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South Africans are blessed that twice a year there are repositioning cruises between Cape Town & Italy on the MSC Sinfonia & MSC Opera (click through links to book) cruise ships, which set a platform for an epic holiday to/from & in Italy.

Cruise news: Why not get away from it all & relax on a lovely Royal Caribbean cruise?

Cruise to Italy

The reasons are quite simple:  you get to relax completely and get used to the idea of being a global traveller.  You can hop on the Sinfonia or the Opera in Cape Town, both of these wonderful ships will deliver you to Genoa, Italy (there is also an option for an extended cruise from Durban).  The best way to do a long cruise like this is in a balcony suite. Personally, I love the idea of being able to sit on my own private balcony, away from everyone else, marvelling at the views with a long cocktail in my hand.

Cruise prices

Below you will see the prices for 2 adults sharing a cabin:





Inside Cabin

Balcony Suite


Genoa, Toulon, Valencia, Lisbon, Funchal, Mindelo, Walvis Bay, Cape Town






Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Dakar, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Funchal, Malaga, Civitavecchia, Genoa






Venice, Valetta, Malaga, Casablanca, Agadir, Dakar, Walvis Bay, Cape Town






Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Mindelo, Las Palmas, Lisbon, Valencia, Genoa





On the way there, you will explore the western coastline of Africa, sail further north to Spanish territories and finally east, towards Italy.  Let's hop on the Sinfonia & explore some of the ports.

The Mother City

If you are flying in from another part of South Africa, please be sure to spend some time in Cape Town before you head off.  I have written in depth about the Mother City and I’m sure it will tempt you to leave home a few days earlier.

Table Mountain and Company Gardens Table Mountain cable car

Walvis Bay, Namibia

Your first port of call will be the very charming Walvis Bay, Namibia.  Famous now for being the birth place of Brangelina’s first born, it has in fact been part of many travellers’ itineraries years before. 

Walvis Bay dune climbing Walvisbay flamingos

I have visited my family who live there many times and I absolutely adore the contrast of the red desert with the turquoise ocean.  The Namib Desert is the oldest desert on Earth and deserves a special mention.  You should have enough time to visit Dune 7, the highest dune in the area.  Be sure that your camera is well protected during the tedious climb; the view from above is astounding. Walvis Bay is also famous for its lagoon with thousands of bright pink flamingos, they just love the mineral rich mud.

These beautiful pictures were provided by my brother-in-law, feel free to look him up at Photo Ventures Namibia.

Dakar, Senegal

Next up is Dakar, Senegal, the main hub of Western Africa.  You will spend a whole day here and it is a great idea to do a guided city tour through the ship’s excursions office.  Dakar is a massive African city and can be rather overwhelming, this I gathered from a travel programme on SABC called “Voetspore”. To help you to deal with the many beggars in the city, if you have already given food or money to someone that day, you simply say “sah-RAHK-sah AH-gah-nah".  This means that you have already done your charitable act for the day.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Your next stop is tropical Santa Cruz de Tenerife (also simply known as Tenerife), in the midst of the Canary Islands. 

Spanish bull

This is Spanish territory and it will be handy for you to know how to ask for a cold beer in their native language.   However, don’t worry if you can’t speak Spanish, this island is a very popular holiday destination with the British, and so you should be fine!  Spend some time on the beaches and enjoy the wonderful, fresh seafood.

Funchal, Madeira

This island (Portuguese territory) is one of my favourite destinations.  I visited a good friend a few years ago and I came away with wonderful memories.  It is a diverse island, with tropical valleys covered in rain forest and mysterious, misty mountains. 

Madeira coastline Madeira, traditional houses

Funchal is a port city with many little cathedrals tucked away amidst the wide, tree lined roads.  One of my favourite things about Madeira was their delicious pastries!  I can’t for the life of me remember the name of this particular one, but it was almost like a miniature baked cheesecake, a bit savoury, divine! 

