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The 1992 Summer Olympics revealed to the world what Europeans and seasoned travelers already knew – Barcelona is one of the world’s greatest treasures. Vibrant and earthy, commercial and cultural, this city of two million residents is the capital of Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia. Stroll along the wide, tree-lined promenades of Las Ramblas and marvel at the spires of Gaudi’s Basilica La Sagrada Familia. Or visit the former Olympic Ring on the hill of Montjuic – also home to world-class parks, fountains and museums. Barcelona, which nurtured such artistic giants as Picasso, Dali, Miro and Casals, is definitely a traveler’s paradise.
Toulon has been the great bastion of the French navy since 1494, when Charles VIII chose its superb harbor as the site for a naval shipyard. Today, Toulon is homeport for the French navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle.” The city is also the capital of the Var and provides an excellent gateway to the riches of Provence and the Cote d’Azur. To the north and west are medieval Provencal hilltop villages and superb vineyards. To the east lie the fabled coves and beaches of the Cote d’Azur, the setting for the legendary resort of St. Tropez. And everywhere there is the miraculous fusion of sky and sea that forms the essence of Southern France.
Toulon’s Upper Town bears more than a strong resemblance to Paris – in the 1840s, the prefect of the Var was that same Baron Haussmann who gave the City of Light its elegant boulevards and architecture. Haussmann first tried his hand at urban renewal here in Toulon
Genoa is the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria. Many regard Genoa as having the largest historic city center in Europe as a result of having been, for centuries, a powerful commercial center seaport and city-state. It was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and its maritime roots have fostered a dialect that has, absorbed elements of Neapolitan, Calabrese and Portuguese over the centuries.
Genoa’s harbor is a bustling swarm of activity, which makes it a great launching point for the sprawling metropolis of Milan.
Livorno is the gateway to glorious Tuscany. Visit Florence – the cradle of the Renaissance – home to the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Here the Medici fostered a city-state whose cultural legacy is as great as classical Athens. Giants like Dante, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Galileo infused the West with a new creative spirit. Then there is Pisa, Florence’s rival for political power. Pisa, a brash, commercial seafaring town rivaled the great maritime powers of Venice and Genoa. The city was a leader in art and architecture second only to Florence.
Kotor lies at the head of Boka Bay. Bordered by towering limestone cliffs, the winding bay is actually Southern Europe’s longest and most dramatic fjord. The port itself is a medieval gem: its narrow, asymmetrical streets are lined with ancient stone houses, old palaces, and churches dating from the 12th century. Kotor is also your gateway to the cultural and scenic wonders of Montenegro, from the old royal capital at Cetinje to the marshes and wildlife of Lake Skadar National Park.
Kotor is renowned for its nightlife: the streets of the old port are lined with pubs, taverns and cafés. The city is also host to a renowned summer carnival.
Kotor is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender.
The lush and verdant island of Corfu lies in the Ionian Sea, midway between Greece and Italy. The island has a long and colorful history. First colonized by the city-state of Corinth, Corfu has been ruled by the Romans, the Venetians, the French and the English. Corfu Town boasts fortresses bearing the insignia of the Venetian Republic, an esplanade lavishly planted by the French during the Napoleonic Wars, and an English cricket pitch. The island also offers some of the finest coastal scenery in the entire Mediterranean.
Messina has played a major role in European history since its founding as a Greek colony in the 8th century B.C. During the Roman Empire, the city was a major port and commercial center, during the Middle Ages, Messina was the major port of departure for Crusaders. History has also left its scars: a massive earthquake leveled much of the city in 1908 and the World War II campaign for Sicily devastated Messina. Yet Messina emerged from that devastation with some of its historic treasures intact, including the 12th-century Annunziata dei Catalani Church. Messina is also your gateway to the rugged beauty of southeast Sicily, from the seaside resort of Taormina to Mt. Etna.
Between the fall of Rome and the 1861 unification of Italy, the Arabs, the Normans, the Germans, the Spanish and the French ruled Sicily.
Italy’s third-largest city, Naples is a bustling metropolis famed for it stately buildings, crowded streets, pizza – and notoriously bad traffic. However, this beautiful city is rich in centuries-old culture and customs. Naples is also your gateway to the Isle of Capri, the fabled Amalfi Coast and the ruins of Pompeii, buried in ash by the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Naples boasts an ideal location, with both the ruins of Roman cities and the stunning Amalfi Coast in easy reach.
Your gateway to the Eternal City, Civitavecchia has served as Rome’s seaport since the 13th century. The port has a long and venerable history. The emperor Trajan built a pleasure villa near the modern city, while Bernini and Michelangelo designed the harbor fortifications.
Yet the Eternal City eternally beckons. The ancient capital of the Western World and the center of Christianity for nearly 2,000 years, Rome provides an inexhaustible feast. Visit the ruins of the Forum, view the splendors of the Sistine Chapel, or climb the Spanish Steps, once the heart of Rome’s Bohemian Quarter.
Rome has been a magnet luring the world’s greatest artists, architects, and philosophers since the days of the Caesars.
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