An online cruising guide for yachts sailing around Italy.
Italy occupies a long, boot-shaped peninsula, surrounded on the west by the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas; on the east by the Adriatic Sea; and in the South by the Ionian Sea. It is bounded by France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia to the north. The Apennine Mountains form the peninsula's backbone, while the Alps form its northern boundary. Several islands form part of Italy; the largest are Sicily (9,926 sq mi; 25,708 km2) and Sardinia (9,301 sq mi; 24,090 km2). Few parts of Italy are more than half a day’s drive from the sea, making a cruising yacht the perfect way to explore at leisure the country and its numerous historic and cultural attractions. It is also the best way to visit some of the smaller Italian islands along the peninsula’s west coast and the remote islands of Lampedusa and Pantelleria between Italy and North Africa. Cruising in Italy can be divided into five areas. The Ligurian Coast, extending from the border with France at San Remo round as far as Livorno, including the major ports of Genoa and La Spezia; the Tuscan Coast, running from La Spezia to Civitavecchia just north of Rome; the Tyrrhenian Coast, the most populated part of the Italian shoreline, including the major cities of Rome and Naples; the Ionian Coast from the Straits of Messina to the ‘heel’ of Italy at Santa Maria de Leuca; the Adriatic Coast from the heel of Italy all the way up to Venice, including the major ports of Brindisi, Ancona and Ravenna, and finally Venice to Trieste, with more harbours and anchorages per mile than any other part of the Italian coast. For details of cruising and harbours in all these regions, please click on the appropriate links below.
A cruise along the west coast of Italy is considerably enriched by diverting to some or all of the islands off the Tuscan and Tyrrhenian coasts, including (north to south), the islands of Capraia, Elba, Giglio, Ponza, Ventotene, Ischia and Capri. Further south, a yacht cruising along the ‘instep’ of Italy or the north coast of Sicily is only a day’s sail away from the beautiful Aeolian Islands, a very worthwhile diversion, especially out of season. The small island of Ustica is also only a day’s sail from the north coast of Sicily. The two largest Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily are, of course, major cruising grounds in their own right, with a decidedly distinct character of their own.
Cruising around Italy, especially out of season, is an excellent way of avoiding some of the worst excesses that tourism has brought to the country. It is rarely necessary to undertake long passages as the coast (except for some parts of the Ionian coast) is mostly well supplied with harbours and marinas.
Note: the word 'marina' in Italian (unlike in English) is used to refer to any settlement close to the sea. In this section, to avoid potential confusion, it is used only to refer to properly organised marinas. Security can be a problem in some areas, especially around big cities, and it is sensible to be security-conscious wherever you are in the country. Many of the smaller harbours are ‘franchised’ to ‘yacht clubs’ or even private companies and corruption and overcharging are by no means uncommon.
Italy is a country where you need your wits about you constantly. Having said that, the country has as compensation an unparalleled range of cultural attractions as well as some of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful harbours and anchorages.
|BA||172 - Isole Eolie|
176 - Cap Bon to Ra's At Tin
|Imray-Tetra||G11 - North Ionian Islands|
M8 - North Sardegna
|NIMA||4010 - Malta to Kriti including The Ionian Sea|
52170 - Rass el Melah to Sfax
|Italian||22 - From Cape Vaticano to Reggio Calabria with Gulf of Gioia and Messina Strait |
23 - From Reggio Calabria to Bovalino Marina
|Greek||2 Ionio Pelagos|
Also see Italian Charts Online.
Weather in Italy can be divided into several distinct geographical regions: the Ligurian Sea where Italy borders France; The Tyrrhenian Sea (including the island of Sardinia); The Ionian Sea between Sicily and the coast of Greece and the Adriatic. Each of these regions has its own distinct climate and prevailing winds.
In the north, the Tramontana is a strong NNE wind that descends from the Alps and can blow at gale force in early and late season. In summer, the Scirocco can blow up from the Sahara, bringing humid weather and red dust across the south of the country. The Libeccio is a SW wind that mainly affects Sardinia and the Tuscan coast, while the northern Adriatic is renowned for the much-feared Bora, which can reach force 12 in winter around Trieste. Finally, the Maestrale (French ‘mistral’) will often be encountered in summer blowing from NW onto the west coast of Sardinia and even reaching the Ligurian and Tuscan coasts on occasion.
