Two entities handle local buses in our area of southern Liguria and northern Tuscany. ATC in La Spezia province, and ATN (CAT) in the province of Massa Carrara (link below). In this article we are dealing with ATC La Spezia which covers the La Spezia, Portovenere, Lerici, Ameglia, and Sarzana area, and also runs some buses to Aulla and Carrara. ATC La Spezia has good internet functionality and you should be able to find all the bus info you need with a modest effort, as well as a good deal of information on other related topics.
ATC La Spezia handles many aspects of transport in the larger La Spezia area. The main website ATC Home is also in English, and provides a broad array of info - some bus information and links to more; material on parking areas in La Spezia - some with special bus connections; links to boat and ferry services around the Gulf; a link to integrated Ligurian transport information; a Google map function that shows available ATC transport possibilities between addresses; etc. If you are living or staying in the area, we suggest you investigate this resource even if you don't take buses often.
A separate ATC website ATC Buses is also in English and provides detailed bus info, including a download of the current Orario (schedule); special notices (of a strike, say); info on connecting mobile devices; ticket seller locations; a Google function that provides bus route info between addresses; etc. If you download, bear in mind that the schedules change by season, for example April 1 to June 15, 2011. Though one can't determine a schedule beyond the current time period, they don't seem to change much. This underlines the need to recheck your information before setting out. We suppose the current schedule can also be purchased at an edicola (news stand) as with train schedules, but we can't verify it.
ATC Schedules. Some pointers about reading the schedules. You'll need the schedule page number, so use the Google Planning or Liguria Planner functions to get the bus route numbers for your trip, and then see the route number index at the beginning of the schedules which yields the page number. Or use the place name index at the beginning of the schedules to find which bus routes pass through that locale, and that will give the page number. Remember that the schedules do not name every bus stop (for the precise route, click on the blue bus icons of the Google map which will yield a box with bus routes and times at that bus stop). There are at least two schedules for each route and often some small type at the top of the page clarifying the entries. Note that the word 'Feriale' in Italian, meaning workday, sometimes may not include Saturday, depending on context. However, in the ATC schedules, 'Feriale' DOES include Saturday UNLESS it is modified in the Legend at the top of the page, or there is a separate 'Feriale al Sabato' schedule. In the legend, Lun-Ven is Mon-Fri, Lun-Sab is Mon-Sat. 'Festivi' means Sunday and holidays (and Saturday if it is explicitly excluded from Feriale). 'Schol' (Scholastico) means school days, and 'Non-schol' means non-school days. The type color of these words corresponds to the type color of the schedule entry. The periods of 'schol' and 'non-schol' are defined at the beginning of the schedule. The schedules are not as hard to read as it sounds - honest.
ATC Fares & Tickets. Fares are by distance and are divided into codice (codes). Each origin-destination pair has a codice, but we can only find a partial list Codice Sample. For example, La Spezia to Portovenere is 3, to Lerici 3, to San Terenzo 2, to Le Grazie 1, within La Spezia 1. If you can't guess the codice, ask at a sales point. For each codice, you can buy singles, and you can buy 8 trip tickets, and there are more options travellers don't care about. The rates are a bargain, see ATC Fares. Tickets are purchased before you board at a few self-service machines (singles only) or at any Poste in La Spezia province or at small stores, bars, and newsstands that display the ATC logo. ATC Ticket Sellers are listed here.
When you get on the bus - front or back, you MUST validate the ticket in a little machine, which prints the time and chops off a little piece of the ticket. Otherwise, you do not have a valid ticket, and can be fined on the spot. Many Italians won't be using the little machine because they have monthly passes. Two people travelling together can use an 8 trip ticket, IF they validate it twice. A higher codice can be used on a lower codice trip, but not vice versa. (As per the comment below, realistically speaking the chances of being fined for no ticket or the wrong code are pretty low, especially outside crowded areas. Try to be good, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do).
Maritime Coop Site Boat trips to and between the Gulf of the Poets towns of Lerici or Portovenere or to the Cinque Terre are highly recommended. They are available in combinations to suit every traveller. The boats run from about the end of March to the end of October. In 2013, they are starting March 24. The schedules are not on the website until the season nears. The boats leave from the western end of the Passeggiata Morin which is the waterfront promenade. This bay, its towns, and its landscapes have been justly famous for centuries and they are yours to enjoy for mere money.
Park & Shuttle La Spezia has two free and convenient Parking Areas, one east and one west, with free bus (navetta) shuttle service to the center as well as bike-sharing stands ( see our article Spezia-in-Bici). Parking in the center of La Spezia is tight and always by payment, so this may well save you time, money, and trouble. Here is a Parking Map of all parking area around the city, both free (libero) and pay. ATC also maintains an Italian language Parking Website though it is less useful than it should be.
|Central Station Parking|
|La Spezia Train Parking|
|Palasport Sign and Shuttle Bus|
Parking for Cruise Boats. New in 2013, there are 40 parking spots available for tour boat customers at 9 Euro a day. They may be reserved in advance at this Italian language page of the Mobpark Website
Cinque Terre The best way to get there is by train, and there's a Trenitalia link below. For an enjoyable relaxing trip, do not drive to the villages! The roads are narrow, there are many tight hairpins, parking is limited in the extreme, and trains are much easier and quicker. Also consider taking a boat and seeing Portovenere along the way (see above). The National Park website for the Cinque Terre has good intentions, but as it is technically erratic, try this Entry Point as well. Further, the Cinque Terre are subject to landslides from time to time, so monitor info as your trip date approaches. Look at Trip Advisor Liguria Forum for recent information. Another source of information is Ciaolunigiana.com where there's a good article about transport to and around the Cinque Terre, including train transfers.
|Tellaro Golfo dei Poeti Liguria|
Tellaro If you want to visit a nice former fishing village without the crowds (relatively) in Cinque Terre, visit Tellaro, just down the Gulf from the beautiful town of Lerici. The Tellaro road is too small for tour buses! It can be reached by bus from Lerici or by boat from San Terenzo, Lerici and Bocca di Magra in season through a boat service operated by Coop Foce del Magra. See our article, Gulf of the Poets Boat Service. Also, keep checking this website, as we are working on a nice hike to Tellaro.
Integrated Ligurian Transport Planner For Ligurian travel beyond La Spezia province, this may help you make connections, as it combines Trenitalia with local bus operations.
Trenitalia For train schedules and tickets. A train from La Spezia is the best way to get to the Cinque Terre. The trains are frequent, so don't sweat it unless you're getting there early or late. Buying a ticket online might speed things up at the station.
ATN (CAT) Bus service in Massa Carrara province (including the Tuscan part of Lunigiana). While ATN offers information on their website, it is limited to basic timetables and broad route descriptions, reseller locations, and fares. The route map is not really readable online. Thus the info will be hard to use to explore and plan in the detail a hiker needs, but the schedules are still useful overall, especially in conjunction with a printed map.
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