World famous composers, magnificent opera houses and sumptuous voices in Sicily and 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.
Valencia, Spain (overnight)
Valencia, Spain's third-largest city, is famous for its magnificent orange groves and the beauty of its long beaches, and paella (a rice dish with chicken or seafood). In Valencia's center you will find a medieval cathedral and its octagonal bell tower, El Miguelete, impressive city gates, and other architectural treasures. Museums here include the Museum of Fine Arts and the Valencia Institute of Modern Art.
The Mercat district took shape around the commercial life of the city's residents. Accordingly, its two most emblematic buildings are used for trading purposes. The Gothic building of La Lonja, declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, features a beautiful columned room where the old tables on which trading transactions were finalised are still in use today. Outside the destroyed wall grew the Valencia of the bourgeoisie, with its wide pavements, broad landscaped thoroughfares and countless instances of modernist architecture. On the other side of the Turia's old riverbed lie the nursery gardens, along with the Fine Arts Museum and the ultramodern part of the city which, on account of its size, serves as a nexus between the coastal townships and the old quarter. Life in the city spreads down to the seafront with the harbor and the beaches of Las Arenas and La Malvarrosa.