Arrive at the airport for your flight to Rome. On arrival we transfer to the four-star Welcome Piram Hotel, where we stay for two nights, with breakfast.
This morning we discover the Eternal City on a coach tour. So much history is concentrated in one small area, it’s simply staggering. Imagine the chaos and colour of a chariot race in the Circus Maximus, marvel at the marble Victor Emmanuel II memorial, see the Vatican with St Peter’s Basilica at its heart, and Palatine Hill where the city’s elite resided in their opulent villas. Amidst the monumental are cosy piazzas, lively bars and friendly restaurants waiting to be explored. This afternoon you’re free to wander as you wish.
One of the best-known monuments of the Roman Empire is the astounding Colosseum. Although it was built in the 1st-century, it remains the largest and most imposing stadium of the ancient Roman world. Don’t miss your chance to visit this engineering marvel this morning and retrace the footsteps of Rome’s once-mighty gladiators. Later we transfer to the port town of Civitavecchia, where we embark the superb Aegean Odyssey for seven nights of spectacular cruising.
This morning we find ourselves in the Tuscan port city of Livorno. From here we drive through the beautiful countryside to Florence, the ‘Pearl of the Renaissance’ and once one of the world’s richest cities, home to powerful families such as the famous Medici. We begin our discovery of Florence with a visit to the Accademia gallery, where you can get up close to Michelangelo’s flawless ‘David’, which towers over a rich collection of art. Afterwards during our guided walk, we’ll see the tangible results of the city’s wealth in glorious landmarks such as the 10th-century Ponte Vecchio spanning the River Arno, the magnificent Duomo cathedral with Giotto’s bell tower, and the octagonal Baptistery with stunning bronze doors designed by Ghiberti, who was chosen over Donatello and Brunelleschi for the honour. You have free time for lunch, so why not sample the local cuisine at one of Florence’s many excellent restaurants. Later we visit the renowned Uffizi, Italy’s most important art gallery with masterpieces by every major Florentine painter. This evening we return to the ship, which remains moored overnight in Livorno. You may wish to explore the city, home to an imposing medieval fort and an enchanting Venetian-style quarter of canals.
After breakfast on board we leave for the delightful walled city of Lucca, the capital of Tuscany in the Middle Ages. During our walking tour, we’ll discover its ancient cobbled streets and handsome piazzas, as well as religious Romanesque gems, the Cathedral of San Martino and the Church of San Frediano, and the remains of the ancient Roman amphitheatre that once graced the town centre. There’s free time after to explore and perhaps enjoy a hearty Tuscan lunch. We continue to Pisa, renowned for its unusual symbol, the Leaning Tower. Construction began in 1173 and took more than 200 years to reach completion, due to interruptions by wars and attempts by engineers to correct the lean. We now know that without these disruptions, which allowed the shifting soil to compress, the tower would have toppled over! The structure is part of Pisa’s cathedral complex, situated on the Campo dei Miracoli or ‘Field of Miracles’, named so as it was spared destruction during the Second World War. We visit the magnificent Romanesque cathedral of gleaming marble to see its intricately carved pulpit and panels portraying the life of Christ. The remarkable Gothic baptistery boasts an impressive dome adorned with sculptures attributed to Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Afterwards, reflect on the day’s wonderful sights as we return to our ship in air-conditioned comfort.
This morning we arrive in stunning Elba, forever linked with Napoleon’s exile. Many may not consider it punishment to be banished to this paradise island fringed with sandy white coves and dazzlingly blue water! Our adventure begins with a scenic drive from Portoferraio, where the ship is moored, to the idyllic fishing harbour of Porto Azzurro, dominated by a medieval fortress. There’s time to stroll the winding cobbled streets and browse its little terracotta-roofed shops full of tempting items. We continue to Punta delle Grotte, where the ruins of a Roman villa lie, to take in the spectacular panoramic views over the sweeping harbour, with green hills to one side and azure waters to the other, stretching as far as the eye can see. We return to Portoferraio for a walking tour of the old town and follow in the footsteps of Napoleon with a visit to his official residence, Villa dei Mulini, which houses many of his personal items, as well as art and furniture of the period. We’ll also see Cosimo de’ Medici’s star-shaped Fort Stella and Napoleon’s Theatre of the Vigilant.
Enjoy a relaxing morning on board as we cruise the unspoilt granite islands of Lavezzi and Maddalena. Head up to the observation deck to take in incredible views of turquoise lagoons and fine-sand beaches, and perhaps spot native birds, such as the crested cormorant. Beneath the surface of the waters is a colourful seabed teeming with marine life. Soon we’re greeted by the grand approach to the French island of Corsica: rising dramatically from the sparkling waters are soaring white limestone cliffs, topped by much-photographed Bonifacio. The afternoon is free for you to explore Italian-influenced Bonifacio at your own pace. Wander the narrow streets flanked by Genoese tenements, stroll along the glittering harbour and listen closely for the local dialect, a legacy of the days when Corsica was under Genoese control. Overnight we cruise northward to Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica and birthplace of Napoleon.
