Liguria for Cruise Visitors

September 9, 2013 by

Shore Excursions, Things To Do

Port of Genoa

Port of Genoa. Creative commons photo by Wolfgang Lonien via Flickr.

The narrow region of Liguria snakes along Italy’s northwestern coast, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that there are several cruise ports in Liguria. Most big ships will be restricted to the largest port, but if you’re on a smaller ship – or if you’re looking for day trip options to other nearby port cities – then you have more options.

Here’s an overview of Liguria’s main cruise ports, plus a few tips on visiting Liguria when you’re on a cruise.

Cruise Ports in Liguria

  • Genoa – Genoa is not only Liguria’s main cruise port, it’s the busiest freight port in the entire country. This is often the city from which Mediterranean cruises depart or in which they end. The port itself is within walking distance of the pretty historic center of the city, which makes it easy to explore Genoa before or after your cruise. Europe’s biggest aquarium is in Genoa, and this is the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus.
  • La Spezia – Just south of the five villages of the Cinque Terre is the port town of La Spezia. It’s bigger than the Cinque Terre towns, but that’s not saying much. With a stop in La Spezia, you can easily take one of the regional trains to the nearby Cinque Terre for a day of hiking or simply hopping on and off the train to explore each town.
  • Portofino – The tiny town of Portofino is only a port of call if you’re on quite a small ship (or a private yacht!), since the harbor is so small, but even if your cruise doesn’t stop in Portofino you may want to make it a day trip anyway. This impossibly picturesque little town will put you among the rich and famous, and it may even make you feel like a celebrity yourself. Spend your time strolling the pretty streets, shopping in the boutiques, and enjoying very long lunches in the Ligurian sunshine.
  • Portovenere – Not far from Portofino is another port town with a small harbor, Portovenere. It’s slightly larger than Portofino, but still mainly used by private yachts or very small ships. In addition to the pastel-colored houses lining the waterfront, there’s also a 13th century church you can walk to from the harbor, and a castle overlooks the town and offers lovely views of the sea.
  • Savona – The port city of Savona is about 23 miles from Genoa along the coast toward the French border. The port is primarily used for freight, but it can also be used for passenger traffic. Not far from the water is the historic center of Savona, which includes a 16th century fortified castle, a 16th centural cathedral, and a 15th century chapel called the “Sistine Chapel” (but not to be confused with the one in Vatican City).

Liguria for Cruise Visitors

If you’re visiting Liguria on a cruise, chances are good you’ll have relatively short amounts of time when you can explore – you can certainly plan to take day trips in Liguria when your ship is in port, but you’re unlikely to have several consecutive days to wander aimlessly. It’s important, therefore, to plan your time wisely. Booking guided shore excursions can be a good way to do this, but you can also create your own DIY trips, depending on where you want to go. Any towns that are connected to your port of call via the train or ferry will be easy to visit on your own – destinations that are more challenging to reach are probably better visited with a tour.

The region of Liguria is focused mainly on its coastline, since it doesn’t extend too far inland, but there are more things to see and do in Liguria than just play in the water. There are mountains that rise steeply away from the coast, and you don’t need to get to the middle of the peninsula to find them. Small towns perched atop hills and along cliffs might be difficult to reach (which is part of the reason they were located in such places to begin with), but they reward intrepid travelers with commanding views over the countryside. And, of course, hugging the coastline and soaking up that glittering Mediterranean sun is always a spectacular way to spend your time in Liguria.

- Jessica Spiegel

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