Summer temperatures can sometimes reach 40 degrees or more, especially in the south, though 30-35 degrees is more common. Sea temperatures around the coast are usually adequate for swimming from the end of May until October.
Sources for Weather forecasts:
- There is a continuous (computerised voice) weather forecast on VHF 68 - first in Italian and then followed with an English translation; also available at the marine pages at Aeronautica Militare
- The same forecast is given in Italian and English on VHF coastal stations following a notification on channel 16
- Navtex weather forecasts are broadcast from stations at:
- La Maddelena (R) (Sardinia) - Warnings & situation for Western Med, forecast for Ligurian & Tyrrenhian Seas only
- Mondolfo (U) - Warnings and situation for Italian Seas - forecast for Adriatic only
- Sellia Marina (V) - Warnings and situation for Italian Seas - forecast for Ionian only
- Toulon / La Garde (W) (France) - Forecasts for all Western Med northern areas
- The marine pages at Il Meteo
- The marine pages at Lamma
- The marine pages at Aeronautica Militare
List popular passages/routes, timing, etc.
Also see World Cruiser's Nets.
- All the Italian Mediterranean Area is covered 24/7 by SSB and VHF from Italian Coastal Maritime Stations. Full details
The main stations are:
- Ligurian sea: Genova Radio
- North Tyrrhenian Sea: Livorno Radio
- Central Tyrrhenian Sea: Civitavecchia and Rome Radio
- South Tyrrhenian Sea: Napoli Radio
- South Sardinia: Cagliari Radio
- North Sardinia: Porto Cervo Radio
- North Sicily: Messina e Palermo Radio
- South Sicily: Lampedusa e Mazzara Radio
- North Adriatic Sea: Trieste e Venezia radio
- Central Adriatic Sea: Ancona Radio
- South Adriatic Sea: Bari Radio
- Ionian Sea: Crotone Radio
The principal danger that may be encountered in some parts of Italy is tunny nets, which are sometimes set off headlands and in narrow channels during the migration months of the fish (June/July) and can present a hazard at night, as they are frequently poorly lit.
Both EU and non-EU boats arriving from a country outside the EU must contact customs at the first Italian port. It is advisable to make first landfall in Italy at an official Port of Entry and the skipper must immediately proceed to report to the offices of the Port Captain, Immigration and Customs. Take along the following documentation:
- Original ship's registration papers.
- Original ship's radio station licence and proof of at least one of the crew's radio operator's licence.
- Valid insurance (& 3rd party liability) documents (with a certified Italian translation). The insurance policy provider must either have reciprocal arrangements with an Italian insurance company or the insurance be bought in Italy through an Italian broker.
- Proof of VAT status (for non-EU vessels)
- Skipper's certificate of competence
- A full crew list showing surname, forename, date and place of birth, function on board, passport number and nationality.
Italy is a member of the European Union and therefore vessels arriving from another EU country, with only EU nationals on board, are not required to complete the formalities. The formalities described above apply mainly to non-EU boats, though EU boats will have to comply to some such as the requirement to have a valid third party insurance certificate on board.
It is illegal for foreign yachts to charter in Italy. However, if you arrive with a charter party from abroad you can obtain the transit log in the usual way but, neither the charter party nor the crew may be changed while in Italian waters.
Note: "Paying crew" is classified as a charter, with the relevant charter implications.
Customs and Immigration
Stop and search operations by Italian Police/Customs are not uncommon - you MUST monitor VHF16 at all times and respond to calls from Police/Customs.
Firearms and ammunition MUST be declared on arrival - non-compliance can result in imprisonment.
PETS: The Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) operates in Italy whereby dogs and cats need to have been microchipped and possess a Health Certificate (which must be in both Italian and the language of the country of origin). This can be obtained from the local veterinary inspector of the Ministry of Agriculture and should state that the animal is free from disease and has been vaccinated against rabies not less than 20 days and not more than 11 months prior to the date of issue of the health certificate. Animals under 12 weeks of age must be so declared and examined on arrival.
Non-EU boats may only remain in any EU country for a total of 18 months, so boats arriving in Italy from another EU country will have the time spent there taken into account. At the completion of the 18-month period, the boat must leave the EU, or it will have to pay VAT on its estimated value. To avoid this, the boat may be put in bond by informing customs who will seal the boat. The boat can then be left in a boatyard or assigned marina, but cannot be used for a specified period.
