They came, they saw and they conquered, extending the Empire as far north as England – though not Scotland – but, on a Western Mediterranean cruise, you’re travelling through the heart of the Roman Empire. The Romans referred to the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum – our sea - and a call at Civitavecchia for an excursion to Rome itself will confirm that the Eternal City is very much alive and well. And, although Rome is very definitely a treasure trove of ancient wonders, it’s also a thriving modern city where life is lived to the full and everything is done with the sort of style that only Italy’s capital city can muster.
Today’s Rome is a veritable espresso of a city whose citizens barely seem to notice what is, quite literally, under their feet – building is often a slow process in Rome due to the fact that, every time they start to turn over some earth, more archaeological treasures are uncovered! Aside from its ancient treasures, Rome is a thoroughly modern spectacle too. You might notice a police officer who, although appearing to be fighting a losing battle directing Rome’s infamous traffic, will still be doing so whilst immaculately dressed and sporting the latest designer shades. Meanwhile, as the officer’s implacable gaze and measured gesticulations attempt to enforce some sort of order over the chaos, Rome’s bright young things whiz in and out of the traffic on their vespas like modern day charioteers. Luckily, you have the luxury of being able to watch this free street theatre without having to take an active part in it and, without doubt, people-watching in Rome is almost as good as sightseeing!
But, this is Rome and, when in Rome on a Mediterranean cruise, you owe it to yourself to drink in the scenery like it’s a cool glass of Frascati. Stroll the Spanish Steps, visit the Vatican City and the Colosseum and do toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, after all, if the legend holds true, a return visit to Rome is never going to be anything other than a joy.
I Do Like To Be Beside The Tyrrhenian Seaside
As we’re looking closely at this part of the Western Mediterranean, we may as well get our geography in order! This part of the Mediterranean off the west coast of Italy, is, strictly speaking, the Tyrrhenian Sea and this area is even more in keeping with what the ancient Romans would have considered mare nostrum. Apparently, the name derives from the name given to the Etruscans (by the ancient Greeks) who colonised this area.
Heading along the coast and further north we enter the Ligurian Sea and, if your cruise is calling at Livorno, then the Tuscan Coast stretching away to the south would have been home to the ancient Etruscans, many centuries before the Romans ever turned up. As well as Livorno, your gateway to Florence, the Ligurian Sea is home to the port of Genoa and jewels of the Italian Riviera like Portofino. As you head west the Italian gives way to the French Riviera, easily accessible from bustling Marseille, France’s second city and busiest port.
French Connection To The Riviera
You may choose to head straight for one of those chic Riviera resorts from Marseille or, perhaps, you’d prefer to wander off to the lavender fields and lovely countryside of Provence? Both are tempting, but there’s something about Marseille that is compelling. If you want to see the Western Mediterranean at work, rather than at play, then Marseille offers a thoroughly authentic slice of life.
The Vieux Port still crackles with activity much as it has done for centuries. Fresh fish is still landed (and gutted!) right here, so your bouillabaisse should be as fresh as the salt sea breeze – well, you can’t really come to Marseille and not try bouillabaisse! By the same token, a glass of pastis overlooking the sea is similarly de rigueur. If you want to jump headlong into the melting pot of cultures that is modern Marseille, then the Capucin market is the place to go.
If you’d rather see something of France as it was hundreds of years ago, then a trip to the beautiful city of Avignon is sure to scratch that historical itch. From the Palais des Papes – yes, the Papacy was moved to France in the 14th Century - to the famous Pont d’ Avignon, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is surely one of the Mediterranean’s most extraordinary time capsules. Why not enjoy a picnic on the banks of the Rhone with a glass of the local red – you might also want to pick up some vintage Chateauneuf-du-Pape to stow away for a special occasion too!
It’s Not The Med’ Without Some Viva Espagna!
Italy and France have so much to offer but, somehow, a cruise of the western Mediterranean isn’t quite complete without a call at somewhere with a Spanish accent. Chances are your cruise will call at, and may well start from, Barcelona which is, indeed, fortunate! The city is, of course, full of Gaudi’s wonderful architecture and a trip to the Sagrada Familia is like spending an afternoon in the mind of a profoundly spiritual man, who just happened to be something of a genius. But, if you crave more earthly pleasures, then the bustling Ramblas is within walking distance of the port.
If you’re lucky you might also get to visit Palma where the distinctions between cosmopolitan city, chic, seaside resort and historic capital become blurred in the sunshine that, far more often than not, bathes this lovely Balearic island.
If your cruise is headed for Valencia on the other hand, you’re still in for a treat. The stunning architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences will give your admiration for Gaudi a run for its money, while the local paella is as quintessentially Spanish as that bouillabaisse was decidedly French. Elsewhere, the old town competes for your time with modern, expansive parks and there’s still mile upon mile of golden beach to explore.
Isn’t It Time You Discovered A Western Med’ Summer Cruise?
With so many cruises to choose from, it’s often helpful to focus on a particular region and see how it measures up to your requirements and expectations. Next summer MSC Cruises not only has plenty of cruises to the Western Mediterranean, it also has some of the most exciting and modern cruise ships scheduled to take you from port to port. Vessels like MSC Grandiosa, MSC Seaview and MSC Seaside complement the Western Mediterranean perfectly and the range of facilities on offer will ensure that you get the absolute utmost from your cruise with us. If we’ve whetted your appetite for the Western Med’ call us today to secure your cruise.