How to Get from Italy to Greece (and Vice Versa)

by Jessica on September 21, 2009

by | September 21st, 2009  

greece1You’re reading this article because, for whatever crazy reason, you’ve decided that at some point you’ll want to leave Italy and go to Greece. I’ll try to refrain from commentary about why you should just stay in Italy because it’s got everything you could possibly want to see and do and eat and then some, because (much as I’d like to deny it) there are some great reasons to visit Greece, too. (Seriously, just look at the picture to the right and tell me you don’t want to go to Greece…)

Normally, when you think about getting from Point A to Point B you’ll come up with the same general options: planes, trains, and automobiles. But when you’re dealing with getting to Greece from Italy, you’re talking about two countries with copious amounts of coastline – so it’s not surprising that one of the most popular ways of getting between Italy and Greece is by boat.

Where you are in Italy could be one of the biggest factors in determining the best way to get to Greece, but cost and time are also big things to think about – so let’s look at your options for how to get from Italy to Greece, and then you can see which one fits your travel schedule and budget best.

Taking a Ferry from Italy to Greece

greece2If you’re on the eastern coast of Italy and you want to go to Greece, the first thing you’d probably think of is taking a ferry. From the northern part of Italy, the trips aren’t going to be particularly short (heck, they’re not very short even from southern Italy), but if you’ve got time to spare it can be a bit of forced relaxation (something I’m not very good at while on vacation) – or you can take an overnight trip and wake up in a new country.

Ports in Italy that are departure points for Greece are Bari, Brindisi, Ancona, and Venice – but your choices don’t end there. There are a few different ports in Greece that you can sail to, and a few different ferry companies you can pick as well. Here’s an outline of the options (ferry company names are listed after the Greek destinations):

  • Ferries from Brindisi to Greece:
    >> to Igoumenitsa, Patras, & Corfu – Agoudimos, or Endeavor
    >> to Cephalonia/Kefalonia – Endeavor
  • Ferries from Bari to Greece:
    >> to Igoumenitsa & Patras – Superfast, Agoudimos, or Ventouris
    >> to Corfu – Ventouris, or Superfast
  • Ferries from Ancona to Greece:
    >> to Igoumenitsa & Patras – Superfast, Anek, or Minoan
  • Ferries from Venice to Greece:
    >> to Igoumenitsa, Patras, & Corfu – Anek, or Minoan

The prices for ferries are going to vary widely depending on your departure and arrival points, the duration of the trip, the kind of ticket you buy (deck only, seat only, dorm bed, or cabin), as well as the company you choose, so you’ll need to think about your own travel budget (not to mention your comfort level) in order to pick the ferry that’s right for you.

For instance, a ferry from Brindisi to Corfu for just a foot passenger (no vehicle), deck only, is roughly €40. On that same ferry, the price of a ticket for a seat is just under €50. From Ancona-Patras, a foot passenger with no reserved seat will cost between €50-55 (depending on the company), between €70-75 for a seat, and just under €100 for a bed in an on-board dormitory. On that same journey, for the best cabin possible, you’ll pay more than €250-280 per person (depending on the company).

Some ferry companies offer an option called “Camping on Board,” especially on the longer ferry trips, which is designed for people traveling with a camper or motorhome (and only available during better weather, usually April-October). This option lets you use the ship’s showers, bathrooms, and electricity for free – it just means that you’re staying in your camper during the trip, rather than taking a seat on the ship upstairs.

It’s also worth noting that if you’ve got a Eurail Pass, or even a more specific Italy-Greece Pass, the price of a ticket for a foot passenger (deck only) on overnight trips between Ancona or Bari in Italy and Patras in Greece is covered by using one day on your pass. Alternately, you can get a 30-50% discount on a basic cabin rate with your pass and not use a travel day on trips from Brindisi to Patras or Corfu.

Now, as for how fast these ferry trips are, remember what I said about them being for travelers with time to spare? Even the company called “Superfast” has to deal with the fact that they’re boats, not jet planes, so you’re still talking about a potentially long ferry journey. Looking again at the trips above for which I listed prices, the Brindisi-Corfu trip can run between 5-15 hours, and the quickest Ancona-Patras trip I could find is 21 hours long (and that’s on the “Superfast” ferry).

