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14 of the Most Stunning Italian Cruise Ports

What’s not to love about Italy? The food, the wine, the history—it’s no wonder people can’t get enough of la bella Italia!

If you’re looking to experience la dolce vita yourself, one of the best ways to do so is by taking a cruise. Discover the best that these Italy cruise ports have to offer- renaissance art and culture in Tuscany, the ruins of a fallen empire in Rome, the natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast, and the rustic charm of the island of Sicily.

Cruises along the French Riviera and the Mediterranean visit major cities including Rome, Naples, and Florence. If you prefer exploring lesser-known but equally gorgeous towns, itineraries that sail around Spain and the Italian Riviera will take you to the quiet beach town of Santa Margherita, while Italy, Croatia, and Montenegro itineraries dock in the multicultural hub of Trieste.

Here are the top 14 most stunning cruise ports in Italy:

1. Rome (Civitavecchia)

Romantic piazzas, historic ruins, world-class museums, and pasta (so much pasta!) await in the Italian capital of Rome. Cruise ships dock in Civitavecchia, a port city located on the western coast and only 45 minutes away from the city center.

While stopped in one of the most famous Italy cruise ports, marvel at the Colosseum, the famous amphitheater where gladiators dueled during the Roman Empire era, and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Continue your history lesson by visiting the burial site of Julius Caesar at the Roman Forum, where many other ancient ruins still stand today, and the Pantheon, the most well-preserved monument of the Roman era.

Head to the Vatican and admire the heavenly frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and see if you can catch a glimpse of the Pope in St. Peter’s Square. Before heading back to your ship, throw a euro into the Trevi Fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder to guarantee you’ll return to Rome in the future.

2. Amalfi Coast (Salerno)

With magnificent views of the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea and charming towns littered across its hilltops, the Amalfi Coast’s beauty is unparalleled. During an Italian cruise, you can visit the popular seaside destination when you arrive in the port city of Salerno, which makes it easy to explore many of the Amalfi Coast’s cities and beaches.

Drive through the cliffs of Positano, where pastel houses and quaint boutique hotels line the streets. Get some shopping done at the ultra-chic island of Capri. Don’t miss taking a small boat into the stunning Blue Grotto cave, where the sun’s reflection creates a magical crystalline glow in the water.

Schedule a tour around the ruins of Pompeii, the city where an ancient civilization was buried under ash and lava after the Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted in 79 AD. If it’s fresh seafood you’re after, then settle in at one of the many beachside trattorias in Ravello and order up a plate of spaghetti alle vongole along with a glass of chilled white wine.

3. Cagliari, Sardinia

As one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean, Sardinia has a little bit of everything, including an enviable coastline, multiple historical sites, and seaside mountains with breathtaking vistas.

Once you arrive at the island’s port city Cagliari, head off to visit Il Castelo, the town’s citadel, or walk around the 13th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria. Get a workout in by hiking up the Sella del Diavolo (a.k.a. the Devil’s Saddle), and enjoy a stunning view of the ocean once you reach the top.

Ride a bike by the water at Poetto Beach, the longest stretch of sand in all of Italy, or spend a leisurely day cooling off in the water. If you want to learn more about the Roman era, make sure to tour the ruins of the city of Nora, an impressive archeological site that was buried away for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1952.

4. Catania, Sicily

Less well-known than Sicily’s capital, Palermo, the underrated but just as lovely Catania is a bustling port city full of Baroque buildings, ancient ruins, and views dominated by the striking hills of Mount Etna.

At the Piazza del Duomo, go inside the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, a beautiful example of the region’s baroque architecture, with a rich variety of colorful frescoes decorating the ceilings and walls inside.

Classical music lovers should head to the Teatro Massimo Bellini, an opulent 19th-century opera house and theater, and try to catch one of the regular opera and symphony concerts on its weekly roster.

If you’re looking to explore a little bit more of Sicily, take a day trip to the nearby village of Taormina, where you can stroll through the Theatre of Taormina, which dates back to the third century B.C. In Etna, experience a vineyard tour and tasting of Sicily’s best reds and whites.

