Malaga is the major coastal city of Andalucia and is a genuine and typical Andaluz city with a gritty individualism untouched by tourism and, to a large extent, the passage of time. The Moors occupied the city until the mid-15th century, after which it grew to become one of the foremost merchant centers in the entire Iberian Peninsula. This illustrious past has left its imprint on the historic center, particularly around La Alcazaba, a fortress which dates back to 1065 and is now a fascinating archaeological museum. Also worth a visit is the nearby castle which was rebuilt by the Moors and is today a traditional parador (state hotel) with superb panoramic views.
During the nineteenth century, Malaga was a popular winter resort for the wealthy famed for its elegance and sophistication. The impressive park on Calle Alameda dates back to this era and is recognized as being one of the most celebrated botanical collections in Europe. Pablo Picasso is the city’s famous son, and there are several galleries showing his work, including the 16th century Museum of Fine Arts, adjacent to the Cathedral. His birthplace in Plaza Merced is today an archive of his life and works and open to the public - free of charge. Málaga's main theater is the Theatro Cervantes, where Antonio Banderas still visits.
As well as being a cultural center, Malaga is also a great place to eat out. The Malagueños love their food and the bars and restaurants here are where the real social life takes place. The choice is unlimited and, on the whole, reasonable, with some bars offering a menu of the day with bread and wine for as little as 700 pesetas. Tapas, small portions of many different dishes is an Andalusian tradition and a wonderfully inexpensive way to try a variety of local food. The best known local fare in Malaga is pescaito frito, an assortment of fried fish, including small sardines and red mullet, best washed down with a glass of ice cold fino at one of the many old fashioned bodegas in town. But it is El Palo, to the east of the city which is a typical fisherman’s village and the place to go if you want that veritable ‘catch of the day’ freshness. Try a tapas and a glass of Malaga wine at Malaga's oldest tapas bar called 'Antigua Casa de la Guardia'. Keep to the north side of the Alameda and find no. 16. Malaga is always closed for the siesta period, so this is a perfect time for a long relaxing lunch.
These days, Malaga prides itself on being a modern city with the heart of commerce dominated by Calle Larios which is the local Bond Street equivalent. This is the recommended place to start exploring the city as it is surrounded by attractive small streets and plazas, as well as the magnificent Renaissance cathedral which offers daily guided tours. Garden lovers won't be disappointed in Malaga either. In the center of the city is the beautiful Alameda Gardens, and just outside on the way to Antequera one finds the extensive Jardines de la Concepcion. Málaga airport is one of the major airports in Spain due to the number of tourist arrivals on charter flights from Northern Europe using Malaga airport as a gateway to the Costa del Sol.
Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain
Ibiza is a party town and rocks to a late-night dance beat, but when the sun rises, it draws sleepy sun-worshippers out to the island’s beach scene. No matter what your age, nationality, interest or gender, the fairytale architecture of D'Alt Vila (or High Town), Europe's most ancient fortress city, perched high on the summit, will captivate you. The spellbinding history and romance of D'Alt Vila are evident in its twisty, narrow streets, whose very cobblestones have been polished smooth by the feet of centuries. These streets lead up to the 14th-century cathedral for views of the city and the blue Mediterranean beyond.
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.
Bonifacio's almost land-locked harbor is one of the most dramatic totally protected harbors, a bustling port with excellent seafood restaurants, and a modern marina. The ancient citadel town is perched high atop a seemingly impenetrable granite cliff.
Civitavecchia (Rome Return)
2,500 years of history are woven into the fabric of modern Rome. You can feel it in the remarkable Pantheon, considered to be the most perfect architectural statement of the ages. Or as you wander side streets that open onto piazzas, fountains, Bernini sculpture, and elegant courtyards. Famous treasures are legion in Rome: the Colosseum, where gladiators fought to the death, the ancient Forum, St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican, with its breathtaking Sistine Chapel, newly restored to its former glory, the Trevi Fountain (don't forget to throw a coin for luck), the Spanish Steps, where all Rome passes by.
Take time out between sights to do as the Romans do: enjoy a three-hour lunch, shop, people-watch, or savor the best gelati in the world. Life is not lived if you haven't been to Rome!