Immerse yourself in the Adriatics history
Palermo boasts ancient churches, elegant palaces and fascinating museums its a real melting pot of civilisations.
Explore the breadth and depth of the Adriatics vast history on this epic Mediterranean voyage which balances leisurely days at sea giving you ample time to enjoy Spirit of Discoverys facilities to the full with visits to a series of fascinating destinations. Youll be able to compare a host of well-known ports with lesser-visited gems, gaining a well-rounded picture of the region. Contrast the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily, before cruising around the heel of Italy to reach Ravenna from where you can visit the land-locked republic of San Marino. A highlight will be a day in the enchanting city of Venice, a masterpiece set on water. Next a string of seaside cities across Croatia, Slovenia and Albania await your discovery. Explore the tightly-packed Venetian streets of Koper, admire Austro-Hungarian architecture in Rijeka, walk across the well-worn cobblestone of Splits UNESCO-listed Diocletians Palace and seek out Durrs ancient archaeological sites. Head back across the Mediterranean to Malta, where you can trace Vallettas role in World War II, and enjoy a visit to ancient Cadiz for a quick taste of Spanish tapas and their relaxed way of life. Your time ashore will be complemented on board with fascinating talks by expert speakers unravelling the Adriatics interwoven military, medieval and ancient history.
Gibraltars iconic Rock marks the entrance to the Mediterranean. This British outpost offers an intriguing mix of British and Spanish cultures and its quite fun to see reminders of home, such as traditional red telephone boxes, in a Mediterranean setting. Enjoy a spot of duty-free shopping in the town centre or venture inside cavernous St Michael’s Cave.
Pristine white-sand beaches, unusual archaeological ruins and an untamed mountainous interior define the Mediterraneans second largest island, Sardinia. Spread across seven hills, the capital of Cagliari presents a splendid panorama for visitors approaching by sea. Spend the day exploring hillside streets that display a mix of architectural styles. These reflect the citys diverse history and include the second century AD Roman amphitheatre, the Pisan-Romanesque cathedral and neoclassical Bastione di Saint Remy from where you can enjoy great views of the city, as well as a choice of nearby bars and cafes to soak up the citys Italian vibe.
As the capital of the Italian island of Sicily, Palermo is an interesting blend of grand architecture and crumbling facades. Its most notable landmark is easily the UNESCO-listed cathedral which was built in the Arab-Norman style. The 12th-century cathedral of Cefalu forms part of the same UNESCO ensemble and you can see it during a walking tour of this medieval seaside town.
Ravenna (for San Marino), Italy
Connected to the Adriatic by the Candiano Canal, Ravenna flourished under the Goths and Byzantines when some of its most outstanding monuments were built. The interiors of these buildings are decorated with Byzantine mosaics uncover them in the 5th-century Baptistery of Neon and the domed San Vitale Basilica. From here you can visit landlocked San Marino, which is one of the smallest countries in the world and is said to be the oldest surviving republic.
Gondolas plying the Grand Canal, flocks of birds pirouetting over St Marks Square and tourists posing on the Bridge of Sighs are just some of the iconic sights you can see in Venice. Along with 160 canals lined with Renaissance palaces, it features outstanding monuments such as the domed Basilica di San Marco and the Campanile di San Marco, and boasts breathtaking views, such as that from the elegant Rialto Bridge.
Kopers compact old town is a delight to explore on foot. This lesser-visited Adriatic town was once ruled by the Venetians, and theres much diversity here, evident in the Mediterranean-style Praetorian Palace and the spired city bell tower.
Rijeka, Croatia’s third largest city, has a tumultuous past owing to its prized deep-water port. An interesting mix of old and new, its Hapsburg heritage can be seen in the city centre’s Austro-Hungarian style buildings. Rijeka was nearly destroyed in 1813 by the Royal Navy hot on the heels of Napoleons fleet, save for the brave actions of a local merchants daughter. In the face of unrelenting fire, she is said to have bravely walked up to the highest-ranking officer and, following an undocumented conversation, the military action subsequently ceased. The port now bears her name, Carolina of Rijeka, and if you study nearby St Vitus Church, youll see a cannonball wedged in a wall which remains as a reminder of how close the city came to destruction.
Whether strolling along the palm-lined promenade, relaxing at a pavement cafe or admiring art at one of the independent galleries, the Dalmatian Rivieras largest city offers plenty of ways to soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere. Its star attraction is the vast Imperial Palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian between 295-305 AD. Within the fortified walls, once wide corridors have become streets lined with shops, restaurants and quaint medieval houses.
Spirit of Discovery will arrive in Durrs today, a first for Saga Cruises. Albanias sprawling, urban port is the countrys second largest city, next to the capital of Tirana, and features a popular six-and-a-half-mile long beach. With 3,000 years of history behind it, Durrs is scattered with archaeological attractions. These include a second-century AD amphitheatre which is tucked away behind the port, a Byzantine forum and the remaining 5th-century walls of Durrs Castle.
Malta is a jewel set at the heart of the Mediterranean and you can enjoy an overnight mooring in Valletta, its glorious baroque capital. Built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century as a safe place for injured soldiers and pilgrims to convalesce during the Crusades, history pervades every inch of its honey-hued sandstone walls. At its centre stands the magnificent St John’s Co-Cathedral inside are numerous art works donated by the Grand Masters and an elaborate marble floor. The city was bombed during World War II, notably losing its beloved Royal Opera House. You can reflect on this stage of its history with a visit to the Mgarr War Shelter, the entrance to which is hidden at the back of a restaurant! This evening, be sure to enjoy views of the city at night from your vantage point on board ship.
Founded over 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians, Cadiz enjoys a scenic setting on the edge of a promontory in Andalusia and is believed to be the oldest town on the Iberian peninsula. While here you may like to take a stroll along one of the town’s two promenades. For a flavour of local cuisine, you can join a tapas workshop and enjoy a guided tour of Bodega Casa del Marques.