Golden Mediterranean Isles
Day 1 - Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy Originally built by Emperor Trajan who had a villa here, Civitavecchia has flourished as a major port for Rome since the 13th century. Today it is an important ferry terminal and for many travelers the gateway to the Eternal City, Rome. The Renaissance fortifications that surround the harbor area were begun by Bramante and completed by Michelangelo in 1535.
Day 2 - Olbia, Sardinia, Italy The rugged Italian island of Sardinia is blessed with a rocky coastline interrupted by soft sand beaches and washed by limpid seas. Olbia is a very ancient town. It was founded by Phoenicians, and later occupied by Greeks and Romans in their turns. The church of San Simplicio dates from the 11th or 12th century, and that dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle is medieval. The town’s Museum of Archaeology can help you visualize the timeline. Everything changed dramatically in the 1960s, when the Prince Karim Aga Khan selected a 20-kilometer stretch of the nearby coastline to develop an exclusive resort complex he called the Costa Smeralda. Today this enchanting shoreline is encrusted with jewel-like resorts and hotels, private villas and beach facilities, yacht marinas and heliports. It is reputedly the most expensive real estate per square meter in Europe. Without doubt it is beautiful, and it is not necessarily that expensive to just look.
Day 3 - Propriano, France Like a sweet fruit protected by a prickly peel, the mountainous southern side of Corsica offers many attractions hidden among its rugged slopes. None is more attractive than Bonifacio, a gem of a citadel-town perched precariously atop towering limestone cliffs above the strait that bears its name. The way there is a mildly hair-raising mountain road and a ride on a mini-train with breathtaking views of the strait and neighboring Sardinia. From the top, a strenuous stairway of 187 steps leads down to the harborside marina town. The mini-train offers a less taxing option. The seaside village of Campomoro also has a cliff, with a lovely swimming beach at the bottom.
Day 4 - Toulon, France One of the Mediterranean’s best ports and largest harbors welcomes you to the home of the French Mediterranean Fleet. Located in the Var prefecture of the Provence, Toulon has a long history that is revealed in various districts of the city. The Old Town is along the harbor, with narrow streets and small squares, most boasting a nicely decorated fountain. The Upper Town is mostly 19th century grandeur. You can take a cable car to Mont Faron, bypassing the road that is a notorious stretch for bicycle racers. The waterfront neighborhood of Le Mourillon is a family-friendly beach area for Toulonais. There are wonderful museums of history, art from various periods and naval history to explore as well.
Day 5 - Mahon, Spain Mahon is the capital of Menorca, second largest of the Balearic Islands. It stands out from the others because of the abundance of prehistoric structures, and because its culture was influenced by British occupation in the 18th century. The people who built the prehistoric constructions are believed to have been responsible for similar works in Sardinia, and for Stonehenge in England. Believed to have been founded by the Carthaginian General Mago, Mahon was held by the Moors from the 8th to the 13th century and in turn occupied by the English, the French and the Spanish. Mahon was finally ceded to Spain by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802.
Day 6 - Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain Ibiza, the third largest of the Balearics, began to grow from a quiet, little-known island into a playground for the rich and an enclave for artists in the 1950s and 1960s. The island's brilliant, whitewashed houses reflect not only the summer sun, but 300 years of Moorish rule, earning it the nickname of 'Isla Blanca' or White Island. The town of Ibiza, also known as Eivissa, is a delightful combination of Medieval and 19th-century architecture. Visit the picturesque upper town (Dalt Vila), far removed from the sometimes hectic pace of the rest of the island. The ancient cathedral, enclosed by 16th-century walls which are a national monument in their own right, provides a stunning view of the Mediterranean below.
Day 7 - Valencia, Spain Valencia is located in the middle of Europe's most densely developed agricultural region. Originally a Greek settlement, the town was taken over by Romans in 138 BC and turned into a retirement town for old soldiers. The Moors controlled the land for 500 years, and this fertile plain, which today yields three to four crops, was considered to be heaven on earth. El Cid conquered Valencia for Spain in 1094, but it fell back into Moorish hands after his death. Incorporated into Spain in the 15th century, Valencia remains the nation's breadbasket.
Day 8 - Barcelona, Spain Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is said to have been founded by the Phoenicians, and was once the rival of the powerful states of Venice and Genoa for control of the Mediterranean trade. Today, it is Spain's second largest city and has long rivaled, even surpassed Madrid in industry and commerce. The medieval atmosphere of the Gothic Quarter and the elegant boulevards combine to make the city one of Europe's most beautiful. Barcelona's active cultural life and heritage brought forth such greats as the architect Antonio Gaudi, the painter Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso, who spent his formative years here. Other famous native Catalan artists include cellist Pau Casals, surrealist Salvador Dali, and opera singers Montserrat Caballe and Josep Carreras. Barcelona accomplished a long-cherished goal with the opportunity to host the Olympics in 1992. This big event prompted a massive building program and created a focal point of the world's attention.
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