Ferries from Italy to Sicily across the Strait of Messina


Special thanks to Enzo Annuario for his help & "Messina" knowledge



- largest region of Italy
- capital: Palermo
- climate: minimum 10°C winter, 30°-35°°C summer

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, splashed by three seas, the Ionian, the Tyrrhenian and the Mediterranean Sea, it took its name from the Siculi. It is the point of junction between the West-Mediterranean basin and the East-Mediterranean basin, that Sicily divides. Its coastline, which is 1039 Km long, presents a varied morphology, as does its conformation that's green and mountainous on the north coast and dry in the centre and the south.

Mount Etna rises isolated next to East coast, the volcano was named, during the Arabic domination, Mongibello which has the Sicilian word "Mon" for mount and the Arabic suffix "Gebel" which also means mount. Its climate is typically Mediterranean, with elevated temperatures in summer and mild in winter, and scarce precipitations. The flora is Mediterranean too: it consists of profitable crops such as vegetables, citrus and other fruit, cereals, olives and wine. The variety of fish and seafood is notable because the sea around Sicily is rich in different species.

Sicily's historical past starts with the Greek colonization. In fact from these colonies Sicily, having a triangular form, was called "Trinacria" (meaning three angles in the Greek language). Over the following centuries Sicily was invaded by many peoples such as: Cartheyinans, Romans and Arabs. In fact Sicily was always a theatre of bloody wars among its various conquerors, for example between the Angevins and the Aragonesis or the struggle for independence from Neapolitan kingdom. Thanks to the great number of diverse colonisations, which happened over the centuries, Sicily has a rich variety of popular traditions. For this reason Sicily, in addition to its climatic and natural attractions, is always a tourist attraction


Strait of Messina:

Channel, approx. 32 km. long and from 3.2-16 km. wide, separating the Italian peninsula from Sicily and connecting the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. The nearest point in the Strait of Messina is almost 3˝ km. wide.

Reggio di Calabria, in S.W. Italy, and Messina, in N.E. Sicily, are the main ports. Ferries are crossing the dangerous waters of the Strait of Messina from Messina to Villa San Giovanni. There is much spear-fishing, the currents, whirlpools, and winds of the Strait, which still hamper navigation, gave rise in ancient times to many legends about its dangers to navigators.



Previously, all the ferry services across the Strait of Messina were between Villa San Giovanni - Messina, plied for over 30 years on that crossing route by three companies:

Following the market entry of Diano Ferries (Meridiano Shipping Spa) in 1998, the Tourist-Caronte group also began in October 1998 to operate on the Reggio Calabria - Messina route through their subsidiary company, Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI).

The Tourist-Caronte Group hold a dominant position on the ferry services market across the Strait of Messina, with a market share of around 80% and is the only operator on both routes, the Caronte company is controlled by the family Elio Matacena.

Sicily is attainable by car, originating from the highway that it spends through Calabria and, crossing the Stretto, on the the ferries of:

- Caronte & Tourist S.p.A., Villa St. Giovanni – Messina, Tremestieri – Acciarello (end 2005)

- Ferrovie dello Stato, Villa St. Giovanni – Messina

- Meridiano Shipping S.p.A., Reggio Calabria - Messina

- Matacena Lines, Villa St. Giovanni - Messina



Ferrovie dello Stato/ Rete Ferrovaria Italiana SpA (RFI)

The history of train-ferry services of Ferrovie dello Stato goes back to the years between 1893 and 1899 when it starts the train-ferry service across the Street of Messina.

Nowadays Bluvia is the company which employs the ferry-fleet of R.F.I. Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, the infrastructure group of the Italian Railways, Ferrovie dello Stato.
Bluvia employs ferry-services for passengers and cars to Reggio Calabria, Villa San Giovanni and Messina.

The total fleet of Bluvia exists of 12 modern and comfortable vessels, with a frequency of 150 trips/ day between Villa San Giovanni – Messina (15 minutes).

4 ferries are special dedicated for the transport of trains, 3 high-speed ferries are dedicated only for passengers to the airport of the Street "'Tito Minniti".

Ferrovie dello Stato exploit also train-ferry services between Sardinia and the mainland of Italy, some of the ferries can be used on both routes.


