Italy is stationary reads the title above. It seems in 2012 Mario Monti achieved what no one else has managed he got the Italian out of his car and off his Vespa. In total the number of journeys taken by Italians last year was down 25%. Car trips were down 16%. scooter and moped trips down an amazing 41% and public transport trips down 7%. So clearly once off cars and scooters they didn’t get on trains and buses so one has to believe that finally the people who drive 3 blocks to work and the housewife that drives 300 yards to the shop has discovered that legs can do almost as well and money is saved. Monti’s first measure when brought in was to raise petrol prices by 10%. The garage owners of course rounded that figure upwards and so we saw fuel go from €1.36 a litre to €1.60 overnight. He was to liberalise the petrol stations to encourage competition ( it’s a closed shop here and there is clear price fixing ) but it was yet another reform he forgot about. Italy has the most expensive fuel in Europe which does wonders for the economy. What do they teach them at Goldman Sachs, Monti’s alma mater before he hit the EU gravy train, these days ? Anyway I thought it might be fun to look at public transport down here in Puglia.
Now cards on the table my experience of public transport has been based on 4 years in Toronto. New York run by the Swiss as Peter Ustinov once famously said. Certainly their system is superb. Buses run to metro stations and metro lines run to mainline trains and they all connect. The best bit for me was that each bus-stop has a phone number. You dial the number and are told when the next bus arrives at the stop. Pure magic. Here is 10 mins of the master and well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it.
You will not be surprised to know that Puglia is not like Toronto. The only Swiss we have in Italy work in a separate state , wear rather fine uniforms and guard Il Papa. The transport system is left to it’s own devices. Nothing is joined up. The bus station for non urban trips in Martina Franca is on the other side of town from the train station and you need two buses to get to it. The buses run on provincial lines so it is rare that they cross into another province. The bus companies are paid by each province. So for me to get a bus from my house to Ceglie Messapica 7 kms from my house I would need to catch a local bus from the top of my road to the main road. This bus misses the hourly bus to Villa Castelli by 10 mins. Once in Villa Castelli ( Taranto province) I need to wait 2 hours for a trans province bus to Ceglie ( Brindisi province) . So a job opening in Ceglie but no car means no takers from this area. The real catch 22 is you can’t buy a ticket on the bus. No, you need to get to a tobacconist shop to buy one. My nearest one is in Martina Franca or Villa Castelli. You’re ahead of me aren’t you, how do I get there without a car to buy the ticket to get on the bus to go there to buy a ticket !! Now up north most bus stops have a ticket machine but we don’t really have bus stops here. So few people actually try to use the system that the drivers stop where anyone extends an arm. Now bear in mind they are driving at about 120 kph so stopping is exciting and you are going to trot a fair way down the road after the bus with smoking tyres. Better have some travel related music
The train system around me is privatised and provides quite a good service. You can take the train from Martina Franca to Bari Central and a bus leaves every 10 mins for the airport. The train goes to Taranto as well and a separate train goes down a very scenic route though to Lecce. The big draw back is it doesn’t run on Sundays. I have no idea why and am afraid of the answer I will get if I ask. Intercity trains hug the coast and run north to south down Italy . There is very little across Italy service partly obviously because there are such huge mountains in the way. So Rome to Bari is slow and Bari Naples even slower. Taranto to Bologna ( I know you have had to get Google maps up sorry) is a nightmare.
Still you can buy tickets on line and if you book 30 days in advance fares aren’t too bad though the low cost airline carriers are often cheaper.
Okay it’s a phone not a bus but hey if you can’t catch a bus you need to use the phone and I like this anyway.
Taxis are a complete unknown in this area and indeed I have only seen them in Bari. There is some private hire using 8 seater vans but it is very expensive Martina to Bari about €150. Mainly the hotels use them for transfers etc.