Exploring an array of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy Croatia and Greece.
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.
Rovinj is one of the most developed seaside resorts in Croatia, offering a whole range of visitor opportunities in a picturesque ambience of the ancient town, surrounded by luxuriant pine forests (the cape of Zlatni Rt is designated as a park forest, while the coast and islands of Rovinj are set aside as a protected landscape). The beginning of tourism was marked by the introduction of a steamship line between Rovinj and Trieste (1845) and the construction of the railroad to Vienna (1876). In 1896 the town had a well-maintained public beach, Val di Lone. The year 1888 may be considered the official beginning of tourism in Rovinj, when the health resort Maria Theresia was opened in the town. This oldest institution of that kind on the Adriatic coast was established by the Viennese society for the establishment and development of maritime health resorts. The health resort was visited by children from the entire Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and other countries. The development of tourism was continued with the construction of Hotel Jadran (today Centar), which was built before the First World War by the Society for the Construction of the First Hotel in Rovinj, to meet the needs of an increasing number of tourists and eminent persons who spent their vacations in Rovinj. The Polish count Ignac-Karol Korwin Milewsky bought the island of Sveta Katarina in 1905, carried out its afforestation and built two castles. In 1890 Baron Georg von Hüterodt purchased the island of Sveti Andrija and turned its former monastery building into a hotel; the island thus became the favourite seaside resort of the Austro-Hungarian clientele.
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.
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.
Located along one of Montenegro's most beautiful bays is Kotor, a city of traders and famous sailors, with many stories to tell.
The Old City of Kotor is a well preserved city, typical of the Middle Ages, built between the 12th and 14th century. Medieval architecture and numerous monuments of cultural heritage have made Kotor a UNESCO listed “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site". Through the entire city the buildings are criss-crossed with narrow streets and squares. At one of them there is the Cathedral of Sveti Tripun , a monument of Roman culture and one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. The Church of Sveti Luka (13th century), Church Sveta Ana (12th century) Church Sveta Marija (13th century), Church Gospe od Zdravlja (15th century), the Prince’s Palace (17th century) and the Napoleon Theater (19th century) are all treasures that are part of the rich heritage of Kotor. Carnivals and fiestas are organized each year to give additional charm to this most beautiful city of the Montenegrin littoral.
The lushest (and some say the loveliest) of all the Greek Islands, Corfu lies just a stone's throw from the Albanian coast. And nowhere is the stunning natural beauty of Corfu more evident than in the small village of Paleocastritsa, where legend says Odysseus was washed ashore to be rescued by Nausicaa. Another sight not to be missed is the Achillion Palace built for the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and later owned by Kaiser Wilhelm I. The British made Corfu a major base during the Napoleonic wars and you can see the lovely 1824 villa, Mon Repos, where Prince Philip was born.
The exquisite island of ancient Pheakon, has 150 miles of coastline, picturesque promenades and a vivid night life. The lush green silhouette of Corfu (better known as Green Greece) rises from the Ionian sea, a fertile island dense with lemon and orange groves, fig trees, cypress, and three million olive trees. Two forts mark the graceful old town of Kerkira, along with a gorgeous Esplanade, where locals play cricket – one of the remaining British influences. In the Campiello area, a maze of shuttered Venetian-era alleyways leads to a Byzantine museum full of icons.
Katakolonis the current harbor of the regions capital city Pyrgos. With intense traditional color, it combines mountain and sea. You will have a lot of choices in order to fill your free time.
Undeniably, Katakolon is a place that one needs plenty of time in order to explore it’s beauty and to discover the magic of this place. Katakolon today is the second most busy cruise port of Greece ,after Piraeus port, according to recent statistics.
Truly one of the world’s original great urban centers, the port city of Gythion was founded by the ancient Phoenicians prior to 400 B.C. Gracing the isolated southern edge of the Peloponnese, the city has a rich political and cultural heritage which is still in evidence today. The castle of Mistras, with its elaborate Byzantine frescos, carved throne and majestic cathedrals will impress even the most seasoned traveler. Or visit the beautiful Caves of Diros, with their incredible underground lakes and fossils dating back 2 million years.
Gythion is a small coastal town on the Gulf of Laconia known as Cranae in antiquity, the port of Sparta. This was the first refuge of lovers Paris and Helen; they eloped here over the Taygetos Mountains from her home in Sparta and set off by ship to Troy. Gythion has been inhabited since early history, serving as a trading station to the Phoenicians. During the Peloponnesian War, it was a Spartan naval base, destroyed by Athenians in 455 BC. Later it was fortified becoming such a powerful port that when seized in 195 BC it possessed the entire necessary infrastructure for use as an important export harbor.
The modern town has an island touch with its neo classical buildings. To the north of its entrance lies the ancient city with ruins of its acropolis on an adjacent hill and the theatre of the Roman era. Today, people from all over the world come to enjoy Gythion's soft golden beaches and its laid back atmosphere.
Monemvasia is located on a small peninsula off the east coast of the Peloponnese in the Greek prefecture of Laconia. The peninsula is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 650 feet in length. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau some 325 feet above sea level, up to 950 feet wide, the site of a powerful medieval fortress. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period.
The town's name derives from two Greek words, mone and emvasia, meaning "single entrance". Its Italian form, Malvasia, gave its name to Malmsey wine. Monemvasia's nickname is the Gibraltar of the East or The Rock.
One of the most beautiful towns in the area of Argolis as well as the most romantic cities of Greece, Nafplion was the first capital of the newly born Greek state between 1823 and 1824.
The town's history traces back to the pre-historic era when soldiers from here participated in the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War. The town declined during Roman times and then flourished again during Byzantine times.
Ancient walls, medieval castles, monuments and statues, Ottoman fountains and neoclassical buildings remain somewhat intact today.
The Piraeus is the ancient port of Athens and still functions as the chief exit point from the city by sea for destinations amongst the Aegean Islands and elsewhere in the east Mediterranean. Domestic destinations include all of the Aegean islands except the Sporades and some smaller Cyclades and Dodecanese isles that require a connection. International destinations (apart from cruise ships) include Cyprus and the Middle East.