No visa is required for a stay of up to 3 months for nationals of EU countries, some other West European countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA, Argentina, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Paraguay, Singapore, Slovenia, Uruguay, Serbia and Montenegro, & Venezuela for stays of up to 2 months (Israel for a stay of up to 1 month). Extensions are obtainable by applying to the police.
The section of police you need to apply to is the Questura section of the Caribinieri. This is the office that deals with foreigners within Italy. For EU citizens you should register with the local anagrafe if you plan on staying in the area greater than 8 days. Non EU must register if they are going to be in Italy greater than 8 days though sometimes they will ask if you are staying in one area and if not just have you contact the polizia (police) and show them the stamp of your first port of entry into the country.
Fees and Dues
Health and Security
Standards of health care in Italy are at least equal to those of most Western European countries and no special measures of immunizations are required (although Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are often recommended for travel to most Mediterranean countries). Like many areas of the Mediterranean, mosquitoes can be a problem during the summer, especially in lake areas and coastal marshes. The usual precautions are recommended of plenty of insect repellent and covering up whenever possible in the evenings. Food standards (at least in terms of hygiene) are good and the tap water is safe to drink. All EU countries have reciprocal arrrangements for medical treatment with Italy, and visitors from EU countries are able to receive treatment on production of their E111 card. Visitors from other countries should not visit Italy without appropriate insurance. If spending long periods of time in forested areas, immunisation against tick-borne encephalitis is advised and precautions should be taken against tick bites. For further advice see .
Petty crime can be a problem for unwary travellers. Travellers should note that pickpockets often work in pairs or teams, occasionally in conjunction with street vendors. Gangs of up to eight operate on the Metro (subway) in Rome, especially at busy interchange stations such as Termini, and if you feel unusually hemmed in on the platform or in the train, it is likely you are being pickpocketed. Wear a moneybelt when using the Metro if you want to hang on to your credit cards and cash. Travellers should also be sure to ask for prices before making transactions with most vendors. Taking pictures with jovial, high-spirited costumed mascots will be followed up with a demand for payment. Some other examples are when gelato is purchased or a shoe shine is desired, prices should be asked for beforehand, since reports of extreme price gouging has occurred.
Beware of being tricked on prices even in restaurants, bars, and hotels. If they see you are a tourist, it's somewhat common to give you a higher bill than you're supposed to pay, and you MUST complain to get the right price or even getting your change back!
For emergencies, call 113 (Polizia), 112 (Carabinieri), 115 (Fire Department), 118 (Medical Rescue), 1530 (Coast Guard).
See below for detailed information on cruising the various areas of Italy.
- Ligurian Coast (North West)
- Tuscan Coast (West)
- Tyrrhenian Coast (West)
- Ionian Coast (South)
- Adriatic Coast (East)
- Gulf of Venice (North East)
Italy is blessed with a number of islands which offer idyllic cruising, especially out of season. In season they can get full to bursting and very expensive.
The two major Italian islands are sailing regions on their own:
- Sicily | – port of entry || – harbour || – marina || – anchorage |
- Sardinia | – port of entry || – harbour || – marina || – anchorage |
For more details see the respective regional articles.
Submit details/contacts of cruiser's "friends" that can be contacted in advance or on arrival - who can offer information and assistance to our cruising "family".
List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)
- Italy at the Wikipedia
- Italy at the Wikivoyage
- Italy at Noosite
- Pagine Azzure (mostly in Italian but much good pilotage information)
References & Publications
- Rod Heikell, Italian Waters Pilot, Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson, Cambridgeshire; 8th Revised edition edition (April 1, 2011), ISBN 9781846233326. Covers the coasts of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sardinia, Sicily, the Ionian 'heel' and Malta.
- John Marchment, RCC Pilotage Foundation, Corsica & North Sardinia, Including La Maddalena Archipelago, Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson Ltd, Cambridgeshire; 2nd edition (August 1, 2006), ISBN 9780852889145
- Trevor and Dinah Thompson, Adriatic Pilot - Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, east coast of Italy, Albania, Imray ,Laurie, Norie & Wilson, Cambridgeshire; 6th (2012), ISBN 9781846233333
- While this guide is the 2012 revision, lots of the information is outdated, incomplete and sometimes erroneous. --s/v Seatern 06:53, 18 September 2013 (BST))
- Rod Heikell, Mediterranean Cruising Handbook, Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson Ltd, Cambridgeshire; 6th Revised edition edition (April 21, 2012), ISBN 9781846231704
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