The Best of Italy: Themed Cruises for Your Perfect Holiday

There are many different experiences on a traditional canal and river cruise in Italy. They range from a variety of excursions and culinary treats, to different wines and activities. Some of our customers prefer more of one type than another so we have created a selection of themes that define the character of your cruise. It doesn’t mean that you miss out on all the other elements of an Italian barge hotel holiday – you just get more of the things that you really love.

Hotel barge, La Bella Vita - river cruise in italy

Opera Aficionados

If you’ve ever dreamed of attending the festival that takes place every summer in Verona, when its stunning Roman amphitheatre is transformed into the world’s largest open-air opera house, a themed river cruise in Italy is the way to fulfil that dream in style. Designed for opera lovers, this holiday takes place in July and August, climaxing with front stall seats in the Arena di Verona.

In the company of a small group of like minded travellers, we’ll take you on an operatic tour of the waterways. 

When you stop off in Verona you’ll have a chance to visit the Opera Museum.  Passionate curators have put together inspirational displays of librettos, photographs, scores, sketches, set design and costumes to take visitors on the creative journey of bringing an opera to the stage.

When the boat moors at Ferrara, you’ll get to visit Rigoletto’s house as described in the stage directions for Act 1, Scene 2 of Verdi’s eponymous opera: 

“The most deserted end of a blind street. On the left, a house of decent aspect with a small courtyard surrounded by a wall. Inside the courtyard a large tree and a marble bench; a door in the wall onto the street; upstairs, a terrace resting on arcades. The first floor door opens onto the terrace, from where there is a staircase leading downstairs. On the street there is a high garden wall and one side of Ceprano’s palace. It is night.”

More musical interludes to anticipate on this river cruise in Italy:

  • The unforgettable Teatro La Fenice in Venice where Rossini and Verdi operas were premiered
  • Teatro Comunale in Ferrara: the opera house completed in 1797 and famous for staging the 1812 premiere of an early opera by Rossini, Ciro in Babilonia
  • Teatro Bibiena, Ferrara: the baroque theatre opened with a concert performed by Mozart aged 13 in 1770

Find out more about our Opera Cruises in Italy

An opera performance of Aida, the Queen of the Area at the Arena Opera Festival in Verona

Garden Lovers

Imagine cruising tranquil waters beneath the Italian sun and stopping off at various venues to explore some of the most historic and charming gardens in Europe. We’ve put together a themed canal and river cruise in Italy to turn imagination into reality.

Our route through the Venetian lagoon, Po Delta and River Po is plotted to take you on a host of some of the most magnificent garden excursions that the region has to offer. 

Venetian Lagoon: Sant’Erasmo

You’ll cruise to Sant’Erasmo for a morning on this island in the Venetian Lagoon that has traditionally been known as the ‘Doge’s Garden’. From the fifteenth century the doges supplied their banquets with the fruits, vegetables, wines and honey produced on the island. It’s a wonderfully calm oasis away from the bustling and hectic city of Venice.

River Bacchiglione: Padua Botanical Garden

One of the highlights for the horticultural enthusiast on this tour is the excursion to the Padua Botanical Garden. The reason stated for its inclusion in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites really says it all:

…the Botanical Garden of Padua is the original of all botanical gardens throughout the world, and represents the birth of science, of scientific exchanges, and understanding of the relationship between nature and culture. It has made a profound contribution to the development of many modern scientific disciplines, notably botany, medicine, chemistry, ecology, and pharmacy.

River Bacchiglione: Giardino di Valsanzibio

A monumental folly designed by the Vatican architect Bernini for the Barbarigo family in the seventeenth-century to symbolise the “pathway to perfection; a journey that brings man from the false to the truth, from ignorance to revelation”. It is filled with over 60 statues engraved in Istria stone, streams, waterfalls, fountains, ponds and hundreds of plants and ancient trees. There is a Boxwood labyrinth to explore, along with the Hermit’s Grotto, Rabbit’s Island and the Monument to Time.

You’ll have to decide at the end of your visit if you agree with the statement carved into the Staircase of the Sonnets:

In Venice there is Hell and here instead there is Paradise…

More information on our Garden Cruises coming soon.

