Welcome on board! Here we have one of our Italian mean of transport posts. We left you last talking about Road Trip in the North and in the South of Italy. We talked about the roads, where they go, where they come from, what villages – location – historical site they linked. Let’s not forget that that Italy is a Peninsula with two big islands belonging to it and far more smaller still being part of its territory. This is why Repitaly thought that it was important to talk to you about Ferries as in practise they are a very important part of the lives of many Italians and tourist alike.
….this is not about Cruise Ships
For our regular readers, earlier on, in our Italian Transports we talked about the Ports and Cruise Ships, however with this article we do not want to repeat ourselves. Ferries in fact are a very specific mean of transports that people use on a daily basis and not necessarily once in a while like a Port or a cruise ship can be used. The definition in fact is: Conveying passengers and goods especially over a relatively short distance on a regular service schedule. This is what we would like to talk you about.
As the country shape and location there are many services that we could list, however we are going to talk about the more representative with a spread from North and South. We hope you enjoy!
Lakes are by their configuration one of the birthplace of Ferries Transportations. To cross a lake from one side to another you would have generally have to circumnavigate the whole perimeter. Ferries would cut the time, the mileage and in places like Garda Lake it certainly adds a romantic flair to an alternatively uneventful commute. Leave one bank and drift away slowly in a gentle pace of a ferry ship can be associated with the beginning of the day. Same as on the way back.
From a tourist point of view a ferry not only cut the journey short but it would also let you enjoy sides that you would not have been able to see otherwise. Garda Lake offer you many routes from the north Riva del Garda to the south of Peschiera or Desenzano. From East to West Limone – Malcesine Or Gardone / Salo to Torri or Bassolengo. There are numerous options and in the summer season the companies are adding more time onto the regular service and sometimes to include also night journey. Ferries could also mean faster service using “Aliscafi” (Hydrofoil) or you can choose to have a half away service with “Battelli” which offer pedestrian passengers only (or with Bicycle)
Ferries have also the great advantage on cutting the traffic. The coastal roads of the lakes (Garda / Como and Maggiore) specially during the summer, becomes very congested and a simple breakdown or accident can delay your journey by hours. You would certainly prefer to be on route sailing from one bank to the other without the worry on wasting part of your holiday. Ferries on Lake Como more than Garda offer an operational advantage most certainly for the particular shape that the lake has. In the route Menaggio – Varenna a sail of little more than 30 minutes would translate in 2 hours driving.
The perfect ferry day could be to take one of the regular routes. The services are divided mainly in the north part of the lake, the central part (without stop the tour would take about two hours) and the Como area (without stop the tour would take about one hour). On the northern part is not really ideal to exploit the day tour. Instead you can choose to take the ferry to Abbazia di Piona. A very reserved and marvellous place on the northern part. The tickets offer the lunch on board and it would be an experience. On the central route we suggest the ferry that stops at: Menaggio/Varenna/Bellagio/Tramezzo/Lenno. Try to stop at as many villages as you can maybe by taking on of the early services. Villages, villas, lake walks, castles and gardens … a real concentration of beauties to be enjoyed. On the southern part we suggest you try the service that run from Como to Torno. Stop at each one and take the next ferry to the next stop. It would feel like a boat trip with the family. Experience the life of the lake exactly like a local would do.
On the Maggiore lake we have exactly the same options as before. The main difference that this lake has to offer is the fact that within the lake there are several small and beautiful islands. The most famous of all are the Borromee Islands with “Isola Bella”. Apart from the ferry service there will be also private companies that will offer a thorough tour and tail made for your needs. But we would like to stick with the Ferry.
For the vintage lovers, Lake Maggiore has also to offer, within its fleet, the “Piemonte” which was launches in 1904 and is still in service today.
What else to say about a lake service. As soon as the boat leaves the pier, the landscape changes and the views on the horizon will leave you speechless: moving away from the banks you will get an overview, with the picturesque villages reflected in the waters and a crown of mountains all around. That is what the northern lakes has to offer.
I think most of the Italians, if asked about general knowledge of ferries and ferries route, eight out of 10 would mention the Sicilian Strait and the link connection between Messina and Reggio Calabria (or mostly Villa San Giovanni). Probably the reason for it is because the majority of them, if they have ever been in Sicily they most probably have taken it and have some fond memories about it.
