The Mediterranean is a special place. There is no place in the world that can match its range of things to do and see. None. And how could there be? The genesis of our world is located in this corner of the planet. And the two biggest names? The Greeks and Romans, of course.
Our world as we know it, is predominantly based on the principles and tenets of these two ancient empires and the wealth of knowledge they imparted. Mathematics, theater, politics… you name it, they invented it. (And thankfully, during the Middle Ages the Arabs translated it). We have these two cultures to thank for our lifestyle and the conditions that have allowed our prosperity and the advancement of technological feats that serve mankind.
Without doubt, the Greeks and Romans later on, decided the fate of our destinies for eons to come.
And so, with that in mind, one is never too far from them. The lifestyles are very similar. Both cultures value tradition, family, respect and the intangible qualities of good living. Work is only there to sustain, and not the raison d’etre.
In Greece, Athens gathers a great deal of visitors. The Acropolis is a magnet, and stands tall and proud over Athens as testament to its glorious past. This is the definitive symbol of western civilization and a walk up through the Propylaea and up the citadel with its sweeping view of the city is a spiritual endeavor that leaves most visitors in a delirious daydream. To walk where Socrates, Plato and Sophocles once orated and taught its denizens about the virtues of democracy, and where the Apostle Paul delivered his sermons on top of Mars Hill, is nothing short of mystical. Greece, of course is littered with antiquities. Byzantine churches, ottoman mosques and venetians castles all intermingle with Roman, classical and neo-classical facades to create an amazing amalgam of architecture. The islands in particular hold many more treasures in the form of Roman amphitheaters, Christian necropolises and Neolithic settlements. And that’s before we get round to the charming Cycladic architecture and lifestyle.
Similarly, Italy is an open air museum, with the main attraction being Rome. Unlike Greece, Italy has managed to keep its old structures intact through more favorable conditions along the ages. And so Rome is a city that will leave you wondering if you’ve stepped on the tarmac or on another era. No other city in the world possesses such richness in culture and old age charm. I mean, the newest buildings are like, 500 years old. Are you kidding me??
The coliseum stands out, as does the Vatican, as does Pizza di Trevi, Piazza d Espagna…heck, we could just fill out a sheet with things to see in Rome and we still wouldn’t even be half done. And that’s just one city. Further south, in Tuscany and Naples and the Valli di temple (or valley of the temples) the earth is littered with ancient Greek temples (curious fact: more Greek temples in Italy than in Greece, and more Roman stuff in Turkey than in Italy) and shrines.
Which is a great way to burn off the calories from all that fromaggio and pizza you just scoffed. Right? Indeed. Food is a way of life in Italy, naturally. Which means that in between excursions and espressos you’ll be tucking in to some sweet grub. Which funnily enough, is exactly what you’ll be doing in Greece, too. Only in Greece, you’ll switch the espresso for the ice cold frappe and the fromaggio for feta.
As is customary in these parts of the world, and afforded by the scenic and tranquil nature, people value not only their past and their meals, but also their spiritual well-being. In Greece it’s called ev-zein, which translates to good living. In Italy, they probably have something similar, but the bottom line is this: Have fun. And in the med, having fun means drinking, flirting and dancing (with measure) till the early hours of the morning, and then hitting the beach for some R&R. And we don’t need to tell you just how awesome the beaches and the seaside culture are, do we? (Amalfi, anyone?)
Greece and Italy: A Journey through Time and Culture
In the Mediterranean, the holy triptych goes like this: Culture, food and fun. And I suppose all the tens of millions of tourists that visit these two countries can’t be wrong, can they?