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It’s easy to see why Barcelona is the most-visited city in Spain. As the capital of the country’s Catalonia region, this cityscape’s cultural mosaic pieces together a 2,000-year-old hodge-podge of sun-drenched beaches, cutting edge architecture and a world-renowned dining and drinking scene. Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí left his modernist handprint all over the city, while medieval treasures linger in historic Gothic Quarter squares. Get lost in the whimsical gardens of Park Güell or savour a chef-led Catalan cooking class. Browse art collections dedicated to Picasso and Miro – or ride a cable car to the top of Montjuïc Hill, relishing citywide views along the way.
Spain’s third largest city, Valencia offers a little bit of everything, from historic sites and bustling city squares to placid beaches. Soak up the sun at Malvarrosa Beach along the urban seafront, or head to El Saler for a more remote beach experience surrounded by white-sand dunes and pine trees. Cruise to Valencia and get your culture fix at Gothic Valencia Cathedral, and see the 15th-century renaissance paintings housed in its interior. Head to Plaza de la Reina in the city’s old town and do some people-watching over a fresh glass of horchata, a classic Valencia beverage made from almond milk with cinnamon and spices, or take a picnic lunch of fresh pears and local cheese to the quiet Turia Gardens.
Situated on the French Riviera, Toulon is more about small-town charm and natural beauty than glitz and glamour. As you pull into the city’s huge natural harbour, you’ll see towering Mont Faron – after you dock, take the six-minute cable car ride to the summit, where you’ll be greeted to sweeping views of the Mediterranean and the city below. Cruise to Provence to stroll down the Cours Lafayette and take in the smells of oregano, thyme and freshly baked pastries from the local street vendors. Then, explore the city’s naval heritage – it’s been the French Navy’s base for over 500 years – at the Musee de la Marine, or take a boat tour of the Rade de Toulon, the city’s military harbour.
Although originally called ‘Nakaia’, France’s Nice is as delightful as its name suggests to English speakers. Take a bus or taxi into Nice’s Old City to explore its history-spanning architecture and pristine French Riviera beaches with your Nice cruise. Or stick closer to Villefranche-sur-Mer, where your ship will dock, and take a day-trip to the mountaintop town of Eze. No matter how you spend your time in the de facto hub of France’s Cote d’Azur, you’ll enjoy the added benefit of being close to Italy, which means delectable pizza, fragrant espresso and the sounds of a second Romance language.
Located just south of France on the island of Corsica, Ajaccio is rich in history and astonishing views, all set in the sun-drenched Mediterranean climate. Napoleon is Corsica’s most recognisable historical personality – when you’re strolling through town, make sure to visit the Maison Bonaparte Napoleon’s family home and a historical museum. Pop into the beautiful Baroque-style Notre Dame Cathedral, where Napoleon was baptised. Here, you’ll also find important artwork by Tintoretto and Delacroix. Cruise to Corsica and hop on Le Petit Train, or ‘the little train’, for a tour of town. For a taste of nature, head out to the Calanques de Piana, a range of dramatic red-rock cliffs.
Carrara is a city and comune in Tuscany, in central Italy, of the province of Massa and Carrara, and notable for the white or blue-grey marble quarried there. It is on the Carrione River, some 100 kilometres west-northwest of Florence. Its motto is Fortitudo mea in rota.
With 28 centuries of celebrated history, Rome holds the edge when it comes to unrivalled adventures. The city that sparked the world’s largest empire is very much alive today with a jumble of ancient ruins, world-renowned art and vivacious street culture. Here you can live ‘la dolce vita’, recalling the glory days of Ancient Rome and twirling forks full of pasta in a trattoria. Ride past centuries-old basilicas in a three-wheeled Ape Calessino, or stand in awe of paintings by Italian masters at Villa Borghese. Whether it’s Vatican City’s spiritual allure, Trastevere’s backstreet charms or the Colosseum’s embattled legacy – The Eternal City endures with endless adventures.
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