Islands of the Mediterranean - Aug./Sept. 2012

MS Quest - Azamara Club Cruise Lines


Wednesday, August 29
Rome (Civitavecchia) - Italy
Thursday, August 30
Sorrento - Italy
Friday, August 31
Capri - Italy
Saturday, September 1
Amalfi - Italy
Sunday, September 2
Trapani - Sicily
Monday, September 3
Bonifacio - Corsica  
Tuesday, September 4
Olbia - Sardinia  
Wednesday, September 5
Mahon -Menorca -Balearic Is.
Thursday, September 6
Ibiza - Balearic Is.
Friday, September 7
Palma De Mallorca - Balearic Is. 
Saturday, September 8
Barcelona - Spain

This was our first cruise on Azamara Club Cruise lines. The ship is one of two of the former Renaissance ships bought by Azamara. They carry about 700 passengers, a third or less than the usual modern cruiseships. Overall it was a pleasureful trip. Some of the features that we liked was:

1. Crew gratuities are included

2. Self service laundry is free of charge including detergent

3. Soft drinks are complimentary throughout the ship including the stateroom refrigerators

4. The staff in the stateroom areas, the lounges/bars (except for the casino) and all the restaurants were very friendly, attentive, and helpful.

5. In the evenings, we were able to sit on the pool deck, enjoy a dri9nk, and read in peace and quiet, unlike Holland-American which often has loud bands playing "music."

6. On most other ships the ship's tours are way overpriced. Azamara gives a 50% discount on tours purchased before the cruise. We did this for each day and feel that the discounted prices were fair for the services provided.

7.  I was under the impression that beer and wine was gratis in all the restaurants for lunch and dinner. This is not the case. Only wine is available gratis (one red and one white is available each day). We sat alongside two ladies from Luxembourg at dinner one night who really availed themselves of this having at least five glasses each during their meal!

Some of the things we disliked were:

1. The transfer fee for a one hour bus trip from Fiumicino (Rome) airport to Civitavecchia was $93 a person. Taxis can be had for about half of that. We were told by the travel agent that the transfers were included because we purchased the air transportation through Azamara. An Azamara person had told the agent that they were included so the agent and Azamara finally worked it out and honored  it!

2. The food selection is the main dining room was rather limited in tastes as compared to Holland America. I am an a very fussy eater so I did not eat many of the night's specialties. They also have another menu of a few items that are available any night. I had to have the steak on several of the nights because the specialties did not fit my taste.

3. A few of the attendants at the Customer desk were curt and unfriendly.

4. The internet service is seriously lacking. The attendant only mans the station at select hours. The wi-fi signal was usually one or two bars in the room and we would often lose connection which was very irritating.  We purchased the $80 plan and it was a waste of money.

We had signed up  for tours at every port except Capri. There were no sea days to catch up. We arrived in every port in the morning and left in the evening arriving at the next port the following morning. It was a pretty strenuous trip as most of the tours ate up at least half the day. Then we wanted to walk around the port towns so we were pretty worn out by evening. Guess that comes with advanced age!



We flew from Atlanta directly to Fiumicino Airport of Rome. 

Civitavecchia is the port of Rome. It is located about 50 miles northwest of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea.. The name means "ancient city." It was founded by the Emperor Trajan in the early 100s AD. Today it is the major port for cruises to the Western Mediterranean islands. 

We were bussed by the ship from the airport to the ship's berth, about a one hour bus ride for the exorbitant charge of $93 per person. Check in was very efficient and we were able to board early though the room was not ready until early afternoon. We had lunch on the fantail where I purchased the Beer Package for $20 a day that allows you to have all the beer you want from any of the bars and restaurants.

We t0ook a shuttle bus into the town. One interesting and humorous sight (photos below) was a dirty old scow that had the starboard life boat all smashed in. When we saw the bridge of the ship it had the motto "Safety First."

As you leave the dock there is a massive stone fort designed by Michelangelo that was completed in 1535 to protect this port of Rome. We walked around the town a bit then returned to the ship for departure.

Michelangelo's Fort --- Signora del Vento a tall ship built in Poland in 1962 (with Quest in the background)

Civitavecchia street scenes

Cambodian cargo ship Nesibe e with damaged starboard lifeboat --- Ship's bridge with motto "SAFETY FIRST"



Sorrento was our first port of call. It is an ancient city that was known as Surrentum on the Bay of Naples. History says Sorrento was founded by the Greeks under Liparus, son of Ausonus, who was the son of Ulysses and Circe. Its has been ruled by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Spanish, and Ottomans. 

