La Madalena is the largest town in the Madalena archipelago, just 2 kilometres from the northeastern shore of Sardinia and sitting in the Straits of Bonifacio, between it and Corsica.
The focal-point of pedestrian activity is found around Piazza Umberto I (formerly known as Piazza Rossa-the older generation of natives in town still commonly refer to the piazza by its original name). There is an adjacent via (Garibaldi) that connects the port (Banchina Commerciale I) facing the Island of Santo Stefano and Piazza Umberto I with city hall. Via Garibaldi is surrounded by commercial shops, restaurants, and bars. La Maddalena now derives much of its income from tourism. The only method of traveling to La Maddalena is by boat, with car ferries traveling from nearby Palau and from the Italian mainland.
The natives of La Maddalena speak a Sardo-Corsican dialect known as Maddalenino.
Monemvasia is located on a small peninsula off the east coast of the Peloponnese in the Greek prefecture of Laconia. The peninsula is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 650 feet in length. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau some 325 feet above sea level, up to 950 feet wide, the site of a powerful medieval fortress. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period.
The town's name derives from two Greek words, mone and emvasia, meaning "single entrance". Its Italian form, Malvasia, gave its name to Malmsey wine. Monemvasia's nickname is the Gibraltar of the East or The Rock.
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.
Messina, Sicily, Italy (optional tour Etna or Taormina)
This ancient city of cobblestone streets and friendly people is the gateway to the sunny island of Sicily, a mountainous and rugged place which remains in the shadow of its still-active volcano, Mt. Etna. In addition to its own enchanting landscape, Messina is the launching point for visits to the classical ruins at Taormina and the Church of the Black Madonna in Tindari.
Known to the ancient Greeks as Zankle (Sickle) for its beautiful curved harbor, Messina was inhabited by Greek colonies, Roman conquerors, Byzantine and Norman rulers. Since the 18th century, Messina has suffered from plague, cholera and earthquakes. The city had just been rebuilt when it was flattened by bombing raids during WWII. Fortunately, through all of this adversity, the city eventually grew into one of Sicily’s greatest seaside communities.
Mt Etna has had a long history of eruptions, the last being December 2015. They are quite spectacular despite the devastation caused.
Taormina is a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily and close to Mt. Etna. The town is known for an ancient Greco-Roman theater still used today.
Sorrento's city walls rise straight out of the sea, and they hold many charms within. Sorrento has been depicted described and immortalised in song by artists, poets and travellers from every period of history. Along the coast, rugged and inaccessible cliffs soar upwards between beautiful beaches, hidden caves, enchanting bays and sheltered coves. Whereas inland, the high plains, rolling hills and lofty mountains are seared by deep valleys to create a truly unique landscape in which man has also left a clear sign of his remarkable work: the more impervious areas have been modelled into the now-famous terraces, those huge steps descending into the sea on which man has planted vinyards and groves of orange, lemon and olive trees. There are the gardens of delight which excude an inebriating perfume of blossom in spring. The mild climate and predominantly fine weather year-round make the Sorrentine Peninsula an ideal destination in any season.
The first town on the peninsula is Vico Equense with its Giusso Castle on the coast and the austere Mont Faito (4,500 feet high). You can pass from the sea to the mountain in just a few minutes. Next we find Meta di Sorrento, a town hidden in a maze of alleyways whose small hamlets and sun-drenched beaches are a must for visitors. Piano di Sorrento is a bustling town which harmoniously blends its sea-faring vocation with its rural identity and its role as a major market center. The hill rising up behind the town is traversed by narrow roads flanked by high walls that enclose centuries-old orange and lemon groves. Optional excursions here might include a trip back in history in Pompeii, where the ashen remains of ancient Romans lie frozen in time.
Ponza, an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, trims the island’s eastern coast, a vista of sheer tuff cliffs bleached white by the sun and eroded by water and wind.
Indeed, the best vantage from which to appreciate Ponza is from the sea. During the high summer season — particularly on weekends, when Romans journey two hours to dine on fish and escape the oppressive heat of the capital — waterfront spots accessible by land attract crowds, with hardly an inch to lay your towel on the rocks. But by boat, the island’s charms come to life.
Vessels dock in Ponza’s sheltered port, the largest settlement on the island, which locals refer to simply as Porto. Its boxy houses form a pastel mosaic that traces the volcanic terrain over the area’s two peaks. Restaurants, cafes, bakeries, fishmongers and produce stalls surround the port, which is generally filled with boats. Porto retains the beauty of its origins as a simple fishing village — a destination popular with people from the mainland, but still unspoiled for visitors from afar.
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.
Bastia (Old Town), Corsica, France
Bastia is a community in the Haute-Corse area of France located in the northeast of the island of Corsica at the base of Cap Corse. It is also the second-largest city in Corsica after Ajaccio and the capital of the area.
The districts of Terra Vecchia and Terra Nova are intriguing. The long front of the old houses still have the impact of bullets of past wars.
Napoleon once said that he could recognize his native island blindfolded because of the wonderful perfume of the maquis. Approaching by sea, it is the first thing you experience about Corsica. The second is its wild and mountainous landscape. Nearby are secluded beaches and the eerie Grottes des Veaux Marins, offering fantastic diving opportunities.
Mahon, Menorca, Spain (overnight)
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.
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.
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.