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This renowned “City of Canals” was built on an archipelago of more than 100 islands formed by about 150 canals. Ancient cobblestone streets lined with tiny ceramic and glass workshops and tempting cafes wind their way between fabulous palazzos and vast town squares along the banks of the canals. For shoppers, the city offers colorful markets; for those interested in architecture, the original Baroque classics, Basilica San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace, and the Bridge of Sighs as viewed from a gondola or toured on foot, are breath-taking. And art lovers should make sure not to miss the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, home to Tintoretto’s finest works; or, for more modern tastes, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, showcasing masterpieces of 20th-century art currents and the avant-garde movements.
Split is the largest Croatian city on the Adriatic coast. Split achieved fame when the Roman emperor Diocletian, noted for his persecution of early Christians, had his retirement palace built here. The spectacular stone edifice and its grounds and cellars are a major highlight of any city tour. Other points of interest include the Cathedral of St. Duje, built on the remains of an ancient shrine purported to be the oldest in the world; and the Mestrovic Gallery, where the impressive works of Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic are available for viewing in this home and atelier.
Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro, located in a most secluded part of the Gulf of Kotor. The old port, surrounded by an impressive city wall built by the House of Nemanjicc, is very well preserved and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Numerous other attractions include the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon in the old town (built in 1166), and ancient walls which stretch directly above the city. Nightlife also attracts tourists to Kotor with pubs, taverns, cafes, and nightclubs.
Legendary Corfu is a lush and romantic island, written about by Homer in his famous Odyssey. The island’s history is full of battles, indicative of Corfu’s turbulent position that lasted until modern times with unification with modern Greece in 1864. Corfu offers a combination of cosmopolitan and time-honored Greece. As well as a flower-strewn countryside and Adriatic-style villages, Corfu has splendid coastal scenery and some excellent secluded beaches.
Once the seaport of Sparta, Gythion welcomes visitors with a beautiful coastline and white sand beaches. Near the entrance of the city is the Theatre, which still houses the ruins of the Temple of Athena and the Gates of Castorides. The Archaeological Museum of Gythion has a vast collection that includes finds from excavations of the many ancient sites throughout the city. Be sure to enjoy a delicious seafood lunch al fresco in a traditional ouzerie.
With dramatic views of classic whitewashed houses clinging perilously to the side of the caldera and stunning beaches of white and red sand or black pebbles, it’s no wonder this may be the most photographed scenery in the world. Visit Ancient Akrotiri, the archeological site of a town frozen in time by ash from an eruption 3,600 years ago. Also worth a day trip is the Volcano of Santorini Palea (old) Kameni and Nea (new) Kameni , two small islands of black lava positioned in the centre of the basin of Santorini.
Originally a minor port, Kusadasi now serves as the gateway to Ephesus, one of the ancient world’s largest and most important archaeological and religious sites. As you walk the white marbled pathway, note the grooves made by centuries of chariot wheels. Stand in awe before the great Library of Celsus, and sit for a moment as the past seems to come alive at the Great Amphitheater, carved from the side of a mountain. Sacred places nearby include the Basilica of St. John and the House of the Virgin Mary.
Piraeus is the gateway to the ancient city of Athens, known as the “Cradle of Western Civilization” because of its immense impact on cultural and political achievements throughout the world. Due mainly to tourism and the 2004 Olympics, Greece has redeveloped many sites in Athens. A historian’s delight, Athens is home to such magnificent wonders as: the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the atmospheric winding streets of the Plaka, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Temple of Athena Nike, and the Archaeological Museum with the world’s finest collection of ancient artifacts.
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