We joined a private tour set up by Lynn Phillips of Maryland. We had a private van with driver Tony and headed to  Herculaneum. It, like the better-known Pompeii, was overcome by the 79AD eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was discovered in 1709 when workers were sinking a well in the town of Resina which was later renamed Ercolano in honor of Herculaneum in 1969. Excavations were started but stopped when Pompeii was found. Pompeii was easier to excavate because it was only covered by about 12 feet of volcanic material whereas Herculaneum was covered by up to 60 feet of material. Most of the ash from the first eruption covered Pompeii and only a few inches fell on Herculaneum allowing residents to flee. No bodies were found in Herculaneum until 1982 when boat houses were excavated and bodies found that were probably awaiti9ng evacuation. Vesuvius had several follow-on eruptions which systematically buried the city's buildings from the bottom up, causing them little damage and preserving almost intact structures and many household objects including woodwork. Unlike Pompeii, many of the original roofs survived since the lava accumulation was slow and it was not subject to thye rain of rocks that fell on Pompeii.

Herculaneum is located in the center of the city of Ercolano. It is quite amazing to see the uncovered intact ancient city with houses, stores, and streets much like it was in 79 AD towered over by today's city. Mt. Vesuvius towers over the city but ancient Romans did not realize that it was a volcano. The mountain is 4200 feet high today but was about 50% higher before the 79 AD blast.  The cloud from the eruption rose over 20 miles high. A Roman historian Pliny the Younger witnessed the eruption and recoded a history of the event. It is believed that 16,000 people died in the blast, mostly in Pompeii which was downwind from the first eruption from the heat from the pyroclastic effect, reaching temperatures above 550ºF. Herculaneum was upwind from the initial blast so most people there were able to escape.  There are many homes today in the "Red Zone" at the foot of the mountain. Seismic activity is monitored on the mountain to alert the populace if an eruption could occur (the last eruption was in 1944).

It was unbelievable to walk the streets that the ancient Romans used and be able to enter many of the edifices.  Unfortunately, as is the case in Pompeii, when the 18th century excavations were done, workers and their leaders removed many of the artifacts such as statues, mosaics, household items, etc. It nonetheless gives the visitor the feeling that the Romans had many features in their cities that are erroneously assumed to be more modern inventions.

After the visit top Herculaneum, we took a drive down to Positano, a favored spot for tourists. The road was very narrow and winding but with beautiful scenery along the way.

Many films were made in Positano in years past and many old time movie starts stayed here. Today the town is a tourist trap. Most of the stores are selling expensive items for the tour trade. We walked down to the church. There was a wedding Mass going on in English! After the wedding I asked the priest where the bridal couple were from. He refused with a very rude answer and told me to go off. I wish I had told him that I was an altar boy 40 years before he was a priest but didn't think of it until later. Later at the parking place we ran into the bridal couple and spoke to them. They were from Ireland. We wished them every success.

On the return we stopped at a family owned olive oil farm and factory, Gargiulo.  The Gargiulo farm produces high quality olive oils preserving the traditions handed down from generation to generation since 1849. It is located in the hilly Sant'Agnello's area of the Sorrento peninsula. The dominant olives of the region are Ogliarola, Rotondella, Frantoio, and Leccino. The farm produces many varieties of olive oil with several that have spices or fruits/vegetables in them to flavor them. A  lady took us on a tour of the factory and explained how the oil is produced. Everything is pretty automated today but they still had old olive presses from years back on display. The olives had already been picked for this season so the factory was shut down for the season. Their oil is exported but business has slowed due to economic conditions in Europe (not much worse than ours with the Obama destruction). After the factory tour, ww went into their shop where they allowed us to sample all the flavors they produce. We did not purchase any because we feared that US Customs would not let us bring it into the States. We asked the customs agent in Atlanta and he said olive oil can be brought in with no problem.

It was a very interesting and long day. We did not get back to the ship until after 2000 hours and were both pretty worn out. Lynn had arranged a great tour. We enjoyed being with them and with Peggy and Lee, a Chinese couple from Malaysia.

Steaming into Sorrento


Looking down in Heraculaneum from today's city of Ercolano

On the ramp into Heraculaneum  --- House of Argus

Murals and wall painting in House of Argus

Murals in House of the Skeleton (the center three are modern reproductions)

Lararium in House of the Skeleton --- Street scene

House of the Great Portal

Statue and monument of Nunio Balbo

House of the Opus Craticium --- Central Thermae

Heraculaneum and Ercolano with Mount Vesuvius (clouds make it look like erupting!)


On the road - Jay and Lynn, Lee and Peggy, Phil and Marilyn

Lunch at Ristorante Zia Sam --- Marilyn ordered fish soup for a light meal, she was surprised what Italian fish soup is! 

Church of Santa Maria Assunta



Capri is a resort island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off of Sorrento It has been a resort since the time of the Roman times, Capri has been inhabited since prehistoric times. When Augustus was having foundations laid for his villa, they found ancient stone tools and bones at the site. Capri was settled by early Greeks according to Virgil. The Emperor Tiberius built the Villa Jovis, one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Italy. Many of the Roman emperors used Capri to get away from the problems in Rome.

Capri became a major resort in the 19th century. Life in Capri was the subject of mid-20th century films and songs. In those days it attracted the perverse elements of society since the islanders were very permissive to unorthodox and peculiar lifestyles.

We were supposed to move the few miles from Sorrento to anchor overnight at Capri but the captain cancelled the move because the Capri tender operators wanted to service the ship instead of letting the ship use its own tenders to land the passengers. The captain said that some people had complained in the past about the local boats, too much freeboard and so on. Some of our fellow passengers thought this might have been exaggerated.