5. Florence/Pisa (La Spezia)

La Spezia lies within close proximity to popular Tuscan destinations such as Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre. Once you arrive at this Italy cruise port, you’ll be faced with the difficult decision of having to decide where to set off to during your day in Tuscany.

Only 30 minutes away lies Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage site made up of a collection of five seaside fishing villages perched atop dramatic cliffs bordering the Ligurian Sea. Stroll around the winding roads covered with pastel buildings, sample the region’s specialty, pesto bruschetta, and take a dip in the ocean at one of the area’s secluded rocky beaches.

From La Spezia, you can also take a popular day excursion that visits both Pisa and Lucca. Stop at the Field of Miracles and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and enjoy guided walks through Lucca’s duomo and many piazzas.

6. Florence/Pisa (Livorno)

After docking in Livorno, another popular Tuscan cruise port, most travelers head straight to Florence. As the birthplace of the Renaissance movement, the city has a wealth of art, culture, and history to soak in.

Inside the Accademia Gallery, marvel at the beauty of Michelangelo’s Statue of David and explore masterpieces by Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Da Vinci hanging inside the Uffizi Gallery.

Admire the green and white marble façade of the Duomo, or climb up to the top of its brick cupola, which can be spotted from all over the city. Cross the famous Ponte Vecchio and pose for a photo with the Arno River in the background before stopping at Santa Croce Square for a gelato treat or afternoon macchiato.

Visit the Gucci and Ferragamo museums for an inside look at two global fashion powerhouses. Finish off your day with a meal that should include an order of Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a traditional Tuscan steak dish you won’t want to miss sampling.

7. Naples / Capri

In Italy’s third-largest city, start off your day with a visit to the must-see Castel Nuovo, a 13th-century palace that was once the home of the king of Naples. Then stop by the Museo Archeologico Nazionale and view its stunning collection of Egyptian and Greco-Roman artifacts.

Enjoy a stroll around Piazza del Plebiscito, the largest square in Naples, and hunt down a perfect slice of Neapolitan pizza for lunch.

If you’re looking to go a little farther, take a scenic boat trip from Naples Bay to Capri, a glitzy island less than an hour away, where you can enjoy world-class shopping, rocky beaches, and gorgeous scenery; or drive to nearby Pompeii and explore the ruins of the Roman civilization that was frozen in time after it was buried under ash and pumice when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

8. Portofino

The half-moon-shaped village of Portofino is the definition of picturesque. With pastel architecture, colorful flowers, azure water, and charming shops and cafes lining the harbor, Portofino makes it hard not to fall in love with it at first sight.

Spend the day swimming in the Ligurian Sea, and enjoy a leisurely walk around the town’s downtown piazzetta, where you can sip on a Bellini or grab a refreshing sorbetto (sorbet). For some unforgettable views of the coast, take a short hike up to the Portofino Lighthouse, or stop by the Castello Brown, a 16th-century castle perched atop a hill.

If you’re a certified diver, you won’t want to miss heading underwater in nearby San Fruttuoso, where a large statue of Jesus Christ awaits 55 feet below the surface.

9. Santa Margherita

Experience the definition of la dolce vita when you arrive in the small port of Santa Margherita. Located in the middle of the Italian Riviera, this seaside town is all about leisurely coastal pleasures, such as strolling along the cafes and shops that line the harbor, enjoying a swim in the cool waters of the Golfo di Tigullio, and sampling fresh seafood and wine in a seaside restaurant.

Those who want to see more of the Italian Riviera can sign up for a shore excursion that will take you around the three pearls of the Paradise Coast: the tranquil Santa Margherita, charming Rapallo, and the ritzier Portofino.

10. Messina, Sicily

As the third-largest city in Sicily, Messina provides an excellent introduction to the culture and history of the Italian island. There’s plenty to visit if you want to spend your time in port seeing Messina’s iconic landmarks, including the Fountain of Orion, the Torre Faro, and the Cathedral of Messina, which also has the world’s largest astronomical clock.

