Indiana University Overseas Study

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One of the most intimidating parts of Bologna is the bus system. It functions like clockwork—hundreds of different buses speeding down their routes to hundreds of designated stops, in and out of the city. Its efficiency and complex network scared me at first and so I avoided the bus for as long as possible.

Bus stop

Bus stop

Now, I use the buses on a regular basis and know stops, schedules, and routes like a pro. Of course, I have only earned my place by getting on the wrong buses and guessing at stops as to whether “it looks enough like downtown” or not.

To begin navigation, I recommend the internet—the TPER bus website lets you check schedules, routes, and even plan your trip using major roads or landmarks; even better, native Bolognese have comprehensive knowledge of routes and can often recommend/debate a good route to take.

Of the hundreds of different buses, each one has its own schedule (some end early evening, others early morning, others only run during the early morning…) and stopping route—both of which are subject to change on weekends, holidays, game days, and strikes.

An unusually empty bus

An unusually empty bus

Thankfully, all of these changes are marked on schedules posted at bus stops. Some larger bus stops even boast digital boards that announce the arrival of the oncoming buses. Of course, these aren’t always reliable and occasionally a bus will disappear from the board; this could mean the bus will come anyway and other times it means that, yes, a bus has literally disappeared off the face of the earth and, no, don’t ask about it.

Checklist for Riding a Bus

  1. Buy a bus ticket at a Tabaccheria (tobacco shop—although it sells a bit of everything)
  2. Check Google Maps for the bus stops nearby the starting point and destination.
  3. “Plan My Trip” on the TPER Bologna bus website, which gives information on bus stops, bus numbers, and times of departure and arrival.
  4. Write down the two stop names before the final stop (especially useful if you don’t know what your destination looks like).
  5. Walk to the bus stop, check the schedule again, and wait for the correct bus.
  6. Enter bus and validate ticket.
  7. Watch the names of the stops you pass (sometimes the next stop is announced—sometimes it’s not).
  8. Call the bus to get off at the correct stop—don’t be afraid to ask the driver or other passengers.
Traffic passing along a piece of the old wall

Traffic passing along a piece of the old wall

While this may seem exhausting, buses are now a daily part of my life. They take me to work, the gym, friend’s houses, class, soccer games, and back home. As scared as I once was, now only two months in, I am an expert in my own line of buses.

I hope this gives someone the courage to try out the menacing transport system in their own city, whether it be bus, train, or metro.

My best advice to start: Step on a bus and let it get you lost.

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