We took the ferry over to Capri and walked around the city rather than take one of the ship's tours.

We took one of the local scenic boat tours to see the coastline and some of the villas and resorts outside of Capri City. The tour was a reasonable €16 for the hour and a half trip but a lot of time was wasted waiting at the Blue Grotto. Turns out locals row people into the grotto for a few minutes at another charge of €12.50. We passed on this "opportunity" and some who went said it was not much. When we were in Corsica, the grottos are much larger and the tour boats actually go inside and allow time for the passengers to see all the features (no extra hidden fees). Recommend passing on the Blue Grotto excursion!

After the boat trip, we caught the ferry back to Sorrento. Since we3 were on the all day tour yesterday, we took a shuttle up  to Piazza Tasso in Sorrento. This square is very picturesque with lots of shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. There is also an old church Basilica Santuario del Carmine Maggiore on the square. We headed back to the port trying to find the hotel with the lift to catch the tender back to the ship. We finally found a very long series of 156 stairs down to the port that finally got us down. 

 We stopped for a gelato (rich Italian ice cream) which became a "must" in every other Italian stop. 

Capri Town

Boat tour around the island

Finkles enjoying their favorite treats!



Amalfi today is a beautiful area of small towns set against magnificent scenery. It was a major commercial port and an independent kingdom in the seventh century AD until 1075. . Much of the area was destroyed by a tidal wave and it was never rebuild to its former glory. The cathedral houses relics of St. Andrew the Apostle.

We joined the ships tour to Pompeii. I am somewhat of a history buff and remember studying Pompeii while in grammar school (in the days where real history from ancient to modern was studied in earnest). So visiting Pompeii was a "must" on our list of attractions.

Here's a summary thanks to Wikipedia:

Pompeii was founded around the 7th–6th century BC by the Osci, a people of central Italy. It had already been used as a safe port by Greek and Phoenician sailors. Some think that Pompeii was captured by the Etruscans, and in fact recent excavations have shown the presence of Etruscan inscriptions and a 6th century BC necropolis. Pompeii was captured for the first time by the Greek colony of Cumae, allied with Syracuse, between 525 and 474 BC .In the 5th century BC, the Samnites conquered it (and all the other towns of Campania); the new rulers imposed their architecture and enlarged the town. After the Samnite Wars (4th century BC), Pompeii was forced to accept the status of socium of Rome, maintaining, however, linguistic and administrative autonomy. In the 4th century BC, it was fortified. Pompeii remained faithful to Rome during the Second Punic War. Pompeii took part in the war that the towns of Campania initiated against Rome, but in 89 BC it was besieged by Sulla. Although the blunts of the Social League, headed by Lucius Cluentius, helped in resisting the Romans, in 80 BC Pompeii was forced to surrender after the conquest of Nola, culminating in many of Sulla's veterans being given land and property, while many of those who went against Rome were ousted from their homes. It became a Roman colony with the name of Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum. The town became an important passage for goods that arrived by sea and had to be sent toward Rome or Southern Italy along the nearby Appian Way.

The excavated town offers a snapshot of Roman life in the 1st century, frozen at the moment it was buried on 24 August AD 79. The forum, the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas like the Villa of the Mysteries remain well preserved. Details of everyday life are preserved. Wine jars have been found bearing what is apparently the world's earliest known marketing pun (technically a blend), Vesuvinum (combining Vesuvius and the Latin for wine, vinum). Graffiti carved on the walls provides information on street Latin (Vulgar Latin, a different dialect from the literary or classical Latin).

In 89 BC, after the final occupation of the city by Roman General Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Pompeii was finally annexed to the Roman Republic. During this period, Pompeii underwent a vast process of infrastructural development, most of which was built during the Augustan period. These include an amphitheatre, a palaestra with a central natatorium or swimming pool, and an aqueduct that provided water for more than 25 street fountains, at least four public baths, and a large number of private houses and businesses. The amphitheatre has been cited by modern scholars as a model of sophisticated design, particularly in the area of crowd control. The aqueduct branched out through three main pipes from the Castellum Aquae, where the waters were collected before being distributed to the city; in case of extreme drought, the water supply would first fail to reach the public baths (the least vital service), then private houses and businesses, and when there would be no water flow at all, the system would fail to supply the public fountains (the most vital service) in the streets of Pompeii. The pools in Pompeii were used mostly for decoration.
The large number of well-preserved frescoes provide information on everyday life and have been a major advance in art history of the ancient world, with the innovation of the Pompeian Styles (First/Second/Third Style). Some aspects of the culture were distinctly erotic, including phallic worship. A large collection of erotic votive objects and frescoes were found at Pompeii. Many were removed and kept until recently in a secret collection at the University of Naples.
At the time of the eruption, the town may have had some 20,000 inhabitants, and was located in an area in which Romans had their holiday villas. It is the only ancient town of which the whole topographic structure is known precisely as it was, with no later modifications or additions. Due to the difficult terrain it was not distributed on a regular plan as most Roman towns but its streets are straight and laid out in a grid in the Roman tradition; they are laid with polygonal stones, and have houses and shops on both sides of the street. It followed its decumanus and its cardo, centered on the forum.

