Sign up to our newsletter

Frescoes in Rome, wine in Tuscany & gondolas in Venice – best cruise excursions in northern Italy

Italy cruise vacations offer nearly everything under the sun (of which there is plenty) from fascinating history and delicious food to thrilling adventure.

MSC Cruises is famous for its Mediterranean cruises, with Italy a significant feature on many Med itineraries.

While the Italian coastline is undeniably gorgeous when viewed from the deck of a fabulous MSC cruise ship, it’s the shore excursions which help guests truly discover the real Italy.

From meeting locals and tasting traditional dishes to admiring ancient architecture and exploring by bike, MSC Italy cruise excursions give you an authentic experience.

We’ve rounded up some of the best days out at popular northern Italian hotspots from such gems as Rome, Tuscany and Venice.

Northern Italy

Best MSC cruise excursions


Natural wonders

Ancona is the capital of Italy’s beautiful Marche region in the east and overlooks the Adriatic Sea. However, a true wonder of the region lies underground.

On The “Frasassi” Caves MSC Cruises excursion you’ll set off on a subterranean adventure of this otherworldly cave system bristling with stalagmites and stalactites. Fun fact, these caves boast Europe’s largest single cavern, the Grotta Grande Del Vento – it’s so enormous that Milan Cathedral would fit inside with ease!

For something above ground, opt for the Riviera del Conero excursion which takes you to Portonovo, a small coastal village, and Sirolo, a charming seaside village with a fully restored medieval centre.


Culture & History

It doesn’t get more history-packed than Rome – an intriguing city steeped in culture where you can barely move for jaw-dropping sights. Needless to say, MSC cruises to Italy really deliver when it comes to excursions for exploring Rome to the max.

To name just a few options, the Rome, Baroque Tour takes in Caracalla’s Baths, chariot stadium the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, Constantine’s Arch and the Palatino on a coach sightseeing trip (trust us your feet will be grateful for this sedentary respite!) all accompanied by a guide. Next there’s a 1.5-hour walking itinerary that includes the Fontana di Trevi (make a wish!), the Pantheon – one of the capital’s best-preserved ancient Roman temples – and Roman Baroque Piazza Navona. After lunch on your own, tourists will have an hour to visit St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City before returning to the ship.

If you wish to explore the Vatican in greater depth there’s the Rome & The Wonder of the Vatican Museum trip. On this, a coach sightseeing tour drives past the Aurelian Walls, the Pyramid, Caracalla’s Baths, the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum and the romantic “Lungotevere,” a boulevard alongside the River Tiber.

Then, at the Vatican, you will benefit from privileged access to the papal enclave, avoiding the long queues. On a guided tour you’ll visit the amazing museum and see inside the stunning Sistine Chapel with its breathtaking frescoes by Michaelangelo and other 15th-century artists. After lunch on your own, there’s a guided tour of Piazza San Pietro and the Basilica.


Food & Wine

Right, well you can’t come to Italy without indulging in the country’s exquisite food and drink – and Tuscany is one of the best Italian regions for this.

MSC Cruises’ Bocelli Wine Experience cruise excursion sees a tour guide take you by coach to the hometown of world-famous singer Andrea Bocelli whose family run wine cellars and a restaurant (a talented clan, indeed!).

You’ll get a tour of the cellars to learn about the vinos followed by a private tasting session in the Officine Bocelli Restaurant. You can sample the Bocelli oil and honey before tucking into a tasty three-course lunch of traditional Tuscan food. No promising you’ll be transformed into an operatic whizz though.

Another trip for oenophiles in the area is Tuscany Countryside: Pisa & Wine Tasting.


Scenic travel

Trieste sits on the Italian and Slovenian border so is the perfect location to soak up the magic of both destinations.

To explore Trieste itself there’s the Walking Tour of Trieste; expect elegant Viennese architecture, a Jewish Ghetto dating back to the late 17th century, a Roman Theatre constructed between the first and second centuries AD and a splendid canal built between 1754 and 1756.

Alternatively, leave Italy behind and head over to Slovenia on the Magic of Ljubljana Walking Tour for an in-depth experience of this pretty capital city. The Baroque Old City at the foot of Castle Hill has the densest concentration of sights as well as cafés and bars in town.

You’ll also visit the Baroque Cathedral with its distinctive green dome and twin towers, the Bishop’s Palace and the Seminary, the Vienna Secession-style Dragon Bridge, The Marketplace, Preeren Square, the unique Triple Bridge and Congress Square with the headquarters of Ljubljana University, the Academia Philharmonicorum building and Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity. Gosh, you’ll need a drink after all that! Why not try a traditional Slovenia brandy? Juniper, plum or fruit brandy are popular flavors.


City tour

Well, Venice is famous for its canals so there’s no better way to see this spectacular city than from its beloved waterways.

On The Gondola Tour & Guided Walking Tour, MSC guests will wend their way through Venice in a typical Venetian gondola, rowed by a traditional gondolier. As you sit in comfort, look up at the impressive royal palaces and enchanting bridges (and maybe feel ever so slightly smug as you glide past pedestrians…) as well as checking out the narrow city streets known as calli – around which your local guide will later take you, sharing intriguing tales of their history. The trip also includes free time in St. Mark’s Square.

Another unique excursion is Murano Glass Factory & St Mark’s Square; you’ll enjoy a lovely cruise by boat in the Venice lagoon to Murano island – home of the famous Venetian glassware. You can see the masters at work in a factory followed by the chance to buy some of the amazing glass artwork (trust us, these are souvenirs worth investing in!). The tour then takes in St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, the bridge of Sighs and San Marco Basilica.



Seeing a city on foot is all very well – but sometimes a tour on two wheels is even better. Sign up to MSC Cruises’ Authentic Genoa by Bike excursion to explore this Ligurian city (yes, home of pesto sauce!).

You’ll cycle around the harbour to the old town, checking out highlights such as the house of Christopher Columbus, Genoa Cathedral, consecrated in 1118 and the 13th-century Doge’s Palace. The 25km route also includes the pretty fishing village of Boccadasse where you can take a dip at the small beach or relax with a drink in one of the many cafés. Back in Genoa, you’ll see the palace-lined Via Garibaldi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For a less strenuous two-wheeled tour, hop on a pedelec, an electrically powered bicycle, for the Cosmopolitan Grandeur and Coastal Charms of Genoa MSC Cruises excursion which takes in the same stops as above. Alternatively, join a Segway tour to explore the city. Oh, and definitely try some pesto.

La Spezia


Italy may have plenty to do and see, but sometimes you just want to relax. The Fun & Viareggio Beach Club excursion put on by MSC Cruises offers just that.

The beach club in Viareggio is blessed with a year-round mild climate and features a white sandy beach, restaurants, a long promenade, great facilities, a children’s playground and top hospitality. Go swimming in the azure Mediterranean, laze on the sand or take a dip in the swimming pool. If you fancy getting active, the Chiringuito beach bar offers table tennis and beach volley.

And then, when the day is darkening and it’s time to head back to the ship, reward yourself for your day’s adventures with a freshly-baked authentic crisp-base Italian pizza ordered to your cabin or savour authentic Italian pasta in the restaurants – the Italian experience doesn’t have to stop when you’re back onboard. Perfetto!

Published 05.30.22