7 Night Mediterranean
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The airport for Puerto La Cruz in northeast on the Caribbean. Isla de Margarita is off the coast.
Fairy-tale houses that look like chanterelle mushroomw. Alberobello’s little round houses with the cone-topped roofs are called trulli – and they are truly unique. Their origins are ancient – some date from 3000 B.C. And they are only found here.
Today the port of Civitavecchia has the advantage of being the Italian “stepping stone to the Mediterranean” thanks to its excellent weather conditions and ideal geographical location.
From Civitavecchia it is a train ride to almost anywhere in Italy and a quick jaunt to Sardinia. Its position has helped make it the main national coastal shipping port.
The birthplace of Christopher Colombus, Genoa is located in northwestern Itlay at the arm of the Ligurian Sea. It is an important industrial central for northwest Italy.
France’s second city and a major seaport, Marseille is an important industrial center and produces many food products. It is the oldest French town, settled by Phonecians, Greeks and annexed by Rome in 49 B.C. During the Crusades, Marseilles was a commercial center and transit port for the Holy Land. Taken by Charles I of Anjou, it was absorbed by Provence and bequeathed to the French crown in 1481. It grew as a port in the 19th century, with the opening of the Suez Canal and the conquest of Algeria. It is known for its great avenue, the Canebière, and for the Chateau d’If, a castle in its harbor.
Today Marseille is France’s largest port and is as warm as the sun on the south of France. An ethnic stew of French, Arabic, and Italian cultures, Marseille’s slightly risque charm appeals to those who love the spice of a real melting pot. Nearby is the gracious Aix-en-Province. At the home and studio of Paul Cezanne, you can revisit the birth of impressionism exactly a century ago.
Mykonos is the most chic and sophisticated of all the Greek Islands–instantly recognized by its glittering crescent of white-washed houses lining an azure bay. The beaches here are unspoiled and inviting, especially along Plati Tialos Bay. Miniature churches, lazy windmills, and tiny cafes serving up Greek specialties line the streets. Sample the freshest squid or lobster just snatched from the blue Aegean Sea, or shop for typical flokati rugs.
As you approach the city over the bridge from the Italian mainland, you leave behind terra firma and, with it, earthbound notions of how to see and experience a city. Venice is not solely the spill of churches and palazzi on either side of the Grand Canal, but rather a city of islands, 118 in all, some of which are little more than the weedy, humps you see in the Lagoon of Venice. And yet these mud flats provided haven for the people who fled here (without benefit of a bridge) from Huns, Visigoths, and other marauders in the fifth century. And those refugees gave birth to a culture that ripened into a thousand years of greatness.
As you near the end of the bridge, you see at first only the back side of the city itself. But in the time it takes to walk through the train station, you begin to hear sounds peculiarly Venetian–the low rumble of boat motors, a humid incubation of voices, water lapping insistently against wood and stone. And then Venice confers her greatest gift: No matter how many times you’ve been here, it always seems, in that first glimse, like the first time.
If you are smart, you will immediately start a tour down the Grand Canal by hopping on a vaporetto (water bus) or gondola or water taxi. If you are lucky, it will be during those few hours before sunset when the light shines most kindly on the venerable facades that line this liquid boulevard. If you are particularly observant, you might even notice that neither the light nor the colors are quite Italian, not like the tawny earth tones of Florence or Rome.
The canal is a murkey green, the palazzi a mix of faded, grimy sherbets–watermarked mint and sun-blanched apricot and deep overripe peach. Sunlight shatters into spangles on the water, gondolas knife bach and forth, the Rialto Bridge looms overhead, and then, beyond one final curve, the Palladian church of Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile (bell tower) of San Marco come into view.
Piazza san Marco is Venice’s grand salon–expansive, familiar, picturesque, pigeonesque. It is anchored at its eastern extreme by the Basilica di San Marco, which is not only the spiritual seat of Venice’s patron saint but also one of the most glittering monuments of Christendom.
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