Besides the forum, many other services were found: the Macellum (great food market), the Pistrinum (mill), the Thermopolium (sort of bar that served cold and hot beverages), and cauponae (small restaurants). An amphitheatre and two theatres have been found, along with a palaestra or gymnasium. A hotel (of 1,000 square metres) was found a short distance from the town; it is now nicknamed the "Grand Hotel Murecine".
In 2002, another discovery at the mouth of the Sarno River near Sarno revealed that the port also was populated and that people lived in palafittes, within a system of channels that suggested a likeness to Venice to some scientists.

The inhabitants of Pompeii had long been used to minor quaking (indeed, the writer Pliny the Younger wrote that earth tremors "were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania"), but on 5 February 62, there was a severe earthquake which did considerable damage around the bay and particularly to Pompeii. The earthquake, which took place on the afternoon of the 5th of February, is believed to have registered between about 5 and 6 on the Richter scale.On that day in Pompeii there were to be two sacrifices, as it was the anniversary of Augustus being named "Father of the Nation" and also a feast day to honor the guardian spirits of the city. Chaos followed the earthquake. Fires, caused by oil lamps that had fallen during the quake, added to the panic. Nearby cities of Herculaneum and Nuceria were also affected. Temples, houses, bridges, and roads were destroyed. It is believed that almost all buildings in the city of Pompeii were affected. In the days after the earthquake, anarchy ruled the city, where theft and starvation plagued the survivors. In the time between 62 and the eruption in 79, some rebuilding was done, but some of the damage had still not been repaired at the time of the eruption. Although it is unknown how many, a considerable number of inhabitants moved to other cities within the Roman Empire while others remained and rebuilt.

An important field of current research concerns structures that were being restored at the time of the eruption (presumably damaged during the earthquake of 62). Some of the older, damaged, paintings could have been covered with newer ones, and modern instruments are being used to catch a glimpse of the long hidden frescoes. The probable reason why these structures were still being repaired around seventeen years after the earthquake was the increasing frequency of smaller quakes that led up to the eruption.

By the 1st century AD, Pompeii was one of a number of towns located near the base of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius. The area had a substantial population which grew prosperous from the region's renowned agricultural fertility. Many of Pompeii's neighboring communities, most famously Herculaneum, also suffered damage or destruction during the 79 eruption. The eruption occurred on August 24, just one day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire, including that from volcanoes. A multidisciplinary volcanological and bio-anthropological study of the eruption products and victims, merged with numerical simulations and experiments, indicate that at Vesuvius and surrounding towns heat was the main cause of death of people, previously believed to have died by ash suffocation. The results of the study, published in 2010, show that exposure to at least 250 °C hot surges at a distance of 10 kilometres from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings. The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to twelve different layers of tephra, in total 25 meters deep, which rained down for about 6 hours. Pliny the Younger provided a first-hand account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius from his position across the Bay of Naples at Misenum, in a version which was written 25 years after the event. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, with whom he had a close relationship, died while attempting to rescue stranded victims. As Admiral of the fleet, Pliny the Elder had ordered the ships of the Imperial Navy stationed at Misenum to cross the bay to assist evacuation attempts. 

The eruption was documented by contemporary historians and is generally accepted as having started on 24 August 79, relying on one version of the text of Pliny's letter. However the archeological excavations of Pompeii suggest that the city was buried about three months later.  This is supported by another version of the letter which gives the date of the eruption as November 23. People buried in the ash appear to be wearing warmer clothing than the light summer clothes that would be expected in August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October, and conversely the summer fruit that would have been typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Wine fermenting jars had been sealed over, and this would have happened around the end of October. Coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one which features a fifteenth imperatorial acclamation among the emperor's titles. This cannot have been minted before the second week of September. So far there is no definitive theory as to why there should be such an apparent discrepancy.

We left Amalfi by bus traveling a very narrow and windy mountain road. The road barely accommodates two lanes of traffic. Cars are often parked along the road making it even narrower. A coup-le of times we passed another bus going in the opposite direction, passing with only inches between the vehicles. It was a very scenic drive as we went up the mountain, after the summit it was just fields and woods. The terrain on the coast is very steep but homes are built on it. Many of them have terraced gardens to grown vegetables and spices.


Typical traffic on Highway SS386 from Amalfi to Pompeii

Typical Countryside homes and gardens along Amalfi Coast


We entered through the Porta Stabia. We first visited the Quadriportico Teatri (Gladiators' Barracks), a large quadrangle surrounded by columns, a walkway, and the gladiators' cells where they lived. Leaving there we went in the Odeon which is the small theater. 

We exited the Odeon on Via Stabiana and walked up to the Terme Stabiane (Bath House) passing many shops. This baths were very sophisticated in that there were heated baths, cooling areas, dressing rooms, etc. The hall was adorned with frescos and included a display of the plaster cast of a man that had been covered with lava and on excavat9ing they injected plaster into the void made by his body. 