Villa San Giovanni – Messina, Reggio Calabria - Messina.
Civitavecchia - Golfo Arranci


M/v "Iginia" * 1969

M/v "Sibari" * 1970

M/v "Agata" 1973

M/v "Rosalia" * 1973

M/v "Pace" 1974

M/v "Garibaldi" 1982

M/v "Riace" 1983

M/v "Scilla" * 1985

M/v "Villa" * 1985

M/v "Fata Morgana" 1988

M/v "Logudoro" * 1988

M/v "Enotria" 2002

HSC "Segesta Jet" 1999

HSC "Selinunte Jet" 1999

HSC "Tindari Jet" 1999

* Trainferries.


Caronte&Tourst S.p.A.



Caronte Shipping S.p.A.


Stretto di Messina

On the 1st july 2003, Caronte & Tourist S.p.A. was created from partners Caronte S.p.A. and Tourist Ferry Boat, they merged the activiteis of their Societies.

Tourist Ferry-Boat S.p.A. was founded in March 1966, Tourist Shipping S.p.a. (part of Tourist Ferry Boat S.p.a.) was founded in December 1992, both the companies plus Navigazione Generale Italiana (N.G.I., Milazzo - Eolian Islands) were part of the Franza group. The Franza Group are working in the ship-owners sector and were dominating the ferry services to Sicily, they also works in different sectors: ship-owners, tourist-hotels, building, industry, finance, computers and energy:

Tourist Shipping S.p.a. assured until 1st july 2003 the connections from Messina to Villa St. Giovanni in cooperarion with Caronte Shipping S.p.a., which was founded in 1965, Caronte S.p.a. (Caronte Shipping S.p.a.) is controlled by the Matacena family (Elio Matacena).

The combination Caronte-Tourist S.p.a., departure every quarter of an hour from Messina and Villa San Giovanni.
Crossing in less than half an hour, certainty of a speedy, reliable and continuous service.
On the whole the Caronte & Tourist S.p.A. carry a share of  80% of the transit traffic in Messina Strait, transporting annually 2.300.000 cars and 800.000 commercial trucks.


Messina - Villa San Giovanni


M/v "Acciarello" 1997

M/v "Archimede" 1988

M/v "Bridge" 1979

M/v "Caronte" 1974

M/v "Filomena Matacena" 1967

M/v "Giano" 1985

M/v "Giuseppe Franza" 1993

M/v "Helga" 1974

M/v "Ostfold" 1979

M/v "Robur" 1989

M/v "Stretto Messina" 1988

M/v "Tourist Ferry Boat 1" 1968

M/v "Tremestieri" 1993

M/v "Ulisse" 1978

M/v "Vestfold" 1991

M/v "Villa San Giovanni" 1980

M/v "Zancle" 1993

Autostrade d'Amare 

Following the indications of a new study on the expected traffic increases along the by that time full North- South direction, to bypass Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway subjected to endless works of renovation and in agreement with the new regulations on driving times for commercial truck drivers, are inaugurated new coastal shipping routes significantly denominated  “Autostrade d’amare”, connecting  sicilian ports of Messina and Catania with Salerno.

On 7 octo 2001 is inaugurated the first service with the last generation fast ship" Cartour”  with  a 24 knots speed connecting  Messina to Salerno in no more than 7 hours and half. The new ship is able to load 600 cars or 105 commercial trucks and 90 cars. Besides it can embark 900 passengers, with cabin and chair accomodations, this guarantees a complete transport of goods, containers and heavy vehicles by offering a valid alternative to the highway transport on the Salerno-Reggio calabria highway(A3).

The first link between Salerno and Messina directly without stops, managed by STT (Salerno Traghetti Terminal) and Caronte & Tourist every day, the m/v "Cartour" departs and arrives from/to Salerno.
Salerno - Messina - Salerno is the best solution for who wants to go to Sicily directly from Salerno without drive to the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria that is full trafficated on summer.


Messina - Salerno

Catania - Livorno (service stopped)


M/v "Cartour" 2001

M/v "Prometheus" 2001 sold in 2004


Navigazione Generale Italiana, N.G.I., (subsidiary of Caronte & Tourist S.p.A.) was founded in January 1990, it assures the connections from Milazzo to the Eolian Islands.

Crossing in real time, certainty of a speedy, reliable and continuous service.
A company at tourist's, commuter's, haulier's and his work disposal, onboard comforts and services.


Milazzo-Eolian Islands


M/v "Bridge" 1979

M/v "Helga" 1974

M/v "Filomena Matacena" 1967

M/v "Tourist Ferry Boat 1" 1968

On charter:

M/v “Razzoli” 1989



Meridiano Shipping Spa

Meridiano Shipping Spa. (Diano Spa, Meridiano Lines Spa), was raised in 1998 as an independent company by Cesare Diano & Amedeo Matacena jr. to have more competition in the traffic transport in the Strait of Messina (after Amedeo Matacena jr. had left the management of  Caronte Shipping).


