Barcelona, the self-confident and progressive capital of Spain, is a tremendous place to be. Though it boasts outstanding Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings, and some great museums – most notably those dedicated to Picasso and Catalan art – it is above all a place where there's enjoyment simply in walking the streets, stopping in at bars and cafés, drinking in the atmosphere. A thriving port and the most prosperous commercial centre in Spain, it has a sophistication and cultural dynamism way ahead of the rest of the country. In part this reflects the city's proximity to France, whose influence is apparent in the elegant boulevards and imaginative cooking. But Barcelona has also evolved an individual and eclectic cultural identity, most perfectly and eccentrically expressed in the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Scattered as Barcelona's main sights may be, the greatest concentration of interest is around the old town (La Ciutat Vella). These cramped streets above the harbor are easily manageable, and far more enjoyable, on foot. Start, as everyone else does, with the Ramblas.
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Gibraltar is the famous promontory located at the western entrance of the Mediterranean, with Spain to the north and, across the Straits, Morocco to the south. The Straits are a channel connecting the Atlantic with the Mediterranean. Africa is clearly visible on a fine day. In ancient times, the Rock, as Gibraltar is popularly called, and its counterpart on the African side, Mount Abyla, were known as the Pillars of Hercules. Visitors enjoy historical sites, magnificent views and beautiful beaches. A favorite pastime is strolling along Main Street to browse and shop in the duty-free shops or stop in one of the pubs. Many visitors come to see Gibraltar's curiosity, the Barbary Apes. According to legend, the British will remain as long as the apes survive. Alemeda Botanical Gardens is where the British troops mustered for their parades. Trafalgar Cemetery was named for the casualties of the Battle of Trafalgar. On the fringe of the downtown area is the Cable Car Base Station where the car runs to the rock top.
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Marseille is a vibrant, cosmopolitan port in the Provence region of France. Craggy mountains provide a spectacular backdrop. As a Mediterranean melting pot, the port virtually rubs shoulders with intimate, picturesque old harbor, the Vieux Port. Packed with watercrafts, this is the heart of Marseille. Two fortresses guard the harbor: Fort Saint Nicolas and Fort Saint Jean. Several vantage points offer spectacular views, including the impressive Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde - a prominent landmark overlooking the city that is crowned by a monumental, gilded statue of Virgin Mary. Marseille boasts numerous fine museums well worth a visit. Sitting at one of the many outside cafes or strolling the streets of the old port area lets you experience the unpretentious charm of this city. Other sights include Chateau d'If - a 16th century fortress-turned-prison; Basilica St-Victor - Marseille's oldest church with the appearance of a fortress; and La Canebiere - a broad boulevard with everything from hotels to cafes and shops.
With its dizzying mix of old and new, of sophistication and squalor, Genoa (Genova) is as multilayered as the hills it clings to. It was and is a port city: an important maritime center for the Roman Empire, boyhood home of Christopher Columbus (whose restored house stands near a section of medieval wall), and one of the largest, wealthiest cities of Renaissance Europe. Capture glimpses of Genoa's former glory days in Genoa's portside Old Town, where treasure-filled palaces and fine marble churches stand next to laundry-draped tenements. Life within the old medieval walls doesn't seem to have changed since the days when Genovese ships set sail to launch raids on the Venetians, crusaders embarked for the Holy Land, and Garibaldi shipped out to invade Sicily in the 19th-century struggle to unify Italy. Modern Genoa, which stretches for miles along the coast and climbs hills, is a city of international business, peaceful parks, and breezy belvederes from which visitors can enjoy fine views of this colorful metropolis and the sea which defines its identity.
Livorno serves as a convenient gateway to Tuscany - which is known for classic landscapes and lush vineyards. Visitors come to see great art centers of Florence, Lucca and Pisa - where names like Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Boticelli, da Vinci, Donatello and Dante come to mind. Pisa is known for its brilliant monuments, which include the 11th-century Cathedral, the Baptistery and the leaning Bell Tower. Lucca is one of the most handsome Romanesque cities in Europe. Its historic center features several fine old churches and lovely squares. Lucca is also known as home of composer Giacomo Puccini, whose birthplace is now a museum. Walking in the historic center, shopping in its elegant stores and enjoying a meal of renowned Tuscan cuisine are some highlights of this area. Downtown Livorno has a fine local market and a variety of fine shops and restaurants. Sights include the 14th-century Loggia della Signoria assembly hall in Florence; the Uffizi Gallery, which houses one of the world's famed museums and the Accademia best-known for Michelangelo's sculptures.
