Discover the Croatia that empires have coveted for centuries.
Venice hardly needs any introduction, famed as it is throughout the world as a city of incomparable beauty. Venice is the heart and soul of romance. Cast your eye on the rounded domes of San Marco, take a deep breath at the Bridge of Sighs, gaze on the golden lions and the Renaissance glories of the Doge's Palace, listen for the ghosts of Verdi, Puccini and Caruso at La Fenice Opera House, gape at the classic Palladian proportions of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, glide in a gondola down the Grand Canal. And know that love is always in the air in Venice. For centuries,Venice stood at the crossroads of culture between the Byzantine and Roman worlds. The city the great traders and philosophers created is an extraordinary place, unique in all the world. Great works of art are housed here, in the Accademia with its Renaissance masters and the collection of Peggy Guggenheim in her canal-side palazzo. Follow where your feet take you, over romantic bridges, to shops selling precious glass, to small cafés for a cappuccino or Campari.
Built on mud banks, which extend into the tidal waters of the Adriatic, Venice was once a great maritime power ruled by its doges, and a place of plot, intrigue and decadence. A city of water and of light, with an atmosphere which is at once fascinating and disturbing, its fragile fabric of canals and palazzi, churches, alleyways and campi has somehow survived the threats of both flood and mass tourism, and remarkably little has changed throughout the centuries.
The public boats called vaporetti and motoscafi run almost constantly, and you'll seldom have to wait more than a few minutes for one to come along. The waterbus you'll use most often is the No. 1, the local that stops 13 times between the Piazzale Roma and the Piazza San Marco. The gondolas of Venice are beautiful but expensive. Gondoliers often demand more money for less time, so strike a deal in advance.
St Mark’s Square is really the heart of Venice, mostly because of its location on the banks of the Grand Canal, and because of the great number of beautiful, historical monuments located there. The piazza St. Marco is the only square that is called a Piazza, the others are simply called "campo".
Over the centuries, diseases have contributed mightily to great art and architecture. The church of Santa Maria della Salute is a case in point. In October of 1630, after nearly a third of Venice's 150,000 citizens had been killed by plague, the Venetian Senate made an offer to God: "Stop the plague, and we'll build a church to honor the Virgin Mary." Whatever the reason, the plague was stopped in its tracks. The Venetian authorities honored their promise by giving the Virgin a prime chunk of real estate near the tip of Dorsoduro, where the Grand Canal merged with St. Mark's Basin.
For a long time, it was said that the Bridge of Sighs was a place where lovers met. Actually, the bridge was intended to link two parallel passages: one for prisoners and one for magistrates. The Rialto Bridge is always full of pedestrians climbing up and down the stairways, and a wonderful place to watch and photograph the constant activity of boats on the Grand Canal. The single span balustrade bridge has two parallel rows of tightly packed shops, selling jewelry, leather, masks, silk and souvenirs.
Opatija lies at the center of the Dalmatian Riviera with the longest tradition of tourism in Croatia. The characteristics of the locale have all the traits of a gentle Mediterranean climate with a warm sea, lots of sun and lush vegetation, making Opatija a kind of green oasis. It’s attractive geographic position, warm seas, lush green scenery and a pleasant climate are responsible for the rapid development of its tourism at the end of the 19th century. Well-maintained public gardens, the illuminated seven mile-long coastal promenade (the Lungomare), well-kept beaches, and many fountains provide a stunning backdrop for the villas and hotels catering to guests. Juxtapositions of sea and mountains, green parks and blue ocean, old buildings and modern comforts, entertainment venues and quiet destinations all work to make Opatija a very attractive resort at any time of the year.
The harbor, to the north-east of the town, is safe and spacious. Zadar is the seat of a Catholic archbishop.
Main attractions include landmarks and churches, in addition to theaters and museums. In the second half of the 19th century, Zadar was a centre of the movement for the cultural and national revivals in Dalmatia.
The pretty city of Split has a rich history. Since ancient times it has, in various guises, served as the economic and administrative center of the beautiful Dalmatian coastal region, on the Adriatic Sea. The city is situated on a peninsula on the island of Ciovo, although it has in more recent times spread onto the mainland and encompasses the mouth of the Cetina River. From as early as the 5th century BC, Greek colonists settled the mainland and adjacent islands. Later, came the Romans, in particular Emperor Diocletian, who built a huge palace at Salona, in 303 AD. A town grew up around the palace, and by the Middle Ages, the city of Split began to develop. Diocletian's Palace still stands in the very heart of Old Split, which charms visitors with its cobbled streets. The greater Split area is characterized by lush vegetation and green areas, particularly Marjan Hill with its ancient indigenous forest. The city makes an ideal base from which to explore the islands along the Adriatic coast and historic villages in central Dalmatia.
Located at the far south of the Republic of Croatia, Dubrovnik has become a protected part of the world heritage as well as a renowned holiday destination. Heavily damaged during the 1991-92 shelling, Dubrovnik is now completely restored thanks to the dedication of its people and the Rebuild Dubrovnik Fund. With the support of people all over the world, Dubrovnik has been reclaimed, not just as a Croatian treasure but also officially recognized by the United Nations as a World Cultural Heritage site.
Crowned by the Minceta Tower, the 10th century city walls are the proud symbol of Dubrovnik's colorful history. Stroll up the Stradún to the elaborately colonnaded Rector's Palace, the seat of the republic of Ragusa, a powerful Renaissance-era city-state boasting a fleet of 500 ships!
The massive walls that surround and protect this Mediterranean jewel were built between the 11th and 16th century, and commemorate the struggles that the Croatian people have had to endure over the centuries. One of the greatest attractions is to walk on top of the walls, for a view of the city unlike no other.
There are a few interesting stores in the Old Town. Local hand-crafts such as embroidered lace and filigree jewelry are the most popular items to purchase. You may also find a nice selection of crystal and watercolor paintings from local artists.
The Sponza's Palace, built in the 16th century was once used as the city’s Custom's House, but today houses a collection of modern artwork. The Church of St. Blaise, built in the 18th century was dedicated to the town's Patron Saint and the Onofrio's Fountain, which stands in front of the Church, part of the old water supply system still in use today, dates back to the 15th century. The baroque Cathedral of “Mary’s Assumption” with its dominating blue/green dome is one of the most striking monuments in the city.
Framed by dense green forests of allepo pine and twisted cypress, the red tile roofs of Korcula make an inviting picture that makes you want to see more of this charming island town whose most famous native son was Marco Polo. The pale wheat colored stone Cathedral of St. Mark houses a treasure trove of Dalmatian and Italian art, including works by Tintoretto and Titian. Walk through the towering Land Gate for a great view of the town, try a traditional Korcula dish, spinning-wheel fettucini. And if you're lucky, you may witness Korcula's thrilling Moreska Sword Dance.
Piran resembles a large open-air museum, with medieval architecture and a rich cultural heritage. Narrow streets and compact houses give the town its special charm.
Venice, Italy (return)
Your ship returns to Venice, the Jewel of the Adriatic, where you will (reluctantly) disembark.