If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to try an authentic Sicilian cannoli at a local pasticcerie, and don’t forget to order the frutta martorana, a miniature Sicilian dessert made out of marzipan shaped into tiny fruits and vegetables. You can also take a short car drive to the nearby medieval village of Taormina, where you can hop aboard a boat and take a dip at the small island of Isola Bella.

11. Palermo, Sicily

Recently declared “The Capital of Culture in Italy,” the Sicilian city of Palermo offers a wealth of sightseeing, art, and culinary delights. Long craved by conquerors for its strategic location, Palermo’s diverse history has traces of Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman civilizations in its architecture, dialects, and food.

Witness this melting pot of culture in action with a visit to the city’s cathedral, which melds Muslim and Christian history, the grounds and gardens of the ninth-century Norman palace, and the baroque Quattro Canti (four corners) of the Piazza Vigliena.

If you’d rather skip the tourist lines and enjoy a relaxed day in the sun instead, head to nearby Mondello, a scenic seaside resort, and lounge under a beach umbrella or swim in the Adriatic Sea.

12. Taranto

Located at the heel of Italy’s boot, Taranto is a southern port town with golden sand beaches, limestone caves, and a charming historic city center. Grab your sweetheart and make your way down Vicolo Dei Bacio, a small narrow street called “kiss alley” because it squeezes people together who walk down its path.

Taranto is known for housing one of the most important Greco-Roman collections of artifacts at the Archeological Museum of Taranto, where you can see 1st-century jewelry, glassware, and an assortment of Greek terracotta sculptures.

Head to the small island of Borgo Antico, where the towering Aragonese Castle, built during the Norman and Byzantine eras, continues to stand today.

About an hour away from Taranto lies the underground city of Matera. You’ll feel as if you stepped back in time after visiting the Sassi, an impressive maze of limestone cave dwellings that have remained intact for centuries.

13. Trieste

Bordering Slovenia and Croatia, the unique town of Trieste has a rich history including Roman, Austrian, and German empires and occupations. This melange of cultures is seen everywhere around the northern city, from its architecture to its food.

During your time in port, go up the Faro della Vittoria, one of the tallest lighthouses in the world, for a soaring 360-degree view of the Gulf of Trieste. If you prefer to see the sights up close, take a walking tour around the city with stops at the Greek Orthodox Church of San Nicolo, the sea-facing Piazza Unita d’Italia, and the Teatro Verdi.

Sign up for a cooking class and learn how to prepare a local Friulian-style meal that includes handmade pasta, tiramisu, and a vegetable soufflé—all while sampling the local wine, of course. Cap off your day with an afternoon espresso or macchiato at Caffe Tommaseo, the oldest cafe in the city, which has been open since 1830.

14. Venice

As one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Venice remains a highly popular Italy cruise port. Once you arrive to La Serenissima, take a romantic gondola ride and sail through the city’s network of winding canals while being serenaded by accordion music and song.

After traversing the Grand Canal and floating under the iconic Rialto Bridge, explore the floating city on foot. Head towards Doge’s Palace, the Gothic building which housed the rulers of Venice, and take a photo in front of the Bridge of Sighs, a hot spot for honeymooners and love birds.

Squeeze in some shopping at La Mercerie, where you’ll find everything from luxury stores to Venetian costume and souvenir shops. Don’t miss stopping by the famous St. Mark’s Square, where you’ll be amazed by the ornate golden mosaics decorating the façade of St. Mark’s Basilica.

If you want to learn more about Venetian culture (and pick up some gifts for loved ones back home), you can set off to Murano and watch glass-making masters in action as they create their colorful, namesake sculptures. Continue on to Burano, where lacemakers have been perfecting the delicate stitching craft for centuries.

Thinking about visiting some Italian ports on your next vacation? I’d love to share some sample itineraries and help you sort out which one suits you best!

Simply click here to schedule a complimentary planning consultation.

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