Messina - Reggio Calabria


M/v "Caronte" 1974

M/v "Holger" 1970

M/v "Portoferraio" 1972

M/v "Ulisse" 1978

M/v "Vira" 1965

Former ships:

M/v "Kalmar" 1951 demolished in 2004

Matacena Lines

When the three oldest ferries of the Dutch provincial ferry operator P.S.D. (Provinciale Stoomboot Diensten in Zeeland) were sold in March 2003 to the Italian ferry operator Amadeus Spa. in Reggio di Calabria, the Matacena family of Amedeo Matacena sr. & jr. created a new company called Matacena Lines, to employ the ships on the route between the mainland of Italy and Sicily.

In Holland the ships were employed on the routes between Vlissingen-Breskens and Kruiningen-Perkpolder. The three ferries were sold for a total amount of 2,1 Mio Euros and will sail in Italy under the flag of Portugal with homeport Madeira. The three ferries should be used to cover the periode for building a bridge between Sicily and the mainland of Italy (plans from Italian company Stretto di Messina Spa.).

Amadeus Spa. had plans to buy also the remaining other two ferries of the P.S.D. when those ferries, which were still on the service Vlissingen-Breskens, would be available in spring 2004. But they were sold to another company of the Elio Matacena family , namely Caronte Spa., according the fam. Amedeo Matacena it should be possible to use six ferries on the route between Sicily and the mainland of Italy in the nearest future.

The three former PSD-ferries left Vlissingen on Wednesday 25 June to Italy, they arrived on 3 July in the port of Gioia Tauro near Reggio Calabria where they were adapted for their new service.

The "Athos Matacena" (ex-"Prins Wllem Alexander" 1970) made trail-crossings in the Strait of Messina on 21 December 2003 on the route Messina-Reggio Calabria, she had completely been painted white and a special ramp for the loading/ unloading of cars was installed.

On the side the logo and the new name of the company MATACENA LINES is painted, the logo consists of two blue dolphins which forms a capital M on a yellow background. According the first messages the service Messina - Reggio Calabria of Matacena Lines should start on 27 December 2003, but still a lot of problems had to be solved, the ships should cross the Strait of Messina in approximately 20 minutes, with a speed of 13 knots.

Another ship of the new company, the "Amedeo Matacena" (ex-"Prinses Juliana" 1986) arrived 24 Januari in Reggio di Calabria, also equipped with special ramps for loading and unloading cars. On 6 February the Amedeo Matacena made trial crossings from Reggio di Calabria to Messina, she arrived in the morning in the harbour of Messina to load fuel and to carry out some mooring tests. Now the final route was announced, the new service will sail from Messina - Villa S.Giovanni. Finally also the "Ladies Matacena" (ex-"Prinses Christina" 1968) arrived in Reggio on Monday 16 February.

The new service of Matacena Lines was also in april 2004 not started because of administrative problems with the Portugese Shipping authorities, according director Amedeo Matacena of Matacena Lines.

Matacena denied that the crew of the ships had manoeuvring problems with of the ships to enter the harbour, the company has sixteen experienced captains to manage the ships under all circumstances he declared.
Matacena Lines had also plans to ask for support from former PSD-employees to give instruction to the Italian crew, but this was not necessary anymore because of the delay of the start of the new service.

It was now expected that when the problems are solved Matacena Lines would start its service in June 2004, finally on 15 October 2004 the “Athos Matacena” was taken into a temporarily service on the line Messina – Villa San Giovanni. In Messina the “Athos Matacena” is using the berths of Meridiano Lines and in Villa San Giovanni the berths of the state controlled company Bluvia (the former Ferrovie). After a few weeks the service was stopped because of intervention of Caronte S.p.A. as a shareholder of the Bluvia company.

Now Matacena Lines has started again with the service from Messina – Villa San Giovanni with the help of the Italian law on 29 June 2005, the “Amedeo Matacena” departs every two hours.

The start of the Matacena Lines service brings a lot of tension between the different companies in the Strait of Messina, because the use of the Bluvia berths in Villa San Giovanni by Matacena causes big delays for the ships of Bluvia and therefore it can be possible that many persons will loose their job if Bluvia should decide to reduce theire service by two 2 ships.


Messina - Villa San Giovanni


M/v "Athos Matacena" 1970

M/v "Amedeo Matacena" 1986

M/v "Ladies Matacena" 1968