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Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

Los Angeles, CA
Level Contributor
8,831 posts
23 reviews
Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

This updates a previous posting from 2009.

A few introductory observations:

1. There are five "ports of call" on Sardinia which have passenger car ferry service from the Italian mainland: Porto Torres (useful for Sassari and Alghero), Golfo Aranci, Olbia (these two useful for the Costa Smeralda and La Maddalena Archipelago), Arbatax and Cagliari.

2. The MOST BEAUTIFUL entry port is Cagliari (making a morning arrival exceedingly worthwhile).

3. There are both overnight and (during the tourist season) daylight crossings to Golfo Aranci and Olbia. There are only overnight crossings to Porto Torres, Cagliari and Arbatax. The CHEAPEST transportation is to take "deck passage" ("passaggio ponte") on one of the daylight crossings.

4. The FASTEST crossings are: Piombino/Olbia 4hrs. 30 mins. and Civitatacchia/Olbia (5 hrs.). These are both daylight crossings.

5. Schedules are extremely seasonal, and they peak during July and August, when there are as many as three or four ferries between Civitavecchia and Olbia. During the winter, schedules are significantly reduced, and some crossings are suspended. Daily crossings continue nevertheless on Tirrenia to Porto Torres, Olbia and Cagliari.

6. Solo travellers on overnight crossings wishing to save money should consider accepting an airline-type reclining seat instead of a cabin. The FIRST class recliners on the Tirrenia ships are supposed to be quite comfortable (second class recliners less so, resembling airline coach class). There is usually a steep supplement for the exclusive use of a cabin, although it is also usually possible to book a bunk in a quad cabin shared with strangers of the same gender. The ship operator websites have photos of the cabins and recliners offered. The cabins all have private facilities.

7. All ships have cafeteria and bar service, as well as at least one public lounge, often with satellite television reception. Most of the ships also have a formal restaurant with tablecloth service, a movie theatre, a shopping arcade, and other public facilities. Not all amenities and/or facilities are open during the winter months.

8. If you have limited time and/or don't like ferries, FLY to Sardinia from mainland Italy! In some cases, you'll find low-cost flights for less than or around the same fare as a recliner on the ferry. And the flight will take under 60 minutes! However, in some cases, you may save money by booking "deck passage" on a daylight ferry.

9. Remember that these are FERRY SHIPS and not cruise ships! Even though some of the larger vessels are "luxurious" ferries, they are ferries nonetheless. Don't expect a cruise ship!

10. Most of the ferries are quite large and seaworthy. The largest are the twin Grimaldi ferries between Civitavecchia and Porto Torres, which displace 53,000 tons and are 738 feet in length (larger than WWII battleships and many transatlantic ships of the 1950s). The Tirrenia ferries (seven of eight ships displace 36,000 tons or more and are 702 feet in length) carry up to 3000 passengers and 1000 automobiles.

11. Advance reservations for cabins on OVERNIGHT crossings are ESSENTIAL during the SUMMER, although almost never needed from mid-September through late May. During the winter, there are very few passengers on most of the ferries, which cater primarily to freight operators, big-rigs, and truck drivers.

12. Due to the financial crisis and lower passenger demand, the number of ferry crossings has declined significantly compared to two or three years ago. Only Tirrenia Lines operates year-round on all its routes, utilizing eight ships. GNV and Grimaldi have become seasonal operators, while Moby and Corsica Ferries are also primarily seasonal.


1. TO CAGLIARI (Tirrenia only, overnight, all year-round)

From Civitavecchia: (13 hrs.): ONCE DAILY (twice weekly calling at Arbatax: 15 hrs)

From Napoli (13.5 hrs.): TWICE WEEKLY

From Palermo (11.5 hrs.): ONCE WEEKLY

From Trapani (9.5 hrs.): ONCE WEEKLY. Return crossing daylight only


From Civitavecchia (5 to 7.5 hrs.): ONE to FOUR DAILY on Tirrenia and Moby. Tirrenia operates year-round. Daylight crossings summer only.

From Livorno (6.5 to 9.5 hrs.): ONE to THREE DAILY on Moby, most of the year. Daylight crossings during spring and summer.

From Piombino (4.5 to 8.5 hrs.): UP TO ONCE DAILY on Moby, spring and summer only (daylight and overnight).

From Genova (10 to 12 hrs.): THREE WEEKLY (winter) to TWO DAILY (summer) on Tirrenia and Moby. Tirrenia operates year-round. There are a few daylight crossings in summer only.


From Livorno (6.5 to 11 hrs.): ONE to TWO DAILY on Corsica Ferries most of the year. Daylight crossings in spring and summer.


From Civitavecchia (7 hrs.): TWO to FIVE WEEKLY on Grimaldi Lines (spring to early autumn only). RETURN crossing is by daylight.