>> The options for taking ferries from Italy to Greece are quite complicated, so your best bet is probably to compare schedules and rates at this Greek ferry booking site – you can plug in your specific travel itinerary, dates and needs, and the system tells you what your ticket options are.

Those travelers with lots of time to travel are the ones more likely to think that a 21-hour ferry trip from Italy to Greece is a good option for a little under €100 for a dorm bed on board. Anyone with less vacation time to spare, and especially anyone near a major Italian airport, will likely find that flying is still the best option.

>> Further reading: Ferries in Greece

Flying from Italy to Greece

greece3For most travelers, romantic notions of sailing the seas aside, the quickest (and sometimes cheapest) option for getting from Italy to Greece is going to be to fly. This is especially true if you’re close to a relatively major Italian airport, but even some of Italy’s smaller airports will have regular flights to Greece because the two countries are so close.

Flights from Milan to Athens, for instance, can be as cheap as €50-57 round-trip on budget air giant easyJet. One-way tickets are, as you’d guess, even cheaper – and Europe’s budget airlines often run crazy-sounding promotions where the base fare on specific routes (sometimes including Italy-Greece) is something like €1. Of course, they end up nickel-and-diming you to death with fees on everything else, so those crazy deals don’t usually end up being as great as they sound to begin with, but they’re always worth checking anyway.

A few of the points in Greece you might be flying to, and what Italian airports have flights to them, are listed below:

  • Flights to Athens from – Bologna, Milan Malpensa, Naples, Rome Fiumicino, Verona
  • Flights to Mykonos from – Milan Malpensa, Rome Fiumicino, Verona
  • Flights to Crete from – Milan Malpensa
  • Flights to Rhodes from – Milan Malpensa, Rome Fiumicino
  • Flights to Santorini from – Milan Malpensa
  • Flights to Thessaloniki from – Milan Malpensa

Flights to Athens:
Flights to Mykonos:
Flights to Crete:
Flights to Rhodes:
Flights to Santorini:
Flights to Thessaloniki:

Taking the Train from Italy to Greece

greece4It’s possible I’m one of the biggest fans of European train travel – I’d still choose it 9 times out of 10, even if the flight was a little cheaper or even faster. I just love train travel in Europe. So when I say that taking the train from Italy to Greece is a bad idea, I hope you’ll listen to me.

All you need to do is look at a map of Europe to see that while Italy and Greece don’t lie that far apart as the crow flies, a train is not a crow – and as yet there’s no ocean-top rail lines with bullet trains zipping you from one side of the sea to the other. Taking a train from Italy to Greece would mean riding a train through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and then – finally – into Greece. And really, once you get to Greece, the usefulness of that country’s rail system (or lack thereof) will likely mean that you’re taking buses or ferries to the places you want to go.

In other words, unless your trip involves stopping along the way on a leisurely journey through each of the countries between the Italian and Greek borders, don’t take the train.

Driving from Italy to Greece

greece5Just as taking the train from Italy to Greece requires several border crossings, so does driving. What driving to Greece from Italy also demands that the train does not, however, is your attention. This is a time-consuming trip, and one that’s going to add many miles to your car’s odometer.

Driving from Rome to Athens is a journey of roughly 2,400km, and if you were to drive straight through it’d still take you about 24 hours to make the trip. And, according to Michelin’s online route calculations, it’d also cost you more than €300 in tolls and gasoline (as of this writing). From Venice to Athens is roughly 1870km, a 20-hour trip, and costs more than €220. If you’re on an open-ended road trip and you’re planning to stop along the way wherever the mood strikes you (which sounds excellent, so please invite me on that trip when you go), the better option is probably either to fly (and rent a car in Greece if you like) or take a ferry (upon which you can take your car).

(It should be noted here that even Michelin’s online route designer defaults to having you drive to a port city in Italy to put your car on a ferry bound for Greece, so even a computer robot thinks driving all the way from Italy to Greece isn’t the best idea.)

