A ferry tale.

The history of the ship Ichnusa

Tirrenia: an Italian story.

Who among us, when thinking of the sea, Sardinia, holidays and dolphins, does not immediately think of Tirrenia, the good old Italian state-owned company that for most of our lives was just about the only one ferrying passengers to those heavenly beaches? You might recognise some of Tirrenia’s long-identified ships, such as the Elf and the Hoover, like the vacuum cleaner.
And since? And since then the story is a long one, and an all-Italian one, concerning many things. Make yourself comfortable and let us tell you all about it; soon you will know more about it than the top navigation expert!

Italy is a peninsula immersed in the Mediterranean, backed by high mountain ranges, and with a great part of its territory made up of islands… not quite like Greece does, but let’s say it keeps us busy! This premise is enough to make it clear just how much sea routes have been and still are absolutely vital, both for the movement of goods and for that of people.

Hence the Italian maritime routes have been state managed, not only by Tirrenia di Navigazione, but also by the historic Italia di Navigazione, the Lloyd Triestino, the Adriatica di Navigazione. If these names mean anything to you, then, like us, you were not born yesterday!

It was Saremar

In the landscape of the late eighties and early nineties, Saremar was the shipping company which, as part of the Tirrenia Group, managed all the connections between Sardinia and its smaller islands plus some of those between Sardinia and – as the Sardinians like to say – the continent. It had always been managed by the Italian state until, in 2009, its control passed to the Sardinian Region.

Debts, shortages and management difficulties have forced the Region for years to write off losses that were defined by the European Commission as state aid. Hence, in April 2016, the privatization of its main lines began, including the Mediterranean bridge between Italy and France: the Santa Teresa Gallura-Bonifacio line.

Ichnusa Passenger Ship

The passenger ship Ichnusa has always been the undisputed queen of this stretch of sea… think that it was built in 1985 specifically for this route and here she has spent her entire life, 37 years, passing from owner to owner. What does it mean that it was built specifically for this route? We are in the Strait of Bonifacio, a maritime channel certainly not renowned for its calm and peaceful waters and light breezes. Strong winds blow here, the sea currents are powerful and, the icing on the cake, you could say, the waters are littered with rocks and shoals. You need a stable ship to cover the hour crossing that separates Corsica from Sardinia… a ship which allows you to sail safely and pitch about as little as possible.

Do you know what seasick feels like? Well, you can forget it now! Rarely on board this ship will you ever see any sign of it: there are two stabilizing fins that make Ichnusa the only Italian ship that can travel even in adverse marine weather conditions.

It is no coincidence that all the companies that have followed one after the other over the years have never gotten by without this ship, which in addition to being built for this particular route, also bears the Greek name for Sardinia, Ichnusa. I know that in your mind now you are saying to yourself: ah, that’s where the name of the beer comes from! Yep, straight from there!

Privatization and Blu Navy

The first protagonist of the era of Saremar’s privatization was Blu Navy, a shipping company founded in 2010 to offer an alternative to the Toremar and Moby Lines for the crossing between Portoferraio (Elba Island) and Piombino (Tuscany), which entered the Sardinian market in 2016 taking over from Saremar, including the ship itself. Until 2020, for four years, it welcomed on board an average of 300,000 passengers a year, including tourists and locals.

Ichnusa Lines is born

But the adventures of the most stable ferry in Italy do not end there: in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of the toughest moment that voyage and travel had ever experienced since the Second World War, the Ichnusa ship changed hands once again. On a sunny day in June, Ichnusa Lines was born, a company dedicated to travel only between Sardinia and Corsica and which dedicates itself to that… ferry, body and soul.

Together with Moby Lines and its ferries Bastia and Giraglia, Ichnusa Lines is the only company that today crosses the Strait of Bonifacio accompanying hundreds of tourists from one coast to the other between the two most beautiful and sought-after destinations in the Mediterranean, escorted by the dolphins and whales that populate the Cetacean Sanctuary. I don’t really know what you are waiting for to book your ticket, jump on board and enjoy the show!

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