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Sicily Ferries from Mainland Italy

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As a viable alternative to taking the train, Sicily is very well connected to mainland Italy by car ferries. Here is (hopefully) a complete rundown of ferry services:

1. GENOVA/PALERMO (6 times per week; 20 hours) (Grandi Navi Veloci) (other ships also substituted)

50400 Tons, 694 feet in length, 100 feet in width, 31.5 knots, 2920 passengers, 984 autos, 567 cabins, 37 suites, also reclining seats.

2. GENOVA/CATANIA (weekly; 26 hours) (other ships also subsitituted)

32500 Tons, 600 feet in length, 98 feet in width, 21 knots, 114 passengers, 34 cabins, reclining seats.

3. LIVORNO/PALERMO (3 times per week; 19 hours) (other ships also substituted)

25000 Tons, 653 feet in length, 87 feet in width, 25 knots, 500 passengers, 600 autos, 67 cabins, also reclining seats.

4. CIVITAVECCHIA/PALERMO (3 times per week; 12 hours) (other ships also substituted)

35200 Tons, 617 feet in length, 88 feet in width, 23 knots, 2033 passengers, 760 autos, 373 cabins, 36 suites, also reclining seats.

NOTE: also runs ferries several times per week, but only during the summer.

5. CIVITAVECCHIA/CATANIA (four times per week; 18.5 hours)

6. CIVITAVECCHIA/TRAPANI (weekly; 14.5 hours)

7. NAPOLI/PALERMO (daily with each of SNAV and Tirrenia; 10.5 hours) (other ships also substituted)

29900 Tons, 568 feet in length, 83 feet in width, 18 knots, 950 passengers, 600 autos, cabins and reclining seats (other ships also substituted)

30650 Tons, 591 feet in length, 88 feet in width, 23 knots, 1471 passengers, 626 autos, 289 cabins, 195 reclining seats.

NOTE: There are supplementary DAYLIGHT crossings by both operators during the weekends in AUGUST.

8. NAPOLI/CATANIA (daily; 10.5 hours) (other ships also substituted)

26000 Tons, 610 feet in length, 84 feetin width, 22.5 knots, 950 passengers, 78 cabins, 198 reclining seats.

9. SALERNO/PALERMO (twice weekly; 9.5 hours) (other ships also substituted)

26000 Tons, 610 feet in length, 84 feet in width, 22.5 knots, 62 cabins, 93 reclining seats

10. SALERNO/MESSINA (17-19 times per week; 8.5 hours) (other ships also substituted)

26500 Tons, 610 feet in length, 84 feet in width, 22.5 knots, cabins and reclining seats.

11. VILLA SAN GIOVANNI/MESSINA (continuous service) (other ships also substituted)

7900 Tons, 373 feet in length, 61 feet in width, 17 knots, 1000 passengers, 210 autos.

12. NAPOLI/ISOLE EOLIE/MILAZZO (twice per week; 16-17 hours) (other ships also substituted)

11000 Tons, 403 feet in length, 64 feet in width, 17 knots, 772 passengers, 272 autos, 170 cabins, 200 reclining seats.

NOTE: The foregoing lists only CAR FERRY crossings between Mainland Italy and Sicily. There are also HYDROFOIL services to the Aeolian Islands and Ustica Island during the summer months on a couple of operators: (Naples to Aeolian Islands) (Naples to Aeolian Islands) (Naples to Ustica/Egadi Islands/Trapani; also Palermo/Cefalu/Reggio Calabria/Messina/Milazzo to Aeolian Islands) (Milazzo to Aeolian Islands)

The local hydrofoil crossings between Milazzo/Messina/Reggio Calabria and the Aeolian Islands operate year-round.


NOTE: There are also six weekly crossings between Genova (Voltri) and Termini Imerese via T-Link Lines. This 20-hour crossing is primarily for freight and big-rigs, and has extremely limited interest to tourists. There are cabins and reclining seats.

Finally, there is weekly overnight car ferry service between Cagliari (Sardinia) and Trapani and between Cagliari and Palermo on Tirrenia.

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    Now that I've listed all the various car ferry crossings to Sicily from Mainland Italy, let me offer a few comments:

    1. The majority of crossings shown above are primarily designed to transport freight and large big-rigs. This can be gleaned by the type of ferry used: a hybrid passenger/cargo vessel with reduced passenger load compared to the traditional passenger car ferries.

