Crossing the Mediterranean with port visits in Malta, Sicily, Italy arriving in western Spain.
Valletta, Jean de la Valette, French Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, built the capital after the epic siege of 1565. It dominates, in one wide sweep, the Island's historic Grand Harbour - one of the finest natural ports in Europe. Within its limited boundaries, the city reflects some of Malta's rich heritage of archaeology, history, architecture, art and culture.
The more important collections covering Maltese archaeology are housed in the Auberge de Provence, Valletta, one of the Inns of the Knights of St John. Collections of prehistoric pottery, sculpture, statuettes, stone implements and personal ornaments recovered from the Maltese megalithic temples and other pre-historic sites are exhibited. Typical examples of tomb furniture of the Punic and Roman periods are also displayed. After two years of refurbishment, the Museum now boasts new
The National Museum of Fine Arts, located in an 18th century palace, houses paintings, sculptures, furniture and other exhibits connected with the Order of St John. Works by Domenico di Michelino, Carpaccio, Perugino, Tintoretto, Reni, Valentin, Mathias Stomer, Preti, Tiepolo, Favray and Vernet are permanently displayed.
St. John's Co-Cathedral and Museum, formerly the Conventual Church of the Order, is historically and artistically one of the most important monuments on the island. It was built between 1573 and 1577 to the design of Gerolamo Cassar (1520-1586), chief engineer of the Order. The "Beheading of St John", Caravaggio's masterpiece, hangs in the Oratory. The museum houses a unique collection of Flemish tapestries, silver objects and church vestments.
Malta has beaches for everyone, from windsurfers to sun loungers. Choose from golden sand, red sand, rocks, blue lagoons and even inland seas. There are family beaches, rocky inlets ideal for snorkellers, and beach sunsets for twilight swimmers. On larger beaches, you’ll find cafes, fruit stalls or snack bars open during the season. With Malta’s climate, beach life lasts well into October. Enjoy water sports and activities like windsurfing, jet and water skiing, and para-kiting. You can hire equipment from beach cafes or shops nearby.
The history of this 2,700 year old city in southern Italy is enough on its own to attract visitors. In ancient times, it was one of the top powers of the Mediterranean world. In modern times, it is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
The city was struck by two ruinous earthquakes in 1542 and 1693, and a plague in 1729. Points of interest include the arcitectural sites that still abound despite these earthquakes.
Lipari, Aeolian Islands, Italy
Italy's seven volcanic Aeolian Islands are obviously a place favored by the Gods. Just off the north coast of Sicily, they are a favorite destination for adventurers and visiting yachts, which anchor in the numerous little harbors indenting the coastline.
Around 580 B.C. Greek colonization began on the Aeolian Islands. Lipari was besieged, in vain, by the Athenians during their expedition to Sicily in 427 B.C., but in 304 B.C. it was plundered by Agatocle from Syracuse who pillaged the wealth of the temples. It was conquered by the Romans in 252 B.C. In the following centuries it fell into decline before flourishing once again under the Normans. In 1544 a tremendous tragedy befell the islands. Lipari was savagely plundered and destroyed by the Turkish fleet and the 9,000 inhabitants became slaves of the occupying force after 10 days of desperate resistance and before help could arrive. The town was repopulated as a result of the privileges and exemptions given to immigrants from Sicily and Southern Italy.
Lipari is a world lost in time where one has a close contact with nature, with its endless beaches, bays, grottoes and the incomparable richness of its seabed. Together with the natural beauty, it is possible to discover many geological and volcanic aspects of the seven thousand years of history when you visit the prehistoric villages and the archeological museum of Lipari, rated among the most important of Europe.
Palermo, Sicily, Italy
The capital of Sicily (Palermo), this splendid city echoes the grace and grandeur of another age with its remarkable Norman and baroque architecture. Monte Pellegrino has seen many visitors, from Phoenicians to Cathaginians to Saracens and Normans. Their architectural influences are everywhere. In the 12th century, this was the greatest city in Europe, although it never really felt like Europe - even today there's an eastern flavor to Palermo. From the Baroques Quattro Canti (Four Corners), wander in any direction and go back a century or a thousand years. And be sure to sample the sweet fruit shaped marzipans made by the nuns of Martorana.
Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
The old part of the city lies on top of a hill, with a wonderful view of the Gulf of Cagliari. Most of its city walls are intact, and feature the two 13th century white lime-stone towers, St. Pancras Tower and the Elephant Tower. The local white lime-stone was also used to build the walls of the city and many buildings.
Cagliari has one of the longest beaches in an Italian town. The Poetto beach stretches for 13 km and was famous for its white fine-grained sand.
Considerable other remains of the ancient city are still visible at Cagliari, the most striking of which are those of the Roman Amphitheater, carved into a block of rock (the typical lime-stone on which Cagliari is built), and of an aqueduct; the latter a most important acquisition to the city, where fresh water is scarce.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria was built by the Aragonese in 1324-1329 during the siege to the Castle in which the Pisan had taken shelter.
Palma de Majorca, Spain
Majorca is an island of emerald mountains, turquoise seas, lemon and orange orchards, olive groves, and cedar-studded hills. In Palma, the capital, you’ll find a dramatic seafront cathedral to explore and leafy promenades to stroll. Visit the Arab Baths for a glimpse of the town’s Moorish past. Or simply enjoy the sun, sand, and sea that have beguiled celebrities, jet setters, and royal families for years.
Towering over the harbor, Palma's enormous Gothic cathedral is a powerful symbol of the religious fervor which gripped all of Spain shortly after the defeat of the Moors. Built by Jaumé I, its vast open nave and soaring Gothic columns have been added to over the centuries. Behind the Cathedral, a maze of twisting streets leads to designer boutiques and open-air markets.
Malaga is the major coastal city of Andalucia and is a genuine and typical Andaluz city with a gritty individualism untouched by tourism and, to a large extent, the passage of time. The Moors occupied the city until the mid-15th century, after which it grew to become one of the foremost merchant centers in the entire Iberian Peninsula. This illustrious past has left its imprint on the historic center, particularly around La Alcazaba, a fortress which dates back to 1065 and is now a fascinating archaeological museum. Also worth a visit is the nearby castle which was rebuilt by the Moors and is today a traditional parador (state hotel) with superb panoramic views.
During the nineteenth century, Malaga was a popular winter resort for the wealthy famed for its elegance and sophistication. The impressive park on Calle Alameda dates back to this era and is recognized as being one of the most celebrated botanical collections in Europe. Pablo Picasso is the city’s famous son, and there are several galleries showing his work, including the 16th century Museum of Fine Arts, adjacent to the Cathedral. His birthplace in Plaza Merced is today an archive of his life and works and open to the public - free of charge. Málaga's main theater is the Theatro Cervantes, where Antonio Banderas still visits.
As well as being a cultural center, Malaga is also a great place to eat out. The Malagueños love their food and the bars and restaurants here are where the real social life takes place. The choice is unlimited and, on the whole, reasonable, with some bars offering a menu of the day with bread and wine for as little as 700 pesetas. Tapas, small portions of many different dishes is an Andalusian tradition and a wonderfully inexpensive way to try a variety of local food. The best known local fare in Malaga is pescaito frito, an assortment of fried fish, including small sardines and red mullet, best washed down with a glass of ice cold fino at one of the many old fashioned bodegas in town. But it is El Palo, to the east of the city which is a typical fisherman’s village and the place to go if you want that veritable ‘catch of the day’ freshness. Try a tapas and a glass of Malaga wine at Malaga's oldest tapas bar called 'Antigua Casa de la Guardia'. Keep to the north side of the Alameda and find no. 16. Malaga is always closed for the siesta period, so this is a perfect time for a long relaxing lunch.
These days, Malaga prides itself on being a modern city with the heart of commerce dominated by Calle Larios which is the local Bond Street equivalent. This is the recommended place to start exploring the city as it is surrounded by attractive small streets and plazas, as well as the magnificent Renaissance cathedral which offers daily guided tours. Garden lovers won't be disappointed in Malaga either. In the center of the city is the beautiful Alameda Gardens, and just outside on the way to Antequera one finds the extensive Jardines de la Concepcion. Málaga airport is one of the major airports in Spain due to the number of tourist arrivals on charter flights from Northern Europe using Malaga airport as a gateway to the Costa del Sol.