101 Short Breaks

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Annabelle Thorpe
The Times travel writer Annabelle Thorpe.

    Short breaks in the Mediterranean

    By Annabelle Thorpe, Editor of 101 Short Breaks

    Long-haul holidays may offer guaranteed sunshine, trips to America spectacular landscapes, to Asia amazing food…but nowhere packs in as much history, culture and stunning coastline as the Mediterranean. From Croatia’s unspoilt islands to the glitzy resorts of the Amalfi coast and the world-famous beaches of the Cote d’Azur, no other region boasts so much diversity in such a small space.

    Castillo Hotel Son VidaPalma at nightBarcelona beachThe Royal Palace

    City and beach

    Can’t decide on a city or a beach break? Opt for both, with one of the Med’s bustling cities that come with long stretches of golden sand. Barcelona is ideal if you’re looking to party; the atmospheric lanes of the Gothic Quarter are dotted with bars and clubs, while the gleaming new Port Vella area has stylish boutique hotels. Mix shopping on La Ramblas with lazy afternoons beneath a sun lounger on Barceloneta beach.

    Or head to Dubrovnik, basking in its current fame as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Walk the historic walls, ride the cable car up to Mount Srd for spectacular views and chill out on Banje Beach, a scoop of white sand just outside the old city walls.

    Palma offers not just a picturesque old town, and a long stretch of beach that begins right opposite the elegant, Gothic cathedral, but also some world-class art galleries and museums. Choose from modern art at the Fundacio Joan Miro or the work of contemporary Mallorcan artists at Es Baluard, and take a 15-minute stroll along the promenade to the pretty beach at Portixol, home to some of the city’s best fish restaurants.

    If you want to do more than simply laze on a beach, there are plenty of ways to explore the Mediterranean, whether on foot, two-wheels or something more gentle. Walking trips are a fantastic way to really get under the skin of some of the Med’s most beautiful regions, from the iconic hilltop towns of Tuscany and Umbria to Spain’s beautiful Catalan coast.

    Or freewheel through the countryside on a cycling break . Discover the traditions and culture of Mallorca on a gentle trip through the (mercifully) flat heart of the island, or glide along the banks of the Rhone, taking in vineyards, olive groves and the iconic Roman sites that dot the Provencal countryside.

    For a really restorative break, try a yoga holiday in the sun-kissed Italian region of Puglia, where you can mix daily classes with gentle strolls in the lush countryside.

    Breakfast with a view at MenfiTorre Marabinowine tours France 2012

    Food and wine

    One of the best aspects of a trip to the Med is the wonderful food and copious amounts of wine. If you want to learn more about the region’s most famous vintages (and some lesser-known ones), try a wine holiday to one of the world’s great wine-producing regions. I particularly like these wine and gastronomy breaks in Spain.

    The picturesque city of Sorrento is a true foodie hub, with easy links to the iconic islands of Capri and Ischia, the Amalfi coast and Naples. The streets are dotted with trattoria serving up classic Neapolitan pizzas washed down with the city’s famous liqueur, limoncello, while there is a gelato booth on almost every street corner. Fish-lovers should head to the Marina Grande on the seafront, where there fantastic restaurants serving up the catch of the day.

    But arguably the best place in the Med for foodies is Sicily. From the chaotic streets of Palermo, where street vendors serve freshly-fried arancini (risotto balls) and sfinicione (Sicilian pizza) to Catania, where the classic dish of pasta alla norma comes with aubergine, tomato sauce and salted ricotta. Head to the historic town of Cefalu for some of the best gelati on the island, while a slice of ricotta cake and a double espresso is the perfect order in a Taormina cafe.

    Superb therapiesMassage-by-the-ocean

    Pampering breaks

    If all you really want to do is lie back, soak up some Mediterranean sunshine and maybe stroll gently to the spa and back, then Cyprus is one of the best options, with a range of luxury spa hotels and short break options.

    For something more health-focused, Chateau Puyssentut, surrounded by rolling hills, a short drive from the vibrant city of Toulouse, offers the chance to really detox. The ten-room chateau offers a programme of treatments tailored to revive and re-energise, with a team of staff including a yoga instructor, nutritionist, specialist chef and personal trainers.

    But for classic Mediterranean charm, it’s hard to beat Tuscany. Castel Monastero is a former medieval village that has been transformed into a beautiful spa resort, complete with Gordon Ramsay restaurant; ‘Contrada’, and a spa and wellness centre with two indoor and three outdoor pools, and a wide range of complimentary treatments and therapies.

    If weather is all important to you, find out the hottest and sunniest places in Europe.

    Last updated: 9 March 2018

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