We then proceeded the Vicolo del Lupanare passing several places including a bar and a bakery to the Lupanare which was the brothel. The girls had little cells with sto0ne beds (curtains probably closed the cells off from the corridor). The corridor had erotic frescos showing the various services available. I got Marilyn to go into one of the cells and you can see she was calling to me to enter.

After that we proceeded down Vicolo del Balcone Pensile past several houses heading to the Forum. Ater viewing the Forum and the temples near there, we proceeded up Via del Foro to Caligula's Arch. From there we visited one of the largest homes in Pompeii, Casa del Fauno. This estate takes up the insula (a full city block) and has an area of  almost 32,000 square feet! The house still retains some frescos and mosaic floors but most was removed during early excavations. It has two beautiful garden areas. 

From there we passed a large warehouse housing many artifacts including statues, amphorae (large clay jars to carry wine), and so on.

Pompeii is a remarkable look at the everyday life of ancient Rome.

External walls ---- Gladiator barracks

 Odeon Theater

Shops and houses on Via Stabiana

Bakery --- Bar

Street scenes

Terme Stabiane (bath)

Plaster of victim ---Terme Stabiane (bath)

Frescos in Lupanare (brothel)  --- Marilyn beckoning me to prostitute cell 

The Forum

Casa del Fauna

Caligula's Arch --- Basilica - where magistrates held court

Relics in warehouse (left - amorphae, anchor, statue ---  right has  plaster cast of victim)


After the trip to Pompeii, we went into Amalfi. It is a very pretty town and not a tourist trap like Positano.




Our next stop was Trapani at the northwest corner of the historic island of Sicily. This is our first visit to Sicily a cradle of western civilzation.

Trapani was founded by the Elymians to serve as the port of the nearby city of Eryx (today Erice).  Trapani sits on a low-lying sickle-shaped promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean.  Carthage seized control of the city in 260 BC, subsequently making it an important naval base to operate against the Romans.  It was ceded to the Romans in 241 BC in the First Punic War.  Trapani was occupied by many forces over the years including Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans. The last action seen there was in War World II when the Allies bombed the area in advance of the Italian landings.

We joined another ship's tour to see Selinunte, an ancient Greek settlement established around 630 BC. Selinunte was the most westerly of the Greek colonies in Sicily. The early settlers had conflict with the native Sicillians and later the Carthaginians.  It transitioned  from an oligarchy to a despotism, and about 510 BC  was was ruled a despot named Peithagoras, A Spartan group came to the locals' aid and overthrew Peithagoras w ho then tried to rule the locals. A neighboring non-Greek city Segesta and Selinunte had a number of battles finally culminating with Carthaginians assisting Segesta. and defeating  Selinunte. The Carthaginians in 409 BC brought a force of at least 100,000 men, commanded by Hannibal Mago that marched directly to Selinunte. The Selinuntines had not reckoned on such a large force but defended themselves and even after the walls were breached, continued the contest from house to house. However, the enemy's overwhelming numbers rendered resistance hopeless, and after a ten-day siege the city was taken and most of the defenders put to the sword. According to sources, of the citizens of Selinunte 16,000 were slain, 5,000 made prisoners, and 2,600 escaped  from the city. Hannibal destroyed the city walls, but gave permission to the surviving inhabitants to return and occupy it as tributaries of Carthage, an arrangement confirmed by the treaty subsequently concluded between Dionysius of Syracuse, and the Carthaginians in 405 BC. A number  of the citizens of Selinunte availed themselves of this permission, and that the city continued to exist under Carthage as a much reduced version of its earlier prosperity and liberty.

The city was finally destroyed and the inhabitants were removed by the Carthaginians around 250 BC. They left the temples intact in respect of religion but they fell  during an earthquake in the Middle Ages. Interestingly this provided the key as to9 how thye ancienta constructed high columns. They were in pieces and 6 feet long or so. On the top and bottom, square cuts were made and stones were made to fit in the holes and maTe with the next section. All that exists today are foundations of walls and remnants of temples (one of which has been partially re-erected in the 20th century).

I made the ship's tour. We drove south through the Sicilian countryside with villages and farms. Sicily was the breadbasket of Roma and it is still apparent as you view the fields of everything from olive trees to grain. 

After about an hour we arrived at Selinunte. Three temples were located on a hill outside the city. Temple "E" was partially re-erected in the 20th century. It was dedicated to Hera. Another of the temples (Temple "G") on this site is the second largest of the ancient Greek temples and it is believed it was for Zeus. The temple was never completed. 

The city area has intact walls but all structures were demolished except for Temple "C." Interestingly, there were chunks of plaster on the ground with parts of designs on them!

Sicilian countryside

Temple "E"

Temple "F"  --- Temple "G"

Ruins of Temple "G"

City walls

City ruins

Acropolis and Temple "C" in the background

Street to the sea --- Mosaic with symbol of Tanit, Cartheginian goddess



Bonifacio a port on the southern tip of the French island of Corsica was our next stop. This was our first opportunity to visit Corsica. Most of us know Corsica as the birthplace of Napoleon I.

