Sail the Tyrrhenian Sea, and along Italy's famed Amalfi Coast, through the Pontine Islands and on to Sicily.
Civitavecchia (Port of Rome), Italy
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…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!
Ponza, Pontine Islands, Italy
The pastel houses of Ponza Town rise in neat terraced rows from the busy harbour where sleekly groomed yachts and ramshackle fishing boats moor side by side. Happily, there are few tourists here, so it's a delight to wander through the unspoiled town. Then find yourself a private bit of beach, there are lots of them, and enjoy the feel of warm sand and cool clear water lapping your toes.
Palmarola (PM) - Pontine Islands
These two islands are quite beautiful in their rugged landscape. The architecture is interesting, tucked into the side of the hills. Very few "foreign" tourists come here. Restaurant food leave something to be desired. If you have time you can take a local, small boat excursion around the islands. Swimming is excellent but you will not find sandy beaches.
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.
What is it about the Amalfi Coast that inspires such rapture? From the time of the Romans, who had grand villas here, Amalfi has been a preferred destination for the wealthy and the artistic. During the Middle Ages, Amalfi was a powerful republic of 70,000 people, a bustling maritime state (the ship compass was invented here) rivaling nearby Ravello.
For a sense of Amalfi's medieval glory, wander through the grand Duomo, which contains the remains of St. Andrew. Or visit Ravello, where the annual music festival is held, or nearby Positano, said to be the most beautiful town in the Mediterranean. Today, it draws crowds and raves for the beauty of its setting, perched on a deep gorge, along the most romantic drive in all Italy; and Positano's Duomo, which mixes Moorish and early-Gothic influences.
Taormina, Sicily, Italy
On the shoulder of Mt. Etna overlooking the green Gulf of Catania, Taormina inspired Goethe to say that "It is the greatest work of art and nature". Shop along the steep, cobblestoned streets of Corso Umberto. Or listen to the ghosts of the ancients in the Greek Theater, where even a whisper can be heard.
Built in the 3rd century B.C., the city was later almost completely renovated by the Romans. Perched on a rocky terrace overlooking the sea, Taormina is a city full of medieval charm and character. Most impressive is the awe-inspiring view; on a clear day one can see the snowcapped peak of Mt. Etna and the jagged cliffs of the rocky coastline soaring high above the sea. Cobblestone streets leads to Palazzo Corvaia, a 15th-century building adorned with classic double windows. Nearby one can find designer boutiques and quaint artisan studios. Taormina also boasts an impressive Greek Theatre built in the 3rd century B.C. not to be missed. Renowned for its width, and for its unique acoustical qualities, it is still used for open-air concerts.
The fortress cathedral, which is what Taormina's main cathedral is considered, was built around the year 1400 on the ruins of a small medieval church. The cathedral has a Latin-cross plan with three aisles; there are six minor altars in the two side aisles. Six monolithic columns hold up the nave, three on each side, in pink Taormina marble and their capitals have a foil and fish-scale decoration. The ceiling of the nave has wooden beams supported by carved corbels reproducing Arabian scenes with a Gothic air.
The city gardens, named after the Duke of Cesarò, were donated by the Cacciola-Trevelyan family during the 1920's. Inside, there is thick vegetation and a typically Mediterranean array of hedges and flowerbeds with cobbled paths. An avenue lined with olive-trees in memory of the fallen during various wars runs among precious trees of various species, some of which are rare and extraordinarily beautiful. In the center and on the northeast end of the gardens, there are some characteristic pagoda-style towers with arabesque designs, made of bricks and edged with lavic pumice-stone. Florence Trevelyan, an English noblewoman, and keen ornithologist, had these towers built to study the birds. Relics from the two World Wars are on show in a few clearings and a war monument to the fallen can be seen near the natural "Teatro di Verzura" (Greenery Theatre).
Lipari, Italy (cruising around Stromboli)
Stromboli is a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. It is one of the seven Aeolian Islands, a volcanic arc north of Sicily. This name is a corruption of the Ancient Greek name Strongule which was given to it because of its round swelling form. The island's population is between 400 and 850. The volcano has erupted many times, and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island's nickname "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean". The last major eruption was on April 13, 2009. Stromboli stands 3,034 feet above sea level, but actually rises over 6,500 feet above the sea floor. There are three active craters at the peak. A significant geological feature of the volcano is the Sciara del Fuoco ("Stream of fire"), a big horseshoe-shaped depression generated in the last 13,000 years by several collapses on the northwestern side of the cone. Two kilometres to the northeast lies Strombolicchio, the volcanic plug remnant of the original volcano.
Visiting Gaeta is a great way to get a feel for the best of southern Italy - great food, friendly locals, tons of ambiance and a sense of history that ties everything together.
Gaeta is one of the most beautiful cities in the southern Italy Lazio region, not discovered by foreigners. It is a very popular summertime destination because of its seven fabulous beaches. Locals and Italians from all over Italy flock to these beaches to soak up the sun and watch surfing events.
You'll find plenty to do, from hiking Monte Orlando to see ancient ruins to wandering the old, narrow streets to shop and eat.