Mediterranean Delights: Sailing in Italy

The cradle of civilization, mother of maritime culture – the Mediterranean is the Mother Sea of sailing. If history appeals to you as much as food and wine, a cruise around Italy might be close to heaven for you – in this article, I try to guide you to the highlights of the 5000 Miles of Italian coast.

“Mare Nostrum” – ‘our sea’, this is what Italians have called the Mediterranean for centuries. In fact, there are several cultures in this sea that have been around for significantly longer than the Italian or Roman, however, I always feel like Italy was the cultural center of the World. It makes the perfect destination for a cruise vacation, too: The 5000 miles of Italian coast are of remarkable beauty and span the Tyrrhenian, the Adriatic, the Ionian and the Ligurian Sea within the Med.

In the United States, you will find a very common stereotype that pictures an Italy influenced by Southern Italian lifestyle with a dash of Roman lightness. Cruising the Italian coast, however, you will quickly find out how incredibly diverse this country really is. There is a strong general division between the North and the South with Rome being an entity of its own somewhere in between.

Italy: Sailing and History

Like in most parts of the Mediterranean, Italy was already populated in Neolithic times; later, Etruscan tribes left some few bits and pieces of archaeological wonders. However, it wasn’t until the Romans started to expand their empire to eventually cover all of Italy and the rest of the (then) Western World that you got large-scale building activities on the mainland. Islands and coastal areas were an exception, though: Here you will find Greek and Phoenician temples and towns – or at least ruins of them.

With the invasion of various Indo-European, Germanic tribes around 500 AD, Italy stumbled into a dynamic millennium of changing rulers, as diverse as Normans, French, Germans and a multinational clergy around the Church-State that preceded what is now known as the Vatican. There is no way of getting even near to a complete outline of Italian history in a few paragraphs, so I will avoid this and urge you to get a good guidebook with a strong emphasis on art and history if you want to spend a sailing vacation in Italy. Beyond that, let’s move to the cruise specifics.

On a practical note, there’s good and bad sides about Italy. The good one is that it is in the center of an area in the Mediterranean that offers simple sailing routes with very good charts and information. Therefore, cruising in Italy is not terribly demanding and makes it a great destination for beginners or people who are after relaxed holidays at sea.

Vacation Facts for Sailors

The infrastructure around ports and terminals is good and there are plenty of yacht charter companies to choose from in pretty much any area by the sea. On the backside of it, Italy is part of the European Currency Union and has struggled quite badly over the 1990ies with slow economic growth – this means, that the price-level is rather high compared to places in Northern Africa, Turkey or the Middle East.

What are to highlights of sailing tourism in Italy? In the very North of the Adriatic Sea, you should not miss out on Venice. It can be a bit tricky to get into the city itself with a cruiser, so you should explore the sandy "Lidos" along the coast for a bit. Then I recommend you to find a place by the mainland coast to anchor and take a train or taxi to Venice itself. Sailing further South, the Amalfi Coast and Calabria are considered to be among the best areas of the Mediterranean.

Continue with "Sailing in Italy - Part II"

Further Reading

Back to "vacation"

Guide to all Countries of the Mediterranean

Pictures from cruise vacations in the Med

DMOZ on Yacht Charter

Wikipedia on the Mediterranean and Italy