So, in preparation for writing about the Mediterranean, I have been pondering the way that adding the word ‘Mediterranean’ to any other word seems to be an easy way to improve it. Here are some of the most obvious examples:
Mediterranean weather: pretty much means warm and sunny?
Mediterranean climate: is the more technical way to describe the weather, and refers to hot, dry summers with temperatures in excess of 22 °C, and mild, wet winters where temperatures range between 18 °C and 0 °C.
Mediterranean diet: which I think of as being the sort of thing you want to eat in warm weather, and the NHS website refers to as healthy, and being high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats – basically olive oil.
Mediterranean salad: see above
Mediterranean Sea: the sea is already a fantastic thing to think about, but the Mediterranean sea is warm, and full of interesting shipwrecks and marine life.
Mediterranean basin: Ok, this is just me being cute, but if I could put a Mediterranean basin in my bathroom I probably would… of course it means the countries in the region
Mediterranean holiday: as with the sea, it’s hard to improve on the word holiday – yet here we are, now we’re all going on holiday to the Med.! And here’s where our Guru friends think we should stay:
Scenic, scenic, scenic Corsica
Once Tuscan, now French, this Mediterranean island’s geological diversity makes it a bit like a mini continent. If you circuit Corsica – the island has some 900kms on tiny, twisting, very scenic roads – you’ll see the spiked peaks inland, the rugged cliffs and beautiful aquamarine bays and the smooth stretches of beach. Alongside these you’ll find the glitzy towns, while up in the hills are the tiny, picturesque villages.
Where to Stay?
Casadelmar is in a spectacular spot across the bay from Porto-Vecchio on Corsica’s South East coast. As well as the views the 34 sleek, modern, sea-facing rooms have huge private terraces. The hotel also has an extensive wooded garden and private beach, and it’s small enough so you can find a quiet, secured spot even in the busy season. Quite impressively the restaurant has two Michelin stars. Rooms start from €485 per night including breakfast.
Practical Details: Corsica’s weather is what I call pleasant, with daily average temperatures in summer at 27°C and in winter 13°C, and a fair bit of sunshine year round. Corsica offers a range of airport choices. You can fly to Calvi, Bastia, Figari Sud Corse and Ajaccio – all pretty small yet perfectly functional. Alternatively there are regular ferry services from Marseilles and Nice, or Genoa and Livorno.
The Maltese archipelago occupies a strategic spot in the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Sicily. Its history dates back centuries, and many of the best places to stay in Malta have been created from traditional period properties both in the main towns and tucked away in the pretty countryside inland. The vibe here is very laid back, though over the past few years Malta has seen a burgeoning club scene and the annual international arts festival, (with its wide mix of music, dance and many other artistic forms), has brought in a new hip crowd. If you’re after a sandy beach, you’ll find a few, but most will be mobbed during the peak holiday periods. You will though discover a plethora of dramatic rocky coves, and a glorious turquoise sea in which to cool off. Diving is another big draw – Malta is regarded as one of the best dive spots in Europe – with some of the best sites found just off Gozo. But for the less experienced, there’s plenty of good snorkelling too.
Where to Stay?
B&B de Rohan is smart, modern, affordable and in the historic village of Haz-Żebbuġ (which is just outside Valletta) in a very central island location. There are just five rooms sharing the pool and lounge, and they start from only €85 per night B&B.
Practical Details: Malta is known for its Mediterranean sunshine, it gets around 300 sunny days a year, which makes it a popular spot for sun-chases all year round. The hottest daily average temperatures are for July and August, both 27°C. Malta airport is linked to London (Gatwick, City, Luton and Stansted), and to Southend and Edinburgh.
The Peaceful Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands look as if they’ve been cast off the coast of Sicily and scattered by the wind – which is where the name comes from, Aeolus: the Greek keeper of the winds. The islands are a very varied collection of siblings, with some of the islands’ beautiful beaches and scenic vistas also home to active volcanoes and sulphurous mud. Our Guru’s recommendation is on Lipari, of the postcard-perfect beaches, clear waters and trekking trails to a wealth of archaeological sites. Lipari is perfect for swimmers who want to explore by water, but there is also plenty to see here on land, including a reconstructed Norman church and the Greek and Roman ruins of the Diana District Archaeological Park.
Where to Stay?
La Settima Luna Hotel is in a pretty fishing village, and has just seven minimal all-white rooms accompanied by a light and airy feel. Breakfast is served on a terrace with a sea view – you’re right beside the bay, and there’s also a rooftop lounge bar. Rooms start from €100 per night B&B.
Practical Details: The Aeolian Islands have that typically Mediterranean climate of warm summers and mild winters, though here it might even be called a hot summer, with daily average temperatures between 25 and 30°C between June and August. Lipari doesn’t have an airport and most visitors come across from Catania or Palermo Airports on Sicily – linked to Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Heathrow etc.. And if you’re Greta Thurburg you could do it in about 30 hours by train and ferry.
Unlike anywhere else in Italy, or the Mediterranean for that matter, Sicily is a place unto itself. Sun drenched and beautiful, the landscape is dramatically diverse, the food is perennially good, and the culture and architecture truly unique. Mt. Etna is on many people’s bucket-list, the Valley of Temples is another favourite, I also enjoy visiting the Villa Romana del Casale, a 4th century UNESCO-protected ancient villa featuring beautiful mosaics, and the Monastero dei Benedettini – one of the largest monasteries in Europe – in the heart of Catania.
Where to Stay?
With just nine rooms the Borgo d’Orlando is small, charming and contemporary, with a large outdoor pool for lazy days. The decor is a pleasant, practical blend of traditional and contemporary, with white-washed walls and tiled floors, and the best rooms have a private terrace too. The restaurant serves local dishes as a speciality, and rooms start from €115 B&B per night.
Practical Details: Sicily has four airports: Palermo Airport, which is in Punta Raisi, about 35kms outside Palermo and Catania Airport, which is about 5kms outside Catania, which are both international airports with flag-carrier and low-cost airlines, and Trapani Airport and Comiso Airport, which are both favoured by European no-frills carriers. Sicily enjoys hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. But the climate does vary quite a bit depending on where exactly you stay – what with the impressive volcanic range running across the island. Summer temperatures average between 23°C to 26°C in July and August and 24°C in September. During summer the sea temperature is almost the same as on land. Autumn is wetter, but still warm, winter is cooler – perfect for walking holidays – and come spring it’s warm and sunny again.
The Beach-y Balearics
There are just four islands in the Balearics group, and they’re all very different to look at and to stay on, but their location, between Spain and North Africa, puts them in an ideal spot for the Mediterranean sunshine and mild weather. Our Gurus recommendation today is on Formentera, the smallest and most southerly island, a quiet place with unspoilt, sandy beaches, rolling sand dunes and a ‘national park-y’ kind of vibe. There are no high rise developments on Formentera, just a smattering of bars and restaurants, and the majority of the hotels are small and independently owned. If you’re looking for a few excursions you can stroll the old Roman road, cycle out to a megalithic site or go snorkelling, sailing or fishing.
Where to Stay?
The Gecko Hotel & Beach Club is a luxurious, 30 room hotel right up against a really glorious stretch of beach. Outside the hotel is low-rise and minimal, while inside it’s contemporary, with lots of glass and modern art. As well as comfort they’re also offering yoga classes of a morning, healthy cuisine in the restaurant, a fabulous spa and a chic outdoor bar. Rooms start from €400 per night B&B.
Practical Details: There’s no airport on Formentera, so you’ll need to catch the ferry across from Ibiza, which takes about 30minutes. Formentera offers great beach weather, with summer daily averages in the mid to high 20s.
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