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.
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.
Cartagena is a Mediterranean port city and naval station in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. As far back as the sixteenth century it was one of the most important naval ports in Spain. It is a walled town and has a fine harbour defended by forts.
Cartagena has many archaeologic sites. Ruins identified as a temple to Melqart have been uncovered. Throughout the old centre you can find museums with remains of Roman buildings.
Located on the southeast coast of Spain in a beautiful bay, Almeria was once a thriving Moorish capital said to rival Granada in splendor. It has a 10th-century Moorish castle, the Alcazaba, which is the best remaining example of Moorish military building.
Other sights of interest include a fortified cathedral, built in the 1500´s when pirates terrorized this coast. Also of note is Almeria´s cave quarter, the Barrio de la Chanca.
The Almeria area has many beaches, castles, and quaint villages. For beach lovers, warm weather comes even earlier here than in the rest of mainland Spain, so Almeria should be considered for early or late season beach trips.
While in the Almeria province, also consider visiting the Tabernas Desert, which was used for a number of the ¨spaghetti western¨ movies as well as the film ¨Lawrence of Arabia.¨ Some of the old film sets still remain.
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.
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. It has an area of 2.6 sq miles and a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region. At its foot is the densely populated city area, home to almost 30,000 Gibraltarians and other nationalities.
Looming like some great ship off southern Spain, Gibraltar is a fascinating compound of curiosities. Despite bobbies on the beat, red post boxes and other reminders of 1960s England, Gibraltar is actually a cultural cocktail with Genoese, Spanish, North African and other elements which have made it fantastically prosperous. Naturally, the main sight is the awesome Rock; a vast limestone ridge that rises to 1,400 feet, with sheer cliffs on its northern and eastern sides. For the ancient Greeks and Romans the two great rocks marked the edge of the ancient world. Gibraltar’s location and highly defensible nature have attracted the covetous gaze of military strategists ever since.
Cadiz (for Seville), Spain
The capital of Portugal since its conquest from the Moors in 1147, Lisbon is a legendary city with over 20 centuries of history. Spreading out along the right bank of the Taugus, its downtown, the Baixa, is located in the 18th century area around Rossio. The Alfama, one of the oldest quarters in Lisbon, still retains much of its original layout since it largely survived the earthquake of 1755.