Where to Holiday in the Mediterranean
The ancient history of the Mediterranean is so rich in cultural diversity and folklore that it continues to attract countless tourists worldwide- as it did for over 5000 years since it became the principal centre of maritime activity and the repository of the richest collection of archaeological, artistic, and natural treasures in the world. The list of places to visit is so extensive that it would take books to discover the entire history and strategic historical importance of places like Greece (and surrounding islands), Italy, Spain, France and many others.
The southern Italian island of Sicily is without a doubt on top of the list; as the most ancient and largest island in the Mediterranean it has been a hotbed of cross-cultural activity since Greco-Roman times and up until the later Renaissance period, reason why it has been termed ‘the Jewel of the Mediterranean’ and also the ‘Gateway to the Mediterranean’ throughout the millennia by the various civilizations that settled there or occupied the island. We can count the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, Normans and North Africans among the many influences that shaped its cultural and historical legacy and which is reflected in the way of life of Sicilians and the local traditions around the island.
Regarding the accommodation, you could stay in one of the many villas in Sicily that can be rented directly from local owners like Villa Rosa dei Venti (6 sleeps, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, private pool and large garden perched above Castellammare del Golfo near Scopello, at a price of E150 X night) . You will be able to experience all the ancient folkore and heritage of this unique melting pot that still lives on in the festivals and traditions held in the local towns and in the Aeolian and Egadi archipelagos.
The pristine and crystal blue waters of the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts provide the best experience for beach lovers and Sicily has the best beaches in Europe. San Vito lo Capo in the North West, the Isola Bella by Taormina in the North East, the Agrigento coast in the West, the Greek heritage of Syracuse in the South East and its many UNESCO World Heritage Sites (which also include the exotic protected natural parks of Mt. Etna, Vendicari, Nebrodi and the Madonie, the Zingaro nature reserve, as well as the Greco-Roman monuments and Temples of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Segesta and Taormina and the Byzantine Norman/Gothic and Arabic Cathedrals that dot the island) are only some of the numerous reasons why Sicily is the centre of the Mediterranean par excellence and in every aspect.
The lovely beach-lines of Majorca in Spain has lured countless artists and writers like Chopin, Agatha Christie, and Joan Mirò due to its fascinating Mediterranean panorama and year-round temperate climate, not forgetting its uncontaminated natural habitats which include the Serra de Tramuntana, the beaches of Muro, Alcudia and Pollenca, the Natural Park of Mondrago, the Caves of Drach and Arta, and many more. Ideal for nature lovers and water-based activities like scuba diving and boating, it is also filled with many contemporary art and archaeological museums (Le Seu Cathedral, Castell de Bellver, Can Prunera Museum of Modernism, Museu Arqueologic de Son Fornes).
As for Greece there is no need to mention its ancient heritage dating back to the time of Troy. Navagio Beach in Zakynthos is renowned as one of the most popular beaches in the world- comparable perhaps only to the splendour of the beaches in Sicily. You can relax in the warm waters of the coast and admire its picturesque setting of colourful reefs, cliffs, secluded bays and cobalt blue waters. The Melissani Cave in Kefalonia is another natural wonder that is absolutely breath-taking, with its natural sedimentary formations that give it its unique magical character, and its surrounding forest above, it is one of the most incredible sights for boating excursions and a diving experience that is truly mythological and mystical in every way.
You can also make your way to Croatia, renowned for some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. The town of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site also admired for its rich cultural and historical legacy dating to the Middle Ages and carried into popularity during the 13th and 14th Century. Despite the extensive damages resulting from the Serbo-Bosnian War, it also ranks as one of the top ten best preserved medieval walled cities in the globe. Visit the Franciscan Monastery and its Old Pharmacy Museum erected in the 14th Century- one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe- where you can learn about the ancient herbal and medicinal recipes, or go kayaking around this small island to take a coastal tour of the old town and its majestic walls.