I was lucky enough to do a full day tour of the island and visit all the nooks and crannies.  If you don’t have enough time, at least do a half day tour of the island, you will never see a place like this again!  I also accompanied my friend to Ponta do Pargo, on the other side of the island, where I enjoyed amazing fruit liquors, handmade by her lovely aunts.  They couldn’t speak a word of English and I didn’t know any Portuguese, but language barriers quickly disappeared after lunch and some warming honey liquor!

Madeira, Funchal

Malaga, Spain

Your next port of call will be mainland Spain, the city of Malaga, on the Costa del Sol. 

Spanish beach Spanish sausage

Spain is absolutely wonderful, I was lucky enough to spend two very long holidays on the Costa Blanca, just a bit further north.  I was amazed at how much Spain reminded me of South Africa, maybe it was the stunning beaches or the weirdly South African plant life, but I felt very much at home here!  Malaga is another one of the hottest (literally!) tourist destinations for Europeans, you are sure to enjoy some great shopping, tanning and seafood!

Civitavecchia, Italy

By now, you should be used to the European way of life, since all the announcements on the ship are both in English and Italian!  Hopefully you’ve picked up some Italian, since the next port of call is Civitavecchia, the port of Rome.  You can travel to Rome on a train for the day if you like; this can take up to 90 minutes, so just be sure you aren't late for your train back and miss the boat. If you only have one day, here is a handy little video telling you exactly which sites not to miss.


You simply cannot do Rome in a single day and I think it’s worth going back, if you can.  I was there for 3 full days and I didn’t even get to see the famous Pantheon!  If you do decide to visit Rome for the day, be sure that you have a map handy and know exactly where you want to go.  Civitavecchia is a port city with a bustling vibe, you can basically go anywhere in Europe from here!

Genoa, Italy

Your cruise will come to an end in the romantically medieval port city of Genoa, the birth place of Christopher Columbus.  It’s your typical Italian city, with enticing alleys calling you in, cafe’s bursting at the seams and fascinating museums and galleries around every corner.  Typical?  Maybe.  Wonderfully Italian?  Definitely! 

Now that you have been well rested and well fed thanks to the wonderful crew onboard the cruise ship, we are ready for the next part of our Cape to Capri journey.

Cinque Terra, Italy

After spending a night or so in the delightful Genoa, hire a car and go for a long drive.  Actually, only an hour and a half!

Cinque Terra, Vernazza

Italy is by far my most favourite country to visit. I’ve been here several times and I’m dying to go back.  Anyway, after an hour and a half of driving along a beautiful coastline, be prepared to possibly dislocate your jaw.  One of the most beautiful sights you will ever witness is the small village of Vernazza coming into view, nestled in a tiny little bay.  Part of the famous Cinque Terra (a World Heritage site comprising of 5 coastal villages, Monterossa al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore), Vernazza was definitely the most breathtaking.  We stayed in Riomaggiore, a treat with hardly any tourists, ridiculously steep alleys and siesta time every day. 

Cinque Terra Cinque Terra

The villages are connected by a winding walking trail, clinging to the mountainside by its fingernails.  It is really high and at times incredibly steep, but well worth the hours spent on the trail.  Corniglia, one of the villages, has a ridiculously steep staircase with 382 steps, or 33 flights.  To get to the top, just picture the song “Eye of the Tiger” and get running.  It’s the only way, trust me.  The view from above is, naturally, astonishing, and it will be worth the pain.  Fill up on some well-deserved carbs by enjoying some fresh gnocchi with the famous pesto of the region.

Pisa, Italy

The next stop on our adventure is Pisa, another hour and a half’s drive.  I’m pretty sure you know why you have to go there...

I actually thought the building next to the Leaning Tower was more impressive, but that’s just my opinion.  The place was swarming with tourists doing the obligatory “holding up the tower” pictures and I got annoyed with everyone really quickly.  Pisa is only good for a stop over; I found it to be a bit dull and dreary, although it might have just been the weather!

