Cruise the Italian Riviera with MeetMeOnboard

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Italian Riviera Adam Martindale

Adam posing on the Portofino waterfront. Photo: Adam Martindale

As you may know, I’ll be leading the MeetMeOnBoard pride month gay group cruise aboard Azamara Journey in June of 2020 along with Mark and Dale. This group cruise is for LGBTQ, friends, family and allies. 

We’ll sail from Rome to Monte Carlo, hugging the remarkable Italian Riviera coastline, and I’d like to share my experiences with the ports we’ll visit.

Rome

Rome is a huge city with literally a month’s worth of things to see and do. It’s an exceptional place for foodies, and the historic sites are magnificent. Having said that, don’t try to see everything. Slow down and enjoy the surprises that will unfold for you in the Eternal City. 

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Spend some time in Rome before the cruise to experience the mysteries of the Forum, the grandeur of the Coliseum, and the stunning beauty of Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Try not to miss the Parthenon, the only Roman monument that survives intact today. Summer tourist lines are long everywhere, so pre-arrange your tours and visits to the sites.

There is a gay tour of the Vatican available, so feel free to contact me if you are interested. Whatever you do, make sure to avoid cutting your time short in Rome before the cruise.

Livorno

Livorno’s historic city center was mostly destroyed in the war, but the area was rebuilt and there is plenty to enjoy. The Nuovo Venezia (New Venice) area is filled with canals, restaurants, bars, and is perfect for strolling.

The Nuovo Venezia (New Venice) in Livorno, Italy
The Nuovo Venezia (New Venice) in Livorno, Italy

For a fantastic pizza and great service, stop in at  Scugnizzo Napoletano at Piazza Guerrazzi, #12. If you’re looking for something casual and quick, a cruise director I worked with recommended a little calamari place sort of like a permanent food truck. It’s informal, inexpensive, and serves terrific calamari. The place is located in a roundabout near the cruise terminal.

Santa Margherita and Portofino

This village serves as a port for its more famous neighbor, Portofino.  Many cruisers will enjoy the short, scenic walk through the hills to get to Portofino. There, you’ll find upscale yachts, shopping, and incomparable food. It’s a beautiful port, one of the finest in the world, and looks a bit like a wealthy version of the Cinque Terra.

Portofino Italy
Portofino, Italy ©Adam Martindale

A Restaurant called Da I Gemelli is run by two brothers, Paulo and Matteo who also have a restaurant in Milano. This elegant, high-quality restaurant was a highlight of our visit. We had a flavorful Caprese salad and fresh, tasty seafood. The food was excellent, combined with a beautiful atmosphere and fine service. Find them at Calata Marconi 7.

For sightseeing, walk off the ship’s tender and to the left, up the hill to Castello Brown. On our walk, we saw staff carrying chairs and tables up the hill for a wedding, all by hand! 

Portovenere plus the Cinque Terre

I’m looking forward to my first visit to Portovenere with its easy access to the magnificent Cinque Terra (five lands). This beautiful region of 5 tiny seaside villages perched on cliffs within walking distance of each other is a must-see location. Everywhere you look you’ll find spectacular views, lovely architecture, and authentic Italian culture. Every traveler should visit the Cinque Terra at least once.

Portovenere, Italy
Portovenere, Italy Photo by Cristina Gottardi

We’ll also visit Porto Torres on the Island of Sardinia, and Porto Ferraio on Elba. These ports are small, walkable, and should provide our group with relaxing and enjoyable port days.

Monte Carlo and Disembarkation

Monte Carlo is nice, but in my opinion, there is not a lot to do once you’ve walked around a bit. You might want to have lunch on the harbor, take in the car museum, or see the famous casino. Visit it by taking the water taxi across the harbor for 2 or three Euros. Then, walk to the elevator to the Casino as you channel your inner James Bond: Order your Martini “Shaken, not stirred.”

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo

Some visitors on longer stopovers visit Nice, which is 21–26 minutes away by train. Monaco’s railway station, the Gare de Monaco-Monte Carlo, is not far from the harbor but the mostly underground location and multiple entrances can make it difficult to navigate. 

This cruise covers a region of the Italian Rivera where the beauty is difficult to describe. Add exceptional food and this is an experience you’ll never forget.

Who will enjoy this cruise? Those who have done the first-tier, famous Italian destinations and want a quieter, more relaxing and alluring experience. Alternatively, those who are new to Italy but want a less chaotic and more laid-back brush with Italian culture.