Europe | Classic Journeys Blog
  • Hvar Harbor at Sunset, Croatia

    7 Best Things to do in Croatia

    If we could live anywhere, it would be <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">Croatia</a>. Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe Dalmatia’s Adriatic coastline or Istrian vineyards that Napa should envy. Think cinematic <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">Dubrovnik </a>(aka King’s Landing on “Game of Thrones”), Rovinj perched on the tip of a peninsula, and harbor-side Hvar. This is a country where you can do an artisanal olive-oil tasting lesson, take a country walk a million miles from anywhere, and rest up afterward at a 5-star hotel by the sea, all in the same day. You&#39;ll find it incredibly easy to engage with the locals. This is one of our favorite destinations and we are convinced that you will agree. Here are seven of our favorite things to do in Croatia. <br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>#1 Explore the medieval city of Dubrovnik</b></a><br>Enjoy a day learning about <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">Dubrovnik&#39;s </a>fascinating history and admiring its beautifully preserved limestone buildings with red-tiled roofs, quaint streets with charming shops and cafes, and massive walls that allow us to experience the city from many vantage points.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="View of Dubrovnik, Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATXH&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f953" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>#2 Follow scenic coastal paths </b></a><br>Just a short distance from <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">Dubrovnik </a>you can follow along scenic paths that have been used for centuries by shepherds. Almost every step of the way, the Adriatic is in sight, with olive trees and cypress to frame the view.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Adriatic Coastline in Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATXH&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f958" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>#3 Visit Lokrum Island</b></a><br>Just a short ferry ride, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">Lokrum Island</a> is an uninhabited, beautiful nature reserve with botanical gardens, a fortress, and a lake in the middle of the island. Spend the day admiring the wonderful wildlife, and picturesque clear blue waters while taking the time to stop for a picnic and swim.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Lake on Lokrum Island, Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATXH&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f95D" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>#4 Lunch &amp; wine-tasting</b></a><br>Accept an invitation to our friend, Mario, and his father Teo&#39;s winery. With our incredible hosts, participate in a tasting of the family treasures, accompanied by local cheeses, meats, olives, and fruits served in the cellar and tasting room.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Group at a lunch and wine tasting, Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATXH&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f95I" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>#5 Stay at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik</b></a><br>Built in 1895 and renovated in 2005, the hotel blends Belle Epoque style with comfort and technology. Spacious guest rooms, decorated in wood and marble finishes, overlook gardens and rooftops of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">old Dubrovnik</a>.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="View from terrace of the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATXH&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f95N" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>#6 Scenic countryside walk</b></a><br>Venture out on a walk through lavender fields and olive groves that leads us to a working olive mill where we&#39;re treated to a tasting of the locally produced olive oil and bread.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="View of an Olive tree and the coastline of Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATXH&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f95S" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><b>#7 Hvar &amp; Jelsa</b></a><br>Capture the essence of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank">Hvar</a>, &quot;as golden as the honey the island is famous for.&quot; Vineyards, lavender fields and honey-colored buildings line our route to the coastal village of Jelsa. In Jelsa enjoy lunch at a local agriturismo.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Hvar Harbor, Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATXH&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f95X" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>If you&#39;d like to do all these activities, plus a little more, without the hassle of logistics—join a Classic Journeys&#39;<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia-tours/" target="_blank"> culture + walking</a> or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatiafamily/" target="_blank">family </a>adventure to Croatia. You&#39;ll have the trip of a lifetime!