The Bonifacio area was inhabited since prehistoric times. One of the earliest nearby sites is the notable Lady of Bonifacio, a female burial carbon-dated to about 6570 BC. The Romans had a presence here as they had camps at Mariana and Aleria. The Vandals invaded in 649AD and the Byzantines took it over in 534. Lombards occupied it in 725AD. Charlemagne seized the island in 774AD. Spanish Moors held the island for a short time. The island's flag pictures a Moor's head.

Bonifacio is located on the south of the island of Corsica. Corsica was bought by the French in 1768 from Italians. Napoleon was born in Ajaccio, the capital. He is French because three months before he was born, France purchased Corsica from the Italians.

The town is very dense with narrow streets and tall buildings. Most homes are located on the 2nd or 3rd story so the entrances usually at the top up a set of very narrow and steep stairs. As yo09u walk into the city, there is a statue of a French Foreign Legionnaire. Algeria was a French territory until 1962 when Algeria gained independence. Most of the Foreign Legionnaires were evacuated to Corsica,

The place is very expensive. We stopped at a small outdoor restaurant and I ordered a half litre of the local brew. It cost 8.40 Euros (about $12)!

We took a boat tour to see the coastline around Bonifacio You can really see the city walls rising from the steep rocky shore to high up, protecting the city in early days. The coast has many grottos. We went clear into one and even turned around inside. The weather was beautiful so it was in enjoyable visit.

Bonifacio port from heights --- WWII gun emplacement

\Foreign Legionnaire --- City

Residential street --- Commercial street

Sancte Johannes Baptista church --- John baptizing Jesus

Typical residential stairway --- Plaque honoring Lt. Col. Bonaparte of Corsican Volunteers staying in this home in 1791


Island cruise scenery

Looking at the Quest from inside a grotto --- Lighthouse

Gun emplacement --- City walls

Most expensive draft local beer I ever had - €8.40 (about US$12)!!!!



Olbia is a port on the northeast coast of the Italian island of Sardinia. Olbia is believed to have been founded by Carthaginians in the later fourth century BC The area has ruins from Phoenician, Carthage, and Roman settlements. 

Olbia and its surrounding countryside was probably inhabited from 4000-3500 BC , as demonstrated by a female statue representing the Goddess of Life, found in  S. Mariedda. Another historic artifact  are drawings of humans (dating from 2700-2500 BC) made of red ocher on the wall right of the  Grotta del Papa on the Island of Tavolara. Another indication gallery tomb date from 1800-1600 BC located on Monte de s'Ape, 3 km from Olbia. Other important archaeological sites are the The Giants Tomb and the Sacred Well of Sa Testa.  The Romans built many public works including the aqueduct which is still there in the city.

The island was seized by the vandals but the Byzantine Emperor Justinian expelled them in 534AD. 

We anchored out at Olbia. We joined a ship's tour that took us up the coast to a town called Porto Cervo. The Aga Khan bought all the property around there in the 1960s.  He developed it as a resort. This is a very exclusive resort area with large villas. One is owned by Vladimir Putin who paid $30M for it a few years ago and it's already tripled in value! The village had many shops and restuarant/bars. We saw the menu posted at one and a bottle of Heineken Beer was priced at 15 Euros (over $20 US)! Needless to say I passed on a beer there. The yacht pier had several boats tied up, some approaching the size of a small frigate.

Then we drove up the coast which had beautiful beaches with unique rock formations. Our final stop was the small village at Baia Sardegna. We walked through it and visited the parish church. Our guide gave us a chit that was good for a drink at one of two local bars. We went to the News Bar which offered a gratis glass of the local brew Ichnusa which was quite good (and refreshing on the hot afternoon).

Sardinia scenery

Porto Cervo --- Baia Sardegna

  Baia Sardegna




Mahon is the main city on Minorca Island the easternmost of the Spanish Balearic Islands. Mohan is named after the Carthaginian general Mago Barca, brother of Hannibal, who is thought to have taken refuge there in 205 BC. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it became part of  Byzantium. It suffered raids from Viking and Arabs, until the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba conquered it in 903. Mahon was captured in 1287 from the Moors by Alfonso III of Aragon and incorporated in

to the Kingdom of Majorca, a vassal kingdom of the Kingdom of Aragon. In 1535, the Ottomans attacked Mahon and took 6,000 captives as slaves back to Algiers. Minorca was captured by the British during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1708, and its status as a British possession was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The island changed hands several times during the eighteenth century, with France and Spain both capturing it. In 1783 the Peace of Paris returned the town to control of the Spanish but it was occupied for a final time by the British during the Capture of Minorca in 1798 before being returned to Spain for good in 1802.

It surprised us that the locals speak Catalan rather the Castillian, the Spanish we are familiar with. Catalan is spoken in northern Spain. Apparently the Spanish government has tried to change that but the locals are adamant about retaining their local dialect.

