The glorious Roman civilization had its origins in small groups of farmers and shepherds who settled along the banks of the Tiber, on the Palatine hills and the surrounding areas.
The Roman republic was characterized by internal struggles that eventually led to the success of the plebeians (lower class Romans) and a new order of ruling class. The city expanded and gradually, the whole of Lazio, the Italic peninsula and the Mediterranean basin were conquered. For almost four centuries, Rome concentrated her energies on building a strong, solid empire. Mighty conquests came thick and fast: from Sannitic and Tarantine wars, to clashes with Carthage and Syracuse. Rome expanded over land and sea and managed to accomplish what no other civilization had managed i.e. the unification of the East and West.
In the first two centuries of the empire, Rome reached the height of her power, but the first signs of her downfall were already apparent towards the end of the second century.
The causes of Rome's decline are numerous: the empire was unable to control her many subjects, social and economic changes made for an unstable climate as did the forceful arrival of the Barbarians. Christianity also began to spread and emperors tried to unite the empire using religion. Emperors wanted to have their titles sanctified and became Holy Roman Emperors. Emperor Constantine sanctioned the freedom and tolerance of Christians in the empire in his edict of 313 but he unwisely decided to move the capital of the empire to Constantinople undermining the empire's power. The pontificate was re-established in Rome with Gregory XI in 1377. The power of the Popes increased, they were able to assign public offices, which led to clashes and schisms.
The centralizing of the papacy and the power absolute that the church had made a cultural impact. Rome became the centre of artistic life. The face of the city changed, as palaces, villas, piazzas and churches were built. New streets were created and the basilica of Saint Peter was restored. The sack of Rome occurred in 1527, and although the effects were disastrous (all the artists abandoned the city), the wounds were soon healed and a new spirit of rebirth and development enveloped the city. More new districts and streets were created and the population began to move back to the city.
In the 17th century, Rome also had a period of expansion and beautification, largely due to the work of two major artists, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini. Clashes continued between the nobility and the populace. Rome's fortune waxed and waned under Napoleonic rule: the church's estates were confiscated and divided amongst French officials and Italian laymen. The city was subject to French rule until the fall of Napoleon III and the annexation of Italy.
Rome became the capital of Italy in 1870 and the city received a huge influx of immigrants; this led to the rapid, and disordered creation of new dwellings. The situation did not become any better with the advent of fascism. During WWII, the city was bombarded heavily by America, causing major damage, particularly in the areas of Verano and Porta Maggiore. The city was attacked during the period of German occupation until the end of the war. From June 2, 1946 Italy chose to be a republic, ousting its monarchy and Rome was chosen as the capital.
Sailing into Portoferraio, you can see why Napoleon chose Elba for his exile; an island of pink granite, pine forests, and pristine beaches. The contrasts of the Elba countryside – from its typical fishing villages and high mountain passes to its stylish summer resorts on the coast – are enchanting. Elba’s restaurants feature excellent seafood, and small private vineyards produce local Moscato and Aleatico wines.
From his villa in Portoferraio, Napoleon, no longer Emperor of France, looked out over the waiting ships in the harbor and dreamed of returning to glory. Today you can enjoy a local vineyard tour, and near Portoferraio, discover the remains of an ancient Etruscan civilisation.
On the hills above, palatial villas in ice-cream colors look down on the tiny harbor and exclusive boutiques and harbor-side cafés. This is Portofino, a name that has come to symbolize the sophisticated, sybaritic lifestyle of the Italian Riviera.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Monaco is the fabled domain of princes and movie stars. The magnificent Palais du Prince (from which the Grimaldi dynasty has ruled since 1297), and the opulent casinos remind you of an elegant, pre-war era. With more wealth concentrated in one small area than almost any place on earth, this tiny principality retains its gilt edged allure.
The fairy-tale kingdom glitters with opulence and jet-set glamor, and the action centers around its famed casinos. Inside, under gilt-edged ceilings and ornate frescoes, fortunes are made, or lost. See the Cathedral where Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier, and the Rock of Monaco, where gardens cascade to the sea.
Cannes is the sister city to Beverly Hills and the chic epicenter of the French Riviera – a world of exclusive boutiques, palm-lined avenues, starlet-studded beaches, and elegant sidewalk cafes. While most famous for its Film Festival in May, at the colossal Palais des Festivals, when international celebrities gather to screen films and make deals, it glitters every month with swimming and sunning by day, and a club and casino scene by night. Cannes is the archetypal Mediterranean resort city, discovered by wealthy English nobles who came to the sunny south of France to escape their draughty old castles during the dreary British winters. Cannes' high-flying lifestyle has attracted notables and the notorious ever since.
Sanary Sur Mer, France
A pretty town along the Provencal coast, Sanary Sur Mer offers a charming seafront ambience, and interesting streets to wander. Stop off in a café and enjoy excellent rosé from the nearby region of Bandol. During the 1930’s, Sanary, on the Côte d’Azur, was a welcome refuge for German and English ex-patriot intellectuals. Sanary became the home of Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann, Bertold Brecht, and Wilhelm Herzog. D.H. Lawrence and Jean Cocteau were frequent visitors. All escaped before the German invasion.
Port Vendres, France
Situated only 11 miles from the Spanish frontier and the Costa Brava, Port Vendres is in the Roussilon, one of France’s most beautiful regions along the Mediterranean Coast. Port Vendres has long been a merchant port, and in ancient times, Roman ships were known to call here to shelter against bad weather.
Capital of proud Catalonia, Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city like no other. Old and new combine in Barcelona; narrow Gothic Quarter alleyways contrast with grand boulevards. Everywhere, the city celebrates the work of Gaudi, its surreal moderniste hometown architect. The city also boasts an incredible collection of Picasso’s work. Stroll down Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s wide tree-lined boulevard and enjoy the street carnival. Enjoy delectable tapas in the many restaurants and bars.