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  • Corsica at Sunset

    6 of Europe's Best-Kept Secrets

    <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/europe/" target="_blank">Europe</a> is known for having some of the most iconic sites in the world. From the picturesque canals of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italyfamily/" target="_blank">Venice</a>, the standing stones at <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/londonstonehengecotswolds/" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a>, to the lavender fields of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/provence-tours/" target="_blank">Provence</a>. It’s easy to find yourself on a merry-go-round of repeating travels. But you can still find amazing places off the beaten path… the places not known yet to tourists. And with the help of Classic Journeys, you’ll find that Europe is full of them!<br><br>Here you’ll find six of the best-kept secrets in Europe. Which one will you visit first?<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/istria-slovenia-walking-tour/" target="_blank"><img alt="Croatia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rP9" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/istria-slovenia-walking-tour/" target="_blank"><b>Slovenia + Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula</b></a><br>Just a generation ago, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/istria-slovenia-walking-tour/" target="_blank">Slovenia and Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula</a> were part of Yugoslavia. Now, they’re two of the great under-the-radar and off-the-chart destinations in all of Europe. These unspoiled next-door lands sit right at the top of the Adriatic Sea just east of Venice. The scenery is so insanely perfect that you don’t want the walks to end. Think vineyards rolling into olive groves sweeping to the Adriatic and mirror calm mountain lakes reflecting snow-capped Alps.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/basque/" target="_blank"><img alt="Basque" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPE" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/basque/" target="_blank"><b>Basque Pyrenees</b></a><br>A museum sheathed in titanium. Wild horses that eat baguettes. Villages with names in three languages—Basque, French and Spanish. Farmers on tractors yield the right of way to fierce but friendly pelota games in village squares. Garlands of brilliant red pimientos dry in the sunlight… then show up on a dinner plate stuffed with seafood. You’ll be surprised at the richness of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/basque/" target="_blank">Europe’s oldest culture</a> that few have had the chance to experience.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Corsica" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPJ" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank"><b>Sardinia + Corsica</b></a><br>Travel between the isles of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank">Sardinia and Corsica</a> and you&#39;ll only venture eight miles...but they&#39;re worlds apart. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank">Corsica</a>—part of France, but defiantly non-French—is blanketed in fragrant herbs and dotted with quaint villages. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank">Sardinia</a> seeks adventure. Travel through the island and see how it&#39;s rustic, mysterious; with a few thousand years of Phoenician, Spanish and Italian blood in its veins. Together, these two gorgeous islands are some of the least-touristed spots in Europe. When you leave behind the yacht-studded harbors for the mountains, pastures and vineyards of the interior, you have the rarest of privileges—to see and experience countryside and culture that seem to have stood still in time.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montenegro/" target="_blank"><img alt="Montenegro" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPO" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montenegro/" target="_blank"><b>Montenegro</b></a><br>How will you explain <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/montenegro/" target="_blank">Montenegro</a> to your friends who haven’t been (and that will be 99.9% of them)? Do you start with its Adriatic coast, where golden stone villages nestle on secluded, palm-lined bays? You can’t leave out the wild mountains with their sheer canyons and whisper-quiet lakes. You’ll certainly have stories about the hospitable Montenegrins… the olive growers, grappa-makers, shepherds and artists. You’ll fall in instant love with this compact Balkan land because it’s still so undiscovered, unexpected and unforgettable.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank"><img alt="Prague" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPT" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank"><b>Prague to Budapest</b></a><br>The journey from <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Prague to Vienna to Budapest </a>is one of Europe’s best hidden gems. These one-time capitals of the Habsburg Empire, with its spires and castles, create the continent’s most inspiring skylines. Out in the countryside, the sights are spectacular. Powder-blue cathedrals leap up from the heart of valley towns. Incredibly intact villages are so perfectly preserved that the U.N. recognizes them as World Heritage Sites. Vast farmlands make it feel as though you’ve stepped back into feudal times. This is a rich slice of Europe’s life and history that most travelers never see.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/apulia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Apulia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002Ei9Z&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000015rPY" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/apulia/" target="_blank"><b>Apulia</b></a><br>When we ask our Italian guides where they&#39;d most like to take our friends who think they know Italy on a walking tour we get one response: <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/apulia/" target="_blank">Apulia</a>. And then they use their hands. To paint a vista of gnarled olive trees silhouetted against a lapis lazuli sea. To express the amazing sunlight. To sketch the saw-toothed skyline of a village comprised entirely of trulli—the conical stone roofs unique to the region. Best of all, Apulia (pronounced ah-pooh-lya) passes the most important Classic Journeys test—it offers fine leisurely walking, elegant accommodations, and a glimpse into a region and culture that&#39;s not quite like any you&#39;ve encountered before.

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  • Italian traditions header

