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Rome , Italy
Sprawled across seven legendary hills, romantic and beautiful Rome was one of the great centers of the ancient world. Although its beginning is shrouded in legend and its development is full of intrigue and struggle, Rome has always been and remains the “Eternal City.” Its greatest splendor was experienced during the 1st and 2nd centuries when art flourished, monumental works of architecture were erected, and the mighty Roman legions swept outward, conquering much of the known world.
Located roughly between Salerno and Sorrento, Amalfi was already an important maritime republic in the Middle Ages. In fact, the Amalfi tables represent the oldest maritime code in the world, and were observed throughout the Mediterranean until the late 18th century.
Today, Amalfi is one of the most popular resorts and stopovers along the famed Amalfi Drive, Italy's celebrated corniche that hugs the mountainous coast and carves its way through sheer rock. Opulent villas, cloaked in brilliantly colored bougainvillea, hid behind high walls and wrough-iron gates. Waves pound against the steep shorline and tortuous bends challenge a steady stream of tourist vehicles. Around every hairpin turn spectacular scenery awaits.
Cagliari (Sardinia), Italy
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. Sardinia’s history is one of invasion. Greeks, Phoenicians, Byzantines, Romans, Genoese and Spanish have all tried to lay claim to the island. The invaders left a legacy, and their influence can be seen everywhere in Sardinian architecture, culture and even the food. Cagliari is the capital and is the islands largest community. The city is divided into a modern half and a medieval district. The old city has impressive fortifications including the Bastion San Remy, the oldest church on the island, and a beautiful harbor area.
Pastas are the staple on the island. Culigiones, large cheese and egg ravioli, are a favorite among locals. Sardinians are also partial to seafood, including lobster and fish stews and have their own form of caviar made from mullet eggs called Bottarga. The best known Sardinian grapes are: Vermentino, Nuragus, Carignano, Monica, Cannonau, Bovale, and Nasco and from these some of best wines on the islands are made.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Palma de Mallorca, a major port city on the island of Mallorca and the capital of Spain's Balearic Islands, is a delightful cross between the Arabian Nights and the Renaissance, reflecting its checkered past of African and European control. It is the largest city on Mallorca, home to about 300,000 people -- a big, bustling place, with most of the tourist action in the old part of town around the Cathedral. The architecture of this ancient Mediterranean port blends Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance styles. Palma's winding streets make way to grand churches, yacht harbors, beaches, fountains and old castles. Because there is so much history, so close together, it's a perfect port to explore on foot. The snaky, narrow streets hold many surprises -- including the occasional dead end (beware of the passages around the Cathedral … you truly cannot get from here to there!).
This sun-kissed port is also an outdoors city in-season, with much pedestrian traffic and the opportunity to eat or relax outside in a myriad of settings -- some free (parks and boulevards), and some in conjunction with visits to museums and historical sites (always look for interior courtyards, extra features of older buildings). For sun worshippers, the beaches are close by and the water is wonderfully clear.
Marseille is a vibrant, cosmopolitan port and the most populated city in the country after Paris. The craggy, mountainous interland of the Provence provides Marseille with a spectacular backdrop. It is the country's most important seaport and the largest one in the Mediterranean. The city is divided into 16 arrondissements fanning out from the Old Port. The large industrial port area virtually rubs shoulders with the intimate, picturesque old harbor, the Vieux Port. Packed with fishing boats and pleasure crafts, this is the heart of Marseille. Two fortresses guard the entrance to the harbor.
Several vantage points offer spectacular views, including the striking Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde. This prominent landmark, overlooking the city, is crowned by a monumental gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. Marseille boasts numerous fine museums that are well worth a visit. Relaxing at one of the many outside cafés or strolling through the Old Port area allows you to enjoy the unpretentious charm of this city.
Today it’s famous as one of the Mediterranean’s premier luxury harbors, where sleek white, multi-million dollar mega yachts bob at anchor in the sheltered harbor. Foodies love Antibes for its Michelin star restaurants, remarkable fresh seafood and traditional fish specialities, and a variety of cuisines from innovative and traditional to fusion.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
The independent principality of Monaco is famous as the playground of the Côte d’Azur. With nice beaches, elegant hotels and a vibrant nightlife, this tiny domain is a favorite haunt of the jet set. In the possession of the Grimaldi family for more than 700 years, a treaty with France guarantees Monaco’s independence as long as the principality is governed by the Grimaldis.
The fashionable enclave numbers only about 32,000 inhabitants and is smaller than New York’s Central Park, but it boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world. In addition to its luxury hotels and beautiful beaches, Monaco is noted for its mild climate and magnificent scenery. Once an exclusive wintering stop for Europe’s aristocracy, today there are more than five million visitors annually. Of the principality’s four sections - La Condamine, Fontvieille, Monaco-Ville and Monte Carlo, the latter two rank highest on every visitor’s must-see list.