On the Buses

Going from Ponte a Serraglio to Fornoli I noticed this vintage bus parked in the car-park opposite the local football stadium.

I asked my allotment neighbour, who is a bus driver for VAIbus, whether he knew anything about it. He replied that it was a 1976 Setra model which belonged to a youngish person from Montefegatesi who used it to organise special bus trips.

Incidentally, there are two bus “names” (although they are, in fact, one group) operating in my area. VAI bus concentrates on local routes in Lucca province and LAZZI deal with longer inter-urban ones throughout Tuscany.

VAI bus forms part of a consortium set up in 2005 from local bus companies and is one of the main providers for children’s journeys to their school. (However, this places tourists wishing to use them at a slight disadvantage since services are severely curtailed when schools are closed for the summer break, which occurs from June through September!)

LAZZI, founded by Vincenzo Lazzi back in 1919, also forms part of that consortium, and have a bus “garage” (more of a parking area really) near the station at Bagni. Here it is: 08042013 011 Buses can be a useful alternative to travelling to Lucca rather than our local train line. However, both methods of transport have the disadvantage of stopping their services too soon to enable one to catch a same night return journey if one is attending one of the city’s evening events. This means an overnight stay in Lucca, which isn’t a bad idea at all.

To return to the bus I spotted: yesterday I finally decided to stop and take a closer look at it. I should say that I’d rather sooner stop to look at a Romanesque church or a restaurant menu rather than a mere bus but the elegant lines of this one were intriguing and made me realise that it was an exceptional machine. I especially enjoyed the interior 1970’s decor:

The bus (third-generation and model no. 208) produced by Kässbohrer-Setra (which is now owned by Daimler-Chrysler-Benz) is notable for two innovative design and engineering features:

First, an integrated chassis: Setra is an abbreviation of Selbsttragend (German for “self-supporting”) and means that the bus bodywork and the chassis are integrated into one structure (as most buses are now) and not separated as was usually the case before.

Second, rear-mounted engine behind the back axle – now a standard features of all buses. This is particularly significant as it enabled the passenger and driver floor space to be reconfigured and for additional luggage space (and a loo) to be made available under it.

So next time you go on a long-distance coach trip remember that if it wasn’t for the likes of that bus parked opposite the Bagni di Lucca football stadium you wouldn’t have all that space for your luggage, wouldn’t have such a quiet ride, wouldn’t enjoy such relatively safer protection from possible road accidents and would have to wait for the next pit-stop to relieve yourself!

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