From the Catalan capital of Barcelona to the islands that dot the Croatian coast, a Mediterranean cruise offers a mouth-watering selection of art, architecture, history and cuisine, set against a backdrop of sparkling water, rolling countryside and even an active volcano or two. It’s a region that offers new delights every time – here’s a few of our favourite spots.
Barcelona is renowned for its art and architecture, the two of which are often intertwined thanks to the efforts of the city’s first son, Antoni Gaudí. Take a tour of his most dramatic and iconic works, including the Sagrada Familia, the Casa Milà, and Parc Güell – fifty acres of hillside park that showcases his distinctive mosaic-style art and offers dramatic views over the city. If you want to explore beyond the city, a visit to the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat, which sits perched 4,000 feet above the Catalan plains, is a must.
The ancient French city of Montpellier is home to one of the world’s oldest universities, founded in 1160. It’s also the ideal gateway from which to explore the mediaeval fortified town of Carcassonne, take a relaxing cruise along the beautiful, tree-lined Canal du Midi or sample locally-grown oysters at a family-owned oyster farm.
Marseille is France’s oldest city, and its picturesque waterfront quay, overlooking the Mediterranean, is one of the world’s most romantic walks. Take a boat ride to explore the caves and cliffs of the stunning Massif des Calanques, walk the ill-fated bridge of Avignon, or spend a day in the heart of the Camargue region, home of the famed Camargue bulls and horses. Don’t forget to try the local speciality dish: a rich seafood stew known as bouillabaisse.
Monaco is the ultimate playground for the rich and famous, as well as gateway to the Cote d’Azur. At just two square kilometres in total area, it’s the world’s second smallest state, surrounded by France on three sides, with the sparkling waters and shiny superyachts of the Mediterranean forming the fourth border. Take a guided tour of the Grimaldi family’s Royal Palace, hire a car to explore Nice, Menton and the rest of the French Riviera, then spend your evening challenging your luck in the Casino of Monte Carlo.
Explore the historic cities and tranquil countryside of Tuscany, taking in the art and architecture of Florence and Pisa. Walk across Florence’s famed mediaeval Ponte Vecchio bridge, visit the iconic statue of David and climb the dome of the Duomo cathedral for breath-taking views of the city. In Pisa, as well as the famed tower which shares its name, you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Square of Miracles and Camposanto Monumentale – considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful cemetery.
Sicily’s arid mountains, rolling vineyards and picturesque orange groves make the island of Sicily well worth the visit. It’s also home to Europe’s most active volcano: Mt Etna, which has erupted more than 130 times. Any visit to the volcano must include time exploring the ancient ruins and piazzas of Taormina – one of the most-visited ruins in Sicily. If you’re not up for a hike or four-wheel drive tour of the volcano, a helicopter ride is an excellent way to experience its dramatic landscape from another perspective.
Crotone, located in southern Italy’s Calabria province, dates back well over two thousand years, and is celebrated as the home to the Greek mathematician and philosopher, Pythagoras. You can spend your time here exploring its ancient streets or explore the surrounding region, including the island fortress of Le Castella and the charming, hilltop town of Santa Severina.
The region of Puglia forms the heel of Italy’s boot: a region of unique landscapes and architecture such as the fascinating beehive houses of Alberobello, the honeycombed caves of Castellana and stunning white-washed clifftop town of Polignano a Mare. Be sure to try the famous bread of Altamura, the homemade orecchiette pasta of Conversano and olive oil produced from trees that are up to a thousand years old.
Travel north from Puglia across the Adriatic Sea and you’ll eventually arrive in the Croatian city of Šibenik. Explore the narrow streets of its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, whose medieval houses and churches are surrounded by four historic fortresses. It’s also the ideal base from which to visit Krka National Park’s cascading waterfalls, Dubrava Falconry Centre or Diocletian’s Palace in Split.
For a cruise itinerary that incorporates all these wonderful Mediterranean highlights and more, ask your personal travel manager for recommendations.