confusingly, all these Puglian railway companies also run significant interurban bus networks as well as trains; even on the train services “rail replacement coaches” are quite common and pretty well universal on Sundays. Bus services run by the Ferrovie del Gargano and even more so by Ferrovie del Sud Est are especially significant for visitors.
Additionally, other interurban bus services are run by various companies, some publicly owned, some privately operated. The most important of these are Sitasud, ACAPT, STP Brindisi, STP Terre d’Otranto.
To reach our website page giving full details and advice about bus services run by all the rrelevant companies, click here.
Many of the bus and coach operators are linked into a federation known as COTRAP (Consortium Trasporto Pugliese). This has a website which allows timetables enquiries and bookings throughout Puglia.
While this is a great idea in principle, unfortunately the website enquiry system has a number of quirks. Also there are important networks (in particular buses run by the FSE railway company) which are not part of Cotrap, and so no information is provided about the travel options offered by this and other non-members. This is a severe limitation which may change over time.
It is probably impossible to avoid using the Cotrap website sometimes. Several of the COTRAP affiliated companies automatically refer booking and timetable enquiries on their own websites straight through to the COTRAP website. We therefore include in our information instructions about using the COTRAP search system when searching for bus routes - you can access this advice via this link to our website page on using local buses and then scrolling down.
Tips and warnings
Familiarity with how things operate is needed to take advantage of what is available. We give a lot of detail here on our website; but a few general points to note are:
A warning about the route and timetable options given on the Trenitalia/FS and Ferrovarie del Sud Est websites
The FSE runs bus services as well as train services. Its website for searching route and timetable options is now integrated with the national Trenitalia/FS system. This has made searching for timetable and route information quite difficult, as it covers bus options as well as train options, even through the FSE bus services and train services operate quite separately from one another. Details of the problems and how to handle them are set out on the sections dealing with train services (click here) and bus services (click here).
Tickets can often be bought on board buses and trains, but not always, and sometimes there may be an extra charge. We advise getting tickets before boarding if possible.
Tickets can be bought online in many cases using a credit card to pay. This facility is offered on the websites run by Trenitalia (covering both Trenitalia/FS trains and FSE trains and buses); by the FSE and other train company websites covering their own train and bus services; and by the Cotrap website covering most other services. The booking process is straightforward (even on the COTRAP website) once you have decided on your trip details. Tickets can be downloaded to a phone or computer and displayed as required; or printed off.
If you cannot do this or don't want to (you may want to stay flexible as you move around), you can buy tickets "on the day" easily (we usually do this) using
Ticket machines on stations are easy to use and give instructions in a choice of languages (on FS stations these are shouted at you rather loudly!). Some machines do take cash but using a credit or debit card is much easier. The following instructions relate to the FS station machines, but those on the regional line stations operate in mcuh the same way:
If the sequence does not work out, it is worth starting again once, or using a different machine. But if you don't succeed twice, find somewhere to buy tickets or pay on the train.
Rome to Rio website
If you have a specific trip in mind, one very useful starting point is the Rome to Rio website. This is straightforward to use, simply enter your departure and destination locations (which can be very precise). The website generates various options for travel including train and bus options with details, including details of times and operators. In our experience the website is reasonably reliable and up to date; but it does not alway show all the options available. So even if it does come up with something, we still suggest using our website to follow up on this as it may lead to preferable alternatives and also we give much more specific information which to make your trip easier.
If you are looking to get a more general feel for what is available, before you have specific trip in mind, then our website will be a more useful starting point.