    2. The only "true" traditional passenger car ferries are operated by GNV between Genova and Palermo and Civitavecchia and Palermo (also SNAV in summer), by SNAV/Tirrenia between Napoli and Palermo, and by Siremar between Napoli and the Aeolian Islands/Milazzo. These vessels carry a large number of passengers and have several hundred cabins. All other crossings use the hybrid ships.

    NOTE: During "slow" periods, GNV substitutes hybrid vessels for the much larger and more luxurious ships. The hybrids operated by GNV are the "Coraggio", "Audacia" and "Tenacia" (which I quaintly refer to as the "British Destroyer Class", because they go by names reminiscent of British WWII destroyers). These hybrid ships do not have all of the amenities of the all-passengers vessels, and are much less glamorous (despite their names), but are nevertheless quite new.

    3. HISTORICAL NOTE: The "Sicilia", which is operated by SNAV between Napoli and Palermo together with her twin ship "Campania", was formerly the "Norland" of P & O Ferries, and had a distinguished career as a British troop transport during the Falkland Islands War in 1982.

    4. GNV reportedly has the best reputation for quality and service. Tirrenia reportedly has the worst reputation (it is in the process of being sold-off by the Italian Government and its future is somewhat in doubt).

    5. Solo travellers wishing to save money should consider accepting an airline-type reclining seat instead of a cabin (particularly for the shorter crossings under 12 hours). The first class recliners on the Tirrenia ships between Napoli and Palermo are supposed to be quite comfortable. There is usually a steep supplement for the exclusive use of a cabin by one passenger, although it is also usually possible to book a bunk in a quad cabin shared with strangers of the same gender. Remember too that the longer crossings (around 20 hours) are operated more by day than by night. Many of the ship operator websites have photos of the cabins and recliners offered. For the most part, the cabins have private facilities.

    6. All these ships have cafeteria and bar service, as well as at least one public lounge. Some of the larger passenger ships also have a formal restaurant with tablecloth service, a movie theatre, a shopping arcade, and other public facilities. The large GNV passenger ferries have the most amenities. Not all amenities and/or facilities are open during the winter months.

    7. IF YOU HAVE LIMITED TIME AND/OR DON'T LIKE FERRIES, FLY TO SICILY FROM MAINLAND ITALY!!!!! In some/many cases, you'll find low-cost flights for less than or around the same fare as a recliner on the ferry. And the trip will take under 90 minutes. However, the overnight ferry is a good alternative to the overnight train, and is usually preferable.

    8 Most of the crossings are overnight. However, there is a weekly DAYLIGHT crossing between Salerno and Palermo, as well as several DAYLIGHT crossings between Salerno and Messina. On AUGUST WEEKENDS, there are also supplemental DAYLIGHT crossings between Napoli and Palermo.

    9. Remember that these are FERRY SHIPS and NOT cruise ships!!! Even though some of the larger vessels (like the "Suprema" and the "Superba" operated by GNV) are "luxurious" ferries, they are ferries nonetheless. Don't expect a cruise ship!!!

    10 Advance reservations for cabins are suggested during peak travel periods, although it is not usually necessary to book much in advance. The most "popular" crossings are (obviously) between Napoli and Palermo, Civitavecchia and Palermo and (during the summer), Napoli and the Aeolian Islands. Some of the crossings (e.g. Genova/Termini Imerese and Civitavecchia/Trapani) will have very few passengers apart from big-rig drivers.

    11. Some of the hyperlinks in the previous posting to ship photos don't work. My apologies.

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    In the interest of "full disclosure": has car ferries between Reggio di Calabria and Messina.

    Another tidbit of information: The Caronte & Tourist car ferries between Salerno and Messina have 121 cabins and 138 reclining seats, and can transport a total of 860 passengers. Current schedules show 12-14 crossings per week in either direction.

    The Grimaldi Ferries ship between Genova and Catania has only 34 cabins and no reclining seats. It is an older vessel designed primarily for maritime freight.

    The photos of the ships linked below their respective routes are not necessarily the vessels in use on the selected crossing date, since operators commonly substitute ships as operating conditions warrant.

    Crossing times are also subject to delay or even cancellation owing to adverse weather conditions, strikes, mechanical problems, and occasionally other reasons.

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    Thanks GAC for all your great info. Are car ferries the only type of ferries that go between Reggio di Calabria and Messina. If we were to take a "passenger" ferry, then are there modes of transportation i.e. bus, train, etc to tour Sicily? Is Sicily good for a day trip?

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