Exploring Italy’s Finest: The Top 8 Cruise Ports to Visit

By some estimates, the ports of Italy handled a record of 13 million cruise passengers in 2023, making the country one of the most popular destinations for cruisers after the Caribbean. Italy serves as a pivotal hub for both Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises with its central location in the Mediterranean, often calling at multiple Italian ports in a single itinerary.

The country is known for its beaches, picturesque towns, wineries, vast history and natural wonders. A cruise gives visitors the opportunity to explore multiple cities in just a few days, offering a great overview of the country without the hassle of driving or taking long train journeys.

But with so much to do and see, how do you decide on which Italy cruise ports to prioritize? Are they all close to major cities, or should you be mindful of which ones to call at? To make this decision easier, we have compiled a dial to the best eight major Italian port cities and what they offer to cruisers.

1. Civitavecchia (Rome): The Iconically Major Italian Port City

Rome is equal parts awe and chaos with its centuries-old ruins, charming piazzas and fascinating history. Narrow cobblestone streets leading to tiny squares covered in vines offer travelers a glimpse into life in 16th-century Rome, while expansive avenues showcase the stunning architectural wonders of ancient times amid the bustling traffic.

Those visiting Rome on a cruise ship will be calling at Civitavecchia, a port city about a one-hour drive from the city center. Although not the most convenient, the capital city’s inland location makes this the only option — and Rome is a must-see destination, even if it requires spending part of your day commuting to and from the cruise port.

Train service is also available and can be faster than taking a taxi. Depending on where your cruise ship docks, you may be able to walk to the train station, but we suggest you save your energy for later and take a taxi. From Civitavecchia it will be 50 minutes to Roma Termini, the main train station in the city.

For those that have been to Rome before and want to take it easy, exploring this major Italian port city is a pleasant alternative. It lacks the irresistible charm and breathtaking architecture of the capital city, but Civitavecchia boasts a rich history dating back to the 1st Century BC, with many interesting landmarks within walking distance of the harbor.

2. Venice: A Romantic and Idyllic Italian Port City

Venice is perhaps the most sought-after Italian cruise port, greeting its visitors with canals teeming with vaporettos and gondolas, bridges flowing into piazzas lined with centuries-old buildings, and traditional cafes serving strong espresso. While packed with landmarks and steeped in history, the center can be visited in one day, making it the perfect cruise port call.

Large cruise ships were banned from sailing through the historic center in late 2021 as an effort to curb pollution and overcrowding. This has forced cruise lines to find alternative ports in the area. Marghera, which is across the Venice Lagoon from the city center, is the closest and most convenient one. Buses and taxis run frequently between Marghera and Venice, as do vaporettos and ferries.

Only a handful of cruise lines, including Costa, MSC, Viking and Azamara, dock here, while the rest call at other cruise ports farther away.

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