Florence, Italy

If you drive another one and a half hours, you will reach Florence, birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.  

Florence Florence, Duomo

Florence is a large city and crammed with amazing things to see.  You simply have to go and see the massively impressive cathedral known as The Duomo.  The huge bronze doors of this building is already a masterpiece, as is the outside, carefully constructed out of coloured marble.  Another must see is the Ponte Vecchio, a famous bridge completely built up with medieval shops, perfumeries and jewellery shops, it seems untouched by the ages, in exactly the same state it was hundreds of years ago. 

Florence, Ponto Vecchio

You should also do a tour of the Uffizi where you can stare in amazement at Boticelli’s Venus.  Florence deserves a few days of your time, there is much to do and their gelato is the best I’ve ever had.

Venice, Italy

Another 3 hours drive and you will reach Venice!  It’s a good idea to have Venice as the drop off point for your rental car, since you can’t really drive around in a car.  Venice is stunning, decaying, with pastel colours dripping off the walls, into the thousands of canals.  It looked to me as if Venice was crying, mourning in a way.  There is a beautiful sadness to the sinking city and every single corner you turn, will surprise you with a brand new, breathtaking view.  I have run out of superlatives for this beautiful city.  St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace is a sight you will never forget. 

We stayed in an incredibly ornate hotel with a dining room next door, with breakfast delivered to our room every morning, excellent service!  One evening we got completely lost and found ourselves in the midst of some very dodgy looking alleys, only to stumble across the local hangouts! A whole square of alleys were crammed with partying Italians, looking at us for a fleeting second, before continuing with their fun times. Here is a great video I found to give you an idea of what to expect:

I also had a very odd experience on one of the other islands, Burano.  We were waiting for the ferry to come back our way, when we kind of fell into a tiny little Italian bar, the size of a large dining room table.  We ordered some beer and the old guys glared at us.  To break the ice, I bought some of my favourite cherry chocolates and much to my surprise the barman started opening them in front of me!  I was quite shocked, but didn’t want to offend him, so I waited to see what was going on.  Turns out, each choccie had a prize inside, so I ended up with a whole handful of my favourite chocolates!  The best part was when I apparently got a “special prize” and was awarded a massive box of chocolates!  We waved goodbye to everyone and it was smiles all around, no more glaring! 

Venice, St Mark's Venice, side canal

Bbe sure to visit Murano, home of the famous glass blowers.  It is easy to spend a small fortune here, so be careful (walk around the corner from the main street to get the best prices). You would do well to avoid the overpriced gondolas, the public transport (vaporetto) is excellent, cheap and you still get to see all the sights from a different angle. 

Once you have been exhausted by the beauty of Venice, you can either take on the 6 hours drive to Rome, or hop on a plane.  The drive is sure to be amazing and you will pass through some fascinating places, but if time is not on your side, air travel will be!  Just be sure that you get the airport closest to Venice and be very aware of the fact that the buses to the airport only leave a few times a day, not hourly, as you would expect.  The fact that we overlooked this cost us dearly since we then had to find a taxi to take us all the way to the airport in Treviso, ouch.

Venice and her islands

Rome, Italy

The best way to see a massive city such as Rome, is to make use of the fantastic “Hop on Hop off” buses (we have these in Cape Town too!).  You will be able to see the whole city and take as much time as you like whilst exploring. 

Vatican City, St Peter's Basilica

Our first stop was the very famous Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in the world.  We arrived at night and by the time we got there we basically had the fountain to ourselves.  I threw my coin over my left shoulder; this is supposed to ensure that you will return one day.  I really hope I do.  I also mailed a post card from Vatican City, this is practically compulsory when you visit!

