Here is a quick overview of the major forms of ground public transportation in Italy with a particular focus on those available in the vicinity of Ascoli Piceno.
The advent of the Freccia system of high-speed trains in Italy ushered in a new era in high-speed transport. These trains are fast, fairly priced, generally clean, and are supported by a robust online ticketing system. For Freccia trains, advanced seat reservations are required. Buy your tickets online at the TrenItalia website, or use a third party seller such as trainline.com. The services are largely similar. Tickets purchased online, either in digital or paper form, are largely acceptable for travel.
The main lines stretch from Salerno and Naples in the south to Milano, Torino, and Venezia in the north, stopping at Roma, Firenze, and Bologna. The three grades of service (Rossa/Argenta/Bianca) are largely indicative of how many stops are made. The FrecciaRossa is therefore the fastest and has the fewest stops. A slower line stretches south-east from Bologna along the Adriatic Coast down to Bari and Lecce. For much of this length, there is only one track per direction, so delays are more likely. A newer track connects Napoli and Bari.
An alternate train service provider, Italo, offers FrecciaRossa-quality service on a few of the mainline routes. Be careful, though, because some of their routes do not reach the central stations of their destinations. And while you can buy, for example from trainline.com, a ticket which connects Italo and Freccia trains, you will not be due any recompense if you miss the connection.
Below Freccia-level service, there are also many Inter-City trains which also require seat reservations. These have more stops than the Freccia trains, and usually operate on older rolling stock.
Then there are a variety of express and local regional level trains. Generally, a train number with four digits will be faster (fewer stops) than one with five. For these trains, no seat reservation is possible. If you buy a standard paper ticket, don’t forget to punch your ticket in the yellow machines on the track platforms (even if you just bought it from the machines or agent in the station lobby).
If you are over 60, you might want to apply for a free CartaFreccia Senior card on the TrenItalia website. Holding this card can give some advantages when booking tickets.
Train service to Ascoli Piceno is rather slow. There are about ten trains a day (fewer on Sunday) to either San Benedetto del Tronto (00:45) or to Ancona (1:55) on the main Adriatic line. These trains arrival tend to be scheduled to follow the departure of fast trains on the coast line, so if you want to make a connection, you will often have to wait a maximal interval. You might find it more convenient to find other transportation to or from the San Benedetto station and pick up, or depart the train there. Unfortunately, only a few of the Freccia trains stop at San Benedetto.
Curiously, in Italy, large buses are referred to by the English name “pullman”. The etymology of the word clearly harkens back to the Pullman Company who operated railroads in the US and the UK in the late 19th Century.
Intercity pullman buses go everywhere in Italy and are a very popular form of transport. You probably can go to anywhere in Europe from a major hub like the Tiburtina bus station in Rome. It’s not the prettiest place in Rome, but it can be useful, and it is co-located with the Rome Metro. Multinational bus lines such as FlixBus are available between many Italian cities, but the regional carriers are too many to count. Most support ticket sales on the web.
It’s easier to get to Rome from Ascoli by bus than by train. There are two main routes. The Via Salaria heads directly over the Apennines from Ascoli along the route used by the ancient Romans. The road is windy and slow, but the total distance is about 50km less than the other route which takes the Ascoli-Mare Raccordo to A14 on the coast, and then follows the A24 to Rome through the Gran Sasso tunnel. Both routes take about the same amount of time. Your preference probably depends on your tolerance of windy roads.
START Spa. and Cardinali are the only two bus lines that offer the Salaria route, and those buses don’t continue on from Rome to the Fiumicino airport if you’re headed there. The coastal route is served by a large collection of bus lines: START, Cardinali, Flixbus, Gaspari, RomaExpress. Most of these lines terminate further up the Marche coastline, only stopping momentarily at Porto D’Ascoli and San Benedetto del Tronto. The coast route buses almost all visit either Fiumicino or Ciampino in addition to Rome. The trip from Porto D’Ascoli to Rome takes about 3 hours. Continuing on to Fiumicino takes most of another hour.
If you plan to get on or off the bus at Porto D’Ascoli, be sure to research the bus stop in advance because it is a gas station and is not immediately obvious. Some of the lines above offer connecting buses between Ascoli train station and Porto D’Ascoli. For those that don’t, you’ll have to find another way to get bdtween Ascoli and Porto D’Ascoli.
START Spa. offers local and extra-urban bus service around Ascoli and to between Ascoli and most of the major comunes in the area. Complete timetables can be found on their website. Bus tickets, both single tickets and long-term passes, can be bought at tabaccherie and at newspaper stands.
Ancona and Pescara have small regional airports that are about 1:15h from Ascoli by car. Pescara has flights on Volotea to Palermo and Catania, and Ryan Air to Brussels Charleroi and London Stansted and other RyanAir destinations. Ancona has similar routes, plus flights to Munich on Lufthansa. Neither airport is particular well connected to public transportation, but both have adequate parking facilities.
Ciampino and Fiumicino are the two major airports for Rome, with Fiumicino being considerably bigger and better connected. Both are roughly four hours from Ascoli by bus (3 hours by car), but only some of the bus lines stop at Ciampino. Fiumicino has huge amounts of long stay parking, both public and privately operated. There are close in parking structures as well. Considerable discounts can be had by booking ahead.
Occasionally, very competitive airfares can be had through Milan Malpensa, which has the advantage of being easily reachable by train. However, the train trip is long, and requires a change at Milan to the Malpensa Express which takes another hour to the airport on the other side of the city.