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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.
Livorno is the gateway to the region of Tuscany, which as Goethe once observed, looks like Italy should. Fortunately for today’s visitor not much has changed in the two centuries since the German poet was himself a tourist in Toscana. The remarkable wealth of beauty here mellowed to a golden patina by history and tempered by the hand of man, awaits. Everywhere there is history, from the Etruscan stronghold of Fiesole, to the Roman colony of Volterra to the Renaissance splendor of Florence, Pisa, Sienna and San Gimignano. If the landscape evokes a sense of the familiar it is because the great masters have used it as a backdrop for their great works. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were archtypal Tuscans and Renaissance men who headed an extensive list of geniuses who lived, worked and created within a single period of time.
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.
Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris. It is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Mediterranean. Cave paintings in the nearby Calanques are estimated to be 30,000 years old, and remains of brick habitations date from 6,000 BCE. The more recent history begins with a Hellenic port in about 600 BCE, some remains of which are on view at the city’s History Museum. It has been one of the world’s major seaports almost from its founding, and served as the main European terminus of the French colonial empire in Africa and the Far East. It is located in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region and is the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhone department. On an island in the expansive bay of Marseille stands the prison of Chateau d’If made famous by the Alexandre Dumas novel “The Count of Monte Cristo.” The Vieux-Port with its atmospheric buildings and wharves is the area where visitors can search for the perfect example of the local specialty bouillabaisse, a rich fish stew containing at least three, and often more varieties of local fishes. Marseille’s newly renovated port at the venerable Joliette Docks is situated very close to the striking Cathédrale de la Major and the fascinating collections at the Museum of African, Oceanic and American Indian Arts.
The port town of Sete hugs the tiny Mont St. Clair, and is caught between the Mediterranean and the Bassin de Thau, a salt lake directly behind it. It is crisscrossed by numerous canals which link the lake to the sea, and connected by 12 bridges. Along the quay, renovated buildings provide a multitude of architectural details from the 18th and 19th centuries. The life of the town is found in its squares: Place Leon Blum, with its fountain and Wednesday morning flower market; Place Aristide, with its old fashioned bandstand; and Place de la Republique, with its huge retaining walls and vaulted loggias. Sete retains its historic purpose as a fishing boat haven for North African trade; the old harbor dates from the time of Louis XIV.
Located at the foot of the mountains on Spain’s rugged Costa Brava, Palamos boasts seven superb beaches, Iberian archeological remains from the year 6 BC, and the Church of Sant Esteve on the beach. Highlighting the town center is its 16th-century cathedral.
Spain’s Balearic Islands are among Europe’s most popular resort destinations. Mallorca is the largest and most developed of these islands. Rome and Carthage battled over this territory and portions of ancient Roman constructions still remain. Founded almost 2,100 years ago, the city of Palma de Mallorca, the island’s busy capital city boasts a considerable store of history. Mallorca welcomes its visitors to an island, which can be both exciting and tranquil. The abundant sightseeing and sunshine are yours to enjoy.
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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