Why Visit The Mediterranean

One of the world’s premier travel destinations, the Mediterranean sparkles with a dazzling array of coastal and island gems. Sun-kissed locals wreathed in sunny smiles greet travelers with friendly shouts of “Bem Vinda,” “Dobrodošli,” and “Benvenuto” as well as invitations to explore their enthralling cities and villages, so rich in history and culture. Few guests can resist the scrumptious cuisine (who would want to?) and all luxuriate in the Mediterranean’s superb weather and natural beauty, gifts perhaps from the mythical gods…


Mediterranean cruises beckon globetrotters to sail its deep turquoise sea and delight in its onshore treasure trove. The magnificent monuments of Rome, the Eternal City… the exuberant, joyful folk dancing in amazing Athens… Portugal’s beautiful Algarve Coast and the fairy-tale splendor of Spain’s Alhambra Palace… the heady perfume of Hvar, a charming island off Croatia’s Dalmatian coast… a Sicilian trattoria’s culinary offerings, rich, robust and mouth-watering… the legend of Montenegro’s Our Lady of the Rocks… Malta, basking in 300 days of sunshine each year… Enchantment awaits all who cruise the Mediterranean’s calm and incredibly lovely waters.


THE MEDITERRANEAN IN A NUTSHELL

Linking Europe, Africa and Asia, the Mediterranean Sea stretches westward to the shore of the Iberian Peninsula. The neighboring countries of Spain and Portugal were renowned for their explorers during the Age of Discovery; today, the world comes to these two nations to explore their wonders. The Portuguese capital of Lisbon celebrates its seafarers of yore in stone; the Monument of the Discoveries stands proud on the bank of the Tagus River. Nearby Sintra boasts impressive stone creations of its own, most notably the 11th-century National Palace of Sintra in the heart of the town and the unutterably romantic Pena Palace in all its red and yellow glory, perched high on a hilltop happily ever after. In southern Spain, the spectacular Alhambra Palace shimmers in the Andalucían sun, its decorative plasterwork as intricate and exquisite as the finest lace. The setting is equally breathtaking; the verdant mountainside and dramatic backdrop of the Sierra Nevada provide a stunning contrast to the ivory color of the 13th-century Moorish palace. It is little wonder that poets described the Alhambra as “a pearl set in emeralds.”


Sail east from Spain across the Mediterranean and you reach the bel paese of Italy. Steeped in history and natural beauty, it has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country (51), one of which is the historic center of Rome; the Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon are all within walking distance. The world’s smallest country is also within Italy’s capital. Vatican City – just over 100 acres! – is home to some of the most revered artwork on Earth including the Pietà, Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece in St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Renaissance master’s sublime frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Romans are eternally proud of their Eternal City; Venetians are equally fond of Venice, the Bride of the Sea. Visitors to St. Mark’s Basilica gaze in wonder at the golden brilliance of the mosaics covering its interior; the Pala d’Oro, an extraordinary Byzantine altar screen, inspires awe as well with its biblical figures in vivid cloisonné enamel and glittering rainbow of hundreds of jewels – rubies, emeralds, amethysts, sapphires, pearls and more galore!


Croatia

East of Italy, Croatia tantalizes on the other side of the Adriatic Sea. Croatian ports of call invite guests to sail in and embrace their gorgeous land. Dubrovnik’s Old Town in southern Croatia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; its massive medieval walls – the largest and best preserved in Europe – surround the enchanting village of gleaming marble streets, terracotta roofs, monasteries established during the Middle Ages, Baroque churches and Sponza Palace, a splendid blend of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. The picturesque islands dotting the Dalmatian coastline charm as well; Hvar is perhaps the loveliest. On the north side of the island is aptly named Stari Grad, the oldest town in Croatia. (“Stari Grad” means “old town.”) Founded by the ancient Greeks in 384 BC, Stari Grad is nestled among olive groves, vineyards and pine trees. You may feel as if you’ve stepped back in time as you wander the narrow, cobblestone streets of this tranquil island retreat.


Cruising south along Croatia’s coast and past Albania’s western shore, you arrive at one of the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean – Greece! It’s a country of contrasts – ancient and modern, cosmopolitan vitality and rural relaxation – perfectly blended. A complex of antiquities, the iconic Acropolis overlooks Greece’s capital of Athens, perched high above the city on a rocky cliff. The crowning glory of the celebrated site is the Parthenon, a former temple built in the mid-5th century BC to honor Athena. A mythic contest between the Greek goddess of wisdom and war and Poseidon, god of the sea, was immortalized in stone on the temple’s west pediment. Legend has it that the Olympian deities, vying to become patron of the marvelous polis, each offered a gift to its residents. The discerning populace rejected Poseidon’s gift of water (way too salty!) in favor of Athena’s offering, an olive tree. And thus, Athens got its patron – and name. Opa! Is it pure coincidence that the Hellenic love affair with the luscious olive continues to this day? Greece ranks third in the world in olive oil production and the liquid gold is a staple in Greek cooking.


