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Why do we travel? Would you agree we travel to immerse ourselves into new places and seek connection in both the familiar and the foreign? Italy is one of these places where so many of us feel an immediate sense of coming home. That’s what happened to me when I first stepped foot on the Italian boot -- I felt a lightness, joy and sense of belonging that has kept me coming back and each time going deeper into its magical culture.
Italy’s 4,720 miles of coastline make it the perfect place to explore via a cruise. Nearly every destination you might want to visit is close enough to the coastline to easily explore on port visit.
And, on a cruise, you can cover more ground in Italy than you ever could by traveling on land; popular around-Italy itineraries may start or end in Venice or Rome, and make stops in Amalfi, Sorrento, Sicily, Portofino, Florence, Elba and Brindisi (along with a foray into nearby Montenegro’s Kotor).
With stops in so many Italian ports you will feel truly immersed in the culture and might just be speaking some of the language by the end of your cruise.
The crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea sparkle year-round, making cruises in the region a hot ticket for passengers around the globe. (Even Australians make the long trek during their winter.) But with so many ports spanning the Med, how do you pick which itinerary is right for you?
Generally, Mediterranean cruises are divided into Western Mediterranean – Monaco, Spain and France -- and the Eastern Mediterranean, which includes but is not limited to Croatia, the Balkan countries, Greece and Turkey. Italy does double duty, serving as an embarkation/debarkation homeport for both (usually Rome for Western Med cruises and Venice for eastern routes); Italian ports of call feature in both itineraries, as well.
It's hard to go wrong with either. Both itineraries include UNESCO-approved cultural and historic sites that will help you complete your bucket list. Both also offer fabulous ports of call with outstanding cuisine and local wines, beaches for all sorts of travelers and opportunities for shopping. Keep in mind that either itinerary will be port-intensive; this is not a cruise where you spend lots of time lolling near the ship's pool.
Read on to find out how to choose between an Eastern Mediterranean vs. a Western Mediterranean cruise.
Named for an ancient tribe that lived along the eastern coastline of the Adriatic Sea in the first millennium BCE, the Dalmatian Coast is best known as the place the white and black spotted dog came from. But with a history that dates back to a time before the Greeks and includes long sweeps of time under the rule of various empires (Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Yugoslavian), there's so much to learn about and see in any of the cities and towns that dot the area's islands and coastline.
The Dalmatian Coast stretches southeast from Italy's Venice (rulers from here used to oversee this part of the world), encompassing Croatia and parts of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. The ports are often visited as part of Eastern Mediterranean itineraries (although it's technically on the Adriatic Sea), as well as by small ship cruise lines that stop at smaller cities and towns exclusively along the coastline.
Whether you sail an itinerary that sticks exclusively to the Dalmatian Coast or a Mediterranean journey that stops at select ports on the way to elsewhere, you'll visit towns with quaint old city centers, narrow stone streets, medieval fortified walls, cathedrals that span hundreds of years and subtle signs of the war that raged through this area in the mid-1990s. With excursions on offer that range from classic city tours and culinary tastings to hikes or kayak trips through pristine natural environments, a cruise along the Dalmatian Coast offers a rich experience to history buffs, foodies, active travelers and anyone who simply wants to explored a less-traveled path.