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Sailing West Italy

The 600nm coast of Italy rom the French border to the toe spans a range of cultures; from the monied and smart Riviera, through historic Tuscany, past wealthy Roma and scruffy Napoli,  to the relative poverty of Calabria. The list of inland 'must visit' places is long, including Florence, Siena, Pisa, Roma, and Napoli. Add Pompeii, the crater of Vesuvius and Herculaneum to the list.

Stir in the long string of small offshore islands (from Elba to Capri). Season with Italian food, and it's easy to see why many motor cruisers choose to cruise this coast, crowding it in peak season (Mid July to late August). Marina costs vary widely, but most are expensive; €100 per night for 12m is common. There are enough anchorages to keep overall mooring costs low.  Rather light summer winds are a drawback for sailboats. Live-aboards have wintered near Roma.

Harbour Routines. Official, or unofficial, "ormeggiatori" will take your lines and offer to look after your boat while you're ashore. If they are marina staff, there will be no charge over the marina rate. If they're free-lance, there may be a price. Free berths for visitors are available in many ports, but fill quickly in high season when booking ahead is necessary. 

Regulations to Watch

  • A boat tax is in effect for Italian tax residents.
  • The Straits of Messina are a TSS, with controlled entry and transit. Call Coast Guard Ch10 or 16. Or risk a fine.

Boat Services. Services for yachts in the north are excellent, with large numbers of marinas and repair shops, many suitable for wintering afoat or ashore. Berthing tends to be more expensive than in neigbouring countries. An excellent source of information on harbour information is Pagine D'Azzuro web site, organised by Italian region (county). Region names are quoted in context and are shown on the map so you can easily look up harbour details. Some links to individual pages are in text.

West Italy Harbours and Anchorages

Sailing the Ligurian Coast

The coast From the French border to La Spezia is easy day sailing, often in light winds along a 120nm coastline. Marinas and harbours are closely spaced, leaving little room for anchorages. The coast is dramatically steep in places, just a smart extension of the French Riviera, with many attractive (but crowded) harbours and villages squeezed into hillside niches.

Genoa. You'll either love or hate busy and messy Genoa. The city is vibrant, with two marinas beautifully placed in the centre of the old city (Porto Antico and Molo Vecchio). However, the water is filthy. There's a convenient international airport.  

Cinque Terre. Not a port, but the dramatic stretch of coastline NW of La Spezia. Five tiny, colourful villages squeezed into deep clefts in the steep coastline. See them from the sea, or visit from La Spezia - preferably outside the high season. Very good walking country, a little overwhelmed by tourist tat

La Spezia is a convenient port of refuge (and a big naval base) with many marina options. Or spend a day or two exploring the beautiful mediaeval architecture of Pisa.

Cruising the Tuscan Islands and Tuscany Coast.

From La Spezia to Civitaveccia is a popular cruising ground, centered around Elba. Islands of the Tuscan archipelago (Elba, Capraia, Pianosa, Monte Christo and Giglio and others) will occupy at least a week of your time. Plenty of anchorages. For many cruisers, these are also stepping stones towards Bastia, to cruise around Corsica and Sardinia. Whilst on the mainland coast, take a day or four to visit the world famous towns and cities of Tuscany; Pisa, Firenze (Florence) and Siena.

West Italy Ports

Pisa. See the town, not just for its tower, but for the sheer beauty of its mediaeval architecture. Porto di Pisa marina, south side of the river mouth, is convenient for summer visits. The river Arno south bank has several yards and many mooring facilities. Arnoveccio marina and hard, 1nm up river, is one of many suitable for wintering.

Livorno. Not an attractive port, but most convenient for taking time out to explore the great cities of Tuscany. 

Elba is a delightful Italian Island with a deeply indented coast providing anchorages for any wind, and several (expensive) marinas. It is only 30 nm from the busy Corsican port of Bastia. Porto Ferraio is a favourite, with a choice of marinas and a well sheltered safe anchorage. Visit Napoleon’s house; OAPs, take a passport for free entry. There are restrictions on anchoring -  if you anchor in a restricted area, you may be moved (whether you are on board or not) and charged a few hundred euros recovery cost, so check you are in an acceptable place.  Marcia Marina offers free mooring - with a "water boy" to top you up for a modest charge. Porto Azzurro on the SE of Elba has a marina, good shopping, and a DIY washerette. (More about Elba)

Capraia was an Italian penal colony until 1996. Now it is a popular diving location, and a pleasant spot to anchor off (or moor up on a buoy) between Elba and Corsica. We've been recommended 'Vecchio Scorfano' as a fine restaurant with moderate prices - on Via Assuncione.

Giglio Porto. End on mooring to the quay with your own anchor. Watch the ferries do handbrake turns in the small harbour. There's a steep climb to the fortified town at the summit of the island, or regular buses. Well worth the visit.

Gorgona and Giannutri islands are both designated national parks, with areas of restricted navigation.

Porto Ercole and Cala Galera marinas (on the peninsula facing Giannutri) are close enough to be popular for Rome yachts, and good bases for exploring inland.

Harbours in the N Tyrrhenian

(Lazio region) From Civitavecchia to the bay of Naples. The off-shore Pontine islands plus Ischia and Capri provide added cruising interest.

Rome is a 'must visit' (from Fiumicino, Tevere river, Porto Turistico Di Roma, or Civitavecchia).  Summer winds are usually light in the mornings, southerly sector in the afternoons. There are many options here for wintering ashore or afloat. 