Rome, Colusseum

The Colosseum is another absolute must see, as are the spectacular ruins alongside it since it provides an in depth look at the Roman way of life.  I really couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the scale of the Colosseum, to think it was completed in 80 AD and it was still standing, was truly impressive.  The most surprising thing was that it is smack bang in the middle of the city, surrounded by modern buildings and busy streets.  It looked oddly out of place, and very Roman.  There are many museums, art galleries, alleyways, restaurants and cafe’s to explore, you will need several days here and a good guide and map book, don’t miss the Spanish Steps or the Pantheon.  The nightlife in Rome is also particularly good; we partied until the early hours of the morning with the locals!

Rome's ruins

Naples, Italy

The next part of the journey will take you further down south, towards Naples, just over 2 hours.  Be prepared for huge traffic jams when you reach Naples, head directly towards your accommodation and park!  While you’re in Naples, you will be bombarded by colourful sights and sounds, ancient statues posing next to washing lines and beggars, contradictions around every corner.  There is an absolute plethora of shops selling miniatures of all kinds, shops selling antiques, Chinese rip off’s, anything you can imagine, all crammed into the Spanish Quarter and surrounding areas. 

Naples, alley Naples, Spanish Quarter

Naples is also the birth place of pizza and this is where I had the most divine pizza ever.  A particular pizzeria (Sorbillo, 100% Italian!) was recommended to me by the locals running the hostel that I stayed at, and wow, it was delicious!  I ate an entire large pizza on my own, accompanied by an equally large, ice cold beer, the real Italian way, with only one topping.  The pizza base, tomato and cheese did the hard work, requiring very little to compliment it, less is more.

The people of Italy have always surprised me with their friendliness and desire to bond.  I helped an old lady carry her grandchild down a very steep staircase, she was chatting away and didn’t even care that I didn’t understand her!

Amalfi Coast, Italy

It is a very short drive from Naples to Sorrento, about one hour.  From the invigorating chaos of Naples, you are now again approaching the coast with its beautiful little villages, hanging on to the cliffs.  Sorrento and its surrounding areas are very famous for its lemons and so, for making limoncello, a lemony aperitif which is sure to warm the cockles on a chilly night!  This is a lovely little town and is easily explored by foot.  You will notice that many of the buildings and bridges appear to grow out of the mountainside, quite a site! 

Sorrento's buildings Sorrento streets

One of the day trips you will have to do when you are here, is to visit Pompeii, or Herculaneum.  The imposing Vesuvius volcano dominates the Bay of Naples and can be seen from almost anywhere.  I decided to visit the smaller of the two doomed cities, Herculaneum.  There were hardly any tourists and it was quite a surreal feeling, wandering around the ruins all alone.  It is really incredible how much of the city stayed intact, even though nearly all the inhabitants perished. 

Herculaneum Herculaneum

I had my first “stop dead in your tracks” experience in Ravello, a town not too far away from Sorrento, about an hour’s drive.  You will wind your way past Positano and Amalfi, teetering along the edge of the mountains.  This area is particularly popular with honeymooners and celebs, due to the secluded beauty of the area.  There are many 5 star hotels and restaurants hidden away in the cliffs.  I adored Positano and Amalfi, but the true gem in the treasure chest was Ravello.

Amalfi beach View from Ravello

When you are here, you simply have to go for a walk in the gardens of Villa Cimbrone and head towards the “Terrace of the Infinite”.  One minute I was walking down a lovely green pathway, the next, I was faced with the most amazing sight I have ever seen.  Time stopped, I actually gasped out loud and it felt as if I was suspended in thin air, floating about the magnificent view of the endless ocean. 


After I recovered from the shock, I wondered aimlessly through the gardens, feeling as if I had stepped into a magical, green realm of silence.  Again I was pretty much alone, and it further magnified the intense emotions this place brings to you.

Capri, Italy

The final destination on our adventure is Capri, easily reached from Sorrento’s harbour by ferry.  One of the most famous sights on Capri is unarguably the Blue Grotto. 


