Thursday, April 23 - ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY

Italy's vibrant capital lives in the present, but no other city on earth evokes its past so powerfully. For over 2,500 years, emperors, popes, artists, and common citizens have left their mark here. Archaeological remains from ancient Rome, art-stuffed churches, and the treasures of Vatican City view for your attention, but Rome is also a wonderful place to practice the Italian-perfected il dolce far niente, the sweet art of idleness. Your most memorable experiences may include sitting at a cafe in the Campo de'Fiori or strolling in a beguiling piazza.

Friday, April 24 - SORRENTO, ITALY

Sorrento may have become a jumping-off point for visitors to Pompeii, Capri, and Amalfi, but you can find countless reasons to love it for itself. The Sorentine people are fair-minded and hardworking, bubbling with life and warmth. The tuff cliff on which the town rests is spread over the bay, absorbing sunlight, while orange and lemon trees waft their perfume in spring. Winding along a cliff above a small beach and two harbors, the town is split in two by a narrow ravine formed by a former mountain stream. To the east, dozens of hotels line busy Via Correale along the cliff-many have "grand" included in their names, and some indeed still are. To the west, however, is the historic sector, which still enchants. Its'a relatively flat area, with swindling, stone-paved lanes bordered by balconied buildings, some joined by medieval stone arches. The central piazza is named after the poet Torquato Tasso, born here in 1544. This part of town is a delightful place to walk through. Craftspeople are often at work in their stalls and shops and are happy to let you watch; in fact, that's the point. Music spots and bars cluster in the side streets near Piazza Tasso.

Saturday, April 25 - GIARDINI NAXOS (SICILY), ITALY

The medieval cliff-hanging town of Taormina is overrun with tourists, yet its natural beauty is still hard to dispute. The view of the sea and Mt. Etna from its jagged cactus-covered cliffs is as close to perfection as a panorama can get-especially on clear days, when the snow-capped volcano's white puffs of smoke rise against the blue sky. Writers have extolled Taormina's beauty almost since it was founded in the 6th century BC by Greeks from nearby Naxos; Goethe and D.H. Lawrence were among its well-known enthusiasts. The town's boutique-lined main streets get old pretty quickly but the many hiking paths that wind through the beautiful hills surrounding Taormina promise a timeless alternative. A trip up to stunning Castlemola (whether on foot or by car) should also be on your itinerary.

Sunday, April 26 - VALLETTA, MALTA (OVERNIGHT) 

Monday, April 27 - VALLETTA, MALTA

Malta's capital, the mini city of Valletta, has ornate palaces and museums protected by massive fortifications of honey-color limestone. Houses along the narrow streets have overhanging wooden balconies for people-watching from indoors. Generations ago they gave housebound women a window on the world of the street. The main entrance to town is through the City Gate (where all bus routes end), which leads onto Triq Repubblika (Republic Street), the spine of the grid-pattern city and the main shopping street. Triq Mercante (Merchant Street) parallels Repubblika to the east and is also good fro strolling. From these two streets, cross streets descend toward the water; some are stepped. Valletta's compactness makes it ideal to explore on foot. City Gate and the upper part of Valletta are experiencing vast redevelopment that includes a new Parliament Building and open-air performance venue.

Monday, April 27 - GOZO, MALTA

Malta is situated approximately 58 miles (about 93 kilometers) south of Sicily, and approximately 179 miles (about 288 kilometers) north of Africa. The Maltese Archipelago lies at the center of the Mediterranean. Gozo, the 'Isle of Calypso', is a unique island that forms a part of the Maltese Archipelago, and is famous for its mythical legends, folklore and crafts. Some parts of Gozo are still undiscovered and unspoiled. The southern part of the island facing Malta is low-lying, but it rises near the coast and forms the vertical cliffs of Ta' Cenc that jut out like a bastion into the sea. Several narrow valleys cut through and dissect the plateau; the best-known being Xlendi.

Tuesday, April 28 - TRAPANI (SICILY), ITALY

Trapani, the most important town on Sicily's west coast, likes below the headland of Mount Erice and offers stunning views of the Egadi Islands on a clear day. Trapani's Old District occupies a scimitar-shaped promontory between the open sea on the north and the salt marshes to the south. The ancient industry of extracting salt from the marshes has recently been revived, and it is documented in the Museo delle Saline. In addition to the salt marshes, Trapani's other interesting environs include the beautiful little hill town of Erice, the promontory of Capo San Vito stretching north beyond the splendid headland of Monte Cofano, the lovely island of Motya and the town of Marsala. Trips farther afield will take you to the magnificent site of Segesta or the Egadi Islands, reached by boat or hydrofoil from Trapani Port.

Wednesday, April 29 - CAGLIARI (SARDINIA), ITALY

Known in Sardinia as Casteddu, the island's capital has steep streets and impressive Italiante architecture, from modern to medieval. This city of nearly 160,000 people is characterized by a busy commercial center and waterfront with broad avenues and arched arcades, as well as by the typically narrow streets of the old hilltop citadel (called, sim;y, "Castello"). The Museo Archeologico makes a good starting point to a visit. The imposing Bastione di Saint Remy and Mercato di San Benedetto (one of the best fish markets in Italy) are both musts.

Thursday, April 30 - OLBIA (SARDINIA), ITALY

Amid the resorts of Sardinia's northeastern coast, Olbia, a town of about 60,000, is a lively little seaport and port of call for mainland ferries at the head of a long, wide bay. San Simplico, Olbia's little Catholic basilica, a short walk behind the main Corso Umberto and past the train station, is worth searching out if you have any spare time in Olbia. the simple granite structure dates from the 11th century, part of the great Pisan church-building program, using pillars and columns recycled from Roman buildings. the basilica has a bar, somewhat somber interior, its three naves separated by a series of arches.

Sunday, May 3 - BARCELONA, SPAIN

The infinite variety of street life, the nooks and crannies of the medieval Barri Gotic, the ceramic tile and stained glass of Art Nouveau facades, the art and music, the throb of street life, the food (ah, the food!) -  one way or another, Barcelona will find a way to get your full attention. the capital of Catalonia is a banquet for the senses, with its beguiling mix of ancient and modern architecture, tempting cafes and markets, and sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches. A stroll along La Rambla and through waterfront Barceloneta, as well as a tour o Gaudi's mmajestic Sagrada Familia and his other unique creations, are part of a visit to Spain's second-largest city. Modern art museums and chic shops call for attention, too. Barcelona's vibe stays lively well into the night, when you can linger over regional wine and cuisine at buzzing tapas bars.

Friday, May 1 - AT SEA

Saturday, May 2 - PALMA DE MALLORCA, SPAIN

if you look north of the cathedral (La Seu, or the seat of the bishopric, to Mallorcans) on a map of the city of Palma, you can see around the Placa Santa Eulalia a jumble of tiny streets that made up the earliest settlement. Farther out, a ring of wide boulevards traces the fortifications built by the Moors to defend the larger city that emerged by the 12th century. The zigzags mark the bastions that jutted out at regular intervals. By the end of the 19th century, most of the walls had been demolished; the only place where you can still see the massive defenses is at Ses Voltes, along the seafront west of the cathedral. A torrent (stream bed) used to run through the middle of the old city, dry for most of the year but often a raging flood in the rainy season. In the 17th century it was diverted to the east, along the moat that ran outside the city walls.