We cruised the Mediterranean in February and managed to do a little antiquing along the way. Mostly, we were on vacation and picked a Viking Ocean cruise to go where we hadn’t been before. We visited five countries: Greece, Italy, Monaco, France and Spain. Although, we’ve been to France three times, we hadn’t been to southern France. We were gone 16 days, but it felt a lot longer, since we went way back in history.
In this blog post, we’ll share some of the early historical sights we visited. Starting with those furthest back on a timeline. We saw statues after statues, rocks after rocks, walls after walls, art after art. From sunrise to sunset, we were out exploring.
Old Venetian Harbour of Chania. Built 1320–1356 by the Venetians, this busy harbor includes a restored lighthouse, shops & eateries.
Wandering through the streets of Chania, Crete, Greece.
First up is Crete, where the Minoan civilization lived on the island south of the Greece mainland. This pre-Greek world was from 2000-1400 BC. You might remember the Minoans from the story of the Minotaur, half bull and half man, in Greek legends. We visited Chania, a port city on the island of Crete, which is part of Greece.
Our first view of Athens Acropolis.
The Parthenon in Athens.
Following the disappearance of the Minoan civilization, the Greeks came to the forefront. The start of the boom of art, architecture and philosophy began in 1000 BC. We climbed the 80+ steps to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Towering above the city of Athens, some of the Parthenon and various temples still stand.
The Philippeion, Olympia, a monument dedicated to Zeus.
Philip’s favorite stop on the trip was the visit to Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games in 776 BC. Here, we walked among the remains of the temples, training facilities and in the stadium. People in the ancient world would walk for up to 3 months to attend the games. We were there for three hours.
The ancient theatre of Taormina Italy.
Theresa’s favorite stop was Taormina Italy, a hillside village on the island of Sicily, in the shadow of Mt. Etna, an active volcano. Here, we climbed to the Greek Theater, which was built in the 3rd century BC. Perched on the side of a cliff, it overlooks the Ionian Sea. Greek plays were performed here, as were Roman plays, and it’s still operating as a concert venue!
The massive Colosseum in Rome.
When in Rome, we had a chance to see the Coliseum, built in 70 AD and the Circus Maximus, where the chariot races were held.
Herculaneum Italy destroyed in 79 AD, now an archaeological site similar to Pompeii.
In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius wiped out Pompeii and Herculaneum, near Naples. We chose to visit Herculaneum, an upper-class seafront town which was also destroyed by the great eruption. People instantly baked with temperatures above 450 degrees F. The buildings were better preserved than Pompeii because Herculaneum was covered in mud, not burning ash.
The tower of Pisa (or Leaning Tower), situated in Piazza dei Miracoli together with the Duomo, the Baptistery and the Camposanto.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Pisa. Started in 1000s, the church, the Baptistry, and the leaning tower are quite wonderful. Everyone knows about the leaning bell tower, which used to lean one way and now leans another, but we were more impressed with the Baptistry. People had to be baptized in the Baptistry before they could enter the church. One guide stood in the center of the marble round building and sang a few notes, and the sound echoed so much that it seemed that a choir was singing.
Carcassonne, France. Narbonne Gate entrance into the fortified city.
Now, we’re up to the Middle Ages and we visited Carcassonne from the 1200s in France. Philip is interested in all things Knights Templar and wanted to visit the town where the Cathars were wiped out. Carcassonne is a double-walled village, with a castle and a cathedral and small winding streets. There’s a legend of Templar gold buried under the castle.
A model of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon France.
Avignon, France is the town that served as the 14th century home of the popes, when according to history, it was unsafe for them to reside in Rome, due to civil unrest.
Ceiling of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Once owned by the powerful Medicis. The East Corridor ceilings were frescoed in 1580-81 by Alessandro Allori
The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy. There are shops built on the bridge.
The Renaissance occurred in Italy following the Dark Ages and a vast number of artists and sculptors created religious treasures, which are housed in Florence. We got to see Michelangelo’s David.
St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo is a fortress next to the Vatican. Built in 123-139 AD.
We figured we’d be back in Rome one day, so we chose to spend most of our time in Rome at the Vatican, the country within the city of Rome. It was like walking onto a movie set, in particularly, Angels and Demons. The Basilica was built on St. Peter’s grave in the 4th century, but the Vatican didn’t become a city-state until 1929.
Casino de Monte-Carlo. Opened in 1863.
Monte Carlo was lucky, at least for Theresa, who made some money at the Grand Casino. But, alas, did not see James Bond. Perched on a cliff, the small country is very compact and has elevators and escalators to take you up through the city.
An interior photo of La Sagrada Familia Catholic Cathedral in Barcelona.
We ended our cruise in Barcelona, where we took a Gaudi Architecture Tour that visited some of his design projects; including, a park and the cathedral. He was active in the 1870s until his untimely death in 1926.
We did a bit of antique shopping because we always go antiquing wherever we travel. Our spring shopping trip was canceled due to the arrival of our newest family member, a baby girl born to our daughter and son-in-law.
Thanks for following along on our adventures. For more photos, check out our Instagram page.