    5 Interesting Italian Traditions

    From the beautiful sun-splashed cliffs of the Amalfi Coast to the snow-capped peaks of the Dolemite range, Italy is hard to match for sheer variety. The same is true of Italian traditions, a few of which have made their way to American shores brought here by Italian immigrants.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italy/" target="_blank"><img alt="Cinque Terre Italy traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB1y" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>Some of these are well-known, like attending a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve; others, like celebrating Valentine’s Day, have roots in ancient Roman rituals and festivals. But there are a number of Italian traditions that are known only to locals and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italy/" target="_blank">experienced Italian travelers</a> – and some of these are definitely unique. Here are 5 Italian traditions that range from unusual to downright bizarre.<br><br><b>Sicily’s Puppet Theater</b><br>If you’re looking for gastronomic celebrations, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sicily/" target="_blank">Sicily</a> is the place to go: from festivals that celebrate chocolate making to those that celebrate the island’s famous tuna, it seems that there’s always a food-focused event happening on the island. But Sicily’s most unusual tradition is the Opera dei Pupi, a puppet theater performance, and it has everything to do with the island’s medieval past.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sicily/" target="_blank"><img alt="Sicily Puppets Italian traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB23" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>During the Middle Ages, Sicily was seen as a prized possession for warring empires – Arab armies conquered the island in 827 AD, and over the next several centuries, the Germans, the French, and the Spanish followed suit. Put on during holidays, the Opera dei Pupi puppet shows typically involve Sicilian marionettes dressed as knights, battling other puppets dressed as foreign invaders. What makes these shows unusual is that the dialogue is often improvised – no two Sicilian puppet shows are alike.<br><br><b>Bagpipes? Yes, Bagpipes.</b><br>Wander the streets of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/venice-tours/" target="_blank">Florence</a> during early December and you won’t be surprised to see Christmas decorations everywhere. What WILL surprise you: the sound of bagpipes.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/venice-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Bagpipes Italian traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB2X" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>Scotland doesn’t have the only claim to bagpipes; varieties of the instrument are found all over Italy. In fact, bagpipes weren’t imported to Italy from the British Isles; it was the other way around. The original version of the instrument likely came from Mesopotamia, and was brought to the Roman Empire during its heyday. Roman legions conquering Scotland brought bagpipes with them.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/venice-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Italian bagpipes Italian traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB2c" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>Depending on what part of Italy you’re in, you’ll find different versions of the noisy instrument. In the north, for example, there’s the baghét, which had a bit of a resurgence among Milanese musicians in the 80s and can often be heard on Milan’s streets. Travel to the Apennines, and you may hear two different types of bagpipes – the piva and the musa. Head south during the winter holiday season, and you’ll encounter roving bands of pipers – known as zampognari – playing in the streets of Florence, dressed in traditional shepherd’s garb. And if you visit Naples, you may hear the droning sound of that city’s local bagpipe, the surdelina. <br><br><b>Knights in Doll Masks</b><br>A group of horse riders in blank white doll masks thundering down a city street is not something you see every day. (Yes, the masks are a bit creepy.) During the festival of Sa Sartiglia in Oristano, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank">Sardinia</a>, these riders are the main draw and engage in a competition that’s both a testament to their equestrian skills and their courage.<br><br><a href="http://www.classicjourneys.com/sardinia/" target="_blank"><img alt="Sa Sartiglia Italian traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB49" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/studio_fileccia/" target="_blank">Vincent Fileccia</a><br><br>Hanging from hooks some 3 meters off the ground in front of the main chapel are tin stars, each with a hole in the middle. The challenge: to skewer the stars with swords while galloping at full pace – sometimes while standing on the running horse. It’s said that the more stars that are collected, the better the upcoming season of farming and carpentry will be. This unusual three-day event dates back to the 1500’s, but may be older than that. There are differing Sa Sartiglia origin stories: one traces it back to the 2nd Crusades, when knights returning to Sardinia took the opportunity to show off their newly acquired jousting skills as well as their colorful Saracen clothing. <br><br><b>A Street Where Christmas Lasts All Year</b><br>If you’ve always wanted to spend Christmas in Italy, but the timing just hasn’t worked out, the city of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi-tours/" target="_blank">Naples</a> offers the next best thing. Famous for hand-crafted Nativity scenes, or presepe, Naples has an entire street devoted to them.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Via San Gregorio Armeno Italian traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB2I" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/turyddu/" target="_blank">Umberto Rotundo</a><br><br>Via San Gregorio Armeno is an epicenter of Nativity scene shops, selling them all year long. Many of these Nativity scenes are painstakingly created by woodcarvers, using traditional tools and methods.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Hand carved Italian traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB2S" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>These are truly works of art. But many…are not. Over the years, Biblical figures have been replaced by all sorts of characters, from famous Italian soccer players to TV stars. The Nativity scenes of Via San Gregorio Armeno are a truly unique mix of sacred iconography and pop culture favorites.<br><br><b>The Flight of The Angel</b><br>Many cities in Italy have a version of Carnival, the week-long festival that takes place before Lent. But <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/venice-tours/" target="_blank">Venice</a>’s Carnival kicks off with an unusual display known as Il Volo dell’Angelo, or The Flight of The Angel. A young woman is chosen to dress in a traditional costume, with an added set of angel’s wings. She then puts on a safety harness and “flies” from the top of the St. Mark’s Cathedral bell tower across the Piazzo San Marco on a wire, tossing confetti down on the thousands of cheering onlookers a hundred feet below her.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/venice-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Venice flying angel Italian traditions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB2m" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br>Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/54081800@N07/" target="_blank">Erin Johnson</a><br><br>It’s an inspiring and slightly nerve-wracking tradition that dates back to the 16th century; it’s said that during a Carnival celebration, a Turkish acrobat stunned the Venice crowd by performing a tightrope walk across the plaza. In 1759, however, the tradition was put on hold after that year’s acrobat fell to his death and wasn’t performed by a live person for decades – wooden dummies were used. But thanks to modern safety harnesses, the tradition of having an actual person perform the flight was revived in 2001, and remains incredibly popular.<br><br>These are only a few of the unusual traditions you’ll find in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italy/" target="_blank">Italy</a>. No matter when you go, or which region of Italy you visit, you’ll find a festival or a special place that celebrates what Italians call la dolce vita. Explore more fun and unique Italian traditions for yourself when you join us on any of our Italy tours.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italy/" target="_blank"><img alt="Travel to Italy" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002LGdC&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000rB57" style="height: 177px; width: 500px;"></img></a>

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