Cruising the Mediterranean

A 10-day tour of arts, artifacts, and grand views

old-world appeal that attract hundreds to renowned events such as the Cannes Film Festival, Nice Mardi Gras, and Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.

But there’s also scenic charm: jagged mountains that touch deep blue shores and sunny, white-sand beaches. Royal attractions include the prince’s Palace Square in Monaco and Monaco Cathedral, the final resting place of Grace Kelly, the movie-star-turned -queen who died in a tragic car accident in 1982. High-life indulgences abound. In Monte Carlo, the ultimate playground of the megarich and socially elite, high rollers stake out the copper-domed Grand Casino, which dates back to 1878.

Rome is one of the most engaging cities in the world and offers much in the way of history, religion, and romance. Anticipation builds as I stand in the interminable line that snakes along the walls surrounding Vatican City, one of Rome’s greatest attractions. As the world’s smallest sovereign state, the Vatican comprises the residence of the Pope and St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Catholic church ever built. The Basilica houses priceless works of religious art including the fifth century Bronze statue of St. Peter; the tomb of Peter under the altar; and Michelangelo’s La Pieta, a mesmerizing marble sculpture of the Virgin cradling the crucified Christ.

The Vatican Museum, a massive architectural construct, encompasses eight museums; five galleries; and the world-renowned Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo; from 1508 to 1512. The ceiling depicts the story of humanity from the creation to the flood and remains the largest work ever completed by a single artist.

Beyond the religious relics, Rome offers other significant landmarks, such as the Coliseum-the arena of gladiators and ancient Rome’s best-known monument. Lovers, on the other hand, may be partial to other sights. One is Piazza Navona, considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world, thanks, in part, to Gianlorenzo Bernini’s striking Fountain of Four Rivers. But Rome’s most famous waterworks is Fontana di Trevi, Trevi Fountain, because of the romantic fable that predicts, “whoever tosses in a coin will one day return to Rome.”

Our last port of call was Naples. A 15-mile drive southeast of the city brought us to one of the world’s most famous excavation sites: Pompeii. A thriving city 1,900 years ago, it was devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Today, Pompeii is one of the best-preserved specimens of an ancient Roman town, including the fully restored forum, temples, villas, and centuries-old works of art.

This August, NPN plans to travel to the Western Caribbean and, to Africa in 2007. To find out more about how to reach exotic destinations with NPN, visit

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