Civitavecchia is the port city for Rome. Rome has always been and remains the Eternal City. With its splendid churches, ancient monuments and palaces, spacious parks, tree-lined boulevards, fountains, outdoor cafés and elegant shops, Rome is one of the world’s most attractive cities. Among the most famous monuments is the Colosseum where spectators watched combats between muscled gladiators and ferocious animals. Stop to see the remains of the Forum, once a political and commercial center. Rome’s squares were enhanced with such imposing structures as the Vittorio Emanuele Monument and grandiose fountains like the Fontana di Trevi. Awe at Christendom’s most magnificent church, the Sistine Chapel. The busy square Piazza Venezia is easily recognized by its imposing Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. Take a stroll to Rome's famous Trevi Fountain. Vatican City is the site of lovely St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica, where for 200 years, Renaissance masters worked on its design and created an unparalleled masterpiece. Visit Vatican Museum.
From Naples visitors can explore the rugged Amalfi coast, Italy's most romantic stretch of coastline. Near Amalfi is the resort of Positano, where visitors enjoy strolling through streets and shopping in small boutiques. Take an excursion to legendary Pompeii, an ancient Roman city covered and preserved by the debris from the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The monuments of this city are considered to be among the finest of any ancient city in Europe, and visitors can spend a day here learning about life in a Roman town during the first century A.D. The Cathedral of San Gennaro, a fine medieval building, has one chapel containing the tomb of Charles of Anjou, while another houses the cathedral's gold and silver treasure. Among the Christian underground burial vaults discovered in an area of suburban heights, the Catacombs of San Gennaro can be visited. Capodimonte Park - a well-kept tropical park - has a royal palace built by Charles III in 1738 that now houses Naples' picture gallery, the National Museum of Capodimonte.
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Heraklion, the capital of Crete and its principal commercial port, is just three miles away from the fantastic ruins of the Palace of Knossos. Discovered in 1899 by Sir Arthur Evans and partially reconstructed, the elaborate Palace is believed to be the mythical Labyrinth of King Minos and the seat of ancient Minoan culture. The Archaeological Museum in Heraklion displays many of the treasures found during the excavations.
Visitors come to Kusadasi for beaches and nearby ruins of Ephesus. The major attraction is the archaeological site of ancient Ephesus, considered to be most important in Turkey. The history of this ancient city dates back to 10th century BC; many remarkable structures seen today are result of an excavation and restoration program. Along a white marble road grooved by ancient chariot wheels, the two-story Library of Celsus presents a striking sight. There are temples, houses of noblemen, and community buildings lining ancient streets. Nestled in the mountainside is a 25,000-seat amphitheater, still used for performances during Festival of Culture and Art. Bible buffs may know Ephesus as inspiration for St. Paul’s Epistle to Ephesians and the site of one of the first seven churches of Asia Minor. Treasures are kept in the Seljuk Archaeological Museum. Among the better-known ancient sites near Kusadasi are ancient Miletus and Dydima. Remains include a well-preserved Roman theater at Miletus and Dydima's sacred temple of Apollo.
This centuries old capital guards the slender waterway between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and is the doorway between the East and West. Visitors can explore remnants of Byzantine Constantinople in the Sultanahmet district, where you will have the chance to see ancient splendors, such as the Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. At night the city boast a lively nightclub scene and excellent Turkish dining options that may include cultural entertainment and dancing. Istanbul also features splendid shopping malls, boutiques, and hand crafted items can be found all over the city.
Mykonos's many captivating attributes make it one of the most celebrated Greek holiday islands. Its main village is a colorful maze of narrow streets lined with white-washed houses, many with bright blue doors and shutters. As an attractive backdrop, famous windmills are lined up like toy soldiers on the hillside, vestiges of a time when wind power was used to grind grain. Mykonos has churches and chapels scattered about the island; quite a number of them are located right in town. Radiant flowers spill over white-washed walls and shady courtyards. In addition to swimming, sunning, water-skiing and surfing, visitors find endless shopping opportunities. Artists have relied on Mykonos' beautiful setting to inspire them. The most photographed site is the Paraportiani, a cluster of white-washed churches resting below windmills. Mykonos's museums include an Archaeological Museum, which houses relics from the Trojan War, a Folk Art Museum and a Maritime Museum. The best beaches are Aghios Stephanos, Psarou, Kalafatis, Onros, Panormos and Elia.
Piraeus is the seaport for Athens, the capital of western civilization, which boasts a fantastic mix of classical ruins and vivacious modern life. Climb the hill of Acropolis to wonder at the Parthenon, join the lively Athenians in Constitution Square, and find a welcoming taverna for spirited bizouki music, plenty of ouzo to drink, and energetic Greek dancing. Piraeus is the largest harbor in the country. The white chapel of St. George at its summit has a theater bearing the same name. The hill of Nymphs is the site of a planetarium, which is located above magnificent Thesseio temple. Among all of these hills, Acropolis is the one that glorified Athens and the whole Greek world and became the symbol of the western civilization. Bays and small rocky or sandy coves dot the area and during the summer are filled with Athenians and foreigners enjoying their beauty.
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