Mediterranean cruises can be a good way to visit several countries in one trip, without having to pack and unpack constantly or move from hotel to hotel – your hotel, in essence, moves with you. You won’t get an in-depth look at any one place, but a cruise can give you a good “sampler plate” look at each of the countries on your itinerary – including Italy.
There are several options for ports of call in Italy, depending on which cruise line and itinerary you choose. Here are the major ports of call in Italy – you can use this list to help you decide which cruise to take (if certain Italy ports of call look more interesting than others), or to learn more about each Italy cruise destination once you know where your cruise will take you.
With each of the Italy cruise ports listed below, I’ve linked to an article with more detailed information about the port – such as where it is in the city, how to get there and how to get from there into the city. I’m working my way down the list of Italian ports of call, so if I haven’t yet written about a particular destination yet I’ll be linking to the official cruise terminal’s site where it’s available.
Did you know you can book discounted shore excursions without going through the cruise line? And that they’ll guarantee to have you back at the ship in time for depature? Find out more:
Discount Shore Excursions for Italian Ports
Italy Ports of Call: Where Cruise Ships Stop in Italy
- Ancona – The port city of Ancona is on the Adriatic Sea on the east coast of Italy, in the Marche region. Cruise ships from both the Costa Crociere Group and MSC Group regularly stop in Ancona, although it’s not a major port of call for most Mediterranean cruises. Right in Ancona there is evidence of both Roman and Greek settlements, and there is a hilltop cathedral in the city. The official Ancona cruise terminal website is here.
- Bari – Bari is a major city in the southern Italian region of Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. It’s a big enough city that there’s plenty to do if it’s a stop on your cruise, even without leaving the area. Bari itself has an old section that’s nice to explore, several churches, and a castle that dates from the 12th century. But the main draw in this part of Italy isn’t the city: it’s the beach. The official Bari cruise terminal website is here. Search for Bari hostels if you need to stay the night
- Civitavecchia – The city of Civitavecchia may not be on your Italy to-do list, but this is the cruise port used for trips into Rome. You’ll find all the details you need to know in my article Rome Cruise Terminal: Where it Is and How to Get There.
- Genoa – Genoa’s port ranks at the top of the list in Italy when it comes to the amount of freight that comes in and out every year, but it’s also a popular port for cruise ships as well. In fact, Genoa is often the starting or ending point for an Italy cruise or a Mediterranean cruise, so rather than looking for shore excursions from Genoa you might just be looking for things to do in the city before or after your cruise. The historic center is beautiful, and along with a selection of pretty churches Genoa is also home to Europe’s largest aquarium. The official Genoa cruise terminal website is here. Search for Genoa hotels and Genoa hostels if you need to stay the night
- Livorno – As is the case with Civitavecchia listed above, the primary destinations people whose cruises stop in Livorno are headed for are inland – places like Florence and Pisa. But Livorno itself is perfectly lovely, if you want to spend your day there instead of taking a shore excursion into Tuscany a bit further (or if you have multiple days in port). The historic part of the city is ringed by a 16th century canal, and although the original cathedral dated to the late 1500s it was mostly rebuilt after WWII. The official Livorno cruise terminal website is here.
- Messina – The Sicilian port of Messina is the busiest in terms of passenger traffic, partly because of ferries back and forth from mainland Italy to the island of Sicily; but it’s also the port Mediterranean cruises use for shore excursions to Taormina and Mt. Etna. The official Messina cruise terminal website is here.
- Naples – Naples is home to one of Italy’s largest ports, although most people visiting the area for short periods head straight for the islands, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, or make day trips to Pompeii or Herculaneum rather than seeing the sights in Naples itself. Depending on how long you have in port, a day spent touring Naples is a great option (along with all those other great day trip options). The official Naples cruise terminal website is here. Search for Naples hotels if you need to stay the night
- Palermo – While Messina is typically the Sicilian port of call for visits to the eastern parts of the island, the western side of Sicily is more easily reached when cruises stop in Palermo. It’s one of Sicily’s major cities, and has many notable churches and historic sights, so it’s well worth spending time right in Palermo if the shore excursions don’t interest you. The official Palermo cruise terminal website is here. Search for Palermo hotels and Palermo hostels if you need to stay the night
- Portofino – Just down the coast from Genoa is the small resort town of Portofino. While massive cruise ships can’t get in close to Portofino, it’s still a relatively popular port of call. If the ship you’re on can’t get into the harbor, you’ll be ferried from the ship onto the land. There are similar towns dotting the coast around Portofino, most of which are picturesque and expensive.
- Portovenere – Portovenere is another small town along the Ligurian coast where the big cruise ships can’t get into the harbor, so if Portovenere is on your itinerary you’ll be ferried to the land from your ship. Portovenere is down the coast from the Cinque Terre, so a shore excursion to those five villages may be on your to-do list. Otherwise, the town of Portovenere itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as are the Cinque Terre), with several churches and a castle to visit.
- Trieste – The city of Trieste is so close to the border it’s almost in Slovenia, which means that shore excursions could technically take place in two different countries if you were so inclined. Trieste itself is a pretty port city, with a beautiful main square, a hilltop castle, and a cathedral worth visiting. It’s also famously home to Italy’s illy coffee company, so be sure to have a cup before you leave. The official Trieste cruise terminal website is here. Search for Trieste hotels and Trieste hostels if you need to stay the night
- Venice – Venice has its own cruise terminal, despite not being a big city. It is, after all, a city built upon and surrounded by water. You’ll find all the details you need to know in my article Venice Cruise Terminal: Where it Is and How to Get There. Search for Venice hotels and Venice hostels if you need to stay the night
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>> This post on the Walks of Italy blog lists how to get from three of Italy’s cruise ports (Civitavecchia, Livorno, & Naples) to the places you want to see nearby.
photo from the Naples cruise terminal website