Travelling by boat in Italy: Ferries to Sorrento, Capri and beyond

Amalfi Italy by boat

Whether you want to take the hydrofoil from Naples to Capri or get from Sorrento to Positano by ferry, travelling by boat in Italy can be a sublime pleasure (especially during the summer!) – and an excellent way to avoid the hassles of flying or driving.

Although Mediterranean islands might make you think of Greece, Italy has the two largest islands on the Med – Sicily and Sardinia – plus a score of smaller but popular islands such as Capri and Elba. Served by a year-round ferry service, they’re easy to get to, and there’s also plenty of routes to neighbouring countries – such as the ferry from Italy to Croatia or the boat from Italy to Greece.

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I’m travelling by boat in Italy. Which ferry should I choose?

Italy has dozens of ferry companies operating more than 100 routes, which can be broken down into three main categories:

1) Short-distance ferry trips: These are quick trips with many daily sailings, such as the Naples to Capri ferry, the hydrofoil from Naples to Sorrento or the ferry from Sorrento to Capri. Many short routes will have a mix of fast passenger-only hydrofoils as well as slower conventional ships that carry cars.

2)  Long-distance ferry trips: Longer voyages, such as sailing from the mainland to Sardinia. The boats are usually good-sized and carry cars in addition to passengers. Many sail overnight.

3)  Very long-distance ferry trips: These very large car ferries cover large swathes of the Mediterranean, saving passengers the need to traverse long distances on land to reach their destination. The Genoa ­to Sicily route is a good example. Voyages may last up to a day.

travelling by boat in Italy Capri
The only way to reach smaller Italian islands such as Capri is by ferry (Credit: Pixabay)

Can I fly to the Italian islands?

You can to some, such as Sardinia and Sicily, but for smaller islands such as Capri, ferries are the only way to reach them. The ferries avoid airport hassles, even if they usually take longer. In addition, travelling by boat in Italy, while balmy breezes blow and the water sparkles, can be a true pleasure.

5 tips for boat travel in Italy:

  1. On short-distance ferries, opt for the cheapest deck class when the weather is sunny.
  2. On overnight ferries, there are usually affordable cabins available in various sizes.
  3. Typically short-distance ferries have fixed prices; no need to book in advance, just buy your ticket at the dock and go.
  4. Long-distance ferries, such as those to Sardinia, usually have cheap advance-purchase tickets online.
  5. All routes have the most service in high season from April to October. 

Information and tickets

Enter your route into Rome2rio for the latest schedules, operator details and ticket information. Our partnership with Direct Ferries and access to local operators means we have up-to-date ferry information throughout Italy and beyond.

Popular ferry routes around Italy:

Gulf of Naples ferries

The fabled Isle of Capri is but one destination on the gulf. From the busy port of Naples (which is convenient to trains) you can also reach the island of Ischia by ferry and even cut across the gulf to Sorrento. The beautiful Amalfi Coast also has boats to the islands, whether you want to get the ferry from Positano to Capri or Sorrento to Procida.

Naples to Ischia by ferry: Busy route with several ferries running every hour (around 1 hour)
Naples to Sorrento by ferry: Avoid the hour-long train ride along the coast for a refreshing fast and frequent hydrofoil (40 mins)
Naples to Capri by ferry: Various types of ferries run each day and are operated by several companies (50-70 mins)
Sorrento to Capri by ferry: High-speed ferries run frequently (20-30 mins)
Amalfi to Positano by ferry: Skip the drive between these two storied resort towns and take one of the many daily ferries (20 mins)
Positano to Capri by ferry: Travel from luxurious Positano to the beauty of Capri on high-speed ferries (30 mins)
Positano to Naples by ferry: Get the ferry via Capri instead of driving or taking the train (1¼ hours, exc transfer)
Naples to Amalfi by ferry: Travel to this gorgeous little town by ferry via Sorrento (1¼ hours, exc transfer)
Naples to Positano by ferry: Get the ferry via Capri instead of driving or taking the train (1¼ hours, exc transfer)
Capri to Naples by ferry: Various types of ferries run each day and are operated by several companies (50-70 mins)

Sicily ferries

Bustling Sicily is linked by more than two dozen routes to the mainland; the most important are listed here:

Civitavecchia ­to Palermo by ferry: Sail overnight from the port closest to Rome. A large GNV (Grandi Navi Veloci) car ferry sails about five times per week and has many amenities. (14 hours)
Genoa to Palermo by ferry: No need to drive the length of Italy – sail overnight from the north. Large GNV car ferries sail daily and have many amenities. (17 hours)
Naples to Palermo by ferry: GNV and Tirrenia offer competing overnight large car ferries across the Gulf of Naples. (9 hours)
Reggio Calabria to Messina by ferry: One of the world’s busiest crossings, with scores of daily boats from hydrofoils to car ferries to train ferries. Liberty Lines has the most boats and the most frequent schedules, with fast boats every 30 minutes. (30 minutes)
Cagliari to Palermo by ferry: Hop across Italy’s major islands on this route from Sardinia to Sicily. Tirrenia runs a large car ferry one to two times per week. (12 hours)

Lipari, travelling by boat in Italy
Lipari is a hub for ferries throughout the Aeolian Islands (Credit: Wikimedia)

Aeolian Island ferries

These seven beautiful small islands off the northeast coast of Sicily include the alluringly named Vulcano and Stromboli. Lipari is the hub of a web of frequent ferry services within the archipelago and beyond.

Milazzo­ to Lipari by ferry: Milazzo is near Messina on Sicily. Services are provided by Liberty Lines and Siremar, which make several runs daily. (1 hour)
Naples to Lipari by ferry: Siremar provides overnight car-ferry service one to two times per week. (14¾ hours)  

Sardinia ferries

The Mediterranean’s second largest island, Sardinia is well-linked to the mainland. Ferry service (mostly on very large car ferries) is good year-round, with peaks in the summer. The main ports are Porto Torres in the northwest, Olbia in the northeast and Cagliari in the south.

Genoa to Porto Torres by ferry: GNV and Tirrenia operate large car ferries many times a week. (13 hours)
Genoa to Olbia by ferry: Moby and Tirrenia operate large car ferries many times a week. (10½–12 hours)
Livorno to Olbia by ferry: Grimaldi Lines and Moby operate large car ferries up to four times daily both overnight and during the day on one of the shortest routes to Sardinia. (8½­–12 hours)
Civitavecchia to Olbia by ferry: Grimaldi Lines and Tirrenia operate large car ferries many times a week from this port close to Rome. (5½ hours)
Civitavecchia to Cagliari by ferry: Tirrenia operates large car ferries daily to the south of Sardinia from this port close to Rome. (13 hours) 

Elba Italy by boat
Catch the ferry from Piombino on the mainland to get to Elba (Credit: Pixabay)

Elba ferries

If Napoleon had this kind of service, he would have never been in exile. The little island of Elba is well-linked to the mainland port of Piombino. The primary port is Portoferraio although the nearby villages of Rio Marina and Cavo also have frequent service.

Piombino ­to Portoferraio by ferry: Hydrofoils and regular boats make the short run many times a day. (15–65 mins) 

International ferries from Italy

A large network of car ferries link Italy to other countries in the east and west. There are dozens of routes, and operators and frequencies change through the year. The following are the most important routes.

Search your route on Rome2rio for the latest details, pricing and operators.

From Italy’s east coast

Lots of ferries cross the Adriatic Sea, meaning you can travel by boat from Italy to Croatia and the Balkans, and by ferry from Italy to Greece and the Greek islands.

Venice to Patras, Greece by ferry (32 hours)
Venice to Porec, Croatia by ferry (3 hours)
Venice to Pula, Croatia by ferry (3 hours)
Venice to Rovinj, Croatia by ferry (3¾ hours)
Ancona to Igoumenitsa, Greece by ferry (16 hours)
Ancona to Patras, Greece by ferry (21½ hours)
Ancona to Split, Croatia by ferry (8½ hours)
Ancona to Zadar, Croatia by ferry (6 hours)
Bari to Corfu, Greece by ferry (12 hours)
Bari to Durres, Albania by ferry (9 hours)
Bari to Dubrovnik, Croatia by ferry (7 ½ hours)
Bari to Igoumenitsa, Greece by ferry (9 hours)
Brindisi to Corfu, Greece by ferry (8 hours)
Brindisi to Igoumenitsa, Greece by ferry (10 hours)
Brindisi to Vlora, Albania by ferry (5 hours)

From Italy’s west coast

The main international ferry routes from Italy’s west coast range quite far across the Mediterranean.

Genoa to Bastia, Corsica by ferry (10 hours)
Genoa to Tunis, Tunisia by ferry (21 hours)
Livorno to Bastia, Corsica by ferry (4¼ hours)
Civitavecchia to Barcelona, Spain by ferry (20 hours)
Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia to Bonifacio, Corsica by ferry (1 hour)
Catania, Sicily to Valletta, Malta by ferry (4¼ hours)

Note: Journey durations are the average when there are multiple services

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