Again we took a ship's tour called Cultures of Minorca. We first visited the Minorca Museum where we saw artifacts from prehistoric times. The museum is in an old monastery attached to a large church. We then walked down to board our bus. Minorca is a very flat island with slight rolling hills with mostly shrubs with some old olive trees. The island is subject to very strong north winds that rake the landscape. They have four wind generators on a hill near the port but they have proven ineffective as the mechanisms are too delicate for the wind gusts. 

We went to a small village that is noted for its commercial fishing, Fornells. We walked around the town. Every building is painted stark white. Marilyn had an ice cream while I enjoyed a beer, at a reasonable total cost of  3.40 Euros, a welcome change from the high prices of Corsica and Sardinia. After that we drove to Mont Toro, the highest point on the island where were able to view the entire island and the seacoast around it. 

We visited El Toro, the highest mountain on the island. There is a church there along with a large statue of Jesus of the Sacred Heart. It was erected to honor the Minorcans who fought in the Moroccan Wars of the early twentieth century. The church was destroyed and looted by the communist republican forces in the Civil War as were parts of the Jesus statue (the face of the lower statue on the front side was chipped out and the commemorate plaques around the monument were defaced). The church is dedicated to La Virgen de la Mare de Déu del Toro. There is a wooden statue of the Virgin that the reds had planned to burn but it was saved by a local farmer who hid until 1939 when order was restored in Spain.

According to legend, the statue of the Virgin was discovered in the 13th century by a friar. These friars were accompanying King Alfonso III ‘El Liberal’, when he conquered the island in 1287. In gratitude the monarch gave them two hermitages of land where the friars built a convent.

One night, an elderly father saw a pillar of light shining up to the sky from the top of the hill. This strange phenomenon was repeated on successive nights. Believing it was a supernatural event, he decided to tell the rest of the convent. The next night, the friars set off in procession to the summit of Mount Toro. However, the climb became more painful and difficult and no one knew the best way to go to reach the top. Suddenly a raging bull appeared and blocked their way, but the friars were carrying crucifixes to guide them which tamed the bull and it led them up the hill through the dense undergrowth.

Suddenly they found themselves confronted with huge rocks which hindered their progress. To their amazement and wonder, the bull started to push aside the rocks with its horns, leaving the way clear again. Since then, this place is known as the ‘bou pas’ (passage of the bull). Upon reaching the summit, the incredible animal bowed to the entrance of a cave where they found the image of the Madonna and baby Jesus in her arms.

The friars moved the Virgin to the convent, but the next day the image had disappeared and they found it again in the cave on the hill top. Faced with this miraculous event the monks realized that it was the will of ‘Lady’ to live in the cave on Monte Toro, so they built a chapel on the spot to worship.

Finally we stopped at Hort Sant Patrici, a cheese and wine farm, in Canaxini. The cheese was excellent, somewhat flavored like cheddar with the consistency of colby. The wine was a red but not overwhelming like some reds. The farm had beautiful grounds and a small  eight room hotel. Guests at the hotel can help pick grapes or feed the cows if they wish.

Steaming into Mahon - tower --- Old British fort




Views from Monte Toro

Statue of Jesus --- Church of the Virgin

The Statue of the Virgin at the altar --- View of the grounds on Monte Toro

Hort Sant Patrici, Canaxini -- hotel and grounds at thye cheese and wine farm




In 654 BC Phoenician settlers founded a port here in the Balearic Islands. They called it Ibossim meaning covered with pine trees, later known to the Romans as Ebusus. After the decline of Phoenicia Ibiza came under the control of the former Phoenician colony of Carthage. During the Second Punic War, the island was assaulted by the Scipio brothers in 209 BC but failed to conquer it. With Carthaginian military luck running out on the Iberian mainland, Ibiza was last used by the fleeing Carthaginian General Mago to gather supplies and men before sailing to Minorca and then to Liguria. Ibiza negotiated a favorable treaty with the Romans, which spared Ibiza from further destruction and allowed it to continue its Carthaginian-Punic institutions well into the Empire days, when it became an official Roman municipality. For this reason, Ibiza today offers excellent examples of late Carthaginian-Punic civilization. During the Roman Empire, the island became a quiet imperial outpost, removed from the important trading routes of the time. After the fall of the Roman empire and a brief period of first Vandal and then Byzantine rule, the island was conquered by the Moors, along with most of the Iberian peninsula.Ibiza under the Moors  was known as Yebisah.  Locals know it as Eivissa. Ibiza together with the islands of Formentera and Menorca were invaded by the King Sigurd I of Norway in the spring of 1110 on his crusade to Jerusalem. The king had previously conquered the cities of Sintra, Lisbon and Alcácer do Sal and given them over to Christian rulers, in an effort to weaken the Muslim grip on the Iberian peninsula. The island was conquered by Aragonese King Jaume I in 1235. The island maintained its own self-government in several forms until 1715, when King Felipe V of Spain abolished the local government's autonomy.

We took a tour around the island today. Before leaving we walked up through the city walls to visit the old fortifications there. We were told that Ibiza's walls are the best preserved, along with Malta's, from the medieval days.

