Italy is a truly beautiful country, with its rolling hills, history-laden cities, and distinct culture. Wine and food dominate Italian life, whilst sun-soaked cities welcome visitors to take a glimpse into what was once the most powerful country in the world.
Everywhere you turn, you’re handed a tourist treat. Whether it’s ancient Roman ruins, the architecture of the Renaissance, or the modern fashion culture of Milan, Italy has something for everyone. It’s nigh-on impossible to see everything you want in one trip, probably difficult in two or three.
One way to take in as much of this amazing country as you can is a cruise. Cruises have grown in popularity of late – Statista reports 1.6 million British people hit the waves in 2022, up significantly from the post-pandemic slump.
There’s still some way to go before the 2018 peak of around two million, but with increasingly varied itineraries, it won’t be long before that number is broken.
A cruise is a great way to see as much of Italy as possible, and if you are still to be convinced, then allow us to show you. Here are four of the Italian destinations you can see via a cruise, more often than not, in one single journey.
Cruise ships and Venice can be a controversial subject – in 2019, the MSC Opera crashed into a smaller boat navigating the tight Giudecca Canal. In recent years, ships have been diverted away from the main town, but it is still a destination on many itineraries.
It’s well worth a visit, famous for being built on more than 100 small islands, connected by waterways and canals, giving the impression of a city on the water. It also has plenty for the tourist, from Renaissance architecture matching that of Florence and Siena, but accessible via a cruise.
It has also been a source of inspiration for playwrights and writers, such as Marco Polo and Ezra Pound, making it a destination that people from all walks of life embrace warmly.
Rome is another popular cruise destination, with Windstar Cruises recently adding it as a starting point for their fresh itinerary. It is hard to put into words how steeped in history Rome is – it has been an important location for 28 centuries, dating back to 753 BC.
Much of the attraction for modern-day visitors lives in the history of the Roman Empire and the buildings and locations that hold significance from the period.
However, Rome is also a bustling, cosmopolitan city with wonderful fashion, food, and culture. Stopping off on a cruise affords you the chance to try the Allesso di Bollito, a slow-cooked beef perfected in Rome many years ago when butchers used to have to slow-cook tougher cuts of meat to make them palatable.
Many cruise ships take in a destination on the Amalfi coat. Explora Luxury Journeys has an itinerary that travels from Rome to the warm shingle beach of Sorrento, a perfect stop-off for a slower-paced way of life.
Disembarking from their luxury liner, you’ll be treated to the winding alleys that lead to Chiesa di San Francesco, the town’s 14th-century church. Even from the deck of Explora II, you can take in the vista with Sorrento on one side, Capri on the other, and the towering Mount Vesuvius in the distance.
Other ships head around the Amalfi Coast, stopping in places such as Positano. Like Sorrento, it is another cliffside village characterised by winding streets, cute shops, and hidden restaurants just aching to be discovered. The nightlife is steady, but you’ll be back on the ship by then, heading to another Italian hotspot.
Perhaps you’ll be heading to Palermo next, on the island of Sicily. Western Sicily is hugely important in the cruise industry, so much so that Costa Cruises and MSC recently opened a new port terminal at Vittorio Veneto Quay. Palermo is the capital of Sicily and has a history going back more than 2,700 years.
Cultural vultures might be heading to Sicily to try to get a feel for where the Sicilian Mafia operates, not least in part down to their depiction in films and TV shows.
Discerning tourists might instead be driven by the 12th Century Palazzo Conte Federico, the oldest building in the city, or drawn to spending a lazy day on Mondello Beach before getting back on the ship and heading off on another exciting leg of their Italian tour.
If Italy is not within your reach in 2024, there’s plenty to do right here on our doorsteps in Oxfordshire. Browse our What’s On section for ideas closer to home.