River Cruises in Italy

If you would like to take a river cruise in Italy, there are several options available. It just depends where you'll be traveling in Italy and the type of river cruise you would like to take. There are several day and evening cruises on a few different rivers, or you can choose to take an overnight cruise. Let's explore some of the rivers you can cruise!

Arno River in Florence, Italy

The Arno River is located the Tuscany region of Italy. It flows for 150 miles from east to west through central Italy before it reaches the Ligurian Sea at Pisa. 

Arno River in Florence, Italy

Arno River in Florence, Italy

By Clevermark92 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You won’t find overnight cruises on the Arno River. Instead there are cruises available on barchettos, which are small riverboats. They are similar to the gondolas in Venice. Truly Italian!

Barcetto cruises are offered in Florence, Italy. As you travel along the Arno River, you’ll see some of Florence’s famous sites, such as Corsini Palace and Santa Trinita Bridge.

Canals of Venice, Italy

The city of Venice is located in the Venetian Lagoon in northeastern Italy. It’s an area that is made up of a cluster of 118 islands that are connected by canals and bridges. Venice and its Lagoon has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. 

Grand Canal in Venice, Italy Near the Rialto Bridge

Grand Canal in Venice, Italy Near the Rialto Bridge

By Saffron Blaze (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cruises on the Po River from Chiogga to Polesella or Mantua combine the Po River with the canals of Venice. If you are just visiting Venice and want to take a cruise along the canals, there are a few options. Gondola rides are a favorite among visitors and locals - providing a way to truly experience the romance and charm of Venice.

There are gondola rides available during the day and also at night. Some gondoliers will serenade you through the canals, and others offer a gondola ride through Venice's hidden canals. 

You can also travel on a traditional Venetian boat and journey through the canals that are only known by the locals.

Mincio River in Mantua, Italy

The Mincio River in northern Italy consists of three different bodies of water – the Sarca River, Lake Garda and the Mincio River. It flows for 193 miles from Pinzolo, Italy to the Po River just past Mantua.

Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, Italy

Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, Italy

By User:BMK (photo taken by User:BMK) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

A day cruise on the Mincio River takes place in the UNESCO city of Mantua, which is about 100 miles east of Milan. In Mantua you’ll also spend some time touring the medieval city by foot. One of the highlights of the trip is a visit to the Palazzo Ducale, which was owned by the noble Gonzaga family. The royal family ruled Mantua from 1328 to 1708. The Palazzo Ducale is 34.000 square feet and is the 2nd largest palace in Italy! The largest residence is The Vatican.

In addition to cruising the Mincio River, your riverboat will also take you along a three artificial lakes that surround the city.

A Mincio River cruise and tour of Mantua is available from Milan. Transportation by train is provided between Mantua and Milan.

Po River in Northern, Italy

The longest river in Italy is known as the Po River. It begins in the Cottian Alps in northern Italy near the border of France. Flowing for 405 miles in an easterly direction, the Po River is recognized as the longest river in Italy.

Some of the famous cities near or on the Po include Turin, Piacenza and Ferrara. The city of Venice is sometimes mentioned, particularly for overnight cruises; but it's not located on the Po River. Rather it's connected to the city and its canals through the Venetian Lagoon.

Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

By This Photo was taken by Wolfgang Moroder(Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Po River is the only river in Italy that has overnight cruises. You’ll also find a few options for day and evening cruises. 

For multiple day cruises, itineraries are between Venice and Polesella or Mantua. Only smaller barge boats can cruise as far west as Mantua. European Waterways offers 7-day river barge cruises between Venice and Mantua on the La Bella Vita, which carries up to 20 guests.

Other companies that offer 5 to 8 day cruises on the Po River, include CroisiEurope and Uniworld. Travel is between Venice and Polesella, which is about 60 miles east of Mantua. Traditional riverboats are used for these cruises. Passenger capacity is between 130 and 160 guests.

Although, you’ll often see Venice listed in Po River cruise itineraries, the river does not flow through the city. Rather it is connected to city and its canals through the Venetian Lagoon.

If you’re looking for a one-day trip on the Po River, you can take a river cruise in Piacenza. The city is located about 64 miles west of Mantua.

Or you can also travel by boat n Ferrara on the Po de Volano, which is a branch channel of the Po River. Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tiber River in Rome, Italy

The Tiber River begins at Mount Fumaiolo in the Emilia-Romagna region in central Italy. It flows in a southwesterly direction for 252 miles until it reaches the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

Tiber River in Rome Near Vatican City

Tiber River in Rome Near Vatican City

By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Cruises on the Tiber River are available in Rome. A few of the famous sites you’ll see during your boat ride include the Sant’Angelo Bridge, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Palace of Justice, Vatican City and St. Peter’s BasilicaCruises typically depart near Sant'Angelo BridgeDating back to 134 AD this bridge leads to Castel Sant’Angelo and is used only by pedestrians. 

Also along your journey, you will travel past Vatican City. While you won’t see the entire city during your cruise, you’ll be able to see St. Peter’s Basilica. A few interesting notes about Vatican City – it spans 110 acres and has less than 900 inhabitants; it is the smallest independent sate in the word; the Vatican is governed by the Catholic Church; and the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica are located within the Vatican state.

If you happen to be vegetarian or have a gluten-free diet, this evening cruise on the Tiber River provides these meal options.

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Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in  river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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