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Italian Riviera Cruise Vacations                                              
 
 

 

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Italian Riviera Cruise Vacation

Just east of the French Riviera, one finds themselves in Italy and the Italian Riviera. Generally speaking, this is the Italian Region of Liguria. Here, the charm of old Italy mingles with the glitz and glamour of new seaside resort paradises. The small coastal villages and resort towns on the rocky shores of the Ligurian Sea are contrasted by the new, overbuilt grand resorts.

Cosmopolitan cities and bustling industrialized ports intermingle with these old and new resort towns and villages to provide a true muddle of culture. Many of the large and luxury cruise lines offer itineraries that include the Italian Riviera.

Near Liguria's eastern border with Tuscany lies Lerici. With its awe-inspiring coastline of pine forests and gray cliffs, it is no wonder that Shelley spent some of his happiest months living near here. Subsequent to his death in 1822, the bay was renamed in honor of Byron and Shelley as Golfo dei Poeti.

Traveling west we come to La Spezia. This large industrialized naval port lacks the quiet charm of the smaller towns, but still maintains an aura of beauty.

Potovenere provides cruise travelers with a glimpse of the past. Some of the small houses date back to the 12th century. These were once connected to the citadel so that the villagers could reach safety in times of attack. This town commanded a strategic position at the end of a peninsula.

Westward still we find Rafallo which was once one of Europe's most fashionable resorts. Many writers, poets and authors were drawn to this area of the Italian Riviera including Ezra Pound and D.H. Lawrence. Even Hannibal is said to have passed through the region after crossing the Alps. Today, Rafallo is a haven for luxury yachts in its harbor.

Favored by many well-to-do Italians is the lovely old resort town of Santa Margherita Ligure. Some of the buildings here are still adorned with the trompe l'oeil frescoes that were typical in this area. The marina is packed with yachts as this town is used as a starting point for day trips and excursions.

Next we would visit Potofino, one of the most photographed villages along this Riviera coast. Although there is not much to actually do in Portofino, many of Europe's wealthy lay anchor here. The village is very pricey (a beer may cost EUR8!) so you may wish to stay in one of the surrounding towns instead of a stay right in the village.

Almost at the centre of the Ligure coastline lies the cosmopolitan city of Genoa, once home to Christopher Columbus. Although the city is a bustling contrast to some of the much quieter villages along the Riviera, it does have many points of interest for cruise excursionists. One attraction that is a must-see for adventurers is the Aquarium of Genoa - the largest aquarium in Europe. One can climb the 375 steps to the top of the Lanterna which has been the lighthouse on the rocks of Genoa's harbor since 1543. The White Palace (Galleria di Palazzo Bianco) is a magnificent 16th century building with an impressive art collection with-in. Shopping is of course a mainstay for many cruise vacationers and Genoa certainly provides ample venues for the 'sport'. (Speaking of sports, Torino, the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics is situated just north and west of Genoa.)

Just north of Genoa is Milan. Although not actually on the Riviera, many cruise vacationers will feel compelled to visit the city. Considered to be the center of the high-fashion scene, Milan has lots to offer. There are even bargains available for the budget minded at the stores providing over-stock designer items, seconds and imitations. The Duomo is a magnificent Gothic cathedral that took five centuries of work. One hundred and thirty-five marble spires and over two thousand statues adorn the building. Witness works of the masters Raphael, Mantegna and others at the Pinacoteca di Brera. Visit Michelangelo's last sculpture, the Rondanini Pieta'.

Three small villages, Finalmarina, Finalpia and Finalborgo make up the larger center of Finale Ligure. Final marina and Finalpia offer fine sandy beaches and modern resort facilities. Finalborgo offers cruise visitors a haunting look at a well preserved medieval settlement with 15th century walls. The rugged surrounding countryside plays host to rare reptiles and exotic flora.

The area's largest resort (and self styled capital of the Western Riviera) is San Remo. World-class hotels, seaside promenades and exotic gardens are just some of the reasons that the area maintains its glamour from the past. This glamour has attracted royal visitors and the wealthy and famous to experience the romantic setting and famous casino.

Near the western end of this Riviera lies Bordighera, the first town in Europe to grow date palms. This community still has exclusive rights to provide palm fronds to the Vatican for the Easter celebrations. In the past, Bordighera has been famous as a winter resort for a large English 'colony'. Today it still has strong evidence of this with afternoon teas and streets named after Queen Victoria and Shakespeare. This quiet resort area does not shut down completely in the off season as do some Riviera resorts because of the more elderly using it as a winter retreat.

The currency of the Italian Riviera is the Euro.  Most Cruise ships will exchange currency for you before you leave the ship.

Many large and small contemporary cruise lines and luxury cruise lines offer itineraries that include the Riviera ports-of-call. Some also offer cruise-tour excursions for pre- or post-cruise extensions. Check out the possibilities for your next Riviera cruise!



For information on the 'other' Rivieras, see our article Riviera Cruise Vacations - Which one is for you?



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