The glassy blue water shimmering in the sun must look amazing.  I however decided to explore the island instead, having heard that the grotto is always overcrowded and you can barely see the water through all the little boats!  I joined a tour group and soon we were on our way to Anacapri, the highest point of the island.  We were transported to the top in little ski lifts which were only able to take one person at a time.  We soared high above the gardens and fruit trees of the locals, an ancient Roman ruin sprinkled here and there.  The view from up here is something else and you should take some time to walk around and explore.  

Chairlift to Anacapri

Back on solid ground, I decided to have a look around the alleyways on the island.  I stumbled across many homes with beautiful tiling and their own, private shrines.  It felt a bit as if I was intruding so I made my way to La Piazetta, described as the most fashionable square in the world.  I had a great time people watching, several celebrities own property on this desirable island and I tried to spot some.  No luck though, since I was much too preoccupied with the delicious pasta I was enjoying!

View from Capri Capri clocktower

Italy is spectacularly diverse.  There is still so much to see, such as Lake Como, Sienna, Verona and Bologna, I will have to go back one day!  A trip like this will change the way you see things, it is good to get some perspective and realise that it’s a big world out there and that, as human beings, we have to explore it, it’s in our DNA.

Flights to Italy

Genoa and Venice are both extremely popular destination and you will have no problem whatsoever to find a flight. You can also fly into Rome or Milan, both also very popular.

Genoa to Cape Town

Air FranceBritish AirwaysLufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Qatar

Genoa to Johannesburg

Air FranceBritish AirwaysLufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Qatar, Egyptair

Cape Town to Rome

EmiratesKLMBritish AirwaysLufthansa

Johannesburg to Rome

EmiratesKLMAir FranceLufthansa

Cape Town to Milan

EmiratesKLMBritish AirwaysLufthansa

Johannesburg to Milan

EmiratesKLMAir FranceBritish AirwaysLufthansa

Other resources

I found a good blog regarding all things Italian, from the variations in the language, to the weather.

If you are still not convinced that you simply have to visit Italy before you die, I'm sure this video will help...enjoy!


SAA flight specials

Some SAA specials on international flights.

Johannesburg to Accra

Johannesburg to Lusaka






Johannesburg to Lagos

Johannesburg to Dar Es Salaam






Johannesburg to Harare

Johannesburg to Kigali





Johannesburg to Kinshasa

Johannesburg to Sydney






Operated by Qantas



Book now at SAA or through the SAA Call Centre on 0861 606 606
Limited seats available. Only available on selected flights.
When booking through the Reservations Call Centre, quote booking code: ws03May12

Terms and conditions:

* Above fares are on a return basis, inclusive of all taxes and are subject to change due to currency fluctuations. Terms and conditions apply. South African Airways can at any time change/discontinue these special fares and conditions without prior notice.
Departures/Travel Restrictions to African destinations : Travel permitted until 31 July 2012. Sales period until 31 July 2012. Changes are permitted at any time at a charge of ZAR 400 per change subject to same seat availability. Cancellation: any time tickets are non-refundable.
Departures/Travel Restrictions to Sydney: Sales and Outbound Travel permitted until 13 June 2012. Changes are permitted at any time at a charge of ZAR 1500 per change subjectto same seat availability. Cancellation; before departure 50% cancellation fee. After departure non-refundable.


R1850 for 2 nights for 2 at Manor on the Bay in Gordons Bay (53% discount)

Those flying to London Heathrow, be aware that immigration staff at the airport plan on striking on Thursday, the 10th of May 2012 (over pensoins).

Qatar Airways begins scheduled flights to Erbil on the 23rd May, to Baghdad on the 7th June, to Kilimanjaro on the 25th July & to Mombasa on the 15th August. From the 3rd October, the airline resumes flights to Yangon.

I wonder why it is that so many governments waste money on unnecessary expenditure on the airline industry. Here's an article on how Swaziland's expensive new airport has failed to take off.

The Purple shall rule! "We flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town and chose Kulula because we'd heard of the humour (in Australia)
and true to form. that's exactly what we got. Delightful staff and an excellent flight. Thank you, Kulula, we hope to repeat the experience." Paddy

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