Bologna, Italy, main square
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / bernotto | Bologna's Piazza Maggiore
Burano, Italy, street
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / jenifoto | Burano
Venice, Italy, Venetian masks
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / Mike Clegg | Venetian Masks
Murano, Italy, glass blower
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / DeepGreen | Murano Glass Blower
Chioggia, Italy, canal
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / LianeM | Chioggia
Italy, Fish market
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / SurkovDimitri | Fish Market
Venice, Italy, Piazza San Marco
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Photo Credit: iStock.com / bluejayphoto | Piazza San Marco

Po River, Italy

Venice, Italy, Gondola ride past the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute Photo credit: iStock.com / bluejayphoto | Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

Glorious Venice and its lagoon are the focal points of Po River itineraries, with voyages only traveling as far upriver as Polesella, then returning to the city that’s nicknamed La Serenissima. Just two major lines venture onto the Po, Uniworld and CroisiEurope, with trips that run seven to 15 days; longer tours add land-based segments to Milan, Florence, and Rome. European Waterways has 20-passenger barge trips that go about 60 miles further, to Mantua. Cruise season runs from the end of March to the beginning of November, with late spring and early fall being the most pleasant times to travel. November presents more risk of flood tides in Venice.

What We Love

The Lagoon Islands: Discover the radically different worlds of Murano, the glassblowing island; Burano, home to lace-makers and candy-colored houses; and Mazzorbo, a tranquil, vineyard-covered isle.

Shakespeare Settings: Excursions to Padua, the location of “Taming of the Shrew,” and Verona, home of “Romeo and Juliet,” will immerse you in medieval architecture and Renaissance history.

Best Known For

The Wonders of Venice: Glittering St. Mark's Basilica and its vast square, a gondola ride through the canals, world-famous museums, shopping for handmade Carnival of Venice masks — these are just some of the ways this city will wow you.

The Cuisine: Sample Venetian dishes such as fritto misto (assorted fried seafood), scampi, and squid-ink risotto; try the wines of the Veneto, including sparkling prosecco; sip a Bellini (prosecco and pureed white peaches) at Harry's Bar or a thick hot chocolate at historic Caffè Florian.

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Best Ports

Polesella: This is the jumping-off point for excursions to UNESCO-designated Ferrara (about 30 minutes by bus), known for its medieval walls, or to Italy's culinary capital, Bologna (located an hour away), which also has outstanding medieval architecture.

Chioggia: This town at the entrance to the lagoon is like a miniature Venice, with its own canals. It's also home to a thriving fish market. Shore excursions to Padua and Verona depart from the dock here.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Expect Short Cruises and Long Bus Rides: Actual cruising distances are quite short, and the major sights are far from the ports. Water levels on the Po are notoriously inconsistent, too, which can make the cruise portion even shorter.

Levies Block River Views: You won't see much from your ship while cruising the Po.

Gayle Keck

Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

Ports

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