The Toscana: Palermo to Cagliari

16 Jul

Another overnight ferry, this time from Palermo to Cagliari in southern Sardinia. It’s a definite downmarket move taking the Tirrenia line. Our vessel, the Toscana, was a tired, old work horse built for container shipping, not passenger comfort. See the photo below drawn by the chap at the ticket office to help us distinguish her from the other ships in port.

We joined the usual Italian rugby scrum of kids, pets and cases and climbed the eight flights of stairs to our cabin. Mostly Italian and Sicilian spoken onboard this ferry.

When I collected the cabin key from the purser I thought I’d check what facilities were available on board as there was scant information. He laughed and said in English, ‘What you see is what we got!’ What we got was a small bar with a tiny TV, a self service cafetaria only open from 7:30pm to 9pm (another scrum) and the rusty deck.

We pulled away from Palermo at 5:15pm and spent a long time standing on the open top deck to watch two fire fighting planes make alternate continous loops to scoop water from the harbour and dump it on the scrub fires burning on the Palermo mountainside. It seemed they were losing the battle.

Dinner was forgettable pasta and enough alcohol to sedate us. Thank heavens for lockable air conditioned cabins and e-books! At least Terrenia didn’t kick us out of our cabin two hours before docking as the previous ferry had. The tug boat met us, hooked up and spun us around then pulled us stern first into our berth at 7am, just thirty minutes late. There is a magic about arriving by sea that cancels out attendant annoyances.

Disembarkation was slow but smooth until a man stepped in a fresh pile of dog poop left on the carpet by another careless passenger. The stench!

Our destination is Portoscuso on the south west coast via the Cagliari airport rental car office. Already we notice the difference from Sicily. Clean streets, lots of smartly uniformed traffic police and an English-speaking very informative and polite young taxi driver who has never been to Sicily and regards it as completely lawless.

The Euro Car rental office deserves a mention. We waited one and a half hours to be served and at least 30 couples/families were waiting when we left. They had a numbered ticket system which is better than nothing but Stu calculated it took them on average 18 minutes per client. They’re doing a roaring trade but are unlikely to get repeat business.

They’d made a mistake on our booking which meant we ended up with a tiny Fiat Panda but it has air con which is all we care about in 40 degree heat.

We’re on our way. Ciao Sardegna!

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