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.
Built around a sheltered bay with Mount Faron as an impressive backdrop, Toulon is an important naval port and a city of industry. Its large harbor serves as the base for the French navy's Mediterranean fleet and as home to a sizeable marina, with yachts and pleasure boats adding bright splashes of color. A maze of pedestrian streets constitutes the heart of old Toulon. Shops and colorful stalls make it an attractive area to explore. Avenue de la République runs parallel to the waterfront. At the western edge of the quay, the Naval Museum is visiting by those with an interest in Toulon’s maritime history. Most visitors come here to explore the hinterland and other parts of the Riviera.
Set in the heart of one of the world's most beautiful bays, Villefranche-sur-Mer sits on the steps of a natural amphitheatre - the terraced hills of the Riviera - gazing out over the sea. The plentiful sunshine of the Côte d'Azur, reflected in the enclosed bay, has given Villefranche-sur-Mer a warmth and climate all of its own and its famous rich, exotic vegetation. Long a spectator to centuries of history, Villefranche-sur-Mer has welcomed civilzations and has a rich heritage to show for it: the old city with its picturesque narrow streets, the mysterious "Rue Obscure", the Chapel Saint-Pierre, decorated by Cocteau, the fortified Port, and, last but not least, the magnificent Citadel built in 1557 by the Duke of Savoy. Today, those massive and majestic walls harbour the Town Hall, an open air theatre surrounded by gardens, three museums and a Congress Centre. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a rich and growing city situated very closely to Nice and Monaco. It is a city with very special character, and the warmth and charm of a fishing village from a bygone age.
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.
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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.
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.
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