As well as great coffee – not to mention the finest ice cream you’ll ever taste – Italy offers some of the richest history in the world. And for those with an eye for a bargain, Italy’s fashion scene is one where superstores teem with designer labels fresh off the rack.

This is why Italy is such a popular place to visit, time and time again. Few other places mix modern and ancient with such style, with art and culture seeping out of every stone, and many reasons to tempt you to explore the tan-bricked backstreets of Italian cities.

Popular ports in Italy

Venice Gondolas

Venice

The City of Canals is a location no postcard or photograph can truly do justice. As one of the most unique cities in the world, Venice stands apart on any Italian cruise for its distinctive architecture and overall feel.

Naturally, stepping from a glamorous cruise ship to an intimate gondola tour of the canals is very much encouraged. The Grand Canal itself is a beautifully rich region of shops, restaurants and bars, together with some of the most artistically built bridges in the city. Explore deeper into the old town and you’ll find the lace-makers and glass-blowers of old still practising their craft.

Otranto

Otranto is the gateway to Puglia, one of the prettiest regions of Italy, located down in the heel in the south-east of the country. Otranto is a pretty seaside town that offers beaches, lakes, a castle and cathedral all in one place – and its low-key charm means you’ll be among the locals, not just tourists.

Photographers will want to head up Torre Matta tower by the harbour, while foodies must try the local pasta, orecchiette (‘little ears’), served with tomato sauce and ricotta. A huge proportion of Italy’s olive oil is made in Puglia, too, and its fresh, zingy flavours brighten much of the cuisine here. Try a glass of Primitivo wine, too – deep and rich, it’s a superb accompaniment to meat dishes.

What are the best cruise ships for an Italy cruise?

You really can’t go wrong here, as almost every cruise ship that sails the Mediterranean will go out of its way to make sure Italy features in its itinerary. That said, give a few of our favourites some thought if you’re planning an Italian cruise break:

Marella Dream

Dream Cruise Ship

As the name implies, onboard this cruise ship, it’s all about putting your pleasure first. The dining options alone include everything from comfort food and Asian spices to sizzling hot-stone steaks, while the lounge bars and casinos bring glamour to your evenings. Entertainment is Broadway level, while the pools, spas, saunas and gym equipment ensure you can rejuvenate your body between adventures.

Marella Celebration

Marella Celebration

Marella Celebration is all about luxury and making the most of life’s little moments. Its onboard beauty salon and spa stretches over two storeys of pampering, whereas the Sun Lounge features al fresco cocktails and daybeds. Mealtimes offer everything from fast food to select gourmet dishes, and the menus take their cues from every corner of the globe.

Shore excursion ideas

Italy has so much variation, you could find yourself cycling through vineyards one day and touring the artworks of da Vinci the next. There’s oodles to choose from, but check out a few of our favourites:

The canals of Venice

While we’ve touched on the waterways of this gorgeous city already, what cruises offer is a way to have a full afternoon, or even an afternoon leading into the evening of winding through the canals on your own personal gondola. Shore excursions here work with local restaurateurs and artists to give a more exclusive look at the hidden gems of the city, meaning your gondola cruise will be a cut above the norm.

Alien landscapes in Otranto

Just outside Otranto lies a dramatic quarry consisting of red earth and an emerald-green lake. You could be forgive for thinking you’d stumbled across a Martian landscape as you gaze at the Bauxite Quarry – bauxite is a mineral from which aluminium is recovered. Sunset is the ideal time to visit, when the colours really glow and give the area an other-worldly aura.

Top ports in this destination