THE STRAIT OF MESSINA AND ITS FERRY BOATS
The history of the ferry boat in the Strait of Messina finds its reason in the need to connect the two sides:the Sicilian and the Calabrian one.
Once upon a time the transfers were carried out by the local seamen called barcaioli, using their small sail boat. With the Unification of Italy, the idea of constructing a railway came to light and the company Vittorio Emanuele was entrusted for its construction.
Then in 1893 the company for the railway network in Sicily was granted the steam-based ferry navigation across the Strait. Later on, the company Sicula requested the construction of two ferry boats – which became effective in 1896. The two ferry boats were therefore baptized as Scilla and Cardddi. They were the two monsters that according to Greek mythology lived into sea caves under the strait area.
It was not until 1899 that the carriage of rail freight wagons became a regular service. In 1901 took place the first ferrying of two bus wagons of the direct train Roma-Siracusa.
Villa San Giovanni port became active in 1905, when the railways of the State started.
Unfortunately, in August 28th 1917 the ferry Scilla sunk due to an enemy mine.
The new railway station of Messina was built between 1937-1939. In the long bridge-shaped corridor there’s a big wall mosaic – recently restored, work of Michele Cascella.
Only around the 70s a better service was granted to people and passengers. The 80s – instead – stood out for the decline of the State Railway company, causing a drastic reduction in the fleet as well as in the onboard services.
Private companies in the Strait of Messina
In the meantime, the Calabrian company Caronte and the Messinian Tourist ferry boat started their own private ferrying services by means of some small bidirectional vessels. They went back and forth from Messina to Reggio, with no interruption, then from Messina to Villa San Giovanni reducing quite a lot the waiting time.
Here it is how in the year 2003 they merged and the two societies created Caronte&Tourist.
In 2001 the Italian Railway Network Company deals with the ferrying of trains between Messina and Villa San Giovanni. Then in 2012 the new born society Blueferries – belonging to the group Italian State Railways – carries passengers as well as wheeled vehicles.
In 2010 was born the Consorzio metromare dello stretto – a consortium made up by the private company from Trapani – the present day called Liberty Lines – and Blueferries. The consortium Metromare connected the port of Messina with those of Reggio Calabria and Villa San Giovanni.
Nowadays this service is provided separately by the two societies.
Giovanna Pischedda (Lilly Galletta for the translation)