  • Civitavecchio itself is an unattractive commercial port, but with a convenient marina base for visiting Rome - Porto Turistico Riva di Traiano
  • Fiumicino Canal, just south of the international airport, has many berthing possibilities.The entrance is uncomfortable in winds from the north against current exiting the canal. The harbour (south off the canal) is usually crowded, but the Co-operative at the east end is helpful. Security is lacking, but no complaints. In the canal there are many alongside berths, yards & sailmaker beyond the footbridge (opens twice a day) and the road bridge (irregular opening).
  • Fiume Tevere,  2nm south of the Fiumicino canal, has many further alongside and yard facilities, including the posh Porto Romano (plus yacht club) and Tecnomar, both on the north bank, . 
  • Porto Touristico di Roma, just south of the Tevere entrance, is convenient and secure for a Rome visit.

Anzio. Anchoring outside Anzio is possible in northerlies or settled conditions. Can still be subject to swell. The restricted zone to the south is policed by guard boats. Yachts are required to keep a wide berth.

Circeo. The marina is very crowded in season, yachts raft four and five deep. Despite this inconvenience, remarkably expensive. Anchoring outside is possible in settled conditions, subject to swell at times.

Gaeta. Lively old town with easy access to airports and local attractions makes this a good crew change and wintering spot. Base Nautica Flavio Gioia, is near the centre, very helpful, good for wintering afloat or ashore. More shipyards yards just north. Wide range of local yacht servces can undertake most tasks.

Pontine Islands Anchorages and Ports

This is the archipelago of attractive small islands lying 20 to 30 nm south of Circeo and Gaeta. 

Ponza island. Very attractive island, just out of reach of mass tourism. Fine passegiata in town. Good, sheltered anchorages with space for a good number of boats. Recommended.

Ventotene island. There are several berthing possibilities. Cala Rossano is a porto communale and is free alongside the outer concrete wall, but beware the ormeggiatore who are aggressive in taking lines and charging for their service. In the same bay there are two private pontoons, at which berthing is possible at outrageous cost. A little further along the coast lies Porto Vecchio, a unique little harbour built by the Romans for galley construction. Berthing is possible for a few yachts, where you can attach your lines to rock-carved bollards two thousand years old. There is a charge. Well worth visiting either by tender or by walking the short distance from Cala Rossano. Limited shopping in town.

Cruising the Naples Area

(Campania region) From Ischia to Salerno you're in the busy Naples cruising area, a forest of yacht harbours, incredibly pretty islands and ancient history. Visit Herculaneum and Pompeii, and just hope Vesuvius doesn't blow its top again. Within the bay, you'll have to tolerate some messy and oily water. Expensive berthing.

Ischia. A beautiful island, in spite of the heavy tourism.  Various anchorages may be used on the S side of the island, but several subject to swell. Good anchoring in Cala San Antonio, crowded during the day, many RIBs and speedboats but quiet at night.

Seno di Ieranto. Anchoring is possible but information from a local was that this is now a Zone A nature reserve, not Zone B. This prohibits anchoring and wardens will move yachts on.

Isolotti Galli. A picturesque islet with anchoring space for very few. Barely tenable for overnight but would be acceptable in settled conditions.

Naples. See the town (noisy, filthy, crowded, absolutely fascinating), and visit Herculaneum and Vesuvius. MDL Marina di Stabia suitable for wintering ashore or afloat.

Pompeii, the once buried city (combined ticket with Herculaneum)

Capri. The most famous island in Italy, and rightly so. Marina Grande is an expensive berth, but the funicular will take you to the town.

Amalfi - for itself and to visit Ravello.

Salerno Southwards

Neapolitan boats rush from Capri to the Aeolian Islands, largely missing the mainland coast to the south. This is consequently a little visited coast with some attractive harbours - and some long stretches of low lying coast between headlands. It's a coast to escape from the seasonal crowds, with more reasonable prices (Solent levels).

Salerno is a large town with good shopping, and is a convenient place to leave a boat for a while. Pompeii is an easy visit, about half an hour by rail. Four or five sets of pontoons scattered around the main port compete for custom, some with limited facilities and reasonable prices. Marina d'Arechi, 3nm SE of the port, offers a full range of services with yacht lift and hard for winter layup.  

Acciarolli. A pleasant little town, some supplies available, free mooring on breakwater - no services.

Scario. Well-sheltered berthing, fairly low cost. Very few facilities in this holiday village but quiet and enjoyable.

CetraroModern Marina with electricty and water to all berths and laid moorings. Some distance from office and showers.

Vibo Valentia. Good crew change spot, frequently recommended.  Marina Stella del Sud ormeggiatore meet and greet by tender, guide to a berth and assist with berthing. Charge about UK rates, cheaper than the local average, but above average service. Camping Gaz, bar, restaurant, English-speaking owners. Serviceable town with two supermarkets, little to see. Trains to Lammezia airport and Naples.

Tropea. Porto Turistico, quiet in winter. New marina built to a good standard, all facilities. Not too expensive. The walk up to the old town is strenuous but worthwhile. It is possible to anchor outside, reasonable shelter.

Acknowledgements; my thanks to Sarah Tanburn for many 2010 port descriptions.


  • Attractions. The culture of the great Italian cities. Vesuvius and Herculaneum. The offshore islands. Excellent (if expensive) yacht support. Fine food.
  • Snags. Polluted water around Genoa and Naples. Expensive marina berthing. Peak season crowding north of Rome. Periods of light summer winds.
  • Ports of Entry.  Ventimiglia, Imperia, San Remo, Genoa, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, Fiumicino (Rome), Gaeta, Naples, Salerno, Reggio di Calabria
  • Layup or Wintering. Ashore or afloat, wide choice, but expensive. Recommended sites: several on the Fiumicino river and canal for Rome; Gaeta; Naples MDL; Salerno, and Stella del Sud in Vibo Valentia.
  • Transport. Good coastal train services, and year round scheduled flights Rome, Naples and Genoa
  • Boat Charter. Not researched.


Reviewed  August 2017


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