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All roads lead to Rome, and with good reason – this city is one of the world’s most thrilling, offering unmatched history along every street. An evocative, inspiring and utterly artistic capital of unrivalled cultural impact, Rome is a city of back-to-back landmarks, which will take you on an exhilarating journey through the ages. This may be one of the world’s oldest cities, but it’s well and truly lived in. The ruins are punctuated with murmuring cafes, and the outdoor seating of restaurants sprawls out across piazzas, enticing you to sample tangles of creamy pasta and crispy pizzas. Rome’s incredible Roman Forum is littered with the ruins of its ancient administrations, which have stood firm for 2,000 years, since the times when the area was the centre of the Western world. Few sites are more simultaneously beautiful and haunting than that of the storied Colosseum, which looms deep into Rome’s rich blue sky. Take a tour to learn details of the grisly goings-on within. The best way to experience Rome is to wander its streets, gelato in hand. There is a lot to see here – whether it’s the domed spectacle of the Pantheon, or the elaborate flowing waters and artistry of the Trevi Fountain. Vatican City is an astonishing, colossal display of Catholic grandeur, while the Spanish Steps – crowned by the Trinità dei Monti church – offer a beautiful spot to gather and soak up the lively atmosphere of this humming city. With so much on the to-do list, you’ll relish the breaks you take, enjoying simple pleasures like a strong espresso, or fresh pasta with tomato sauce and ripped basil.
Livorno is a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital … to add the four moors to the pedestal; the first two statues were fused in Florence in 1622 and carried on the barges along the Arno to Livorno
Genoa’s location is wedged between a mountain ridge and the seashore like an amphitheater. Medieval churches, 16th-century palaces, modern commercial streets and an enormous port justify the city’s nickname of La Superba (The Proud). Famous Genovese include Christopher Columbus, the navy admiral Andrea Doria and Nicolo Paganini, composer and violin virtuoso. The old port area has recently been renovated and features now Italy’s largest aquarium, the luxury hotel Jolly Marina and a variety of shops.
The independent principality of Monaco is famous as the playground of the Côte d’Azur. With sandy beaches, elegant hotels and a vibrant nightlife, this tiny domain is a favourite haunt of the jet set. In the possession of the Grimaldi family for more then 700 years, treaties with France guarantee Monaco’s independence.
The population of the fashionable enclave is 32,000 citizens, for an area 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 and royalty, today there are more than 5 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.
In Monte Carlo, the Grand Casino and Opera is perhaps Monaco’s most outstanding attraction. For more than a century, the principality’s livelihood was centred beneath the copper roof of this splendid establishment. The resemblance to the Paris Opera House is less than accidental since they share the same architect, Charles Garnier. Also facing the square are the famed Hotel de Paris and the more modest Café de Paris. Monte Carlo spells sophistication; it is the epitome of elegance and glamour. Year after year, the rich and famous of business and entertainment gather here to bask in the sun, gamble at the world’s most opulent casino and attend spectacular parties. Nothing typifies more the elegant lifestyle of the Côte d’Azur than glamorous Monte Carlo.
Situated on a rocky peninsula, Monaco-Ville comprises the old town and the seat of Monaco’s government. Narrow streets lead to the Prince’s Palace high above the sea. The 19th-century Romanesque cathedral contains impressive works of art and the tombs of Princess Grace and Prince Rainer III, while the Parliament building and the Oceanographic Museum offer additional points of interest.
As if Monaco’s splendid attributes weren’t enough, the surrounding areas with their incredibly beautiful scenery are additional attractions.
Once an insignificant fishing village, this jet set haven became popular as an artists’ colony in the late 19th century. But it was Roger Vadim’s movie, And God Created Woman, filmed here with Brigitte Bardot, that brought about the international cult of Tropezian sun, sex and celebrities. Located at the end of its own peninsula, St. Tropez suddenly became the talk of the jet set, which propelled the tiny port into world fame.
A hundred years ago not even a proper road led to St. Tropez; access was mainly by boat. Novelist Guy de Maupassant sailed his yacht into the port in 1880. The neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac followed, as did a number of other famous artists and writers. By the time of World War I, St. Tropez was well established as a hangout for Bohemians.
The old part surrounding the harbour is the focal point. Here, narrow streets are packed between Quai Jean Jaurès, Place des Lices and what is left of the 16th-century citadel. The harbour is filled with sleek, gleaming yachts that have replaced the simple fishing boats. Pastel-coloured houses ring the waterfront, presenting the classic St. Tropez impression of sidewalk cafés and small boutiques with the latest fashions.
Today, Marseille 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: Fort Saint Nicolas and, across the water, Fort Saint Jean.
The upper part of the town straddles the slopes of Mont St. Clair, offering wonderful views of the port and the vast Bassin de Thau, a breeding ground for mussels and oysters. The lower part is intersected by waterways lined with tall terraces and seafood restaurants. Its pedestrian streets allow visitors leisurely strolls, and scattered café tables invite you to relax, sip an apéritif and people-watch. Other interesting sightseeing destinations include the university city of Montpellier.
The Balearics are comprised of 16 islands; the three principal ones are Mallorca, Ibiza and Minorca. Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals and Arabs have invaded these islands over the centuries. Ruins show evidence of the prehistoric Talayot civilization, a megalithic culture that flourished here between 1500 BC and the Roman conquest. Today the islands are besieged by invaders of a different sort – hordes of tourists.
Lying 60 miles (97 km) off the Spanish mainland, the islands’ lush and rugged landscape combined with an extremely mild, sunny climate proves irresistible, especially to northern Europeans. As a result, the Balearics boast cosmopolitan resorts with lively nightlife and plenty of sports activities.
Mallorca (also spelled Majorca) is the largest of the islands, with an area of more than 1,400 square miles (3626 sq.km). The scenery is magnificent, with cliffs along indented shorelines jutting out of the sea and mountain ranges sheltering the plains from harsh sea breezes. The fertile plain in the centre is covered with almond and fig trees plus olive groves with some trees more than 1,000 years old. Tall pines, junipers and oaks line the mountain slopes.
Palma de Mallorca is the capital of the archipelago. A cosmopolitan city with sophisticated shops and restaurants, it also offers buildings of spectacular Moorish and Gothic architecture.
In the western part of Mallorca, nestled into the mountains, lies the village of Valldemosa. It is known for its Carthusian Monastery where Frédéric Chopin and George Sand spent the winter of 1838-39.
Perched high above the Mediterranean just sixty miles southwest of Barcelona, Tarragona is an important cultural center in its own right. Visitors are drawn by its history, architecture and art, as well as opportunities to enjoy the beaches, marinas and golf courses. During its heyday during the Roman Empire, Tarraco was second in importance only to Rome. Many reminders of this era remain, including the old city walls, the amphitheater, the Forum, aqueducts and the Circus, with its underground vaults.
The infinite variety of street life, the nooks and crannies of the medieval Barri Gòtic, the ceramic tile and stained glass of Art Nouveau facades, the art and music, the throb of street life, the food (ah, the food!)—one way or another, Barcelona will find a way to get your full attention. The capital of Catalonia is a banquet for the senses, with its beguiling mix of ancient and modern architecture, tempting cafés and markets, and sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches.
A stroll along La Rambla and through waterfront Barceloneta, as well as a tour of Gaudí’s majestic Sagrada Famíliaand his other unique creations, are part of a visit to Spain’s second-largest city. Modern art museums and chic shops call for attention, too. Barcelona’s vibe stays lively well into the night, when you can linger over regional wine and cuisine at buzzing tapas bars.
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