The sights of these renaissance, medieval and Tuscan portside cities on the shores of the western Mediterranean Sea will make you never want to leave.
Last week, tripatlas.com/new brought you to 10 Amazing Portside Cities in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Israel. This week, we set sail westward on the Mediterranean to the classic western European countries: Italy, France, and Spain.
Its castle walls, old fortresses, gothic windows, ancient steps, you’ll wonder whether it was here that Alexander the Great stood to conquer the lands. From hundreds of historical highlights to beautiful seaside table seating for a perfect romantic dinner, the beauty of these cities will make you want to quit your job to live on the Mediterranean for the rest of your life.
10 Beautiful Portside Cities of the Western Mediterranean Sea
From the romantic, charming ports in Sicily to the regal canals of Venice, discover which ports made the cut as the most beautiful, inspiring and best portside destinations in the western Mediterranean Sea. We chose these portside cities or towns based on what they have to offer for all kinds of travelers, nearby sights and attractions, as well as overall sea-side presence in the western Mediterranean.
10) Dubrovnik in Croatia is known as one of the world’s most beautifully preserved historic cities. It boasts of red roofs as far as the eye can see as well as churches, castles, palaces and fountains from gothic, renaissance and baroque periods that stand tall overlooking Dubrovnik, just as pristine as they were hundreds of years ago. Discover Dubrovnik through our travel correspondent, Chuck on Tour.
9) Taormina in Sicily is a small resort town on the east coast of the island in the province of Messina and boasts of the luscious waters of the Ionian Sea and the exquisite and secluded Isola Bella Bay. The most unique part of Taormina is smoking Mount Etna in its background, Europe’s largest active volcano.
Another of Taormina’s sights is the ancient Greek Theatre that was built in the 3rd century BC and is still used today for outdoor concerts because of its close-to-perfect acoustics. Stroll along the Corso Umberto for shops and dining after a strenuous day on Sicily’s beaches.
8) Livorno for Florence, Pisa and Lucca in Italy. Livorno is the rugged port that will take you to the heart and soul of northern Tuscany: Florence or Firenze. It boasts of renaissance masterpieces like bell towers, sculptures, paintings created by the great artists: Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Ghiberti. And of course, there is the unforgettable Duomo di Firenze.
It takes about 1-1.5 hours by train or car to make your way to Florence from the port of Livorno but also allows you to visit Pisa‘s leaning tower, the graceful walls and wines of Lucca city, and the small medieval town of San Gimignano, hidden on the hills of Siena.
7) Barcelona, Spain is known as the cultural heart and soul of Spain where Catalan, the region’s native language, is still spoken. From the port, a quick bus ride takes you to the bottom of Las Ramblas and into the old city of Barcelona. Stroll upwards to central Barcelona’s Ramblas street that’s packed with bistros, cafes and musicians as far as the eye can see.
Spend a day at the Picasso Museum or with your neck craned looking at the detailed architecture of the city’s palaus and casas. Admire the sights in the Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter, where you’ll find Antoni Gaudi’s still unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia Church.
6) Sorrento, Italy has sights that will appease any traveler: sea cliffs that rise from the waters while from the Bay of Sorrento, you’ll gasp at the view of Naples across the water behind at the stunning Amalfi Coast slanting upwards towards the heavens. The rich and famous are known to wine and dine at the luxury hotels on Sorrento’s cliffs while most tourists stick to drinking the limoncello, admiring the city’s old architecture or taking a romantic drive along the coast. Moor off from here to visit Pompeii, Capri or Naples.
5) Puerto Banus in Spain is where all the high rollers, shot callers and ballers of Europe take their private yachts or jets for a luxurious getaway. Located in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, the centerpiece of Puerto Banus is “the Port”: the marina that houses 915 boats of the world’s richest people, including the King of Saudi Arabia.
On the boardwalk, you’ll find a 3-ton statue of a rhinoceros by Salvador Dali from 1956. Visit the high-end shopping complex, expensive restaurants, nightclubs that flow with bubbly, or go for a game of golf. Stroll through Antonio Banderas Square or make your way to the close by Nueva Andalucía, a more casual town to the west of Puerto Banus.
4) Civitavecchia to visit the Eternal City: Rome. When you step off your ship into Civitavecchia, you’ll find yourself at the gateway to Rome, where all roads lead. It takes about 1 hour + 20 minutes or less to get to Rome by train but it is a great pity to spend only a day in the Eternal City.
From its endless gelato shops, ancient monuments and beautiful cobblestoned streets, Rome is truly irresistible. Visit the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the ancient Pantheon, the stunning Colosseum, ruins of the Ancient Roman Forum, and breathtaking Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica, Square and Sistine Chapel. Read more about Irresistible Rome: 5 Highlights of the Eternal City.
3) Venice, Italy is the most romantic ports of them all: the city on water with streets made of canals, sits as beautiful and enchanting as ever, as you paddle through the Grand Canal. With its gorgeous architecture wonders and canals, it is the world’s only pedestrian city but you can also get around by a vaporetto (water bus), on a traghetto (a gondola ferry), or on a private gondola ride. One of the most beautiful squares in the world, Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square where the Basilica di San Marco can be seen – one of hundreds of beautiful old churches in Venice.
Little shops filled with masks, trinkets and glassware are a definite must. Summer in Venice, Italy is often busy and packed with tourists, so spring or fall are better seasons to visit, especially during Carnival in the spring when the streets are filled with beautiful colours, costumes, masks, and music. One of the best suggestions for visiting Venice: “try to get lost and you’ll finally see what Venice is really about.”
2) Naples, Italy is one of the most beautiful bays in the Mediterranean, sitting in the presence of Mount Vesuvius. It is also one of the best spots for pizza in all of Italy. Besides being the home of pizza, Naples is great for its pasticceria (pastries), cheeses, for making coffee the “real” way, ice cream and oddly enough, terrible traffic laws. When visiting Naples, visit the nearby ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, cities fated to destruction by the volcanic eruption in 79 AD and rediscovered in 1748.
1) Nice, France finds itself on the Cote d’Azur. Nice is known as the “Queen of the Riviera” and is a nice break from Paris. It boasts its famous Promenade des Anglais that runs along the stretch of Niçois pebbled beaches overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The beaches are packed during the day with sunbathers while the promenade and boardwalk stays alive all night with entertainers, tourists and seaside restaurant-goers. Hidden a block from la Promenade, you’ll find le Cours Saleya in the Old City: an outdoor square with markets on Tuesdays and beautifully lit patio spaces for its numerous inexpensive restaurants at night. Hop on the train to head to Monte Carlo in Monaco, just 30 minutes away by train; or head west to seaside Antibes for a nice late afternoon stroll and dinner.
Just to the east of Nice, you’ll find Villefranche-sur-Mer in France that finds itself as an unsuspecting train stop on the way from Nice to Monte Carlo. This tiny cove-of-a-town offers sandy beaches and green slopes with medieval chapels and hilltop fortresses.
If Nice is a nice break from Paris, Villefranche is a nice break from Nice – where everything is small, cozy and simple. It is perfect for a short day trip from Nice and simply put: parfait.
From tripatlas.com/new to you: happy sailing!