Our new 2014 itineraries will whisk through the ages…
We’re all fond of a bit of place name-dropping, whether it’s thrown in casually at a dinner party (“Sagrada Família, you say? Been there, done that”), or summed up in 140 characters or less (“Giving my legs a work-out on the Spanish Steps… #rome #loveit”). But how good’s your knowledge when it comes to Europe’s long-standing landmarks? From February 2014, Thomson Majesty will be sailing from Malaga, ticking off some major historical highlights on their shore excursions, like the ancient ruins of Athens and architectural heirlooms in Rome. In lieu of a dull old lecture – school’s out for the summer, after all – here’s a brief history of time, Thomson-style…
If the fact that current university students were born in 1995 makes you feel old, how about visiting an ancient site that’ll make you feel really, really young? Step forward the Parthenon. This temple on the Athenian Acropolis, dedicated to the goddess Athena, was completed in 438 BC. Okay, so we’re not talking dinosaurs roaming the planet, but it’s still a mind-bogglingly long time ago. Perched proudly on a platform overlooking the Greek capital, it may not have made an official ‘Wonders of the World’ list, but its millions of admirers that flock to it each year would argue otherwise.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the Colosseum… in actual fact, it took 10 years. But I think we can all agree it was worth the wait. It boasts the title of the largest amphitheatre in the world, and once provided the stage for gladiatorial battles and mythological plays. These days it plays host to acts like Paul McCartney, Elton John and Billy Joel, instead of Spartacus and pals, but the atmosphere is just as electric. Elsewhere in the Eternal City, you can clock the captivating Trevi Fountain, Venice Square and the Basilica. We suggest investing in a hefty memory card, since ‘snap-happy’ will be an understatement.
Castles don’t come more impressive or imposing than the Medieval Castel Nuovo in Naples. Forget crumbling ruins and a mere hint of what once was, this fortress has aged more gracefully than Jane Fonda. Like the keep-fit queen herself, it’s been ‘embellished’ since its early days, with a new marble arch added to celebrate Alfonso of Aragon’s entry to Naples in 1443, and a glass floor that lets you view the ancient remains below. Yes, that includes skeletons. The castle combines a smorgasbord of influences, including Roman, Norman, Spanish and Venetian, so you’ll find yourself on a journey through assorted cultures, as well as ages.
Talk about a serious makeover – the Uffizi Gallery began life as the offices of the Florentine magistrates, hence the name ‘uffizi’, or ‘offices’. But with an interior transformation that could have been the work of a 16th-century Kirstie Allsopp, it eventually blossomed into what is now the world’s oldest art gallery. It houses a rich collection of artwork by the likes of Leonardo (da Vinci), Michelangelo and Raphael. Donatello’s statue stands outside the gallery, in case you were wondering about the fourth turtle. Afterwards, roam the city’s cobweb of streets and fall for Florence’s architectural icons – the Ponte Vecchio and Piazza del Duomo should be admired with a gelato in hand.
The Moorish delight that is Malaga smells as good as it looks, thanks in no small part to the blooming gorgeous botanical gardens. They were the brainchild of a local aristocratic couple, who decided to recreate a tropical forest near the shores of the Mediterranean, in the mid-19th century. The lush grounds contain endless trails to meander at leisure, ancient Roman statues, and a watercolour palette of flora and fauna, including its famous tunnels of mauve wisteria. With so much to see in and around Malaga – not forgetting some precious beach time – you can opt to ‘Cruise & Stay’. This includes a week cruising around your chosen destinations, then 3 or 7 nights at one of our hotels or apartments in the region. Or you can do it the other way round, with a beach stay first followed by your cruise.
All of these highlights are featured in our Jewels of the Mediterranean itinerary.
Spirit of Iberia (Malaga – Lisbon – Portimao – Casablanca – Cadiz [for Seville] – Gibraltar – Malaga)
Spanish Sensations (Malaga – Barcelona – Toulon – Mahon – Valencia – Cartagena – Malaga)
A Taste of Italy (Malaga – Barcelona – Toulon – Livorno – Civitavecchia [for Rome] – Naples – Crotone – Corfu)
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Author: El Berwick
Published: July 26, 2013
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