Golf Players

A golfing holiday with the chance to try a selection of courses without the hassle of transfers and sorting accommodation – this is what a themed river cruise in Italy can offer you.

Alongside the opportunity to play four different courses, you will also have a chance to join the cultural excursions. In the evenings you can relax aboard with your fellow travellers over fine wine and high quality regional cuisine.

You’ll be able to play at the following venues:

  • Canal Bianco: Verona Golf Club

18 holes, Par 72, 6,054 metres.
This is one of Italy’s most prestigious clubs and is considered to be a demanding course that appeals to traditional golfers.

  • Canal Bianco: Frassanelle Golf Club

18 hole, Par 72, 5,906 metres.
A course set in a nineteenth-century park embellished with open spaces, forests and lakes to make your game both a challenge and a pleasure.

  • Po Delta: Golf Club Albarella

18 hole, Par 72, 6,130 metres.
Imagine the best in classic British courses set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Po Delta and you’ll have pictured the reality of this golf course.

  • Venetian Lagoon: Circolo Golf Venezia

18 hole, Par 72, 6,039 metres.
A chance to experience the only golf course in Venice itself. Situated on a strip of land between the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian Lagoon, the bora and sirocco winds will add that extra challenge to your game.

Find out more about our Golf Cruises in Italy

Italy Golf Course - River Cruises in Italy

Wine Drinkers

A wine themed canal and river cruise in Italy is a real treat for both Italian wine connoisseurs and those who enjoy a bottle so much more with some knowledge about what they are drinking.

Our route through the northern regions provides an ideal context in which to explore some of the world’s greatest viticulture traditions. The mood is set with a glass of wine in St Mark’s Square at the renowned “I Corazzieri” bacaro, and the journey of discovery begins in earnest the following day.

A private boat will take you to the island of Sant’Erasmo for a tasting session at the Orto Wine Estate. This wine, which is served in some of the best restaurants across the globe, is infused with the passion of the vineyards’ owner, Michel Thoulouze.

We’ll also take you to the seventeenth-century Widmann Borletti Wine Estate, where the vineyards have been in production since the site was settled in the tenth century by the monks of Brendolo.

Of course, it’s not just about excursions – we have an on board tasting session of Serego Alighieri wines. This estate boasts the oldest winemaking tradition in Valpolicella. Today it is still run by the descendants of the famous poet Dante, and in every sip you take you can expect to taste the nobility and finesse that comes from such a venerable tradition.

Finally, you’ll stop off in the medieval town of Soave to discover the sophistication of a white wine that is produced from the Garganega grape.

Find out more about our Wine Cruises in Italy

River Cruises in Italy- Borletti


We also believe that bringing together multiple generations for a family river cruise in Italy is one of the most rewarding themes we offer. We’ve put together a series of excursions that you and your family can enjoy on this cruise. Highlights include:

  • Venice Natural History Museum. You and your children can explore the collections of zoological, fossil, entomological and botanical objects, all housed in a glorious Venetian palace.
  • Explore Chioggia aboard a Bragozzo Ulisse, a traditional shiny red Venetian fishing boat. This is a really fun way to discover the colourful water markets of Chioggia.
  • Valcorba Animal Park.  A park dedicated to zoological conservation and research where you can see camels, kangaroos, giraffes, leopards and other amazing species.
  • Gardaland Amusement Park. This day excursion is a treat for all family members no matter what age. There are themed areas for the little ones; adrenaline-spiking fairground rides for your thrillseekers; and challenges for the adventurers as they navigate the jungle rapids or escape from Atlantis.

The actual barge experience is also themed to suit the whole family, with dinners prepared by your chef, opportunities to swim off the beaches of Pellestrina and the Lido, and even an evening performance of a Disney-themed opera on board.

Find out more about our Family Cruises in Italy.

River Cruise in Italy Guests

Choose Your River Cruise in Italy

The beauty of a barge cruise holiday in Italy is that it can involve so many different experiences and sensations. You can have a taste of everything on a classic trip, or you can tailor your holiday with a themed cruise to give you more of the things that you love. If you like the idea of enjoying the northern Italian culture, cuisine, wine and climate from the perspective of canals and rivers of the region, then let us help you create your perfect vacation.

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