Getting started with Italian 3
Getting started with Italian 3

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9 Italian ferry and hydrofoil service

Italy has a total of almost 8,500 km of coastline, including the mainland and numerous islands around the country. The main links between islands and mainland are by ferries and hydrofoils. The main Italian ports of embarkation for the large islands of Sicilia and Sardegna are (from North to South) Genova, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Napoli and Villa San Giovanni (on the tip of the boot, opposite Sicily).

The network of ferry services is well developed. Large ferries (navi) service the islands of Sardegna and Sicilia, while smaller islands are served by small ferries (traghetti) and hydrofoils (aliscafi). Ferries and hydrofoils also operate between towns on the northern lakes of Como, Garda and Maggiore.

Ticket prices are usually reasonable but vary according to the time of year and are most expensive during the summer. Some services operate during the summer only and some journeys are very long. For example, the Genova–Palermo boat takes 23 hours and provides sleeping facilities in the form of reclining seats (poltrone), couchettes (cuccette) and cabins (cabine). On the other hand, ferries leave from Villa San Giovanni (on the mainland) for Messina (in Sicilia) every 15 minutes during peak hours and the service operates 24 hours per day.

Ferries also operate like a bus service on the lakes, carrying passengers (and often cars) from one side to the other and calling at lake islands. The car ferry service is usually convenient, as some of the northern lakes are long and narrow, and driving around them takes hours.

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Traghetto per la Sardegna.
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Aliscafo in alto mare.

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