At the top there is the cathedral, a very beautiful and ornate church called Catedral de la Verge de les Neus, which means Our Lady of the Snows. The Cathedral was built on the ancient Muslim mosque Yebisah which in turn was built on an earlier temple dedicated to the Phoenician gods and was probably later used by the Romans to worship their gods. The church interior is beautiful with a revered statue of Our Lady over the main altar. There are a number of chapels on the sides dedicated to various saints.

First tour stop was at Ses Salines. This is where they harvest sea salt much like the Phonecians as early as the fifth century BC. The sea water is channeled in large flat areas called pans that are slightly dammed to hold the water. During the summer months, the water evaporates leaving the beds covered with salt which is then harvested. There was a mountain of salt where it is held until packaged for export. The top layers of the flats which is very fine salt is mostly exported to Norway where it is used to salt fish.

Then we motored to the town of Sant Josep de Sal Talaia. The countryside on the way had many small farms. The island was agricultural until the 1960s when the tourist started arriving. We were told that about 85% of the current population makes their living in the tourist trade. Most of the classical houses are whitewashed cubes with thick walls and very small windows. Many of the owners have added room additions that are more modern with large doors and windows and thinner walls. In Sant Josep we stopped at a bar for a slice of Flao, a local pastry made with cheese and mint. We washed it down with a glass of beer. We then visited the church across the street. The churches in earlier times were gathering places for the townsfolk.  The church was completed in 1731. During the Spanish Republic which was communist oriented, much of the church's artwork was damaged or destroyed by the Reds. After the Nationalist victory, the Church came under the protection of the government under Francisco Franco, a devout Catholic. The walls were thick and  the roofs were flat. When North African pirates raided the towns, the women and children would gather in the church while the menfolk would man the ramparts on the roof to shoot at the invaders. 

We next went to Sant Antoni de Portmany. This is a resort town that seemed populated by mostly foreign young people. They seemed to be mostly British. It looks like it would be a great place for a modern young man to visit to meet and enjoy many young ladies particularly if he is into female tattoos and body piercing. We stopped at one of the outdoor cafes and had a great bowl of ice cream.  This is not a place for older mature people!

Ibiza from fortifications

16th Century Fortifications --- Round towers are medieval watch towers


Ses Salines - Mountain of harvested salt --- Salt drying ponds

Sant Josep de Sal Talaia


Sant Antoni de Portmany

Sant Antoni de Portmany




Palma was founded as a Roman camp upon the remains of a Talaiotic a Bronze Age people settlement. The turbulent history of the city saw it the subject of several Vandal sackings during the fall of the Roman Empire, then reconquered by Byzantium, then colonized by the Moors (who called it Medina Mayurqa), and finally established by Jaume I of Aragon. After the Roman onquest of Majorca, it was loosely incorporated into the province of Tarraconensis by 123 BC; theys founded two new cities: Palma on the south of the island, and Pollentia in the northeast  on the site of a Phoenician settlement. Between 902 and 1229 AD, the city was under Islamic control. Vikings sacked the island in 844 AD. On December 31, 1229, after three months of siege, the city was reconquered  and the Moors expelled by Jaume I of Aragon and was renamed Palma de Mallorca. The fall of Barcelona in 1714 meant the end of the Spanish Succession War and the defeat and destruction of the Kingdom of Aragon.An occupation decree changed the government of the island and separated it from the municipality's government of Palma, which became the official city name. By the end of the 19th century, the name Palma de Mallorca was generalized in written Spanish. At the beginning of the 19th century, Palma became the refuge of many who had exiled themselves from the Napoleonic occupation of Catalonia and Valencia; during this period freedom flourished, until the absolutist restoration. With the establishing of the contemporary Spanish state administrative organization, Palma became the capital of the new province of Balearic Islands in the 1833 territorial division of Spain.

We took the ship's tour to Valldemossa. It is primarily noted for La Cartuja, an ancient Monastery that was built as a royal hunting lodge and was later inhabited by Carthusian monks. The monks were expelled in 1835, the venue was privatized, and the cells became lodging for travelers. During the winter of 1838, the famous Polish composer Frederick Chopin and the French female writer Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin who wrote under the pseudonym of George Sand lived together in this monastery. The town was scandalized when they found that Sand was married to another man.  There is a collection of furniture, including a piano where Chopin composed some of his masterpieces. Chopin had a skin disease that the locals thought was leprosy so after Chopin vacated, they burned the furnishings in his room. After our visit, we were treated to a 15 minute interlude of Chopin music played on by a Spanish pianist. 

When we returned to Palma, we walked through the historic part of the city. We visited the cathedral which is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Europe. It is dedicated to San Sebastian, the patron saint of Palma. There were many beautiful pieces of art and relics of saints and a relic of the True Cross.


Chapel - altar --- ceiling

Triptych in library commemorating marriage of Maria of Montpellier and Pedro II of Aragon--- view from garden outside Chopin's room



Relic of the True Cross




We arrived in Barcelona. Flew home via Paris.