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.
Mali Losinj, Croatia
The island of Losinj, Croatia, is famous for its lush green vegetation. This island was under Venetian rule until 1797. It rose to more prominence under Austro-Hungarian rule when it became important for shipbuilding and tourism.
The major resort is the town of Mali Losinj, whose harbor is said to be the most beautiful in all the Adriatic. The tourist area surrounds Cikat bay, well known for its beach and good windsurfing.
Blessed with an abundance of vineyards and perfumed lavender fields, Hvar is an island that also echoes its rich Venetian past. Amongst the striking architecture dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, you'll find one of the oldest theaters in Europe. And the views of the neighboring islands from the fortress are truly unforgettable.
Idyllically located just off the Dalmatian coast, the island and the little port named after it have been a favorite getaway ever since the time of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Venetians and even Austro-Hungarian royalty. See the perfectly preserved Cathedral of St. Stephen, the serene cloistered Franciscan monastery and the Venetian Arsenal, where one of Europe's first public theaters was established in 1612.
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.
Katakolon, Greece (Optional tour Olympia)
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.
The island of Santorini is perhaps the most breathtaking of all the Greek Islands. Around 1500 BC, a volcanic eruption destroyed the center of the island, leaving a crescent shaped rim of cliffs around a harbor formed in the volcano's caldera. Santorini is a spectacular sight, especially when approached by sea. Steep cliffs rise dramatically from deep azure waters. The capital of Fira is located 1,000 feet above our anchorage, accessible by donkey, cable car, or foot. The views from on top are unforgettable: stark white-washed buildings are scattered along the clifftop village; the sea stretches outward from black volcanic sands. Santorini has an explosive history of volcanic activity, and some say that here in the ruins at Akrotiri lie the remnants of the lost civilization of Atlantis.
One of the most cosmopolitan of all the Greek Islands and quite justifiably attracting visitors from all over the world, Mykonos is a contrast of rocky hills and beautiful beaches. Hora, the capital, spreads around a colorful harbor in which fishing boats nestle side by side with luxury yachts. The brilliant white cubic houses with white-washed balconies built close together with little shops and tiny churches, make up the backstreets of the town. The harbor is overlooked by a variety of tavernas, and is a popular meeting place as the sun goes down, turning the brilliant whites to beautiful shades of pinks and reds.
Piraeus, Greece (return)
Piraeus is Greece's third largest city in population and its biggest port, serving the city of Athens. First settled in the time of Themistocles, when the Long Walls were built (478 BC), the city was laid out to the plans of the architect Hippodamus. When Athens became a naval power, Piraeus gained considerably in importance. The ancient harbors of Piraeus were Zea and Munichia.
Zea, now Pasalimani, is one of the largest yacht marinas in the Mediterranean. Munichia is now a pretty harbor filled with yachts and fishing-boats and rung about with tavernas.
The commercial harbor of Piraeus is one of the most important in the Mediterranean. The city is in an industrial zone of particular importance for the Greek economy, but nevertheless its center has broad streets, spacious squares, tree-lined avenues, and parks.