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.
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.
Mahon, Menorca, Balearic, Spain
You can see why Lord Nelson choose Mahon, Menorca as the base for the British Mediterranean fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. Imagine dozens of ships of the line, being fitted out for battle in this historic harbor. Reminders of those times can still be seen in the gracious Georgian buildings that climb the steep hills backing the Moll Ponent. Mahon's heritage also includes the invention of mayonnaise and the first distillation of gin from juniper berries.
Alghero is a charming old town, walled and fortified by the Catalans and the Spanish who occupied this corner of Sardinia for 400 years and left a strong impression, not only on the architecture but also the language, traces of which survive. The bastion walls that protected the town from attack by sea have been rebuilt and restored, and are supported by a handful of impressive defensive towers. Within the walls, narrow paved and cobbled streets lead beneath clothes lines and shuttered windows to attractive little squares that are filled with life in the mornings and early evenings. The harbor immediately outside the walls is busy with fishing and pleasure boats. The paved, landscaped esplanade and area along the Lido make for pleasant strolls.
What is it about the Amalfi Coast that inspires such rapture? From the time of the Romans, who had grand villas here, Amalfi has been a preferred destination for the wealthy and the artistic. During the Middle Ages, Amalfi was a powerful republic of 70,000 people, a bustling maritime state (the ship compass was invented here) rivaling nearby Ravello.
For a sense of Amalfi's medieval glory, wander through the grand Duomo, which contains the remains of St. Andrew. Or visit Ravello, where the annual music festival is held, or nearby Positano, said to be the most beautiful town in the Mediterranean. Today, it draws crowds and raves for the beauty of its setting, perched on a deep gorge, along the most romantic drive in all Italy; and Positano's Duomo, which mixes Moorish and early-Gothic influences.
One of the most serious eruptions of Mount Etna happened in 121 BC, when great part of Catania was overwhelmed by streams of lava, and the hot ashes fell in such quantities in the city itself, as to break in the roofs of the houses.
The port of Catania also, which was in great part filled up by the eruption of 1669 AD, appears to have been in ancient times much frequented, and was the chief place of export for the corn of the rich neighboring plains.
Catania was the birth-place of the philosopher and legislator Charondas; it was also the place of residence of the poet Stesichorus, who died there, and was buried in a magnificent sepulchre outside one of the gates, which derived from thence the name of Porta Stesichoreia.
The first introduction of dancing to accompany the flute, was also ascribed to Andron, a citizen of Catania; and the first sundial that was set up in the Roman forum was carried thither by Valerius Messala from Catania, 263 BC.
There are many classical sites to be visited, including the Greco-Roman Theater, the amphitheater, Roman aqueducts and ruins, and much more.
There are a plethera of churches, both modern and from Baroque time periods.
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.
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.
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.