Sail for 11 Nights from Venice, down the Adriatic and around the boot of Italy. Then on through the strait of Messina, and a port stop in Palermo, before ending your voyage in Cagliari, Sardinia.
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.
Strait of Messina, just sailing
Mediterranean sailing at its best, with dazzling blue waters and smoldering Mt. Etna in the distance.
Palermo, Sicily, Italy
The capital of Sicily (Palermo), this splendid city echoes the grace and grandeur of another age with its remarkable Norman and baroque architecture. Monte Pellegrino has seen many visitors, from Phoenicians to Cathaginians to Saracens and Normans. Their architectural influences are everywhere. In the 12th century, this was the greatest city in Europe, although it never really felt like Europe - even today there's an eastern flavor to Palermo. From the Baroques Quattro Canti (Four Corners), wander in any direction and go back a century or a thousand years. And be sure to sample the sweet fruit shaped marzipans made by the nuns of Martorana.
Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
The old part of the city lies on top of a hill, with a wonderful view of the Gulf of Cagliari. Most of its city walls are intact, and feature the two 13th century white lime-stone towers, St. Pancras Tower and the Elephant Tower. The local white lime-stone was also used to build the walls of the city and many buildings.
Cagliari has one of the longest beaches in an Italian town. The Poetto beach stretches for 13 km and was famous for its white fine-grained sand.
Considerable other remains of the ancient city are still visible at Cagliari, the most striking of which are those of the Roman Amphitheater, carved into a block of rock (the typical lime-stone on which Cagliari is built), and of an aqueduct; the latter a most important acquisition to the city, where fresh water is scarce.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria was built by the Aragonese in 1324-1329 during the siege to the Castle in which the Pisan had taken shelter.