Italy Cruises: Everything You Need to Know

La Bella Vita

Italy, land of “la dolce vita” – the sweet life. This wonderful country is universally loved and, with an inimitable culture, picture-perfect landscape, fascinating history, magnificent art and architecture, and cuisine and wines to die for, it’s an amore that’s very well deserved. In fact, with so much to see, do and experience, it can be a little overwhelming when it comes to deciding on which highlights to prioritise and what you can fit in the time you have for your holiday.

But that’s where we come in, because here at European Waterways we do things just a little bit differently. Our Italy cruises aboard La Bella Vita on the Venetian Lagoon, River Po and Canal Bianco between Venice and the lakeside Renaissance city of Mantua, are designed to embrace the ethos of “slow travel”, which means you won’t be running around hopping on and off buses or trains, running to meet a schedule and spending half your day in queues. We make sure our Italian cruise guests experience the “real” Italy like a local: unhurried, authentic and completely unforgettable.

The fishing village of Burano which is visited aboard hotel barge La Bella Vita

Cruise Italy the European Waterways Way

We may be biased, but we’re quite sure that our river cruises to Italy are the most  relaxing and authentic way to explore the Veneto region. We’ve designed our itineraries to ensure you get the most out of your time, including a wide range of activities and stops at colourful fishing villages, pretty islands and fascinating cities along the route, such as Renaissance Ferrara, home to the beautiful Estense Castle. Alongside our Classic Cruise between Venice and Mantua, we also offer a gentle 6-night circumnavigation of the Venetian Lagoon Islands, with highlights including Murano, Burano, Lido and so much more.   We also offer a selection of special itineraries themed to particular interests for our cruises of Italy (e.g. golf, opera, wines and others), while still keeping the flavour of the experience in terms of culture, history and sightseeing. A perfect blend!

Allow us to help you experience the true heart and soul of this much-loved country on a cruise to Italy that will encompass all the things that make it such a popular destination with visitors. Whether your priority is the rich history, the enduring culture, the spectacular landscape or the delicious food, we’ll make sure you’ll get a dream holiday to remember.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, or even if you’ve already made your booking, read on to find out about our wonderful 20-passenger hotel barge, La Bella Vita, and our top four Italy cruise itineraries that cruise Venice and the Veneto. From a night at the opera to a wealth of family fun, you’ll find something for everyone on one of our well-designed itineraries.

La Bella Vita: Our Favourite Vessel For River Cruises in Italy

Picture this: meandering down  the peaceful River Po on a stretch of water that’s inaccessible to larger River Cruisers sitting beside the on-deck pool with a glass of chilled Prosecco in your hand as the gorgeous Italian countryside slips by. The sun is on your face, the gentle breeze is in your hair and you suddenly realise perfection exists – you must be on an Italian cruise aboard La Bella Vita! While it might sound like something out of a novel, the truth is, cruises around Italy really are that idyllic – and that’s why so many of our guests come back time and time again.

In 2024, we’ll have been creating unforgettable luxury experiences for 50 years, so we understand exactly what discerning guests want when they choose to  cruise Italy: comfort, relaxation, tranquillity and the finer things in life. One of our favourite hotel barges, La Bella Vita, delivers all this and so much more. With a name that translates to “the beautiful life”, you can be assured it lives up to its name, and in a truly unforgettable way. The charming interiors are decorated in a modern, typically Italian style, with vibrant use of colour and a wonderfully warm and welcoming ambience.

This lovely hotel barge really does feel like a very accommodating home-away-from-home and is packed with features to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

On board features on our cruises to Italy include:

  • A friendly and experienced crew of up to ten, which includes the captain, chef, tour guide hosts/hostesses, and deck hands
  • Personalised and attentive service
  • High quality gourmet Italian meals prepared by the on-board chef, fine wines to accompany
  • Two upper deck junior suites and eight lower deck staterooms all with air conditioning and private en suites
  • A lovely large dining room
  • An open bar
  • A large sun deck with a canopy and loungers
  • On-deck spa pool
  • Bicycles for guest use

Cocktails and canapes on La Bella Vita Sundeck

We felt that every aspect of this holiday was really first rate. The journey was efficiently organised, the boat was more than comfortable, the food and drink were excellent and the staff could not have been more pleasant. The journey was excellent value for money and we would not hesitate to recommend the company in the highest possible terms.

-Michael O’Neill

Highlights of our Italy Cruises

  • Discover fascinating Roman, Etruscan and Byzantine history on a tour of Chioggia
  • Enjoy a private visit to the ancient wine cellars of Villa Widmann-Borletti
  • Explore the Ducal Palace in Mantua or the Doge’s Palace in Venice
  • Dine in style at the seventeenth-century stately home, Villa Ca’Zen
  • Cruise the Canal of the Orphans and take in views of the gorgeous lagoon islands
  • Take a tour of historic Venice, see the Naval Museum and the Pavilion of Gondolas

If you’d like more information on the places we visit on our cruises to Italy, get in contact with our expert team.

