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The Po River flows across northern Italy, from the Cottian Alps to the Adriatic Sea near Venice. You can extend your Po River vacation with motorcoach touring and hotel stays in cities like Milan, Rome and Florence.

Cruises begin in Venice, the canal-laced city that’s also known as “La Serenissima.” Wander down the narrow streets and across bridges and squares, and past Venetian Gothic palaces that blend Moorish and Byzantine styles. St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs are featured on tours. Nearby Burano Island is famed for its lace-making industry and its brightly colored buildings.

The fishing village of Chioggia occupies a small isle at the southern end of the Venetian Lagoon. Sometimes called “Little Venice,” it has a few canals, colorful fishing boats and a bustling wholesale fish market. A broad avenue, Corso del Popolo, runs down the length of the island and hosts shops, restaurants and sidewalk cafes.

River cruise ships then travel west along the Po River. During a stop at Polesella, passengers can head to Bologna or Ferrara. Bologna is the culinary capital of northern Italy, where you can explore markets, food halls and specialty shops and maybe even join a cooking class. Ferrara was the seat of the House of Este dynasty from the 13th through the 16th centuries, and the imposing Castle Estense -- complete with moat, drawbridges and towers -- was a symbol of their power.

You can choose a Po River vacation that combines a sailing with land touring and hotel stays. In the fashion capital of Milan, check out the high-end retailers of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a 19th-century, glass-domed arcade that’s said to be the world’s first shopping mall. Guided tours also highlight Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” painted on a wall of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In Verona, the setting for the star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” photograph Juliet’s balcony at a house on Via Cappello.

Top attractions in Florence include Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia, the statue-filled Piazza della Signoria and the massive Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (or Il Duomo) that dominates the skyline. One of the most enduring symbols of Rome is its Colosseum, which was completed around A.D. 80 and could hold up to 73,000 spectators. Also take in the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the other marvelous sights of Vatican City, established as an independent papal state within Rome in 1929.