And now that you’re in Greece…

Once you get to Greece, you’ll need as comprehensive and detailed a travel guide there as you’ve gotten here at WhyGo Italy. So where better to look than our Greece travel guide WhyGo Greece? Here are just a few of the things you’ll need to get started when planning your Greek trip:

  • Depending on the season, you may want to book your accommodation before you arrive – or you may be able to play it by ear. Either way, it’s not a bad idea to check out your options beforehand. There are hotels in Greece and hostels in Greece (like you’d expect), but don’t rule out the idea of a vacation rental in Greece (especially good if you’re traveling in a group, with kids, and/or staying for awhile).
  • Transportation within Greece, since it’s a country made up largely of islands, is often water-based. So even if you arrive by plane or in your car, you’ll want to read up on the ferries in Greece to get around.
  • You can read about other transportation options in Greece, and you may be surprised to find out that buses are often going to be a better bet for you than trains.
  • Greece might not be a huge country, but you may not have a huge amount of time to spend there on vacation – so read up on where to go in Greece, from the top tourist cities to the many islands.
  • Maybe you intend to lie on a beach for your entire Greek vacation, but if you’re thinking you might want to do a few other things besides sunbathe or swim, then this list of the 10 best things to do in Greece might help you plan your trip.

photos, top to bottom, by: Wolfgang Staudt, Britrob, Jorg Weingrill, Tilemahos Efthimiadis, flypegassus

{ 10 comments }

Donna January 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm
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Hi Jessica!
I have JUST started trying to plan a family trip in celebration of our son’s graduation – he wants to go to Italy AND Greece and we realistically only have 14-16 days … ALL of your articles are just great, but this is hugely overwhelming!
Any suggestions for an itinerary that will be good for a Mom and Dad and 23 year year old? Don’t think we really are organized tour kinds of people …
We will have to travel in May as he only has a 30 day window between graduation and OCS in Newport, RI.
Thanks for any assistance you might provide
Donna

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Alysia January 6, 2013 at 9:51 am
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Donna! I was looking for Italy/Greece itineraries and found your post! I was wondering if you and your family ever were able to complete this trip, I am 23 and my husband is 25. We are planning a summer vacation this year and the Mediterranean is an option for us! How was your trip and did you end up seeing everything you wanted to? Thank you!

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Jessica January 23, 2010 at 11:26 am
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Hi, Donna:

Wow, two weeks for both Italy AND Greece? If you can’t talk him into one or the other country alone, then here’s what I’d suggest.

Start with the assumption that you’ll have one week in each country (and please, whatever else you do, fly into one airport and out of another to keep from having to backtrack!). If the trip is mainly for your son, then have him tell you what his absolutely top priorities are in each country. Have a map of Mediterranean Europe handy. This is going to be an interactive thing with him. :)

For instance, if he says he just HAS to see Rome, Florence, and Venice – and he also wants to hit Athens and the Greek Islands, then you point out that those things aren’t 15 minutes apart from one another. What you’ll have to do together is figure out what you’re comfortable cutting from the vacation wish list. Maybe you’ll see all the antiquities in Athens so you’ll skip Rome (just an example, not to say the two are the same at all). It may become clear that he wants to see one of the countries more than the other, in which case you can do 10 days in that country & 6 days in the other (or something like that).

I think the biggest thing to keep in mind – and to impress upon your son – is that travel time between each of the places you’ll go eats into your “on the ground” time. I love Italian trains, but hours spent on the train isn’t like hours spent walking around Rome. When you start factoring in travel time from place to place, you’ll see just how little actual vacation time you have left – and your son might just concede that it’s better to see fewer places but see them more completely.

At least I hope he does. :)

I hope that helps you start out – feel free to let me know if you have more questions; I just think that to begin with you’ve got to get your son involved and thinking realistically about how much time European travel can take.

Ciao,
Jessica

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Donna January 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm
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Hi Jessica!
Thanks so much for your wise words – I have forwarded to my son.
I agree with you on all counts, but how to choose from so many great places?
In a different article, you mentioned not organized in a big bus kind of tours, but an alternative that plots everything out – can’t remember what you called them. Anyway, I didn’t see a link to that kind of scheduling and if you could point me in the right direction so I might check that out, I’d appreciate it!
Thanks again,
Donna

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Jessica January 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm
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Hi, Donna:

My husband has a great method for choosing between things you think you can’t possibly choose between. Put all options in a hat. Draw one. If you don’t immediately feel excited about the choice, you know it wasn’t the one you really wanted. Keep drawing until you DO feel excited. :) It sounds silly, but it works.

