Italy is a popular stop for cruise ships, either with all-Italy itineraries or as part of a Mediterranean cruise. The major ports of call in Italy are listed below, with a little information about the city and links to official cruise terminal websites (where available).
Ancona is in the Marche region on the eastern coast of Italy, on the Adriatic Sea. The city has ancient Roman and ancient Greek ruins, as well as a hilltop cathedral.
Bari is Puglia‘s largest city, and the region’s most important port city. The historic center includes many churches worth visiting, as well as a 12th century castle, and if the weather is nice you’ll want to head for the beach. Many cruise ships stop in Bari, including Costa, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and P&O.
Rome isn’t a port city, but it’s on many cruise itineraries. Civitavecchia is Rome’s cruise port, about 50 miles from Rome. It takes about 1-1.5 hours to get from the cruise terminal into the historic center, but transport is easy with a train station in Civitavecchia. Try to get on a faster train if you have limited time in port. As you can imagine, every major cruise company includes Civitavecchia on itineraries.
The busiest freight port in Italy is Genoa, and this busy port in Liguria is also a common starting- or ending-point for Mediterranean cruises. The city has a beautiful – and UNESCO-listed – historic center, and the waterfront is also home to Europe’s largest aquarium.
Florence is often a cruise stop, but – like Rome – the city is inland. Livorno is Florence’s cruise port, located 57 miles from the Tuscan capital and just under 15 miles from Pisa. Livorno itself has a 16th century canal surrounding its historic center.
Messina sits at the tip of Sicily that’s nearest to mainland Italy, and so is the main port connecting the island with the rest of the country. Ferries are constantly in motion back and forth, but larger cruise ships use Messina as the port of call to get to nearby Taormina (32 miles away) and Mt. Etna (66 miles away).
Naples is a major port city for Italy, but most cruise visitors use Naples as the jumping-off point for shore excursions to the nearby Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, islands like Capri, or the excavations of Pompeii. Naples itself has plenty to offer the intrepid traveler, though (it’s one of my favorite cities), especially the excellent collection at the National Archaeological Museum.
The port of Palermo on the northern side of Sicily gives you easy access to the western part of the island. It’s one of the main connections from mainland Italy to Sicily, with regular ships from Naples, Genoa, and Livorno.
The tiny town of Portofino is a gem on the Italian Riviera, but its harbor is so small that the bigger cruise ships can’t get in. Some ships will ferry passengers in to Portofino on smaller boats, others will dock in nearby Santa Margherita Ligure and offer shore excursions to Portofino.
Just south of the Cinque Terre is the Ligurian town of Portovenere, where the harbor is also small enough that the large cruise ships can’t get close enough to dock. Again, you’ll be ferried to town on a smaller boat, or the ship will divert to a larger port nearby and you’ll have an option for a shore excursion to Portovenere.
Trieste has long been an important regional port city, although it hasn’t always been part of Italy. The Slovenian border isn’t far away, so if your cruise itinerary includes a stop in Trieste your shore excursions could venture into a couple different countries.
Despite Venice‘s fragility, it’s been a popular cruise port for decades (and yes, it could be argued that so much cruise traffic is partly responsible for the city’s fragility). There has been recent talk of building a new cruise terminal island away from the main Venetian islands, which would probably be a good thing. For the time being, the cruise terminal is right in the heart of the historic city, a few steps from the train station.