Villa Ca'Zen visited aboard La Bella Vita by Rose Palmer Sungail

Cruises to Italy for… Families

If you’re travelling with a family including young children, this kind of travel adventure has a lot to offer. While our traditional itinerary is always a wonderful choice for adults, we’ve come up with plenty of ways to make it just as much fun for the younger members of the family, with some excellent child-friendly activities on offer. We’ve designed the itineraries so everyone in the family gets to experience the many wonderful things a cruise through Italy has to offer.

You can choose from any four of the excursions listed below, meaning no matter what ages your children are, they’ll be well catered for. The best thing is that you’re able to add them into our Classic Cruise itinerary at no extra cost.

Keep the children happy with any of these fun and exciting excursions:

  • A visit to the Venice Natural History Museum
  • Fun-filled play at the Gardaland Amusement Park
  • Cycling and swimming
  • Watching a Disney-themed opera on board La Bella Vita
  • A tour of St Mark’s Bell Tower and Cathedral
  • Joining in a Venetian mask-making workshop
  • Taking a fun boat ride in Chioggia
  • Exploring the Valcorba Animal Park

Learn more about our family cruises in Italy here.

Water Amusement Park - River Cruises in Italy

Fantastic and memorable trip! Exceptional service and the food was thoughtful and incredible every day; the wine pairings were also very nice. Overall, our experience on the boat was amazing. We’ll never forget how special this trip made our anniversary!

-Ms Judith Greycloud

River Cruises in Italy for… Italophiles

If you’ve got a passion for all things Italian, cruising the tranquil waterways offers the most wonderful way to really immerse in the landscape and history. If you’ve got a strong interest in culture, art and architecture, including the beautiful cities of Ferrara, Mantua and Venice, our classic Italian cruise would be the perfect introduction to Renaissance history and so much more. As you travel along the relaxing route on-board the beautiful La Bella Vita, you’ll hop off the vessel to visit some of the most important cultural sites and monuments, sample the delicious authentic cuisine and discover more and more to love about Italy around every corner. Our cruise to Italy really makes the perfect overview, with something for everyone.

Just a few of the highlights:

  • Exploring the hidden gems on a tour of the Castello District
  • Visiting a nature reserve to spot the local wildlife
  • A visit to the ancient Etruscan town of Adria and its Archaeological Museum
  • Touring the private home where Lord Byron wrote some of his inspirational poetry
  • Admiring the architecture of the Castello Estense

Read our full itinerary here.

The Renaissance city of Ferrara by Rose Palmer

Our voyage on La Bella Vita was wonderful: Andrea’s food, the wine selection, the charm of the ever-helpful and friendly crew and especially Laura’s organisation of the daily programme. I liked the one big table setup which facilitated making friends. Nothing could be faulted – I would give them 10 stars if I could.

-Ms Helen Leckie

Italy Cruises for… Golfers

If you’re a keen golfer you may have had a golfing holiday in Scotland, Spain or Portugal, but there are plenty of opportunities as you cruise Italy as well! Don’t think that because you’re on a river cruise you won’t be able to combine your trip with your sporting passion, because the opposite is true. Our itineraries give you the chance to play a round at four of the country’s top clubs – all 18 holes and par 72. But the beauty of our Italian cruises is that not only do you get to play golf, you’ll also still get the benefit of all the other cultural and historical highlights along the route from Mantua to Venice. It really is the best of both worlds!

You can play at the following golf clubs:

  • Frassanelle
  • Venezia
  • Verona
  • Albarella

Read our full itinerary here.

Italy Golf Course - River Cruises in Italy

A week of unending charm. The crew and tour staff went out of their way to be accommodating. They were always cheerful and friendly. The ample meals were tasty and expertly prepared and presented. The extras (specifically the excellent wine and the Captain’s night) both added to the unending charm of the voyage.

-Mr Ben Moise

Cruises in Italy for… Opera Enthusiasts

The magic and elegance of opera is the perfect pairing with the joyful and sublimely relaxing experience of river cruising. We’re delighted to be able to bring the two together on our cruises to Italy with a truly special themed itinerary that admirers of this kind of music will absolutely love. On our specially crafted itinerary you’ll cruise along the peaceful waterways and visit a range of cultural sites, including historic theatres and opera houses. You’ll also experience the operatic beauty in person when we take in a show or two.

We’ll visit the following opera venues:

  • Gran Teatro La Fenice
  • Arena di Verona
  • Teatro Bibiena
  • Teatro Comunale

Read the full itinerary here.

