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den herraghty

Straits of Messina

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I know this is just a little bit far away from home...but I thought it might be of interest,,,,,,,

I’ve just returned from a short trip to Catania which included a side trip to Messina to hopefully ‘get’ some new ferries.

My last visits to Catania were about ten years ago when I worked in Naples with NATO. These included a mix of flying, TrenItalia IC, TrenaNotta (Night trains) and the TTT Line service using a Visentinti between the two cities. I had hoped to use the Caronte&Touriste service from Salerno to Messina – but it never worked out. During these trips I managed to travel on ‘Scilla’, ‘Regina’ and ‘Villa’ in both train and foot passenger modes so I was hoping to get either ‘Logudora’ or ‘Messina’ on this occasion.

Having had a pleasant couple of nights stay in an intriguing small hotel close to the centre, I arrived at Catania Centrale just after 11.00 allowing plenty of time to buy a through ticket to Villa S. Giovanni on the IC 724 (Siracuse – Roma Terminii) departing at 11.39. The ticket machines allow you to select a seat for the journey, although it advises that the seating plan might not match the actual configuration of the carriage!. The cost of a through ticket is more than double that of a ticket to Messina Centrale (€ 15.50 compared to € 7.25) however it doesn’t tell you that the RFI monocareno fare is extra.

Departure is on time and there is only a slight delay on the journey along the stunning South Eastern Sicilian coastline. Once at Messina Cle. there’s a bit of a wait until the Palermo section arrives which becomes slightly uncomfortable as there’s no air conditioning. After lots of shouting, hand waving, forefinger and thumb circling (I do miss that!) we get shunted aboard what looks like a modern ferry.  Yes! It’s MESSINA ( Her name is displayed considerably larger than on her fleet mates)  Our carriage hits the buffer stops with a jolt – which prompts the Australian couple sitting behind me to enquire ‘do they know what they’re doing? (don’t forget the inflection at the end of doing…..)

Once it’s safe to disembark I’m off to explore and it’s really quite pleasant. As we’re at the aft end of the vessel, there is quite a lot of open deck space, a small saloon, what would normally be an entrance hall – but actually leads to the MES, then a large saloon with a café/bar.  All very clean, light, airy and pleasant – but none of the charm of the older vessels. Messina also has side loading ramps for vehicles and instructions for using the garage decks. Happily our handbrakes remained on and the alarms did not go off J

On arrival at the mainland, it appears that ‘Villa’ has followed us across and is ready for traffic. Whether this is planned – or is a special departure for the heavily delayed (3h20) ICN from the North – I don’t know but it seemed strange that both should sail so close together.

Now it’s time to savour the delights of the RFI Bluferries passenger service. Signs direct you to the ticket office and embarkation point. The ticket office is a portacabin situated behind the buffet. A mere € 2.50 allows you to forego the experience of escalators and passenger walkways (firmly closed off) and enjoy a circuitous, uncovered route to your vessel. This is where unsuspecting passengers (4 on my trip) are made aware that TrenItalia tickets are not valid and have to purchase additional ones. My vessel today is ‘Tindari Jet’ which I embark on the upper deck and through a stripped out saloon.  Downstairs is not much better but, as its only a twenty minute crossing I shouldn’t expect too much. The vessel does look very down at heel though. The crossing consists of ten minutes of ‘high speed’ with the remainder pootling along due to, I imagine, harbour speed limits.

My intention was to walk around the harbour to catch an attractive vessel I had seen from the deck of the ‘Messina’ however another portacabin ticket office belonging to Liberty Lines caught my attention.  Offering a new port (Reggio Calabria), a new company and two new high speed craft how could I refuse….so € 6.50 later and I’m off to …well...somewhere new for 30 minutes!

‘Vittoria E’ took me on my second, rather soporific, trip to Italy today. A short walk uphill leads to a war memorial dedicated to the Italian Air Force during the battle of Reggio Calabria in 1943. Carefully stepping around the broken bottles and other detritus, the statue atop the monument  shone brightly in the sun which has encouraged me to find out more about this. 

My return was on board ‘Gabriele M’ and a protracted arrival at her lay-by berth. Onwards to Fontanarossa Airport and my flight home was by a SAIS coach which was advertised as non stop. However we came off the Autostrade to pick up a passenger high above Tremestriere ferry which afforded a good view of ‘Fata Morgana’ now providing the RFI Bluferries service to the mainland.

So – 1 day (afternoon really) – 1 new port – 4 new ferries - € 9.00 +IC train fare € 15.50 –not bad.

I hope this helps anyone intending to try this trip. Fares for the TrenaNotte services are quite reasonable. You can do Catania to Napoli for € 50 in a shared couchette.







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