The Mediterranean Sea borders Italy on all sides but the north and makes travel by boat an enjoyable way to get around the peninsula during your next Italian vacation. Whether you want to travel between cities or jaunt out to one of the many beautiful islands that speckle the near waters, ferries and hydrofoils are a relaxing and affordable option for traveling between the Italian sea ports.
The major ports of mainland Italy are Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Fiumicino, and Naples. Genoa and Naples are big cities that are destinations all their own, each offering a great place to begin your exploration of Italy by sea. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and things to see in Naples and Genoa. Buses and trains connect these cities to the rest of the country.
Livorno is the main port of central Italy and runs ferry services to the Tuscan islands, Sardinia, and Sicily. There’s a shuttle from the port to the downtown from where the train station is another bus ride away. Civitavecchia and Fiumicino serve those who wish to travel by ferry from the Lazio region. There are train stations in each of these two towns that can connect you to the rest of Italy.
GETTING TO THE ISLAND OF SARDINIA
If you would like to travel to Sardinia by ferry in the summer, be sure to book your place early on, especially if you wish to bring along your bike or car. Lots of Italians and visitors travel to enjoy Sardinia’s spectacularly clear waters! If you’re going in the low season, check the schedule as the number of ferries is greatly reduced.
The main ports in Sardinia are Arbatax, Cágliari, Golfo Aranci, Olbia and Porto Torres. Arbatax, on Sardinia’s eastern coast, is little more than a functional port town with inland connections by rail, bus, or summer shuttle. There’s a small parking lot at the port, and a local bus can take you into town if you have to spend the night where there are some hotels and restaurants.
Cágliari is Sardinia’s capital and southern-most port. The boat docks a short walk away from the Piazza Matteotti where the tourist office is located. There are many good hotels and restaurants in this bustling town. Buses and trains connect Cágliari with the rest of the island. There’s also a small parking lot connected to the port if you need to leave your car.
Golfo Aranci is a northern port near Sardinia’s beautiful Costa Smeralda. Taxi, bus, and train connect this charming fishing village with the rest of the island. If you choose to stay here, you’ll find restaurants and hotels located in the town, and some beautiful beaches are nearby.
Olbia is northeastern Sardinia’s largest town. Most visitors pass through Olbia to the smaller beach towns along the Costa Smeralda. The port is located on the Isola Bianca that’s connected to the city by buses running along the raised causeway twice an hour. There are trains and buses that leave from Olbia to connect it with the rest of the island.
Porto Torres is located on Sardinia’s northwest coast and is near to Sássari, a city in the island’s interior. A train connects Porto Torres with the rest of the island. Porto Torres also has restaurants and hotels if you need to stay the night.
Here is a list of the ports and ferry companies within Italy that run services to Sardinia:
- Genoa – Olbia/Arbatax/Porto Torres (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione , Grandi Navi Veloci, or Moby)
- Civitavecchia (outside Rome) – Olbia/Cágliari/Arbatax/Golfo Aranci (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione , Grandi Navi Veloci, or Moby)
- Naples – Cágliari/Golfo Aranci (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione )
- Fiumicino (Lazio) – Golfo Aranci/Arbatax (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione)
- Livorno (Tuscany) – Olbia/Golfo Aranci (operated by Corsica Ferries/Sardinia Ferries or Moby)
- Palermo – Cágliari (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione )
- Piombino – Olbia (operated by Moby)
- Propriano – Porto Torres (operated by SNCM)
- Trápani – Cágliari (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione)
One of the best ways to get to Sicily is by water. There are four main ports on the island with several ferry services to cities in the north and south of the mainland. Watch the schedule outside of the summer season as the number of ferries is reduced. The biggest city and the main port of Sicily is Palermo. A free shuttle transfers passengers to the port entrance after which it’s a ten-minute walk to the Piazza Castelnuovo in the center of town. Palermo makes for a great introduction to Sicily and starting off point for further travels. There is a train and bus station with connections throughout the island.
Messina is the first sight for many visitors coming to Sicily from Italy’s mainland. Ferries and hydrofoils run between the city and Calabria several times a day. The bus and train station are near the harbor. Messina has several hotels and good restaurants if you need to spend the night.
Milazzo is the main port that runs ferry services to the Aeolian Islands. But you can also arrive here from Naples. There are hotels if you have to stay the night though you shouldn’t have a reason to. The train station is three kilometers from the port and can be reached by local bus that runs every thirty minutes.
Trápani is an old port town on Sicily’s west coast. The train and bus stations that connect Trápani with the rest of Sicily are a local-bus ride away from the port. The old part of town is quite charming and offers some affordable and tasty restaurants and comfortable hotels.
- Naples – Milazzo/Palermo/Trápani (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione , Siremar, Grandi Navi Veloci, or SNAV)
- Genoa – Palermo (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione or Grandi Navi Veloci )
- Livorno – Palermo (operated by Grandi Navi Veloci )
- Villa San Giovanni/Reggio Calabria – Messina: ferry service (24 hours – 7 days a week – every hour) provided by the Italian Railroad as well as by private companies at same price. Reservations not available or necessary.
- Cágliari – Palermo/Trápani (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione)
- Civitavecchia – Palermo/Trápani (operated by Grandi Navi Veloci or SNAV)
- Connections between Sicily and Aeolian Islands, Égadi Islands, Pantelleria, and Pelagie Islands – www.gruppotirrenia.it/siremar or SNAV
There are two ways of getting around the Bay of Naples: by ferry or hydrofoil. The latter is the fastest way to go but it’s also more pricey. To say that the island of Cápri gets busy during the summer is an understatement. If you want to stay the night you best book a hotel in advance. Ferries arrive into the port of Marina Grande that’s connected to Cápri town by stairs or funicular. There is also a bus that runs to the other small towns around the island.
Ischia is an island that’s slightly bigger than Cápri, and it has three ports: Ischia Porto, Casamícciola, and Forío. Each of these are connected by buses that run through the island. There are hotels and restaurants nearby each of the ports, but watch out if you’re visiting in the off-season as you run the risk of fewer places being open.
The island of Prócida is the smallest of the islands in the Bay of Naples and the nearest island to the city. There’s a bus that runs between the port and the beach. You must make reservations if you want to stay on the island as accommodation is quite limited.
- Naples – Cápri/Ischia—all three ports/Prócida (operated by Tirrenia Navigazione, SNAV , or Alilauro)
- Sorrento – Naples/Cápri/Ischia Porto (operated by Alilauro or Tirrenia Navigazione)
- Pozzuoli – Cápri/Ischia Porto and Casamícciola/Prócida (operated by Alilauro or Tirrenia Navigazione)
- Ischia Porto – Cápri/Prócida (operated by Alilauro – or by Tirrenia Navigazione or SNAV)
- Salerno – Amalfi – Positano – Capri (operated by Alilauro)