Arena di Verona - River Cruises in Italy

A dream trip. The trip was wonderful. All the staff operated with great enthusiasm, good humour and attention to detail. There were some delightful touches, like slowing the boat down so we could feed a family of goats on the banks of the River Po, and the opera evening was hilarious. My whole family could not have enjoyed the experience more.

-Mr Michael McInerney

Cruises around Italy for… Wine Lovers

For wine lovers, there’s a lot to look forward to on our hotel barge holidays in a country that’s renowned for its wine production. We love wine as well, which is why we’ve designed our itineraries to ensure you get every opportunity to sample as much of the fine local wines as possible, in the most delightful settings. Our special wine themed cruise to Italy is dedicated to this delicious drop and you’ll have the time of your life on excursions to various vineyards to enjoy tastings, as well as sampling a wide range of reds and whites with your meals on board.

Experience tastings at these places on our Italy cruise tours:

  • Aboard La Bella Vita!
  • The lovely Orto wine estate
  • The gorgeous medieval town of Soave
  • Villa Widmann Borletti, a stunning seventeenth century manor

Read our full itinerary here.

Villa Widmann Borletti

A 50th anniversary that all the family will remember forever. European Waterways go the extra mile on everything they do. This was a family trip with three generations on board and everyone without exception all said the week on the barge was the BEST.

-John & Wendy Slade

Inspired by an Italian Cruise?

Everybody loves Italy, so no matter whether you’re looking for your next fabulous family holiday, want to spend time on your favourite interest, be it golf or wine, or you just want to get to know this beautiful country in a very different, relaxed and intimate kind of way, Italy cruises with European Waterways offer a truly unique and memorable way to do it. With a warm welcome from the Captain and crew, plus a host of things to see, do and savour, the country has so much to offer a visitor. Our dedicated team of cruise experts will ensure you get to do it your way – and make your dream luxury barge holiday a beautiful reality.

Get in touch with us and we’ll help you create a fantastic getaway where you won’t miss a thing on one of the best cruises Italy has to offer.

There really is something for every kind of traveller on our cruises around Italy. Your time with us can be as action-packed or as laidback as you want it to be, and the beauty of our holidays is that we give you the time, space and opportunity to fill your heart and mind with everything that’s so wonderful about this much-loved destination. It really will be a holiday you’ll never forget, for all the right reasons.

If you’re ready to cruise Italy or have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact us.

Hotel barge La Bella Vita cruising in Mantua, Venice

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to see Italy?

There are a number of ways to see Italy, whether travelling in a group or independently. Public transport is plentiful, affordable, and easy to use which is especially handy for first-time visitors. Whether you decide to explore by train or bus, by bicycle or on foot, or perhaps by water – the options are endless. If you’re intrigued by the idea of cruises, Italy’s divine waterways flow through major destinations. River cruises, in particular, have benefits aplenty. While on the move you’ll be able to take in the stunning natural surroundings that would merely go by in a flash or not be visible at all on other forms of transport. European Waterways cruise, La Bella Vita, highlights the very best of the River Po and the Canal bianco on a 6-night all inclusive luxury hotel barge cruise between Venice and Mantua in northeastern Italy.

Can I go on a cruise from Italy?

River cruises from Italy are a sublime way to take in the sights and sounds of the region at a leisurely pace. When you book one of European Waterways’ cruises from Italy, you’ll be collected at the Best Western Hotel Bologna by a private chauffeured minibus. The luxurious cruise takes guests on a 6-night journey between Venice and Mantua, stopping at fishing villages and colourful island with the richest of cultures such as the island of San Pietro in Volta and the town of Vallazza, close to Mantua.

What are the best months to cruise to Italy?

May to October is considered the optimal time to travel to Italy. This is because the weather is most pleasant in these months and the tourism season is in full swing, meaning more attractions and activities are open and available. Cruise Italy between April and October aboard European Waterways’ 20-passenger, La Bella Vita.

How many days is a cruise to Italy?

We believe six nights and seven days is the perfect length of time for a cruise in Italy. This allows for stops at multiple famed towns and cities along with a range of activities. You’ll have time to meander the beauty spots at your own pace, visit important sights, enjoy a cultural experience, and relax on board enjoying some delicious Italian cuisine each day.

Why are river cruises expensive?

River cruises appear expensive at first glance. However, when you consider what’s involved in your getaway more carefully, you’ll realise the cost provides excellent value. Gourmet meals prepared by the master chef, fine wines and spirits, , fully air-conditioned private transfers, daily guided (and often exclusive) excursions, admissions for all activities, fully-equipped en suite bathrooms and more are included in European Waterways’ Italian cruises, for example.

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