La Dolce Vita Cruising: An Italian Vacation

Italy. The land of pizza, Pisa and pasta.  I’m about to start my annual pilgrimage to my adopted, de facto homeland and can’t help but wonder why so few of my friends have not made this destination a bucket list priority.  I’m absolutely convinced that if my Nebraska birthplace hadn’t encroached into my life’s timeline, I would be Italian. Come on, even in the far removed culinary culture of the Midwest, I ate spaghetti in my early childhood years, albeit out of a can by the famous Italian Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.  Once fate reared its head, I left the plains for the sea and started my “wanna be Italian” career by going to work for an Italian Cruise Line and ultimately buying a 100 year old stone house in Abruzzo, Italy. You can call me Stefano!

Capri near Naples, Italy | Photo: Steve Leland

Cruising Italy Like a Pro

If you’ve never experienced Italy, YOU NEED TO!  YOU HAVE TO! If you’ve never mustered up the courage, (or the bank account) don’t wait.  Cruise lines offer a myriad of Italian ports in their itineraries and there is no better way to dip your beak into the country’s ‘la dolce vita’.  While the triumphant trio of ports of Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Florence) and Naples offer the must see sights that jump to mind; the Colosseum, Pisa, the Duomo, Vatican, Pompeii and St Peter’s,  there are so many more ports that can enhance your crociere to paradise.

Burano, Italy | Photo: Steve Leland

Many cruise itineraries start or finish in Genoa, the birthplace of the most famous of all seafaring Italians, Cristopher Columbus.  Wandering through the narrow alleyways offers immersion into medieval Italy and the port area retraces significant nautical history. In addition to the sightseeing appeal, don’t miss the local taste of the city’s famed pesto and focaccia.

Traveling to the east, the lesser known but equally appealing Porto Venere provides cruise passengers with the opportunity to visit and experience the five cliff hugging villages of Cinque Terra: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The Ligurian coast line also exposes the lifestyle of the rich and famous in chic Portofino.

Sailing further south of the aforementioned visits to Florence, Rome and Naples, the Amalfi Coast reveals the stunning mountain scenery and cliffs of Sorrento and Capri with hair raising coastal drives through the charming villages of Positano and Amalfi.  

Cruising off the “toe” of Italy kicks in cliche’ Godfather images with a visit to Palermo, Sicily. Summon up your inner Pacino or Brando as you visit sites made famous in the movie, all the time in the shadow of the volatile Mt. Etna.

Rounding the sole and heel of the boot, select itineraries include a call on the Adriatic port of Bari. There are excursion options that will take in the domed white trulli homes and shops of Alberobello or the amazing cave churches of Matera. This is Puglia at its best.

Cruising: A True Italian Vacation

Sailing along the “other side” of Italy provides an opportunity to nip over to Croatia and experience the old town of Dubrovnik or even a stop at Kotor, Montenegro.

Gondolas of Venice, Italy | Photo: Steve Leland

Your circumnavigation of Italy concludes in the astonishing, sinking city of Venice.  Sailing into the lagoon with the iconic island neighborhoods alongside the vessel is stunning touristic eye candy. Nowhere is the appeal of Italy more evident than enjoying a gondola ride through the canals and under the Rialto Bridge.  A vaporetto cruise to the colorful Burano or the blown glass artisans of Murano, capped off with a visit to St. Marks Cathedral and sipping a Bellini in the main square culminates a cruise of a lifetime.  

Andiamo.  Viva Italia!

– Steve Leland

As a former Cruise Director, Steve has been cruising the world for the past forty years. Bringing a new dimension to cruise journalism, he continues to spin the globe searching for off the grid cruise adventures and unplugged destinations to share with Porthole Cruise Magazine readers.