Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of èBella in the Mediterranean with Sharon Hood
By Connie Moody
I recently hosted a cruise to the Mediterranean that was very similar to the one readers and their friends will enjoy next September to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of èBella, and would like to give you a preview of the glorious ports we will visit during our trip. Yes, I enjoyed the itinerary enough to make a repeat visit.
I suggest every cruiser arrive at their destination at least one night prior to the cruise departure date, and we are fortunate that our embarkation port is Civitavecchia which means our pre-cruise overnight will be in Rome, the Eternal City.
Rome was not built in a day, so do not expect to see it in one. If you have never been, I recommend a minimum three night stay. Take a panoramic sightseeing highlight tour to get your bearings as Rome is a large city that can be overwhelming if not prepared. Among the sites are the ancient Forums, Palatino Hill, Piazza del Campidoglio and the Colosseum, the fountains of Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Circo Massimo the catacombs and monuments along the Appian Way. Of course you could spend a complete day touring the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. It is well worth it to purchase a tour in advance to avoid the lines at the Sistine Chapel. Be sure to allow yourself time to enjoy the pleasures of Rome such as a stroll from the top of the Spanish Steps to the Pincio Gardens at dusk, a daytime walk through the outdoor market at Campo dei Fiori and of course, window shopping along the Via Condotti. If you have previously been to Rome, you may want to explore the cobblestone paths of Trastevere on the Left Bank of the Tiber.
Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are marvelous September destinations. The summer crowds are gone and the weather is spectacular. I found Sorrento to be a shopper’s dream. Sorrento is traditionally known for intricately carved intarsia, or inlaid woodwork. This can be found in many shops, and the inlaid music boxes and other small items make great gifts. Day trips to Capri are also available from Sorrento. If you have not been to the Amalfi Coast, a motor coach or private car and driver experience is a must. I suggest a tour from Sorrento to Ravello, one of the most charming, less visited towns on the Amalfi Coast. Relax and sip a limoncello at the lovely outdoor restaurant on the Town Square. Ravello is much less touristy than Amalfi, plus going the coastal road to Ravello and return by mountain road makes for one of the most scenic drives you can take anywhere in the world.
Corfu is one of Greece’s most beautiful islands. Must see attractions include the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, Old Town and my favorite, Achillion Palace, the gaudy palace built by Elizabeth of Austria in honor of her favorite Greek hero, Achilles. If time permits, a carriage ride complete with flower festooned horses and donkeys is a true tourist delight.
Taormina on the east coast of Sicily is a popular resort town whose Greco-Roman theater, perched dramatically on the cliffs above the city center, speaks to the list of conquerors who have controlled the city. The pedestrian city center holds a plethora of galleries and shops. Ceramics are handcrafted in the area, with patterns of yellows and blues being especially popular.
Valletta is Malta’s delightful capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture in 2018, which should bring visibility to this city and the island of Malta, which despite their beauty and proximity to Italy, are not frequently visited by tourists.
Kotor, Montenegro is one of the best preserved medieval towns in the Mediterranean. Steep cliffs surround the Bay of Kotor, inviting its nickname, “Europe’s most southern fjord.” If mountainous roads with hairpin curves is your idea of an excursion, you will find that in Montenegro also. The locally produced red wine is delicious and a fine bottle can be purchased at the grocery and enjoyed back on the ship for about 5 EURO.
The entire city of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The walled medieval city with drawbridges guarding the main entrance is like something out of a picture-perfect fairy tale. Inside the walls, the streets and alleyways are crammed with tiny shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. This may be one day you forgo the escorted tour and spend the day exploring the Cathedral and Treasury, walk the city walls, and visiting the Cloister of the Franciscan Monastery. Take time to visit shops that specialize in embroidered tablecloths and other linens, a specialty of the region.
We end our cruise with an overnight onboard the Azamara Quest in Venice, the Jewel of the Adriatic. After you have seen the Basilica di San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Doges Palace, venture away from San Marco Square to Giudecca Island to explore the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Second time visitors may also want to tour Murano, the island of glass blowers or Burano, where elderly women still practice the art of lace tatting. Our overnight makes it possible to hang out in Campo Santa Margherita or people watch at Piccolo Mondo.
This beautiful itinerary provides an opportunity to see the best of Italy, Greece and the Adriatic on the same 10-night cruise. I invite all of you to join Sharon Hood and me on this extraordinary journey through history.