I’m not sure which other article you’re referencing, but here are the articles I’ve written about travel packages in Italy:
http://www.italylogue.com/italy-travel-packages
http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/why-you-might-want-to-consider-an-italy-travel-package.html

Whether you book a package tour or not, you can look at some itineraries to get an idea of what they think are the “must-see” places on an Italy trip, which may give you a starting point for a one-week visit. There are also travel consultants who’ll plan your trip for you, start to finish – for a fee. If that’s what you’re interested in, let me know (I have never used one, but I have some friends who do that and specialize in Italy).

Really, there are lots of options for package trips that aren’t big bus tours – that’s the stereotype that everyone (well, everyone I know) wants to avoid, and thankfully these days it’s pretty easily done. With so many former backpackers growing up and starting their own families, they want to still go a bit rustic but don’t have the time to plan everything themselves, so there are tour companies that have taken that to heart. Those are the kinds of tours we typically sell at BootsnAll – you can see a listing of the kinds of tours available now:

http://adventures.bootsnall.com/destinations/europe/italy/

You can narrow down the choices by choosing from the drop-down menus at the top right – select Italy and then either 4-7 days or 8-11 days (or both, just to see the differences) and you’ll see what’s on offer.

In fact, you might find one that includes both Italy and Greece. And another thought, although I’m not a huge fan of cruises, there are Mediterranean cruises that take in ports in both Italy and Greece – for your time constraints, that may be something to consider.

There are also shorter tours you can take once you’re in Italy that don’t cover the whole trip, but are good for excursions and things like that. You can learn more about Italy tours (and see some examples available now) on this page:

http://www.italylogue.com/italy-tour

Hope that helps!
Jessica

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Gina Macchitelli October 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm
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Hi – need some advice about overall itinenary and transportation options for an Italy to Greece Trip for Sept/2012 for 8 adults for 2 1/2 – 3 weeks:.
Here is what are initial thoughts are and let me know what isn’t possible/feasible or other recommendations ( but these are cities/regions we want to see): THANKS!

– Fly non stop to Rome from Chicago – 3 nights
– Train to Bari – 3-4 nights
– Fly or Train/Ferry from Bari to Sicily – 4 nights
– Ferry or Fly from Sicily to Athens – 2 nights
– Fly or Ferry to Mykonos – 2 nights
– Ferry to Naxos – 2 nights
– Ferry from Naxos to another island TBD – 2 -3 nights
– Fly/Ferry back to Athens – Fly back to Chicago

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Jessica October 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm
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For the Italy portion of your trip, it seems like you’re making pretty big jumps location-wise – and the Bari-Sicily one in particular is giving me pause. Southern Italy isn’t as well-connected by trains as the north, so although Bari’s a big city it might be kind of convoluted to get all the way across to Sicily from there in a reasonable day. Not only that, you’re closer to Greece in Bari than you are in Sicily, so that seems like some unnecessary backtracking.

Here’s my article about planning an itinerary, which may help you – the main things that I think would be good would be to study a map to lay out all your destinations on it, and look up transportation times between each one to see how much time you’d be “losing” to transit:
http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/how-to-create-the-perfect-italy-itinerary.html

You can look up train schedules using the box at the top of this page:
http://www.italylogue.com/train

For the Greece part of your trip, I’ll refer you to WhyGo Greece! :)
http://www.greecelogue.com/

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Diana January 4, 2012 at 9:41 am
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Hello Jessica,

thank you for your articles, they have been a great help. I do have a question…. I’m trying to find a flight from Rome to Santorini, Greece but it seems that there are no direct flights. I found one that get is into Athens at 6:30pm. where do I go form there? is there a ferry to santorini that will be able to tak us the same night? Any help will be appreciated.
Thank you,
Diana

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Jessica January 4, 2012 at 10:53 am
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I’m afraid my expertise on this question ends at the Italian border, but I’ll refer you to a sister site, WhyGo Greece, for all your Greece travel needs! :)

http://www.greecelogue.com/

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diana June 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm
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HI I will be arriving to Greece and I am looking to go to Athens, Santorini, Rhodes and then go to Naples…
what would it be the best way to do it.. ( i have no clue)

looking forward for your comments!

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