Today you have a choice between two incredible experiences. Firstly, a guided tour of Ajaccio takes us to Napoleon’s cave where he used to play, overlooked by a bronze statue of the military general. A short drive takes us to Pointe de la Parata, which offers breathtaking views over the Iles Sanguinaires. We return to Ajaccio for a stroll through the historic quarter, where the vestiges of the past mingle with modernity, seeing the pinkhued town hall and the house where Napoleon was born. Alternatively, you may prefer to take a scenic coastal drive discovering the area’s intriguing history and dramatic landscape. Look out for the remains of towers erected along the coastline to defend against pirate attacks. The stunning coastline grows ever more rugged before we turn inland and begin our tortuous ascent through cork forests to the ridgetops for some of the most aweinspiring views of the region. We drive through the picturesque village of Côti-Chiavari, where lush hillside terraces face the sea, and continue along the coast back to our ship. This afternoon as we cruise towards the Balearic islands, perhaps cool off in the Aegean Odyssey’s pool or catch up on some reading in the on-board library.
It’s our first day in Spain and you have another choice between two wonderful excursions. Enjoy a guided walking tour to discover charming Mahón, which became the capital of Menorca during the island’s brief period as a British dependency. Set on a ridge above the expansive harbour, the old town is a picturesque maze of pastel-hued lanes, attractive piazzas and fine architecture. The distinctive town hall, which stands on the site of an ancient Moorish fortress, echoes the design of its predecessor with grand arches and crenellations. Otherwise, take a scenic drive to the island’s highest peak, Monte Toro, for truly breathtaking views. It has been a significant pilgrimage site since the 13th century when a bull was said to have led a group of monks to an image of the Virgin Mary in a cave. We continue to the pretty fishing village of Fornells, whose superbly preserved tower was built by the British in the 19th century to repel invasion. We also visit Binibeca, an elegant village characterised by whitewashed villas, cobbled streets and lively eateries. Tonight we cruise to dazzling Palma in Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands.
After breakfast, we disembark the Aegean Odyssey in Palma and transfer to the four-star Palma Bellver by Meliá, where we stay two nights, with breakfast. Well-located on the promenade, the hotel is perfect for enjoying fine views of the marina and Palma Bay. This afternoon you may wish to join a guided walk through the lively old town, passing the magnificent sandstone cathedral, whose towering walls and soaring buttresses appear to rise out of the sea. Also known as ‘La Seu’, its beautiful Catalan-Gothic style was inspired by the Notre- Dame in Paris and its 12-metre rose window, which comprises 1,236 pieces of stained glass, is one of the world’s largest. In the early 20th century, the Spanish architect Gaudi famously updated the cathedral, brightening its interior and designing the ‘baldachin’ hanging over the altar.
You have the entire day at leisure to do as you wish. Perhaps explore the old town or visit the Gothic-style Bellver castle, Spain’s only circular castle. Looking at this impeccably preserved royal fortress perched on a hill, it’s astonishing to think it’s been standing for more than 700 years! Amble along the yacht-filled marina and pause for a fresh catch of the day at one of the many sea-facing restaurants, or simply relax in your hotel. You could also catch the mahogany-and-brass vintage train, journeying through lovely countryside, to Sóller, a quintessential Mediterranean town set in a lush valley of orange groves nestled between the mountains and the sea.
Transfer to Palma airport for your flight home.
The classically elegant AegeanOdyssey is specially adapted forisland and coastal cruising, so youcan visit smaller, less crowdedharbours, sail closer to thespectacular coastlines of Greece,Italy and Spain, navigate the idyllicislands of Sicily and Malta, andeven cruise upriver into the heartof Seville.
Experience the finest traditions of cruising on board AegeanOdyssey, combining the best of classical grace with all themodern conveniences of a first-class ship. She is a superb vesselcarrying just 378 guests, creating a unique atmospherethat is bothrelaxed and convivial – you can mingle with other guests, or find quietareas for relaxation.During the day, you may simply wish to enjoy the sun on thespacious teak decks, cool off in the outdoor pool refreshed withseawater every day, or rejuvenate yourself with a yoga session at theAthena Health Spa and Gym. There is an exclusive programme of talksheld in the Ambassador Lounge, designed to entertain and bring to lifethe history of the area’s remarkable civilisations, and other fascinatingtopics. Perhaps borrow an interesting book from the beautifullyappointed, well-stocked library, regularly updated by Oxford-basedbooksellers, Blackwells. Watch the sunset with a cocktail in the Lido Bar,or enjoy an aperitif in the Charleston Lounge while being entertainedby the resident trio.