Best Harbour Towns in Mediterranean

Old Sep 28th, 2015, 07:05 PM
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Best Harbour Towns in Mediterranean

I know - broad question! I'm looking for some of your favourite mediterranean harbour towns. Here's some details:

Background:
- The trip is for me (in my mid-twenties) and my almost-60-year-old parents (who will be celebrating their birthdays next summer, hence the trip!)
- My parents have not travelled a lot, so I'm trying not to pack a lot of things into one trip or into each day. My dad has never been to Europe and my mom just made her first European trip to Paris, Pisa, Lucca, and Manarola last year.
- It is a 3-week trip
- I was thinking 3 home bases for 5-7 days each
- We would likely rent a car in each place, and do day trips from each home base
- We are planning for late September/October of next year
- We have narrowed it down to the European side of the Mediterranean
- I would love to rent apartments in most places, but this all depends on what's available.
- Given the great flights in Europe, we are fine bouncing around countries.

Interests:
- for me: history, hiking (I also like everything listed below!)
- for my mother: food, people-watching, wine-drinking
- for my father: boats, boats, boats (hence the question) - he loves seeing nice boats, riding in boats, driving boats, etc. The bigger/nicer the boat, the better

I am one of those travel snobs that prefers to go to places that are a little less-traveled. None of us are really "bucket-listers" that need to check anything off our lists.

I would prefer NOT to go to the Balkans (Croatia/Albania/Montenegro) and the Italian Riviera as I have been there several times.

Ideas:
- Malta - the more I look, the more I think this would be ideal for us
- Sicily - have only done limited research on this one thus far, but love what I see so far!
- French Riviera
- Greek Islands
- Puglia - love the trulli and the sassi!
- Southern Spain - I love the Moorish influences here, although I can't find any great harbour towns that would allow us to daytrip to Seville, Cordoba, etc.

So, I'm hoping you can help me brainstorm particular cities in these areas, give me the pros/cons, or suggest others!

Thanks so much!

(I am an experienced TA poster, but I find Fodorites much more helpful on the forums so I am hoping to one day be a seasoned poster on Fodors!)
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Old Sep 28th, 2015, 07:11 PM
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Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga?
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Old Sep 28th, 2015, 10:59 PM
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The Algarve Portugal,Ionian coast Albania, its little known and still unspoilt.The Adriatic Coast, Montenegro. Dubrovnik Croatia, Majorca Spain,Ischia and /or Capri, Taormina in the Sicilian coast.Little discussed Portofin , north of Pisa is a quaint fishing village with a beautiful harbour.These are quintessentially med.
Its a tough call to advise,can only list out the unlimited choice you have.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 12:47 AM
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On the french riviera the big cities are Nice and Cannes, smaller ones are Antibes, or Saint-Tropez, attracting the jet set and some big boats/yachts.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 02:31 AM
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I love harbours and Mrs Bilbo has to drag me away from them so I'm there with your father. For me I'd look at

Venice or even Chioggia, the lagoon is a feast of fish farming but you can still get around even on the local water-bus.

Trieste, bever been but looks interesting, similar Genoa.

Lecce's port (great idea, nice little harbour) but he might also like Brindisi (just up the coast), maybe less pretty. What I would do in Lecce is (apart from taking a wine tasting) is try for a cooking course (you can do half day or whole day or longer) great fun and the language barrier is not a problem.

Napoli has a great little harbour with lots going on, plus boat rental is easy and at the right time cheap. The trips out to Capri. All very good

Mallorca, yes great little habour.

Gibralter, well worth a look, lots going on and so many ships from around the world.

Algarve is not in the Med... however, to the west of Faro you get ports that open directly to the sea and tend to be marinas etc, for Faro and the East side the port sits behind sand dunes, so well protected but you are talking mainly small boats and locals fishing. A possible but not high on my list.

Like others, I'd put some of the Yugoslavian ports in, but hey.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 03:42 AM
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If you don't want touristy-to-the-max, please avoid Portofino. Along that stretch of the Italian coast, I would say you and your father would love Bocca di Magra, and possibly the island of Elba, but above all -- and my major suggestion -- you also might enjoy in early October the Salone de Nautica, the huge European yacht show that has its double home in Genoa and Monaco.

http://salonenautico.com/en/

You could easily combine the boat show with an exploration of the French Riviera but also doing some great hiking just over the border in Italy. Your mom would love the wine producing town of Dolceacqua, and you can get in some hiking in nearby hill towns of great drama and beauty.

Also avoid Taormina and Capri.

The major sassi are not in Puglia but in Basilicata, in the town of Matera.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 04:31 AM
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history, hiking - Cyprus has both in abundance, lots of ancient historical monuments and a mountainous interior suitable for hiking and visiting monasteries etc

food, people-watching, wine-drinking - Cypriots love to sit in bars/cafes and people watch, there is lots of locally produced wine, some of it is actually pretty good, food in abundance, both Cypriot and international. You don't go hungry in Cyprus.

boats, boats, boats - there are boats all over. You can take trips to the Akamas national park and swim in the blue lagoon, you can take trips around the east end of the island, there has been alot of regeneration of old harbour towns eg Larnaca, Limassol Marina, Paphos Harbour with the old medieval castle in the background and if you venture north, Kyrenia (or whatever the Turks call it now) was one of the most beautiful harbour towns in the Med. I hope it still is.

If you are considering Malta, you might like Cyprus although the latter is bigger and has more options. Late Sept/Oct is the perfect time to go, the European tourists have gone home.