Greek Food

Ah, the culinary delights of the Mediterranean… Locals and travelers alike savor the regional cuisine, wining and dining al fresco, laughing and lingering over delicious dishes while sipping fine Croatian wine or anise-flavored ouzo. After a hearty Greek meal of cheese saganaki – ooey, gooey, deep-fried goodness! – and moussaka, patrons dance to lively music in a cozy Corfu taverna, hoping to burn a few calories. Caldeirada de peixe, a rustic fish stew, is on the menu in Porto, Portugal. Romans jump-start their morning with espresso and cappuccino; gelato-loving Florentines flock to Perchè No? and Vivoli, Tuscan institutions since the 1930s. Hungry folks stop at street stalls in Split, Croatia to satisfy their craving for fritule. This fried, sweet pastry is especially popular at Christmastime. In Seville, tempting tapas and a glass of sherry may be just what the taste buds order. Pungent truffles are plentiful on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula. (A whopper of a fungus was sniffed out there in 1999, weighing in at nearly 3 pounds!) And seaside Palermo has a reputation for delectable treats enjoyed on the go. Several years back, Forbes acclaimed the Sicilian capital’s street food as unsurpassed in Europe. Arancini, anyone?

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NATURAL TREASURES

The bewitching beauty of the Mediterranean captivates the senses. Balmy days and cloudless skies… the gentle whisper of waves caressing the shore, infinite and soothing… the sweet scent of citrus trees… spangles of sunlight glittering like diamonds on an aquamarine sea…


Amalfi Coast

Venus and Aphrodite have truly blessed their corner of the world. Pastel Positano on the glorious Amalfi Coast is a picture postcard come to life, clinging to precipitous emerald green hills that slope down to the azure water’s edge. The clifftop village of Oia on the Greek island of Santorini has a commanding view of twinkling Amoudi Bay below; Oia’s iconic townscape of powder white buildings and blue-domed churches romances happy wanderers from around the world. The golden beaches of Spain’s Costa Brava warm body and soul while the Algarve intrigues with its caves and fantastic, honey-colored rock formations. In white-cliff grandeur, Malta’s Ta’ Cenc Cliffs loom large over the Mediterranean Sea. And there is no place on Earth like Hvar in June when the fragrant lavender blooms, carpeting the island in purple profusion as far as the eye can see. Lavender fields forever…

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SELECTED UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

  • Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik, Croatia
  • Split and the Palace of Diocletian, Croatia
  • Hvar’s Stari Grad Plain, Croatia
  • Pula, Croatia
  • Rovinj, Croatia
  • Acropolis, Athens, Greece
  • Historic Center of Rome, Italy
  • Venice and Its Lagoon, Italy
  • Amalfi Coast, Italy
  • Herculaneum, Italy
  • Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
  • Aeolian Islands, Italy
  • City of Valletta, Malta
  • Aeolian Islands, Malta
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Sintra, Portugal
  • Alhambra Palace, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada, Spain
  • Parc Güell, Barcelona, Spain
  • La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain
  • Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, Spain

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WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN WITH TAUCK

  • Exclusive after-hours visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel – without crowds 
  • Guided visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Venice and Its Lagoon, Old City of Dubrovnik, Hvar’s Stari Grad Plain, the walled city of Kotor, Sibenik's Cathedral, Diocletian's Palace in Split, the Acropolis, the ancient citadel of Mycenae, and the Palau de la Música Catalana
  • Visit Mediterranean islands best accessed by small ship – Elba, Corsica, Ponza, Lipari, Sicily, Mallorca and Malta – for unique shore excursions off-the-beaten path
  • A memorable nighttime sailing by the volcanic island of Stromboli to view its fiery eruptions of molten lava
  • Explore the walled medieval village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, see the remains of Taormina’s ancient Greek Theatre, and enjoy a wine tasting on Elba, Napoleon’s island base during exile from France
  • Traditional Sicilian entertainment and a visit to the amazingly well-preserved ruins of Herculaneum
  • Private lecture in Dubrovnik
  • Private performance by a cappella performers
  • Private Moreska sword dance presentation
  • Wine tasting of fine Croatian wine along the Dalmatian Coast
  • Wine tasting at an award-winning estate in the Algarve countryside
  • Special flamenco dance performance at Seville’s Museo del Baile Flamenco
  • A visit to a typical manor house in Málaga for a sherry tasting and a private Andalucían horse show
  • A tour of the Gothic Cathedral, La Seu, in Palma on the island of Mallorca
  • Private experience at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona

Sistine Chapel

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