From Genova (10-11.5 hrs.): ONE to TWO DAILY on Tirrenia and Grandi Navi Veloci (SNAV ship). Tirrenia operates year-round.


From Civitavecchia (10 hrs.): TWICE WEEKLY, year-round on Tirrenia

From Genova (18 hrs.): TWICE WEEKLY, year-round on Tirrenia

Here are the operators:






NOTE: The summer-only daylight fast ferry between Fiumicino and Arbatax, operated by Tirrenia, was discontinued several years ago.

Representative ships:








Level Contributor
36 posts
54 reviews
1. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

hi, Your detailed post is really great. However, hope you can help me more specifically, On 9 Oct trying to get from Bonifacio to Santa Teresa Gallura.... does this route operate in october? I can see ferries in Sept with Moby....but nothing else?

Los Angeles, CA
Level Contributor
8,831 posts
23 reviews
2. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

Saremar operates on the Bonifacio/ST Gallura crossing year-round


Zurich, Switzerland
Level Contributor
80 posts
6 reviews
3. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

Thanks for such a useful post! We are crossing mid July either Livorna-Olbia or Livorno Golfo Arancia. It will be the daytime crossing at 8am. Can we get by without a seat reservation? ie is there usually ample seating? We are 2 adults/2 kids and not booking a seat will save over 100 euro! But not keen on sitting on the floor either!!

Thanks in advance!

Los Angeles, CA
Level Contributor
8,831 posts
23 reviews
4. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

On the large, modern ferries typically used these days, there is indeed ample public seating. However, it is "first come first served", so you must be among the first to board the ferry to claim one of these seats. In mid-July, you can expect a pretty fully ferry going to Sardinia. Get to the departure port well in advance and board the ferry promptly to stake out your seats. I took the Moby Lines daylight ferry from Livorno to Olbia in mid May a few years ago, and the experience was wonderful (but the ferry was not overcrowded, and everyone had a selection of public seats). Nobody was seating in the reserved reclining seat salon. Note that the public seats do not recline, but many are padded sofas.

Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
2 posts
51 reviews
5. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

This is very helpful, thank you. We are considering a trip to Sardinia this summer and looking at taking the ferry from Naples. There's two of us and our son, who will be 14 months old at that point. Do you think the two person cabin would be comfortable for us? We're a bit leery of being stuck on a boat with a baby for 13.5 hours but it would save on the cost of a hotel for one night and sounds like a nice way to arrive.

Cheltenham, United...
2 posts
6. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

Does anyone know what the " deck passage" looks like? Is it too bad? I'm planning to go from Civitavecchia to Olbia in August, crossing takes 5:30hrs.

Los Angeles, CA
Level Contributor
8,831 posts
23 reviews
7. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

"Deck passage" simply means no reserved seat, and no assurances of finding a free seat.. Passengers congregate in the large public salon, where there are sofas, armchairs and cocktail lounge chairs available. For the Civitavecchia-Olbia DAYLIGHT crossing, "deck passage" is fine as long as you don't mind the possibility of having to sit on a hard plastic bench (outdoors) when the padded cloth seats in the salon are all occupied. However, a reserved seat in second class costs only a few Euros more, and may be worthwhile in August, when the ferry will be very crowded.

On an OVERNIGHT crossing, I do not recommend "deck passage" except possibly in low season for those on a very limited budget, when you're much more likely to find a place to sit in the public salon (but you won't get any sleep at all). If you want to sleep, you need a cabin or at least a reclining seat in the passenger seat salon.

south wales
Level Contributor
173 posts
68 reviews
8. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

May I say what a helpful involved post...well done thats a lot of time effort you have put into it

We always travel by ferry every summer but despite all the chit chat and promises the ferry companies once again are very expensive this year so we have decided to fly for our month long holiday



Greater London...
1 post
9. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

Hi there,

My friends and I are hoping to leave from Civitavecchia to Olbia on Friday 17th July, possibly go with Tirrenia @9am.

I would just like to ask your advice on whether we should buy tickets in advance online from the UK or wait till we arrive at the port, and how far is the train station from the port, will need to get a cab or anything?

The websites I found are


http://www.directferries.co.uk/ ---- which one is more trustworthy, if that's the case?

Thank you,


Los Angeles, CA
Level Contributor
8,831 posts
23 reviews
10. Re: Sardinia Ferries from Mainland Italy

If you don't mind going "deck passage" (no reserved seat, cheapest ticket) for this 9 a.m. daylight ferry, you do not need advance tickets.

The distance from the Civitavecchia train station to the embarcation dock is about 1 kilometer, walkable in about 15 minutes (done so myself).

Edited: 08 May 2015, 18:51
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