Scattered about the edges of the Mediterranean Sea are bastions of history, relics of bygone areas and architectural bones of ancient metropolises. Whether you’re a devout history buff or just have an innate sense of adventure, here are three destinations you should seek out when searching for unique experiences off the beaten path.
EPHESUS RUINS, TURKEY
Located in modern-day Turkey, the Ephesus ruins are all that remain of the once-thriving ancient Greek and Roman port. These timeworn stones tell the tale of bygone eras with stoicism: The Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, today is represented by a single inconspicuous column unearthed in the 1870s. The façade at the Library of Celsus — originally built c. 125 and home to some 12,000 scrolls — has been carefully reconstructed, and now only houses the sarcophagus of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. The star of the show? The open-air theater. Believed to be the largest in the ancient world with seating for 25,000, it offered both drama and gladiatorial combat. Today it still stands, offering views only of the passage of time on the surrounding countryside.
One of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture in the modern world, the Alhambra, has been an artwork in progress since the 9th century. Today, this impressive fortress is home to easily a day’s worth of wandering and discovery: the Alcazaba has been standing since at least 1230 A.D., and the Hall of Abencerrajes has been known to elicit dropped jaws at the sight of its ceiling vaults. The throne room of the Palace of Comares and the accompanying Court of Myrtles are bound to instill awe, just as the ever-verdant gardens and equally enchanting Water Stairway instill tranquility. To see how the different eras of rulers bring their own flavor of decadent additions over the course of centuries feels like an Architectural Digest tour of sultans’ and kings’ tastes throughout time.
Right outside Rome sits the equally enthralling — yet less-traveled — town of Orvieto. This off-the-beaten-path gem of a medieval town is perched atop a rock cliff and dates back to 1290. Truth be told, it’s seen little change since the 14th century: A sample of its dry white wine grown in the surrounding vineyards would be nearly indistinguishable from a glass seven centuries ago. A stroll through picturesque alleyways provides the same charming experience of window-shopping one might’ve found in ages past — especially with wares such as Pinocchio dolls, ceramics and signature local wines. Like much of Italy, this town has developed its own signature dishes, necessitating a long lunch or dinner (or both) to sample delicacies like freshly found truffles, palomba alla leccarda and umbrichelli.
An ideal way to visit any of the above destinations is on a European cruise with Oceania Cruises. Not only will you have plenty of time to experience the sights and flavors listed above, but you’ll also benefit from their immersive excursions led by knowledgeable and professional guides, unlocking a whole new level of exploration and appreciation of your travels — to say nothing of their personalized service, designer-inspired small ships and of course, The Finest Cuisine at Sea®. Our agents know Oceania Cruises well, so we can help you choose, plan and book your cruise vacation to perfection.