I’m not entirely sure why but I was ridiculously excited about getting the ferry from Cagliari in Sardinia to Naples. Yes, it was overnight, yes I couldn’t afford a cabin which meant I’d be sleeping sitting upright on a seat in the bar, and yes it would take 13 hours, but there was something so old-school-travel about taking the ferry rather than flying (also, I couldn’t afford the flight, but I swear even if I could I probably would have booked the ferry anyway!)
I made it just in time from Alghero. After everything that could go wrong possibly going wrong in the morning, I thought I was finally safe and on time when I jumped on the bus in Sassari…but no such luck! A rather shouty Italian man (who’d clearly had a few too many Ichnusas) got into a fight with the bus driver. From what I could gather, as they shouted in at each other in fast Italian, the drunk man had only paid for a ticket to Sassari, not onward to Cagliari. The drunk man’s defence was that the bus only had three other people on it, so what difference did him being there make? It would be going to Cagliari anyway and it was half empty!
The driver decided to pull over in the middle of nowhere and call the Carabinieri (Italian police). After fifteen minutes, I realised that if we took any longer, I wasn’t going to have time to pick up my ferry ticket and board the required 15 minutes before. If I missed the ferry to Naples, not only was there not another one for four days but I would lose the money from my first night’s accommodation booking in Naples and have to find (and pay) for accommodation in Cagliari, as well as another ferry ticket.
I got off the bus, smiled nicely at the Italian police and politely said in broken Italian “I’m catching the 7pm ferry, are we going to be late?” The (rather good-looking) Italian police man just smiled, and the bus driver shooed the drunk man back onto the bus. It seemed they were letting him away with a telling off. Ten minutes later…the bus stopped again, on the side of the motorway…it seemed the drunk man now needed a toilet break.
The bus driver stood up and walked down the aisle, apologising to myself and the two other passengers. I couldn’t help it – I was hot, tired, had already been travelling for almost four hours and now this idiot was going to make me miss my ferry, costing me a fortune. With no idea how to translate it into Italian, I said to the bus driver (in probably the broadest Scottish accent) “Are you being serious? We’ve stopped so he can…take a piss?!” The Italian driver seemed to understand (at least the last part), laughed and then held up his hands in a “What can you do?” gesture. Frustrated, I sat down and waited for the idiot to get back on, giving him my worst look when he did. Somehow, we still managed to make it – although I had to run with my backpack from the bus station to the ticket office and then through port security.
When I got onboard, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The ferry looked huge, and walking down the initial access corridor confirmed pretty much everything I thought it would be like – shiny white floors, gleaming silver fixtures…it was all very glamorous, grand old ship-style…that is, until the ‘Deck Only’ passengers were separated from those who have been smart enough (and rich enough) to book accommodation. For the rest of us, it was through to the bar area…which turned out to be small, cramped and had a lot less in the way of facilities than the Tirrenia website would have you believe. A small school canteen style counter stood in the middle, serving paninis, croissants and coffee, and an overpriced, again canteen style, restaurant was through the back. That was it. No nice bars, no choice of restaurants, no shops.
I was a bit disappointed, but grabbed a bottle of water and tried to make the best of it. At least it was warm, clean and there were plenty of tables – perfect for the night of writing ahead I had planned. I took a little table in the middle the seating section and then realised that everyone was staring at me. It took me a minute but as I looked around, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t seen another woman yet. Hmm…a 13-hour night ferry with nothing but staring Italian men (I did see a few women later in the restaurant, but they were with families and clearly smart enough to be staying in cabins)
I took out my laptop and began catching up on some writing. After a while, I got tired and hungry. My two options were a €15 salad in the restaurant or a €4 panini. I opted for the panini, meaning I could afford a couple of beers later.
As the night went on, the people who had booked cabins filtered upstairs and I was left in the lounge with a handful of men…who appeared to be watching something that looked a lot like an Italian soft porn film on the big TV. I wrote until around midnight and then made a makeshift bed out of a couple of chairs, using my rucksack as a pillow (not for comfort, mainly just to make sure no one nicked anything)
I slept on and off until around 5am, at which point a grumpy security man prodded me and less than politely told me to get my feet off the chair. At 6am, the cafe reopened so I grabbed a cappuccino and headed outside just as the sun was coming up. We were entering the Gulf of Naples, passing the island of Ischia just as the light was starting to come through. It was a cloudy morning but it was so incredibly beautiful.
Naples was only an hour away and as I stood on the deck looking out across the sea I felt quite proud that I had made it through a fairly uncomfortable 12 hours, and before than an entire day of public transport mishaps…I was exhausted but so excited to think that my mainland Italy adventure was just about to begin…
Have you ever travelled on a long-haul night ferry? Or another form other overnight transport? I’d love to hear your travelling tales so please feel free to leave a comment below!