You have alot of choice in the Med. You won't find any Americans there as they don't travel there for some reason.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 04:36 AM
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You might also consider Sardegna. There are lots of nice harbors there, and not just in the resort towns of the super-rich.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 04:37 AM
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You might also consider Sardegna. There are lots of nice harbors there, and not just in the resort towns of the super-rich.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 04:54 AM
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First, kudos to having only 3 bases over 3 weeks - your parents will thank you! We just got back from a 3-week trip, the last leg spent in Sainte-Agnès, a perched village in the Alpes-Maritime region of France. I'm not suggesting that since it's not a harbor town (although the hiking is fantastic) but I will suggest nearby Menton as one of your bases - it's most definitely less traveled!

You have lots of great ideas here. Happy planning.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 05:09 AM
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I'll second a couple of suggestions above.

Sardinia : La Maddalena islands off the NE coast have a beautiful working Harbour surrounded by cafes/restaurants and its 'easy rent a small boat to explore the islands which have some of the best beaches in Europe.

Mallorca : Palma Harbour is huge (Bilbo it is about the largest pleasure craft marina in Europe) the only problem is that it is so big that you lose any sense of scale. The cafe are separated from the marina by a busy road but wandering around you will find a huge number of boats from 18ft to 200ft plus.

We have always loved Porto Ercole on the Tuscan coast, many of the Med's wooden sailing boats stop off in summer and there is a very local feel.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 05:12 AM
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Portoferraio is lovely on Elba also a stopping off point for the summer cruising set.

Also love Bonifacio on Corsica which can easily be combined with a trip to Northern Sardinia.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 05:14 AM
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Mae have just returned from a trip to the Spain posh Atlantic coast. It is wild and wonderful and there is a decent size harbour in Cadiz but due to the nature of the coast it isn't a huge sailing destination.

Seville is great. The most local city in Europe with still very few chains.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 05:53 AM
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British understatement...
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 06:07 AM
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"Mae have just returned from a trip to the Spain posh Atlantic coast."

How does Apple conjure this rubbish?

We have just returned from the Spanish Atlantic coast.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 06:30 AM
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I thought I would also give you a website for the Monaco half of the yacht show, not just the Italian half in Genoa

http://www.monacoyachtshow.com/en/

I have a bias for Italy -- and an antipathy for overly-touristy-rich places like Monaco -- so I would probably base just over the Italian border and visit the show by train. But there is also nice hiking (and wine) on the French side of the border, especially if you pull back from the coast and go up into the small towns in the hills.

A caution about Sardegna at the end of September or in October, which is that I have been warned many times that the storms roll in earlier to its beaches than they do on the mainland. Indeed, this weekend the northeast of the island is getting slugged. I don't follow boating issues, however, so maybe it is overblown warning.

But the truth is that there must be a zillion miles of beautiful working harbors in the European med, and only a handful are known to tourists. Only a handful of good wine, too, however, so that might help narrow the choices.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 07:29 AM
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Of all the suggestions you've gotten above, I think the best ideas are the ones you started with - especially Malta and Puglia - as things that tick the boxes you listed that you and your parents enjoy.

I did a week in Malta this summer and loved it. I started to post my trip report and I promise I will finish it with in the next week or so. - http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ta-in-july.cfm

Puglia was also wonderful - here's my report on that trip, a couple years ago. There are several other great reports on Puglia if you do a search. http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ast-puglia.cfm
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 02:55 PM
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Well, the Greek islands have everything one can ask for. But only 1 island combines everything. Crete. In Western Crete you will find amazingly beautiful towns, nature, historic sites, and great cuisine. For old harbor-towns you have Chania and Rethymnon, two Venetian ports with Ottoman elements. The Gorge of Samaria is considered one of the best hiking destinations in the World, and is in the UNESCO tentative list. The Cretan cuisine is the best in Greece with many local specialities, and the Cretan olive oil is considered the best you can find anywhere. The beaches of Balos and Elafonisi are always on lists with the best beaches of Europe, truly unique. Also, Crete was always famous for its wine, it was the main producer of wine of the Byzantine Empire due do its prime quality. There are wineries in Western Crete like Manousakis Winery and Karavitakis Winery that are well worth a visit.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 03:53 PM
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>>>"I am one of those travel snobs that prefers to go to places that are a little less-traveled. None of us are really "bucket-listers" that need to check anything off our lists."<<<

If you decide to go to Puglia be careful about where you go to explore trulli, because Alberobello might tick the box above in the wrong way, because the tour buses and gnome souvenir shops are wall to wall.
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Old Sep 29th, 2015, 06:43 PM
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@sandralist: I cannot believe there is a boat show right in the area we were considering, at the right time! Thanks for that tip, that definitely will be my priority. My jaw dropped when I saw pictures of Dolceacqua! Do you have any other suggestions for the French side of the border? Oh and also is there any better place to explore the trulli, or is it one of those things that I either bear the tourists or don't go?

@bilboburgler: Great idea for Lecce! Do you have any suggestions for who to do a cooking course with? And yes, Naples and Capri seems like a good idea - I keep hearing how Capri has amazing boats!

@yankygirl: You know - I love the idea of Menton. Seems like a great base to the usual suspects on the riviera, then close enough to the Genoa or Monaco boat shows, and in the midst of amazing places like Sainte-Agnès and Dolceacqua. Thanks for that tip!!

@Odin: thank you, Cyprus is now on my list of possibilities. It sounds like it has it all!

@Britishcaicos and bvlenci: Sounds like I need to investigate Sardinia, Elba, and Corsica!

@Isabel: what great trip reports!! That's so helpful. I'm glad I'm on the right track!

@PetrosB3: I will definitely consider Crete. My brief search of the islands keeps pointing to that one.

Thank you all so much! I'm AMAZED by the depth and speed of your replies.
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