It is hard to explain but we will try. This is definitely one of the most iconic ferries service in the country. One of the busiest one and possibly one of the most organised. One of the companies that is servicing the strait is the Rail national company. They were the original one and it all started when in the late 19th century the rail tracks were laid in the country. There was a need to connect the many citizen of Sicily with the main country. Instead of unloading people and goods on one side, putting into boats and then unloading them again in the other side for the journey to continue the ferry service was established.
As said, at first by the rail company which was loading onto the boats the entire trains but also allowing vehicles and passenger alike. Then, in the mid 60’s new companies started the service and they focused instead into the vehicles and the passengers.
Today there are 11 ferry boats doing a daily service and connecting the 3.2 kilometres (2 Miles) separating the two lands. Every year, more than 7 million passenger crosses the channel. All in all, the crossing last about one hour. It is the ideal stop after a long driving south or before the long driving north. You need to consider that crossing the region of Calabria is about 5 hours driving. Once in the boat the bars are generally stormed for the lovers of “Arancine”. Some says that they taste different and they are the real flavour of one of the best in the island. Let us know if you agree with it. The truth is that for a Sicilian citizen “Il traghetto” (the ferry boat on the strait) is the first sign that you are going back home, and this is probably this is a so loved service.
Corsica – Sardinia
In a similar way we feel that the connection between the mainland and Sardinia have a similar love effect with the Sardinian People. In the 80’s the crossing was more of a ritual for all the families going on holiday. A simple mean of transport it was transformed into a portal between the routine life of a year into the much-coveted holiday season!
Of course, we need to identify that Sardinia, Corsica are different islands, but they are linked here together mainly because in nautical terms they are all on the same side.
Sardinia and Corsica, being a longer route, you will find much more modern and equipped boats, nowadays they are much more like cruise ship and in fact the Sardinia Crossing last about 12 to 15 hours (depending from where you start from) therefore services and activities on board are now the norm.
Unfortunately, as any ferry service technology advancement are making this mean of transport more and more obsolete. Generation from the 70’s and the 80’s will find this sad. As children, in fact this was a moment of relax, of play and of exploring. Despite being short or of a certain route being in those boats made every child of that generation a little Marco Polo, exploring the unknown, “to infinity and beyond”
Italia – Croatia
We wanted to insert this part in this article because we wanted to talk to all travellers within the country. This part is specifically for the caravanist and motorhome enthusiast. In fact, the Adriatic coast offer a wide range of ferry boat to connect with Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Albania. This is very important to know, and, in some occasion, it might cut the cost and travel time not forgetting the fact that this mean of transport could be use as resting time between two legs of a long journey.
As mentioned before into the Elba section we thought to be relevant to talk about the numerous connection and ferry service that the country of Italy has as whole. Talking about the northern lake we said that the ferry service is a good way to meet and get to know the locals while in their daily commute to work or simply to the mainland. Italy has plenty of this situation, with over 7600 kilometres of coastline the country count more than 450 islands, 350 of which are sea island and the other 100 lakes or river islands.
The connection between those realities and the mainland represent a major part of the lives of the people that are actually living and working in those paradises. All the time the connection itself and the ferry that connect them is considered as the porch of your own house. Once you there you are home, safe and sound.
On a more light note we wanted also to mention one of the most well-known ferry boats in the world. Mostly mistaken for just a tourist attraction the Venetian Gondola indeed started as mean of transport. Their special configuration was specifically designed to sail the narrow canals of the Venetian Lagoon. They used to carry goods and people and mostly on very short trips between one of the many islands of the lagoon. In today’s time they became much more elegantly decorated and they serve as tourist attraction. There are about 400 licensed “Gondoliers” in Venice and a ride with them, is not anymore, a simple and short ride around town but rather a luxury for the few.
……..enjoy the ride!!!
In conclusion, we hope that you have enjoy your read. We hope that you now know a bit more about the world of ferry boat in general but also the one of ferry boat in Italy in particular. We do like the sailing feeling that a ferry gives you and we also hope that we manage to transfer this feeling to you. Possibly in your next trip in Italy you will use Repitaly suggestion and you would give a try. Ultimately this is one other reason why we have created Repitaly. We wanted to share with you all the things that matter. You have been in Italy before, we know that, by going back we know that you now want to know and get ideas of the unbeaten path. Ferries is one of those things that does not come into your mind immediately but once you have discovered it makes all the difference.
With this article we conclude our series of Mean of transports within the country. We have been using Roads, Cruise, Trains, Ferries, and planes; however, the important thing is for you to get there. Italy is a beautiful country and does not matter how you get there as long as you get there, and Repitaly is here to make that journey a bit more enjoyable!